12. Marxism in Russia 13. Lenin and the Proletarian Party of a New Type 14. Russian Bourgeois Revolution of 1905 – Development of Proletarian Tactics 15. World War I – Opportunism vs Revolutionary Tactics 16. Lenin’s Analysis of Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism 17. The Great October Socialist Revolution 18. The Formation of the Third International 19. The National and Colonial Question 20. Early Life and Revolutionary Contributions of Stalin up to the 1917 Revolution 21. Socialist Construction – the Russian Experience 22. Fight against Trotskyism and Other Opportunist Trends 23. Tactics During World War II
Chapter 12: Marxism in Russia – Early Life of Lenin
Russia was one of the countries where Marxism and Marxist literature spread very early. In fact the fi rst translation of Marx’ principal work ‘Capital’ or ‘Das Kapital’ was in Russian. An edition brought out in 1872 (just five years after the original German edition), was an immediate success with good sales and numerous positive reviews in prestigious journals. Its impact was so great that by 1873-74 quotes from ‘Capital’ already started appearing in the propaganda of radical student agitations in big Russian cities. Th e translation into Russian of other Marxist works was also taken up quite early by Russian revolutionaries attracted to Marxism.
One such revolutionary was Vera Zasulich, a woman revolutionary known for her attempt to assassinate the governor of St. Petersburg. She started correspondence with Marx in 1881, which she later continued with Engels after Marx’ death. In 1883 she became a part of the first Russian Marxist organisation – the Emancipation of Labour group led by George Plekhanov. Plekhanov participated in the 1st Congress of the Second International in 1889 after which he met Engels for the fi rst time. After this meeting Plekhanov continued to maintain close links and take guidance from Engels.
Plekhanov played the principal role in establishing Marxism in Russia. He translated and popularised many of Marx and Engels’ works. While combating the anarchist, peasant socialist views of the Narodniks he also made many theoretical contributions to Marxism. Russia at that time was under the tyrannical rule of the Tsar against whom many revolutionaries and revolutionary groups had started activities. Many of these groups however had leanings towards anarchism and terrorism. Plekhanov and the Emancipation of Labour group played the crucial role in converting considerable sections to Marxism. Lenin, who joined hands with this group at a later stage, was however, the outstanding figure who took ahead Marxism and the proletarian movement.
Lenin was the party name of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, who was born on 22nd April 1870, in the city of Simbirsk, which was the capital of the Simbirsk province. It was situated on the Volga, which is Russia’s biggest river. Though it was a provincial capital communication with the outside world were limited during Lenin’s youth. There was no railway and the main means of transport was via the steamers that traveled up and down the Volga. This however stopped during the long winter months when the river froze into ice and journeys had to be made on horseback.
Lenin’s father was a well-educated man who through hard work had risen from the level of poor peasant to become teacher, inspector of schools and fi nally the director of elementary schools in Simbirsk province. He was also given the noble rank of Civil Councilor in 1874. He died in 1886. Lenin’s mother was the daughter of a rural doctor. Th ough she did not go to school she was educated at home and even learnt many foreign languages, which she later taught her children. She died in 1916. They had eight children of whom two died in early childhood and one in her teens. Lenin was the fourth child. All his brothers and sisters grew up to be revolutionaries.
Lenin was however the most influenced by his elder brother, Alexander. Alexander was a brilliant student and gold medallist of the University of Saint Petersburg (then the capital of Russia). He was a member of the secret revolutionary study-circles of revolutionary youth in St. Petersburg and conducted political propaganda among the workers. He ideologically stood between the Narodniks and Marxism. In 1887 Alexander was arrested along with his elder sister Anna and other comrades for trying to assassinate the Tsar. Anna was later released and banned from St. Petersburg. Alexander however who was the leader of the group was hanged on 8th March 1887, along with four of his comrades. Lenin who was then only 17 years of age vowed to avenge his brother’s martyrdom.
Lenin from a very young age was a model student with a very systematic method of study. Unlike other students, he never produced his assignments at the last minute. Rather, he prepared an early outline and draft, constantly making notes, additions and changes before producing his final draft. He had a very high level of concentration and did not talk to anyone who disturbed him while studying. He was a great admirer of his elder brother and at a young age tried to imitate Alexander in everything he did. A month after his brother was hanged, Lenin, despite the severe tension and grief, had to sit for his school leaving exams. He received a gold medal as the school’s best student.
Despite the gold medal, Lenin could not get admission in either the St. Petersburg University or Moscow University because he was the brother of a known revolutionary. He fi nally gained admission in the smaller University of Kazan. He was however within three months expelled from the city of Kazan for participating in a demonstration against new regulations limiting the autonomy of universities and the freedom of students. Th e police offi cer who escorted him to the city limits tried to convince the young Lenin that he was up against a wall. Lenin however replied that the wall was a rotten one, which would crumble with one kick. Th e next year in 1888 Lenin was allowed to return to Kazan but was not given readmission into the university. It is here that he started attending one of the secret Marxist study-circles.
During this period and later when the family moved to another province of Samara, Lenin spent a large amount of his time in reading and study. Besides reading the works of Russian revolutionaries, Lenin, at the age of eighteen, starting reading many of Marx and Plekhanov’s works. He started propagating his knowledge of Marxism, fi rst to his eldest sister Anna, and then by organising small discussion groups of his friends. He also took to swimming, skating, mountain climbing and hunting.
In the meantime his mother made repeated attempts to get him readmitted to university. He was however again refused at Kazan. He was also refused a foreign passport to go and study abroad. After many applications, Lenin was, in 1890, finally accepted only as an external law student at the St. Petersburg University. He could sit directly for the examinations without being allowed to attend lectures. Lenin was determined to complete his course at the same time as his former Kazan fellow students. He therefore studied on his own and completed the four-year course within a year. In the examinations, held in 1891, he received the highest marks in all subjects and was given a first class degree. In January 1892 he was accepted as a lawyer and started practice in the Samara Regional Court.
Lenin however was least interested in his law practice. While giving his exams in St. Petersburg he had developed Marxist contacts there and got a supply of Marxist literature. In Samara Lenin spent a large part of his time giving lectures in illegal study circles of workers and others. He also formed the fi rst Marxist study circle of Samara. Samara was a centre of the Narodniks and Lenin concentrated his energies on fighting the Narodnik ideology of that time which had moved to liberalism. He, at the same time, had a great respect for the brave, selfless, Narodnik revolutionaries of the 1870s, many of whom were residing in Samara after retiring from politics. Lenin was always eager to learn from them about their revolutionary work, their secrecy techniques, and about the behaviour of revolutionaries during interrogation and trials. It was in Samara that Lenin started his first writings, which were circulated among the study circles. He also translated the Communist Manifesto into Russian. Lenin’s activities and influence started spreading beyond Samara to other provinces of the Volga region.
After developing well formed views Lenin now wanted to broaden the scope of his revolutionary work. With this aim, he moved in August 1893 to St. Petersburg, which was a major industrial centre with a large proletariat. As a cover he took up a job as an assistant lawyer to a senior barrister of St. Petersburg. He however did very little legal work and concentrated wholly on revolutionary activities. Lenin soon became a leading figure bringing new life to the numerous secret study-circles of St. Petersburg. He also influenced the Moscow circles. Besides lecturing in the circles he was always interested in learning every minute detail of the workers’ lives. In the circles he convinced a big section of the revolutionaries to move from selective propaganda (propaganda in those days was understood as similar to our political education classes today) in small circles to mass agitation among the broad mass of workers.
It was during this period that he met his future wife, Krupskaya, who had already come into contact with Marxism and was teaching without payment at a night school for workers. Many of her worker students were part of a study circle conducted by Lenin. Lenin himself would always be eager to learn from her deep knowledge of the lives and work conditions of the St. Petersburg workers. When Lenin fell ill she used to visit him and gradually their friendship grew into love.
Meanwhile Lenin continued to expand his contacts in many more cities of Russia. In February 1895 a meeting of the groups in various main cities decided to send Lenin and another delegate from Moscow abroad to make contact with the Emancipation of Labour group. Lenin’s first visit to Europe lasted from April to September 1895. He during this period met Plekhanov and Axelrod of the Emancipation of Labour group, and other leaders of the German and French working class organisations. He wanted keenly to meet Engels but could not do so as Engels was on his deathbed.
Upon his return to Russia he united all the Marxist circles of St. Petersburg into one political organisation called the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. Th e League immediately started agitation and organising strikes in large factories of the city. It also made plans for bringing out an illegal magazine of the workers. This magazine however could not be brought out. Th e secret police who had been keeping close watch on Lenin finally managed through the help of an informer to arrest him along with proof. He was picked up in December 1895, along with the manuscript of the first issue of the illegal magazine and was sent to jail.
Even from jail Lenin managed to keep close contact with his comrades outside. His mother and sister Anna brought him numerous books and he sent letters in the books through a code language that he had taught his sister. He also sent letters written in milk, that served as invisible ink that became visible later, on being warmed up. He used black bread as his inkpots so that he could swallow them as soon as any jail-guard came nearby. Th us from the jail Lenin could even write pamphlets and direct strikes, which during 1896 were on an upswing throughout Russia. He came to be known as the real leader of the League. At the same time he also started intense study and research on his first major theoretical work, The Development of Capitalism in Russia. While studying heavily from morning to night, Lenin kept up his fitness by daily regular exercises before going to bed.
After over one year in jail Lenin was released but was immediately sentenced to three years exile in Siberia where he reached in May 1897. Krupskaya in the meantime had also been arrested. Lenin proposed marriage to her from Siberia. She replied simply, “If I’m to be a wife, so be it.” She was allowed to join him in Siberia where she reached in May 1898. Lenin spent most of his time in Siberia in theoretical work. With Krupskaya’s help he translated an English book Industrial Democracy into Russian. He also completed his work on the development of capitalism in Russia, which was published legally in 1899. He also his started his struggle against the Economists – an opportunist trend linked to the Bernsteinian revisionism mentioned in the previous chapter. He also wrote extensively on what should be the programme and immediate tasks of the Russian revolution. When he came out of exile in early 1900 he immediately started work on those tasks.
Chapter 13: Lenin and the Proletarian Party of a New Type
Th e most urgent and pressing task when Lenin came out of exile was to build the revolutionary proletarian party. The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) had been formally established in a Congress held in 1898 attended by 9 delegates. However the Central Committee elected at the Congress was very soon arrested. Though the banner of the party had been announced this Congress did not actually succeed in unifying all the groups and building up a single party organisational structure. Thus in 1900 this task remained.
Th e plan for building up the party had been worked out in detail while in exile. Th e key to it Lenin felt was the setting up of an All-Russian political newspaper. Lenin proposed that the only way of politically and organisationally uniting the scattered Marxist study-circles, groups and organisations was through a political newspaper. This newspaper would be able to politically link all the varied cells throughout Russia by presenting the correct line and immediately fighting all opportunist deviations. At the same the most difficult task of secretly distributing an illegal paper would by itself create an underground organisation trained in facing the repressive Russian secret police. Lenin wanted to first bring into action this plan before the calling of a Party Congress because it was also first necessary to defeat the opportunist and revisionist trends that had raised their heads in the movement in the preceding years.
Lenin’s plan was first discussed with and approved by the Leagues of Struggle in various Russian cities and at a conference of Social Democrats, which he arranged to discuss this plan. His principal associates in this plan were Martov and Potresov members of the central group of the St. Petersburg who had been arrested and sent to Siberia at the same time as him. Th e plan was to bring out the paper from abroad as it was too dangerous to publish it within Russia. Lenin also planned for this purpose to unite with Plekhanov’s Emancipation of Labour group, which already existed abroad. Th e editorial board was to consist of six members – three from the Emancipation group abroad and three from Russia – Lenin, Martov and Potresov. After making all arrangements the first issue of the paper came out in December 1900.
It was called Iskra meaning Spark. Its title page carried the words of the first Russian bourgeois revolutionaries of 1825 – The Spark Will Kindle a Flame. Iskra was printed in various countries at various times – Germany, England and Switzerland. It was never sent directly to Russia but went by extremely roundabout routes until they reached the secret Iskra committees within Russia. The distributors had an extremely difficult task avoiding the secret police and if Iskra smugglers were caught they would be straightaway exiled to Siberia. Iskra was a major tool for educating the working class with lectures in study circles often consisting in reading out articles from the paper. Iskra agents used every opportunity to distribute the newspaper as well as secret Iskra leaflets. These were distributed not only in the factories but also on the streets, in theatres, in army barracks, and through the post. In large cities they were widely scattered through the streets or from the balconies in theatres. In worker localities they were distributed late at night or early mornings by keeping them in factory courtyards and near water pumps where they would be seen in the morning. After each such operation, which was called sowing, a particular marking would be made on a nearby wall so that a full report could be got in the morning as to the impact of the night’s work. In small towns and villages, the Iskra pamphlets would be brought in peasant carts on market days and pasted on walls. All this was dangerous work as discovery meant immediate arrest and the possibility of banishment to Siberia. The comrades involved in this work slowly started building up into the team of professional revolutionaries on the basis of whom Lenin planned to build the proletarian party.
As to the structure and composition of the party itself, Lenin considered that it should consist of two parts: a) a close circle of regular cadres of leading party workers, chiefly professional revolutionaries, that is, party workers free from all occupation except party work and possessing the necessary minimum of theoretical knowledge, political experience, organisational practice and the art of facing and fighting the tsarist police; and b) a broad network of local party organisations and a large number of party members enjoying the sympathy and support of hundreds of thousands of working people. As the process of building such a party was proceeding through the help of Iskra, Lenin gave direction to this process through his articles and books. Of particular significance were Where To Begin? What Is To Be Done? and Letter to a Comrade on Organisational Questions. In these works he laid down the ideological and organisational basis of the proletarian party.
Besides the organisational questions a major battle waged by Lenin was the fight against the Economists, who wanted to restrict the Social Democratic Party merely to the economic struggle of the workers. They had grown in strength in Russia during Lenin’s period in exile and Lenin realised that Economism had to be ideologically defeated before the convening of the Party Congress. He launched a direct attack on them particularly through his book What Is To Be Done? Lenin exposed how the Economists’ views meant bowing to the spontaneity of the working class movement and neglecting the role of consciousness and leading role of the party. He showed how this would lead to slavery of the working class to capitalism. While mouthing Marxism, the Economists wanted to convert the revolutionary party into a party of social reform. Lenin thus showed how the Economists were actually Russian representatives of the opportunist trend of Bernsteinian revisionism. Lenin’s book, which was widely distributed in Russia, succeeded in decisively defeating Economism. It thus laid down the principles which later became the ideological foundation of the Bolshevik party.
Th e actual birth of the Bolshevik trend within the RSDLP took place at the second Party Congress, which took place in July-August 1903. Th e main debate at the Congress was regarding what should be the nature of the party and thus who should be given membership in the party. Lenin who had in mind a tight, eff ective, professional revolutionary based party proposed that all party members should
work in one of the party organisations. Martov, on the other hand, had as his model the loosely functioning legal parties, which had become common in the Second International at that time. He thus proposed loose criteria for membership, which would allow anyone who accepted the party programme and supported the party financially, to be eligible for party membership. He thus was ready to give party membership to any party sympathiser. In the vote on this point the majority was with Martov. However later when some opportunist sections walked out of the Congress the majority came on Lenin’s side. Th is was reflected in the elections to the Central Committee and Editorial Board of Iskra, which went according to Lenin’s proposals. Th e differences between the two groups however remained strong and continued even after the Congress. From that time Lenin’s followers, who received the majority of votes in the elections at the Congress, have been called Bolsheviks (which means majority in the Russian language). Lenin’s opponents, who received the minority of votes, have been called Mensheviks (which means minority in the Russian language).
Immediately after the Congress the Mensheviks started manipulations and splitting activities. Th is created a lot of confusion. In order to clear the confusion, Lenin, in May 1904, brought out his famous book, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. It gave a detailed analysis of the intra-party struggle both during and after the Congress and on that basis explained the proletarian party’s main organisational principles which later came to form the organisational foundations of the Bolshevik party. Th e circulation of this book brought the majority of the local organisations of the party to the side of the Bolsheviks. However the central bodies, the party organ and the Central Committee went into the hands of the Mensheviks who were determined to defeat the decisions of the Congress. Th e Bolsheviks were thus forced to form their own committee and start their own organ. Both groups also started making separate preparations for organising their own congress and conference. Th ese were held in 1905. Th e split in the party was complete. Th e foundations however had been laid for the building of the true revolutionary party – the proletarian party of a new type.
Chapter 14: Russian Bourgeois Revolution of 1905 : Development of Proletarian Tactics
Th e period of the split in the RSDLP came at the beginning of a period of major changes in the world situation. The long 35-year gap of peace in Europe between the main capitalist countries was broken with a series of wars. Th e age of imperialism had dawned and the new imperialist powers started fighting for capturing and expanding markets. Th ey entered into a number of regional wars. An important war among these was the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. These regional wars were only a way by which the imperialist powers were preparing themselves for the devastating World War I of 1914-18 for the re-division of the world.
This same period was also a period of a new upsurge of revolutions. The main source of these revolutions was however now not Europe but Asia. Th e first of these revolutions was the Russian bourgeois revolution of 1905, which was followed by the Turkish, the Persian and the Chinese bourgeois revolutions. Th e most important of these revolutions, from the point of the role of the proletariat and the development of Marxist revolutionary tactics, was the 1905 Russian revolution. Its starting point was the Russo-Japanese war.
Th e Russo-Japanese war, which started on 8th February 1904, ended in defeat for the Tsar and a humiliating peace treaty on 23rd August 1905. Th e Bolsheviks adopted a clear revolutionary standpoint to the war, opposed to their own government and opposed to any false notions of nationalism or patriotism. Their approach was that the defeat of the Tsar would be useful, as it would weaken Tsardom and strengthen the revolution. Th is is actually what happened. Th e economic crisis of 1900-03 had already aggravated the hardships of the toiling masses. Th e war further intensified this suffering. As the war continued and the Russian armed forces faced defeat after defeat the people’s hatred for the Tsar increased. They reacted with the great revolution of 1905.
The historic movement started with a big Bolshevik-led strike of the oil workers of Baku in December 1904. This was the ‘signal’ for a wave of strikes and revolutionary actions throughout Russia. In particular, the revolutionary storm broke with the indiscriminate fi ring upon and massacre of a demonstration of unarmed workers on 22nd January 1905, in St. Petersburg. The Tsar’s attempt to crush the workers in blood only inspired a still more fierce response from the masses. Th e whole of 1905 was a period of rising wave of militant political strikes by workers, seizure of land and landlord’s grain by peasants, and even a revolt by the Russian Navy sailors of the battleship Potemkin. Twice the Tsar, in a bid to divert the struggle, offered fi rst a ‘consultative’ and then a ‘legislative’ Duma (Duma is the Russian parliament). Th e Bolsheviks rejected both Dumas whereas the Mensheviks decided to participate. Th e high tide of the revolution was between October and December 1905. During this period, the proletariat, for the first time in world history, set up the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies – which were assemblies of delegates from all mills and factories. These were the embryo of revolutionary power, and became the model for the Soviet power set up after the Socialist Revolution in 1917. Starting with an all-Russia political strike in October, the revolutionary struggles went on rising until the Bolshevik-led armed uprisings, in December, in Moscow, and various other cities and nationalities throughout the country, these were brutally crushed and after that the tide of the revolution started to recede. Th e revolution was however not yet crushed and the workers and revolutionary peasants retreated slowly, putting up a fight. Over a million workers took part in strikes in 1906, and 740,000 in 1907. Th e peasant movement embraced about half of the districts of Tsarist Russia in the fi rst half of 1906, and about one-fi fth in the second half of the year. Th e crest of the revolution had however passed. On 3rd June 1907, the Tsar effected a coup, dissolved the Duma he had created, and withdrew even the limited rights he had been forced to grant during the revolution. A period of intense repression under the Tsarist Prime Minister, Stolypin, called the Stolypin reaction, set in. It was to last till the next wave of strikes and political struggles in 1912.
Though the 1905 Revolution was defeated it shook the very foundations of Tsarist rule. It also, in the short space of three years, gave the working class and peasantry a rich political education. It was also the period when the Bolsheviks proved in practice the basic correctness of their revolutionary understanding regarding the strategy and tactics of the proletariat. It was in the course of this revolution that the Bolshevik understanding regarding the friends and enemies of the revolution and the forms of struggle and forms of organisation got firmly established.
Th e Bolsheviks and Mensheviks had an opposite understanding on all the above questions. Th e Menshevik understanding was the reformist and legalist understanding that had by then grown common in many parties of the Second International. It was based on the understanding that the Russian revolution, being a bourgeois revolution, had to be led by the liberal bourgeoisie, and therefore the proletariat should not take any step that would frighten the bourgeoisie and drive it into the arms of the Tsar. The Bolshevik understanding on the other hand was the revolutionary understanding that the proletariat could not rely on the bourgeoisie to lead the revolution and would have to itself take up the leadership of the revolution. It was on this revolutionary basis that the Bolsheviks developed their understanding on all the other important strategic and tactical questions of the revolution.
Th us the Bolsheviks called for the extension of the revolution and the overthrow of the Tsar through armed uprising; the Mensheviks tried to control the revolution within a peaceful framework and attempted to reform and improve Tsardom. Th e Bolsheviks pushed for the leadership of the working class, the isolation of the liberal bourgeoisie and a fi rm alliance with the peasantry; the Mensheviks accepted alliance with and leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie and did not consider the peasantry as a revolutionary class to be allied with. Th e Bolsheviks were ready for participation in a provisional revolutionary government to be formed on the basis of a successful people’s uprising and called for the boycott of the Duma offered by the Tsar; the Mensheviks were ready for participation in the Duma and
proposed to make it the centre of the “revolutionary forces” of the country.
Th e Menshevik understanding was not an isolated example of a reformist trend. In fact the Menshevik understanding was fully representative of the understanding of the main leading parties of the Second International at that time. Th eir stand was basically supported by the leaders of the International at that time. Th us Lenin and the Bolsheviks were not only fighting the reformism of the Mensheviks but also the reformist understanding that then dominated the so-called Marxist parties of the International. Lenin’s formulations were however a continuation and development of the revolutionary understanding of Marx and Engels. It was a further development of the Marxist revolutionary tactics applied in the new conditions brought about by the growth of capitalism into a new stage – imperialism. Lenin brought out these tactics in his various writings during the course of the revolution and particularly in his book, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution. This book written in July 1905 after the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks held separated Congresses, brought out the essential differences in the strategy and tactics proposed by the two groups.
Th e fundamental tactical principles presented by Lenin in this and other works were:
1) Th e main tactical principle running through all Lenin’s writings is that the proletariat can and must be the leader of the bourgeois democratic revolution. It order to do this two conditions were necessary. Firstly, it was necessary for the proletariat to have an ally who was interested in a decisive victory over Tsardom and who might be disposed to accept the leadership of the proletariat. Lenin considered that the peasantry was such an ally. Secondly, it was necessary that the class which was fighting the proletariat for the leadership of the revolution and striving to become its sole leader, would be forced out of the arena of leadership and isolated. Lenin considered that the liberal bourgeoisie was such a class. Th us the essence of Lenin’s main tactical principle of the leadership of the proletariat meant at the same time the policy of alliance with the peasantry and the policy of isolation of the liberal bourgeoisie.
2) As regards the forms of struggle and forms of organisation, Lenin considered that the most effective means of overthrowing Tsardom and achieving a democratic republic was a victorious armed uprising of the people. In order to bring this about Lenin called for mass political strikes and the arming of the workers. He also called for achieving the 8-hour working day and other immediate demands of the working class in a revolutionary way by disregarding the authorities and the law. Similarly he called for the formation of revolutionary peasant committees to bring about changes like seizure of land in a revolutionary way. Th ese tactics of disregarding the authorities paralysed the Tsar’s state machinery and released the initiative of the masses. It led to the formation of revolutionary strike committees in the towns and revolutionary peasant committees in the countryside, which later developed in the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies and the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies.
3) Lenin further held that the revolution should not stop after the victory of the bourgeois revolution and the achievement of a democratic republic. He proposed that it was the duty of the revolutionary party to do every thing possible to make the bourgeois- democratic revolution pass into the Socialist revolution. He thus giving concrete form to Marx’ concept of uninterrupted revolution.
Th ese tactical principles became the basis for the Bolshevik practice during the following period. It finally led to the victory of the proletariat in 1917 October Revolution and the establishment of the first workers’ state.
Chapter 15: World War I : Opportunism v/s Revolutionary Tactics
The dawn of imperialism from the turn of the century brought with it the wars by the imperialist powers for the capture of colonies. An example was the Russo-Japanese war mentioned in the previous chapter. Th is war took place because both Russia and Japan wanted control over Manchuria in Northern China and Korea. Similar wars for capturing or recapturing colonies started breaking out in various parts of the world. Th us it became of crucial importance for the international proletarian movement to adopt the correct revolutionary position on the questions of colonialism and war. Th is therefore came up before the Congresses of the Second International.
Opportunism had however, by then, spread quite extensively within the parties of the Second International. Many leading sections of the parties in the imperialist countries had in fact started taking the standpoint of the bourgeoisie on many of the crucial political questions. Th is was seen very clearly at the 1907 Congress of the Second International where the questions of colonialism and war were first taken up.
On the question of colonialism, the leading body of the Congress – the Congress commission – adopted a resolution on colonial policy and placed it before the general body for approval. Th is resolution while criticising the bourgeoisie’s colonial policy for namesake did not reject totally the principle of capturing colonies. It in fact argued that under a socialist regime it could be in the “interests of civilization” to capture colonies. Such an openly imperialist position of these so-called Marxists was strongly opposed by the revolutionaries in the general body and the resolution was finally defeated, but only by a small margin of only 127 votes to 108.
Similar opportunism of the leadership was seen in the case of the stand on the question of war. Bebel, a known leader and a close follower and associate of Marx and Engels prepared the resolution. The resolution however was left vague without any specific direction or course of action to be taken by the members in the event of war. Th is again was opposed strongly by the revolutionaries – particularly Rosa Luxembourg of Germany and Lenin. They then proposed an amendment which gave a clear cut direction to the members of the International to fight to prevent war, to fight to end the war quickly in case it started, and to make full use of the economic and political crisis in the case of war to arouse the people and bring about revolution. Th is was a continuation of the revolutionary proletarian position on war that Marx had already clearly laid down. Since the opportunists could not openly oppose this understanding, this resolution was passed by the Congress. As the war danger grew nearer the 1910 and 1912 Congresses of the International again discussed and adopted resolutions regarding war. Th ey decided that all socialists in parliament should vote against war credits. They also repeated in their resolutions the wording of the amendment proposed in 1907 by Luxembourg and Lenin.
However the hold of opportunism over the Second International was so great that most of the leaders who passed these resolutions had absolutely no intention of standing by these decisions. Th is was seen when the World War I actually broke out in July-August 1914. Th e German Social-Democratic Party, which was the undoubted leader of the Second International, led the way. Th e trade-union bureaucrats, instead of trying to rouse the workers against the war and for revolution, immediately entered into a no-strike agreement with the employers. In the party caucus (fraction) meeting that was held before the parliamentary vote on war credits, a large majority voted in support of the war. Only a handful of revolutionaries led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg opposed. Kautsky, who was at that time the main ideological leader of the Second International, voted to abstain. Th us on 4th August 1914 the German Social Democratic Party threw aside all the previous Congress resolutions and voted unanimously in parliament to support the imperialist war. For the revolutionary proletariat, the Second International ceased to exist from that date. Th e German party was immediately followed by the majority of socialists in France, Britain, Belgium and other countries. Th e Second International broke up into separate social-chauvinist parties warring against each other.
Th e Bolsheviks were almost the only party to stand by the anti-war resolutions. In the context of the Second International leaders falling totally into opportunism, it was left to Lenin and the Bolsheviks to uphold and implement the correct Marxist position regarding the World War. Lenin immediately brought out writings presenting this correct understanding. The Central Committee of the RSDLP (B) gave a call to “turn the imperialist war into civil war” and to build a new Th ird International in place of the Second International. Lenin started the process of building the Third International by uniting all the leftist anti-war forces. Though these forces started holding conferences from 1915 onwards much confusion continued. Lenin had to take up the task of clearing this confusion and establishing among these elements the correct revolutionary position on the principles of socialism in relation to war and also the tasks of revolutionary social democrats at the international level and in Russia. Lenin did this through his various writings propagated both within Russia as well as the international level.
The principles and tasks Lenin outlined can be presented in the following manner:
Firstly, socialists are not pacifists who are opponents of all war. Socialists aim at establishing socialism and communism, which by eliminating all exploitation will eliminate the very possibility of war. However in the fight to achieve the socialist system there will always be the possibility of wars which are necessary and are of revolutionary significance.
Secondly, while deciding the attitude to be adopted towards a particular war, the main issue for socialists is this: what is the war being waged for, and what classes staged and directed it. Thus Lenin pointed out that during the period of the bourgeois democratic revolution, Marx had supported the wars waged by the bourgeoisie, which were against feudalism and reactionary kings. Because these wars were aimed at abolishing feudalism and establishing or strengthening capitalism, they were progressive or just wars. Adopting similar criteria Lenin points out that in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution socialists will support all such wars that take ahead the World Socialist Revolution. According to such an understanding Lenin gave examples of the types of wars that may be called just or progressive wars: – 1) national wars waged by a colonial or semi-colonial country against its imperialist exploiter, 2) civil wars waged by the proletariat and other oppressed classes against their feudal or capitalist ruling classes, 3) socialist wars for the defence of the socialist fatherland.
Thirdly, Lenin pointed out that on the basis of the above understanding there was nothing just or progressive about the World War I. He compared the imperialist war to a war between a slave-holder who owns 100 slaves and a slave-holder who owns 200 slaves for a more ‘just’ redistribution of slaves. Th e essential purpose of the World War I was for redistribution of the colonial slaves. Th us there could not be anything progressive or defensive or just war. It was an unjust, reactionary war. Th e only stand towards it could be the call to convert the imperialist war into civil war. Th e only use thus of such a war was to take advantage of this war to make revolution. In order to do this, Lenin pointed out that it was advantageous that one’s own country is defeated in the war. Defeat would weaken the ruling class and facilitate the victory of revolution. Th us any socialist revolutionary must work for the defeat of his own government in the war.
Finally, Lenin pointed out that it was the duty of socialists to participate in the movement for peace. Nevertheless while participating in the movement for peace, it is their duty to point out that no real and lasting peace is possible without a revolutionary movement. In fact, whoever wants a just and democratic peace must stand for civil war against the governments and the bourgeoisie.
Though these principles and tactics were propagated among all the parties of the Second International, the only ones to implement them in practice were the Bolsheviks. It was this approach to the war that helped them to make use of the revolutionary crisis situation created by the war and within three years achieve the victory of Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917.
Chapter 16: Lenin’s Analysis of Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
Marx’ analysis of the laws of motion of capitalism belongs to the stage of free competitive capitalism where a large number of capitalist producers competed in the market. He analysed to some extent the process of centralisation of capital. He however did not live long enough to see the start of a new stage in capitalism — the stage of imperialism. Th is happened at the start of the 20th century and it was left to Lenin to analyse this process. In 189798 Lenin made some initial analysis of the development of the capitalist world market but did not analyse in full the subject of imperialism. However with the start of the World War I which was a war caused by imperialism it was necessary to do a full analysis of imperialism to understand the economic basis of the war and the political consequences for the proletariat.
This question became all the more urgent in 1915 when the opportunist and revisionist leader of the Second International, Karl Kautsky, wrote a book on imperialism where he argued that the world economic system was moving towards ‘ultra-imperialism’ where there would be stability and no risk of war. His argument was similar to some people who analyse globalisation today and argue that, because of the growth of multinational groups and corporations and the spread of their capital to all countries, these multinationals will be opposed to war and there is therefore no danger of a world war. Th is theory presented during the World War I gave a false picture of imperialism. Since such a false theory was presented by Kautsky who was then recognised as the main theoretician of Marxism it was absolutely necessary to oppose this theory and present the correct understanding. It was necessary to clear the confusion created by the Second Internationalists and give the correct analysis and present the correct tactics before the international working class movement. In order to do this Lenin, in 1916, did extensive research and produced his famous work, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Besides this main work he also wrote many
other articles linking this basic economic analysis to the tactics of the proletariat.
In the first place, Lenin tried to clear the confusion created by Kautsky and other opportunists as to ‘What is Imperialism?’ In order to answer this, he pointed out that imperialism is a specifi c historical stage of capitalism. Its specific character is three-fold: imperialism is (1) monopoly capitalism; (2) parasitic, or decaying capitalism; (3) moribund capitalism or capitalism on its deathbed. Th e replacement of free competition by monopoly is the fundamental economic feature, the essence of imperialism.
Monopoly Capitalism manifests itself in fi ve principal forms: (1) Cartels, syndicates and trusts — Th e concentration of production has reached a degree which gives rise to these monopolistic associations of capitalists who join together to crush other competitors. They fi x prices, allot production among themselves and make other arrangements and agreements to prevent others from entering and succeeding in the market. Th ey play a decisive role in economic life. (2) Th e monopolistic position of the big banks and the creation of finance capital through the merger of monopoly industrial capital and bank capital – During Lenin’s time this had already reached the level where three, four or fi ve giant banks manipulated the whole economic life in the main industrialised counties. (3) Th e export of capital which gains particular importance – this feature that is different from the export of commodities under non-monopoly capitalism is closely linked to the economic and political partition of the world. (4) Th e economic partition of the world by the international cartels – At Lenin’s time there were already over one hundred such international cartels, which commanded the entire world market and divided it among themselves in a ‘friendly’ manner. Of course this ‘friendliness’ would only be temporary and would last until war took place for a redivision of markets. (5) Th e territorial (political) partition of the world (colonies) among the biggest capitalist powers –Th is process of colonisation of all the backward countries of the world was basically completed at the time of the dawn of imperialism. Any further colonies could only be got through re
division of the world, through war.
On the basis of the above features, Lenin defines imperialism in the following way: “Imperialism is capitalism in that stage of development in which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital has established itself; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun; in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”
The fact that imperialism is parasitic or decaying capitalism is manifested first of all in the tendency to decay, which is characteristic of every monopoly under the system of private ownership of the means of production. As compared the rapid expansion under free competition, there is a tendency for production as a whole to decline under monopoly. Technological progress is discouraged and new inventions and patents are deliberately suppressed. Secondly, the decay of capitalism is manifested in the creation of a huge stratum of rentiers, capitalists who live without working but merely on the basis of the interest or dividend they earn on their investments. Thirdly, export of capital is parasitism raised to a high pitch as it means the open exploitation of the cheap labour of the backward countries. Fourthly, finance capital strives for domination, not freedom. Political reaction all along the line is a characteristic feature of imperialism. Corruption, bribery on a huge scale and all kinds of fraud become common. Fifthly, the exploitation of oppressed nations and especially the exploitation of colonies by a handful of “Great” Powers, increasingly transforms the imperialist world into a parasite on the body of hundreds of millions in the backward nations. It reaches the stage where a privileged upper stratum of the proletariat in the imperialist countries also lives partly at the expense of hundreds of millions in the colonies.
Imperialism is moribund capitalism, because it is capitalism in transition to socialism. Monopoly, which grows out of capitalism, is already dying capitalism, the beginning of its transition to socialism. Th e tremendous socialisation of labour by imperialism produces the same result. The basic contradiction of capitalism between the social character of production and the private character of ownership only gets further intensified under imperialism. Th us Lenin says, “Imperialism is the eve of the social revolution of the proletariat.”
Chapter 17: The Great October Socialist Revolution
As mentioned earlier, in Chapter 14, the period after the defeat of the 1905 Revolution was a period of extreme repression and reaction under the leadership of the Tsar’s Prime Minister, Stolypin. Th e working class was made the main target of attack. Wages were reduced by 10 to 15 per cent, and the working day was increased to 10 to 12 hours. Black lists of worker activists were drawn up and they were not given jobs. Systems of fi nes on workers were introduced. Any attempt to organise was met with savage attacks by the police and goondas organised by the Tsar’s agents. In such a situation many intellectuals and petty bourgeois elements started retreating and some even joined the camp of the enemy.
In order to face this new situation, the Bolsheviks changed over from offensive tactics (like general strike and armed uprising used during the period of the 1905 Revolution) to defensive tactics. Defensive tactics meant the tactics of gathering together of forces, the tactics of withdrawing the cadres underground and of carrying on the work of the party from underground, the tactics of combining illegal work with work in the legal working-class organisations. Open revolutionary struggle against Tsardom was replaced by roundabout methods of struggle.
The surviving legal organisations served as a cover for the underground organisations of the party and as a means of maintaining connections with the masses. In order to preserve their connections with the masses, the Bolsheviks made use of he trade unions and other legally existing people’s organisations, such as sick benefit societies, workers’ co-operative societies, clubs, educational societies and even parliament. Th e Bolsheviks made use of the platform of the State Duma to expose the policy of the Tsarist government, to expose the liberal parties, and to win the support of the peasants for the proletariat. Th e preservation of the illegal Party organisation enabled the party to pursue a correct line and to gather together forces in preparation for a new rise in the tide of the revolution.
In implementing these tactics the Bolsheviks had to wage struggle against two deviations within the movement – the Liquidators and the Otzovists (Recallists). The Liquidators, who were Mensheviks, wanted to close down the illegal party structure and set up a legal ‘labour’ party with the consent of the government. Th e Recallists, who were from among the Bolsheviks, wanted to recall all the Bolshevik members of the Duma, and also withdraw from the trade unions and all other legal forms of organisation. They wanted only the illegal form of organisation. Th e result of both sets of tactics would have been to prevent the party from gathering together the forces for a new advance of the revolution. Rejecting both deviations, the Bolsheviks used the correct tactics of combining both legal and illegal methods and were able to gain a strong presence in many workers’ organisations and also win over a number of Menshevik worker organisations. This strengthened the party and prepared it for the next upswing in the revolutionary movement, which started from 1912.
Th e Bolsheviks held a separate Party Conference in January 1912 and constituted themselves as a separate party – the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) [RSDLP (B)]. At this conference itself they assessed the rise in the revolutionary movement which was seen from the rise in the number of strikers in 1911. At this conference and at later meetings of the Central Committee, new tactics were decided upon according to the new situation. This involved extending and intensifying the struggles of the workers.
An important aspect of the tactics during this period was the starting of the daily newspaper, Pravda (Truth), which helped to strengthen the Bolshevik organisations and spread their influence among the masses. Earlier the Bolsheviks had a weekly paper, which was meant for advanced workers. Pravda, however, was a daily mass political newspaper, aimed at reaching out to the broadest sections of the workers. Started on 5th May 1912, it lasted for two and a half years. During this period it faced numerous problems and heavy fines from the government’s censors. It was suppressed eight times but reappeared again each time under a slightly changed name. It had an average circulation of 40,000 copies. Pravda was supported by a large number of advanced workers – 5600 workers’ groups collected for the Bolshevik press. Th rough Pravda, Bolshevik influence spread not only among the workers, but also among the peasants. In fact during the period of the rise of the revolutionary movement (1912-14) the solid foundation was laid for a mass Bolshevik party. As Stalin said, “The Pravda of 1912 was the laying of the corner-stone of the victory of Bolshevism in 1917.”
With the outbreak of war in 1914, the revolutionary situation further ripened. Th e Bolsheviks did extensive propaganda among the workers against the war and for the overthrow of Tsardom. Units and cells were also formed in the army and the navy, at the front and in the rear, and leafl ets distributed calling for a fi ght against the war. At the front, after the Party’s intensive agitation for friendship and brotherhood between the warring armies’ soldiers, there were increasing instances of refusal of army units to take the offensive in 1915 and 1916. Th e bourgeoisie and landlords were making fortunes out of the war, but the workers and peasants were suffering increasing hardships. Millions had died directly of wounds or due to epidemics caused by war conditions. In January and February 1917, the situation became particularly acute. Hatred and anger against the tsarist government spread.
Even the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, were wary of the Tsar, whose advisers were working for a separate peace with Germany. They too, with the backing of the British and French governments, planned to replace the tsar through a palace coup. However the people acted first.
From January 1917 a strong revolutionary strike movement started in Moscow, Petrograd, Baku and other industrial centres. Th e Bolsheviks organised big street demonstrations in favour of a general strike. As the strike movement gained momentum, on March 8, International Women’s Day, the working women of Petrograd were called out by the Bolsheviks to demonstrate against starvation, war and Tsardom. Th e workers supported the working women with strikes and by March 11, the strikes and demonstrations had taken on the character of an armed uprising. Th e Bureau of the Central Committee on March 11 issued a call for continuation of the armed uprising to overthrow the tsar and establish a provisional revolutionary government. On March 12, 60,000 soldiers came over to the side of the revolution, fought the police and helped the workers overthrow the Tsar. As the news spread, workers and soldiers everywhere began to depose the Tsarist officials. Th e February bourgeois democratic revolution had won. (It is called February Revolution because the Russian calendar at that time was 13 days behind the calendar in other parts of the world and the date of the victory of the revolution was February 27th according to the Russian calendar).
As soon as Tsardom was overthrown, on the initiative of the Bolsheviks, there arose Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. However, while the Bolsheviks were directly leading the struggle of the masses in the streets, the compromising parties, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries (a pettybourgeois party which was a continuation of the earlier Narodniks) were seizing the seats in the Soviets, and building up a majority there. Thus they headed the Soviets in Petrograd, Moscow and a number of other cities. Meanwhile the liberal bourgeois members of the Duma did a backdoor deal with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries and formed a Provisional Government. Th e result was the formation of two bodies representing two dictatorships: the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, represented by the Provisional Government, and the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, represented by the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Lenin called this dual power.
Immediately after the bourgeois revolution Lenin while still in Switzerland, wrote his famous Letters from Afar, where he analysed this dual power. He showed how the Soviets were the embryo of the workers’ government, which had to go ahead and win victory in the second stage of the revolution— the socialist revolution. Their allies in this would be the broad semi-proletarian and small peasant masses and the proletariat of all countries.
On April 16, 1917, Lenin arrived in Petrograd after a long period of exile, and the very next day presented his famous April Theses before a meeting of Bolsheviks. He called for opposing the Provisional Government and working for a Bolshevik majority in the Soviets and transferring state power to the Soviets. He presented the programme for ensuring peace, land, and bread. Lastly, he called for a new party Congress with a new party name, the Communist Party, and for building a new International, the Third International. The Mensheviks immediately attacked Lenin’s Theses and gave a warning that ‘the revolution is in danger’. However within three weeks, the first openly held All-Russia Conference (Seventh Conference) of the Bolshevik Party, approved Lenin’s report based on the same Theses. It gave the slogan, ‘All Power to the Soviets!’ It also approved a very important resolution, moved by Stalin, declaring the right of nations to self-determination, including secession.
In the following months, the Bolsheviks worked energetically according to the Conference line, convincing the masses of workers, soldiers and peasants of the correctness of their position. Th e Sixth Party Congress was also held in August 1917 after a gap of ten years. Due to the danger of attack from the Provisional Government, the Congress had to be held in secret in Petrograd, without the presence of Lenin. Stalin presented the main political reports, which called for the preparation for armed uprising. Th e Congress also adopted new Party Rules which provided that all Party organisations shall be built on the principles of Democratic Centralism. It also admitted the group led by Trotsky into the Party.
Soon after the Congress, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, Gen. Kornilov, organised a revolt of the army in order to crush the Bolsheviks and the Soviets. However the soldiers of many divisions were convinced by the Bolsheviks not to obey orders and the revolt failed. After the failure of this revolt the masses realised that the Bolsheviks and the Soviets were the only guarantee for achieving peace, land, and bread, which were their urgent demands. Rapid Bolshevisation of the Soviets took place, the tide of the revolution was rising, and the Party started preparing for armed uprising.
In this period, Lenin, for security reasons, was forced to stay in Finland, away from the main arena of battle. During this period, he completed his book, The State and Revolution, which defended and developed the teachings of Marx and Engels on the question of the state. While particularly exposing the distortions on this question by opportunists like Kautsky, Lenin’s work then had tremendous theoretical and practical significance at the international level. Th is was because, as Lenin saw clearly at that time itself, the Russian February bourgeois revolution was a link in a chain of socialist proletarian revolutions being caused by the World War I. Th e question of the relationship between the proletarian revolution and the state was no longer merely a theoretical question. Because of the revolutionary situation created by the war it was now a question of immediate practical importance and it was necessary for the international proletarian movement and the masses to be educated as to correct understanding regarding this.
As the revolutionary tide rose Lenin again landed in Petrograd on October 20, 1917. Within three days of his arrival, a historic Central Committee meeting decided to launch the armed uprising within a few days. Immediately representatives were sent to all parts of the country and particularly to the army units. On becoming aware of the plan for the uprising, the Provisional government started an attack on the Bolsheviks, on November 6, 1917, the eve of the holding of the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets. The Red Guards and revolutionary units of the army retaliated and by November 7, 1917, state power had passed into the hands of the Soviets.
Immediately the next day the Congress of Soviets passed the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land. It formed the first Soviet government—the Council of People’s Commissars—of which Lenin was elected the fi rst Chairman. Th e Great October Socialist Revolution had established the dictatorship of the proletariat.
It was however a long battle before the workers’ power was consolidated. Firstly the war with Germany had to be ended. This was finally done by signing the Brest-Litovsk Treaty in February 1918. This too however did not bring a lasting peace. As soon as the World War I ended, the victorious imperialist powers of Britain, France, Japan and America started direct and indirect intervention and help to the old ruling classes of Russia to wage a civil war against the Soviet state. This civil war lasted till the end of 1920. The Soviet state emerged victorious but at the end of the war the economy was in ruins.
Chapter 18: The Formation of the Third International
Th e end of the World War I was a period of revolutionary upsurge throughout the world. The success of the October Revolution had an impact in numerous countries, even where Marxism had little or no influence. Europe, the main battlefield of the War, was in the deepest revolutionary crisis. Th e war had resulted in the overthrow of four emperors and the break-up of their four great empires – the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg), and Turkish (Ottoman). Th e state structures were in shambles and the masses were in the mood for revolt. Th e mass protests started even before the completion of the war. In January 1918, a wave of mass political strikes and anti-war demonstrations swept throughout central Europe. This was followed by revolts in the armed forces of various countries. There was also a national upsurge, which led to the formation of many new states after the break-up of the old empires.
In Germany and Hungary however the crisis led to revolution. In November 1918 the German sailors mutinied and this immediately spread a wave of revolt throughout Germany resulting in the overthrow of the emperor and the establishment of a republic under the leadership of the Social-Democrat Party. Soviets were immediately established in Berlin and other cities. These were however crushed in January 1919 after two weeks of street fi ghting against the reactionary military forces, which had been reorganised by the Social-Democrat government. Later a Soviet Republic was formed in Bavaria (a province of Germany) in April 1919. But this too was crushed.
In Hungary the Communists led a coalition with the Social-Democrats and took control of the government in March 1919. They were however thrown out within five months by military pressure from Allied governments. The struggles of the workers continued for at least four more years but both these revolutions finally ended in failure.
Nevertheless the rising tide of revolution and the success of the revolution in Russia had led to formation of Communist Parties in many countries. A real basis now existed for a union of the Communist Parties, for the formation of the Third, Communist International. As mentioned earlier, Lenin and the Bolsheviks had given the call for the formation of the Third International in 1914 itself. Now they took the initiative for actually setting it up.
In January 1919 Lenin addressed an open letter to the workers of Europe and America urging them to found the Third International. Soon after invitations for an international congress were sent out. In March 1919, the First Congress of the Communist Parties of various countries, held in Moscow, founded the Communist International. Th e Congress set up an Executive Committee of the Third, Communist International.
Just a month after the First Congress, Lenin explained the historical significance of the Third International in the following way: “The First International laid the foundation of the proletarian, international struggle for socialism. Th e Second International marked a period in which the soil was prepared for the broad, mass spread of the movement in a number of countries. Th e Third International has gathered the fruits of the work of the Second International, discarded its opportunist, social-chauvinist, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois dross, and has begun to implement the dictatorship of the proletariat.” He thus pointed out that the most significant aspect of the Third International was that it now represented the proletariat that had succeeded in seizing state power and now had begun to establish socialism.
After intense preparatory work, the Second Congress of the Communist International held in July 1920 was a major success with a wide representation from 41 countries. Lenin made major contributions to Marxist theory in connection with this Congress. He prepared what he intended as a handbook of Communist party strategy and tactics, which was distributed among the delegates of the Congress. It was called “Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder, and concentrated on correcting the ‘leftist’ errors then prevalent in many parties who had joined the International. Lenin also prepared the Theses on the National and Colonial Question adopted at the Congress. It was a landmark document which laid the Marxist-Leninist theoretical foundations for understanding and leading the national liberation struggles then gathering momentum in all the colonies and semi-colonies. Besides, Lenin outlined the basic tasks of the Communist International and the Theses on the Agrarian Question adopted at this Congress. Th e Congress also adopted theses on the role of the Communist Party in the proletarian revolution, on the trade union movement, on Communist Parties and parliament, and the Statutes and Conditions of admission of the Communist International. In its statutes the Comintern (Communist International) clearly declared that it “breaks once and for all with the traditions of the Second International, for whom only white-skinned people existed”.
Besides theoretical formulations, the International, through its Executive Committee started playing a prominent role in guiding the parties and movements in the various member countries. In particular, it tried to make the utmost of the post-war revolutionary situation in the capitalist countries, which continued till 1923. However due primarily to the betrayal of the Second International Social-Democrats, as also the ideological and organisational weaknesses of the Communist Parties in these countries, revolution could not be successfully completed in any other capitalist country.
Th e Comintern however played an important role in establishing, developing and guiding the newly formed Communist parties in the colonies and semi-colonies. During the nineteen twenties as the national liberation movements in these countries advanced rapidly, the Comintern attempted to guide and train the Communist Parties to provide the leadership to these movements. It was for the first time that Marxism was building a base among the people of the backward countries of the world.
Chapter 19: The National and Colonial Question
The earliest national movements arose in Western Europe.
These national movements were mainly led by the bourgeoisie in their fi ght against feudalism. Th e main aim of these national movements was to unite into one nation and state a large territory, which was under the rule of numerous feudal lords. Th is was necessary for the bourgeoisie to get a single large market and to avoid the harassment and domination of the various feudal lords. Thus the bourgeois revolution against feudalism and the national movement to establish a single nation-state often combined into one. Thus the national movement was not normally a struggle for independence from oppression by another nation. In the whole of Western Europe, the only place where a national movement for independence took place was when Ireland fought to free itself from Britain.
Marx and Engels lived in this period, when the later national liberation struggles were yet to break out in a major way. They thus did not devote much attention to developing Marxist theory on the national question. Marx however formulated the basic stand in relation to the Irish Question by calling on the English proletariat to support the national struggle of the Irish people and oppose its national oppression.
The next phase of nationality movements came in Eastern Europe, with the spread of capitalism, and the weakening of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires. Nationality movements and organisations starting growing in the whole of East Europe, including Russia. It was necessary for the international proletarian movement and the RSDLP to have a proper understanding and stand on the question. It was during this period that Stalin, in 1913, made the first systematic Marxist presentation on the national question. Stalin himself was a Georgian, a member of an oppressed nationality in Russia, where a national movement was rapidly developing. In Georgia it was therefore doubly necessary to present the correct Marxist understanding and take the correct political stand. This is what Stalin attempted to do in his pioneering work, Marxism and The National Question.
In his work Stalin started by defining what is a nation. He defined a nation as “a historically evolved, stable community of people, based upon the common possession of four principal attributes, namely: a common language, a common territory, a common economic life, and a common psychological make-up manifesting itself in common specific features of national culture.” Stalin rejected the concept of nation based merely on religion or culture, like the Jews. He insisted that a community should have all the above characteristics to be called a nation. Stalin proposed that all such nations should have the right to self-determination. This right of self-determination however cannot be limited to autonomy, or to linking up in a federation, as some other parties of that time were proposing. Th e right of self-determination had to include the right of secession, i.e. to separate and exist as an independent state. However Stalin pointed out that how to exercise the right depended on the concrete historical circumstances at a particular point of time. It was up to the revolutionaries to try and influence the nation’s decision regarding self-determination. Th e decision of the revolutionary party would be based on whether autonomy, or federation, or secession, or any other course would be in the best interests of the toiling masses, and particularly the proletariat.
Though Stalin’s presentation clarified many questions, it was still incomplete because it did not link the national question to imperialism and the question of colonies. This was only done after Lenin’s analysis of imperialism in 1916. On the basis of an analysis of imperialism, Lenin linked the question of self-determination of nations to the national-liberation struggles being waged in the colonial countries. Thus it came to cover the vast majority of the world’s peoples. It did not remain merely an internal state problem of a few countries, which had oppressed nationalities within their boundaries. The national question became a world problem, a question of the liberation of the oppressed peoples of all dependent countries and colonies from the burden of imperialism.
Thus when Lenin, in 1916, presented his Thesis on The Socialist Revolution and The Right of Nations to Self-Determination, he included all the countries of the world in his analysis. He divided the countries of the world into three main types:
First, the advanced capitalist countries of Western Europe and the United States of America. Th ese are oppressor nations who oppress other nations in the colonies and within their own country. Th e task of the proletariat of these ruling nations is to oppose national oppression and support the national struggle of the peoples oppressed by their imperialist ruling classes.
Secondly, Eastern Europe and particularly Russia. Th e task of the proletariat in these countries is to uphold the right of nations to self determination. In this connection the most difficult but most important task is to merge the class struggle of the workers in the oppressing nations with the class struggle of the workers in the oppressed nations.
Thirdly, the semi-colonial countries, like China, Persia, Turkey, and all the colonies, which then had a combined population amounting to a billion. With regard to these colonial countries, Lenin took the stand that socialists must not only demand the unconditional and immediate liberation of the colonies without compensation, but must also give determined support to the movement for national liberation in these countries and assist rebellion and revolutionary war against the imperialist powers that oppress them.
This was the first time within the international socialist movement that such a clear stand had been taken on the national and colonial questions. Th ere was naturally thus some debate and confusions. One such argument was that support to self-determination and national liberation went against proletarian internationalism. It argued that socialism aimed at the merger of all nations. Lenin agreed that the aim of socialism is to abolish the division of mankind into small states, to bring nations closer together, and to even merge them. However he felt
it would be impossible to achieve this by the forced merger of nations. Th e merging of nations could only be achieved only by passing through the transition period of complete liberation of all oppressed nations i.e. their freedom to secede. While presenting the party programme in 1917 Lenin said, “We want free unification, that is why we must recognise the right to secede. Without freedom to secede, unification cannot be called free.” Th is was the proletariat’s democratic approach to the national question, which stood opposed to the bourgeoisie’s policy of national oppression and annexation.
Chapter 20: Early Life and Revolutionary Contributions of Stalin up to the 1917 Revolution
In the initial years after the October Revolution, Lenin directly guided all the affairs of state and the party. In August 1918 there was an attempt on his life by a women member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, which left two bullets in his body. Lenin was weakened by this attempt, but continued his rigorous work schedule, which only left him three to four hours sleep. Th is overwork soon started having a serious impact on his health, particularly his brain. From end 1921 he started getting severe headaches and spells of vertigo (an illness which causes giddiness) which affected his work. In May 1922 he suffered a paralytic stroke which affected his right hand and leg and his power of speech. From that time on till his death despite Lenin’s many efforts to recover and get back to work, he could not play any effective role. Just before Lenin’s stroke, the Central Committee had in April 1922, elected Stalin as the General Secretary. It was thus Stalin who took over the leadership of the Party during Lenin’s illness and after his death on 21st January 1924.
Stalin (meaning man of steel), was the most popular of many party names of Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili who was born on 21st December 1879, in Gori, a small town of Georgia, which was then an oppressed nationality within the Russian Empire (today Georgia is an independent country). His parents were poor and illiterate, descendants of serfs. His father, a few years after being released from slavery to his landlord, had shifted, in 1875, from his village near Tiflis, the capital of the Caucasus (a backward region of the Russian Empire, which was home to Georgia and several other oppressed nationalities). He set up a small shoemaker’s shop in Gori, which was the equivalent of a district town. He was however not able to earn much and left his wife and child in Gori to go and take up a job in a shoe factory in Tiflis, where he died in 1890.
Since Stalin’s father did not contribute much to the household, his mother, Ekaterina was the one who looked after him and brought him up. She worked long hours as a washerwoman and it was her earnings that paid for all the expenses of the household. She had three children before Stalin, who all died soon after birth. Stalin being her only surviving son, she made all efforts to give him a proper education. Despite her poverty, she did not send her son to work as would have been normal. She sent Stalin, at the age of nine, to the local church school. She herself put in a lot of effort and learnt to read and write later in old age. Ekaterina was thus a remarkable example of the grit and determination of the working masses.
Stalin personally experienced poverty from his earliest childhood days. His house consisted of two extremely small rooms, which served as shop, workshop and home. Though Stalin was strong and hardy, he suffered an attack of smallpox when six or seven years of age that left lifelong pock marks on his face. He also had a blood infection, which brought him near death and permanently handicapped his left arm.
During his five years at the Gori School, Stalin was noted for his intelligence and his exceptional memory. It was here that Stalin came first into contact with rationalist ideas and went against religion. He started writing poetry and was himself influenced by Georgian literature and poetry, which had strong nationalist trends. It was during these years itself that Stalin was filled with strong feelings of fighting against social injustice and against the oppression of his people.
Due to his poverty it would have been impossible for Stalin to go for higher education. However he was recommended as the ‘best student’ for a scholarship, by the school headmaster and the local priest. This enabled him to continue his studies from October 1894 at the topmost institution of higher learning in the Caucasus. This was the Theological Seminary (a college for training to become a Christian priest) at Tiflis. Stalin’s five years at the Tiflis seminary were crucial formative years when he became a Marxist.
Georgia, in Stalin’s youth was in a constant state of unrest. One of the sources of unrest was the rebellious mood of the peasantry, where the abolition of serfdom had been delayed even after it had been abolished in Russia. Th e other source was the constant inflow of revolutionary ideas from Russia. This was because the Tsarist government had a long history of deporting to the Caucasus many of its rebels and bourgeois revolutionaries. Later these deportees included even Marxist worker revolutionaries like Kalinin, the future President of the Soviet Union, and Alliluyev, Bolshevik organiser and later Stalin’s father-in-law.
Th e Tif is seminary was one such centre of unrest. It was the main breeding ground of the local intelligentsia and also the main centre of opposition to the Tsar. In 1893, just a year before Stalin joined the seminary there was a strike, which led to the dismissal of 87 students. The main leaders of the strike later became prominent Marxists and revolutionaries. One of the leaders, Ketskhoveli, was also from Stalin’s Gori school, just three years his senior. He soon became Stalin’s first political mentor.
Stalin, in the first year itself immersed himself in reading all sorts of radical literature. Th is he had to do secretly, because most books of non-religious and political nature were strictly banned in the seminary. His poetry, radical and political in nature, was published for the first time, under another name, in a leading Georgian magazine. This was also the time when Stalin, at the young age of fifteen, came into contact with secret Marxist study circles. Soon Stalin came under the vigilance of the seminary authorities and was even sent to the punishment cell for reading forbidden literature. Around this time he joined a secret debating circle in the seminary itself. Th is further increased his activities, which brought him more often into conflict with the seminary authorities.
At the age of eighteen, in August 1898, he joined Messame Dassy (meaning Th e Third Group), the first group of Socialists in Georgia, whose leaders later became prominent Mensheviks. Later Stalin would say, “I became a Marxist because of my social position (my father was a worker in a shoe factory and my mother was also a working woman), but also …because of the harsh intolerance and Jesuitical discipline that crushed me so mercilessly at the Seminary…. Th e atmosphere in which I lived was saturated with hatred against Tsarist oppression.” Outside the Seminary, in the city of Tiflis, the workers during this period were on the move. These years saw the first strikes in the Caucasus. As soon as Stalin joined the Messame Dassy he was given the task of running a few workers’ study circles. This he did by holding secret meetings in the workers’ bastis during the short free time that he got from the seminary. Meanwhile the seminary authorities were looking for an opportunity to deal with Stalin. Finally he was expelled from the seminary in May 1899, on grounds of not having appeared for his examinations.
Expulsion from the seminary however did not see much change in Stalin’s revolutionary activities. After a short stay with his mother in Gori, he was back in Tiflis, organising and educating, while staying among the workers. In December 1899, he took up a job as a clerk with the Tiflis geophysical observatory. This job though paying very little, took very little time and provided an ideal cover from the Tsarist secret police.
Under this cover, Stalin continued to expand his activities. The next year, in 1900, he organised and spoke at the first May Day celebration to be held in the Caucasus. Due to Tsarist repression, this 500 strong meeting had to be held, not in the city but in the mountains above Tiflis. Th e meeting was an inspiring event which led to strikes in the factories and railways in the following months. Stalin was one of the main organisers. Th e next year it was decided to hold the May Day demonstration openly in the middle of Tiflis, but the main leaders were arrested in March 1901 itself. Stalin’s room too was raided but he managed to escape. From that day onwards till the success of the revolution in 1917, Stalin led the life of an underground professional revolutionary. His first task was to take over the leadership of the organisation and go ahead and organise the May Day event despite the loss of the main leaders. This he did successfully, and despite arrests and violent attacks by the police, a historic 2000 strong demonstration was held.
These fi rst years of Stalin in the Socialist organisation were also days of intense debate on Economism and other issues. Within the Georgian organisation, Stalin always opposed the opportunists and stood with the left wing. When Iskra started, Stalin’s group was the first to become its enthusiastic supporters and distribute it in Tiflis. They soon started an illegal paper in the Georgian language, in September 1901, called Brdzola (meaning Th e Struggle). Stalin who was one of its principal writers with many articles basically upholding the Iskra line. Of particular importance was a detailed article The Russian Social Democratic Party and Its Immediate tasks, which came out in December 1901.
In November 1901, Stalin was elected to the Social Democratic Committee of Tiflis, which was the effective leading body then for the whole of the Caucasus. He was immediately sent to Batum, a small town of 25,000 population, which was a new centre of the oil industry linked by oil pipeline to the bigger and older oil-town Baku. He soon formed a town committee there under cover of a New Year’s party. He also set up a secret press in the single room where he was staying. Many leaflets were brought out which led soon to struggles of the workers. One such struggle led to police firing in which fifteen workers were killed. All these activities were done despite opposition by the local Socialists who later became Mensheviks. Finally after just four and a half months in Batum, Stalin was arrested in April 1902 at a secret Batum committee meeting. Th e secret press however remained undiscovered. It was during the Batum period that Stalin took one of his many party names, by which he remained famous for the many years he worked in the Caucasus. He was called Koba, which meant the indomitable or unconquerable in Turkish, and was the name of the people’s hero of one of the poems of Stalin’s favourite writers of his youth days.
Stalin spent one and a half years in various jails. In jail he maintained a strict discipline, rose early, worked hard, read much, and was one of the chief debaters in the prison commune. He was also known as a patient, sensitive and helpful comrade. After his jail period when no charges could be proved against him he was still banished in November 1903 to eastern Siberia. While in prison, he was, in March 1903, elected to the Executive of the newly formed All-Caucasian Federation of Social Democratic groups. Since it is very rare for an imprisoned comrade to be elected to a committee, this action gives an idea of the importance of Stalin in the Caucasian organisation. Stalin’s banishment to Siberia coincided with the build up to the Russo-Japanese war. Stalin and his comrades made use of the confusion to escape almost immediately on arrival in Siberia. By end January 1904 he was back in Tiflis.
As soon as Stalin returned he was called upon to take a stand on the issues that had led to the split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. The majority of the Socialists in the Caucasus were Mensheviks and even many of the Bolsheviks were for compromise. Despite this large majority for the Mensheviks, Stalin soon took a stand with Lenin and the Bolsheviks. He started writing in the Georgian party press in vigorous support of the Bolshevik line. In his fi rst article he wrote that the party is “the militant group of leaders” and “must be a coherent centralised organisation”. His strong political position brought him into contact with Lenin who, from abroad, asked for copies of Stalin’s articles. Along with his ideological battle against the Mensheviks, Stalin, at the same time, was deeply involved in the revolutionary struggles that were building up throughout the country as part of the 1905 Revolution. Stalin’s centre was the Caucasus.
Besides participating in organising the workers’ strikes, Stalin immediately started the practical implementation of the Bolshevik call for preparation for armed uprising. He became the main organiser, inspirer and guide of the military organisation in the Caucasus. An efficient and secret laboratory for explosives was also set up. Through the struggles a number of fighting squads were set up. They participated in the numerous revolts, in attacks on ruling class goonda gangs, and kept contact with peasant guerrillas. In the later period of downswing of the revolution, when the party faced a serious shortage of funds, some of the best fighting squads were used for major and daring money actions. Stalin played the principal role in building up and directing this very secret Technical branch of the Party. He also wrote articles during this period explaining the Marxist approach to insurrection.
In December 1905, Stalin attended his first All-Russia Conference of the Bolsheviks, where it was decided to build unity with the Mensheviks. It is here that he met Lenin for the first time. He also attended the April 1906 Unity Congress where he was the only Bolshevik out of eleven delegates from the Caucasus. Th e rest were all Mensheviks. He was also the only Bolshevik from the Caucasus who attended the 1907 Congress. At both Congresses one of the points of discussion were resolutions led by the Mensheviks and Trotsky, calling for bans on armed actions and money seizures. However the Caucasus continued to be the main centre for such actions with an estimate of 1150 such actions taking place there between 1905 to 1908.
Towards the end of 1907 Stalin was elected on the Baku committee. This oil-town of 50,000 workers had workers of various nationalities and religions facing severe exploitation. Stalin soon united the workers and developed the lone centre of struggle during the dark period of the Stolypin reaction. Adopting a new identity he set up residence and a secret printing press in the Muslim part of the city. It was in this period that Stalin started writing for the first time in Russian. In 1908, Stalin was arrested, but continued to write articles and guide party activities from inside the jail. In 1909, he was again banished, but again escaped within four months.
Stalin returned via St. Petersburg and found the disorganised state of the party headquarters in the capital. On returning to Baku he wrote strongly regarding the state of affairs and called for an All-Russia paper brought out from Russia. He also later called for the practical directing centre to be transferred to Russia. After many months of intensive work in Baku and articles for the party organ abroad, Stalin was again arrested in March 1910. After some months in jail he was again banished where he remained till June 1911. This time being forbidden to return to the Caucasus or any big city he settled in a town near St. Petersburg and Moscow. He was however again arrested within two months. After a few months in jail he was again released but had to live outside the big cities.
It was during this period that the first Bolshevik Central Committee, elected by the January 1912 Bolshevik Conference, co-opted Stalin on to the Committee, in its very first meeting. One of Stalin’s first tasks after becoming CCM was to bring out the first issue of the Bolshevik daily paper Pravda. He was however almost immediately arrested again. After three months in prison and two months banishment in Siberia he escaped again. He reached St. Petersburg in time to lead the campaign for the elections to the Duma. Though the Bolsheviks won only six seats, it represented eighty percent of the industrial workers.
At the end of 1912 and beginning of 1913, Stalin spent a few weeks abroad where he met and had detailed discussions with Lenin and other comrades. It was during this period that he wrote his famous theoretical book on the National Question. He returned to St. Petersburg in February 1913, but was betrayed within a week by another member of the Central Committee, Malinovsky, who was an agent of the Tsarist secret police. This agent also betrayed another CCM, Sverdlov. Both Stalin and Sverdlov were banished to the remotest parts of Siberia from where escape was the most difficult. Lenin during this period made elaborate plans to arrange for their escape but the escape plans themselves were made through the same secret agent. Rather than arrange escape this agent only arranged for closer watch to be kept on the CCMs. Th us Stalin was forced to remain this time in exile for four long years until the February bourgeois Revolution of 1917 resulted in the overthrow of the Tsarist regime. It was then that he was allowed to return to St. Petersburg, where he arrived on 12th March 1917. From then till Lenin’s arrival in April, he led the party centre.
Looking back over Stalin’s political life of around twenty years before the Revolution, it stands out as a model of courage, self-sacrifice, dedication and devotion to the cause of revolution. Besides the long years in prison and banishment, Stalin’s life was almost throughout in the underground in close and living contact with the masses. In such a difficult life of total dedication there was hardly any time for Stalin to have much of a ‘private life’. His first marriage was in his youth to Ekaterina Svanidze, the sister of one of his Socialist comrades at the Tiflis Seminary. They had one son, who after Ekaterina’s death, during the 1905 Revolution, was brought up by her parents. Stalin’s second marriage was to Nadezhda Alliluyeva, the daughter of one of Stalin’s close worker comrades. He had had close links with the family and it was they who always sent parcels of food, clothing and books during his banishment days. This second marriage however only took place when both were assigned to Tsaritsyn (later renamed Stalingrad) during the Civil War. This was after the October Revolution.
Chapter 21: Socialist Construction – the Russian Experience
Around the time of the October Revolution there were two types of so-called Marxist views with regard to the building of socialism.
One was the view represented by the Mensheviks and others like them. These people were opposed to going ahead to the socialist revolution and wanted power to remain in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Their argument was that since capitalism had not advanced sufficiently and concentrated the means of production, particularly in agriculture, the time was not appropriate for the proletariat to capture power. They proposed that the proletariat should wait for some time till capitalism had been advanced to some extent under the rule of the bourgeoisie. Th is would create the conditions for the nationalisation of all the means of production and for the construction of socialism. The Mensheviks were thus altogether against the proletariat seizing power and going ahead with a programme of socialist construction.
The other view was represented by a group within the Bolshevik party called ‘Left’ Communists. Their stand was that power should be captured and all the means of production immediately nationalised even by means of seizing the property of the small and middle peasants and other producers. These ‘Left’ Communists thus wanted to take an antagonistic stand to the peasantry and thus drive away the main ally of the revolution.
Lenin, in a struggle against these two trends, drew up the correct path for socialist construction. The main aspects of Lenin’s path of socialist construction can be outlined as follows:
a) The proletariat should not lose the chance but make full use of the favourable conditions to seize power. Waiting will only mean that capitalism will go ahead and ruin millions of small and medium individual producers.
b) Th e means of production in industry should be confiscated and converted into public property.
c) Th e small and medium individual producers should gradually be united in producers’ co-operatives, i.e., in large agricultural enterprises, collective farms.
d) Industry should be developed to the utmost and the collective farms should be placed on the modern technical basis of large-scale production. Th e property of the collective farm should not confiscated, but on the contrary they should be generously supplied with first-class tractors and other machines;
e) Exchange through purchase and sale, i.e. commodity production should be preserved for a certain period, because the peasants would not accept any other form of economic tie between town and country. However trade should only be through Soviet trade—between the state, co-operative, and collective farm. Th is should be developed to the full and the capitalists of all types and descriptions should be ousted from trading activity.
Of these five points, the first two steps, the seizure of power and the nationalisation of big industry were completed in the first few months itself. However the further steps in the process of socialist construction could not be taken up immediately because of the extremely difficult conditions of all-sided enemy attack faced by the first proletarian state. Due to the civil war the very survival of the state was in question. In order to face this all-round attack, the Party had to mobilise the whole country to fight the enemy. A set of emergency measures called ‘War Communism’ was introduced.
Under War Communism the Soviet government took over control of middle and small industries, in addition to large-scale industry; it introduced a state monopoly of the grain trade and prohibited private trading in grain; it established the surplus appropriation system, under which all surplus produce of the peasants had to be handed over to the state at fixed prices; and finally it introduced universal labour service for all classes, making physical labour compulsory for the bourgeoisie, thus releasing workers required for more important responsibilities at the front. This policy of ‘War Communism’ was however of a temporary nature to fulfil the needs of war. It helped mobilise the whole people for the war and thus resulted in the defeat of all the foreign interventionists and domestic reactionaries by the end of 1920 and the preservation of the independence and freedom of the new Soviet Republic.
From 1921 there was another turn in the situation in Russia. After completing victory in the civil war, the task had to shift to the peaceful work of economic restoration. For this a policy shift was made from War Communism to the New Economic Policy (NEP). According to this, the compulsory surplus appropriation from the peasants was discontinued, private trade was restarted and private manufacturers were allowed to start small businesses. This was necessary because the War Communism measures had gone too far ahead and were being resented by certain sections of the mass base of the party—particularly the peasantry. However the Trotskyites strongly opposed the NEP as nothing but a retreat. Lenin, at the Tenth Congress of the Party, in March 1921, countered the Trotskyites and convinced the Congress of the policy change, which was then adopted. He further gave a theoretical substantiation of the correctness of the NEP in his Report on the Tactics of the Russian Communist Party presented before the Third Congress of the Communist International in July 1921. The NEP continued till end 1925, when the Fourteenth Party Congress took the decision of moving to the next phase of socialist construction, that of socialist industrialisation.
Socialist Industrialisation: Th e Soviet Union was at that time still a relatively backward agrarian country with two-thirds of the total production coming from agriculture and only one-third from industry. Further being the first socialist state, the question of being economically independent of imperialism was of central importance. Therefore the path of socialist construction had to firstly concentrate on socialist industrialisation. In Stalin’s words, “The conversion of our country from an agrarian into an industrial country able to produce the machinery it needs by its own efforts—that is the essence, the basis of our general line.” Thus the main focus was on heavy industry which would produce machines for other industries and for agriculture.
This policy succeeded in building a strong industrial base independent of imperialism. It also enabled the defence of the socialist base in the World War II. Also industry expanded at a pace several times faster than the most advanced imperialist countries thus proving the immense superiority of the socialist system. Th e principal factor in this was the wholehearted participation in increasing production by the whole working class. At a time when the whole capitalist world was reeling under a very severe economic crisis socialist industry was marching ahead without any problems whatsoever.
However, due to special emphasis on priority development of heavy industry, agriculture was neglected in the plans. Thus in the period when industrial production went up by over nine times, grain production did not even go up by one-fifth. Th is showed that the growth of agriculture was very low as compared to industry. Th is was also the case within industry with heavy industry growing at a much faster speed than light industry. Mao, in his Critique of Soviet Economics, criticised this emphasis and called for simultaneous promotion of both industry as well as agriculture. Within industry he called for the development of both light and heavy industry at the same time.
Collectivisation of Agriculture: Th e first step in this process was taken in the NEP restoration period itself with the formation of the first co-operatives among small and medium peasants. However due to the resistance of the kulaks (rich farmers) there was not much progress. Further the kulaks had taken a position of active opposition and sabotage of the socialist construction process. They refused to sell to the Soviet State their grain surpluses. They resorted to terrorism against the collective farmers, against Party workers and government officials in the countryside, and burned down collective farms and state granaries. In 1927, due to this sabotage, the marketed share of the harvest was only 37% of the pre-war figure. Thus the Party, in that year took the decision to launch an offensive to break the resistance of the kulaks. Relying on the poor peasants and allying with the middle peasants, the Party was able to achieve success in grain purchasing and take ahead the collectivisation process. However the major advance came from the end of 1929.
Prior to 1929, the Soviet Government had pursued a policy of restricting the kulaks. The effect of this policy was to arrest the growth of the kulak class, some sections of which, unable to withstand the pressure of these restrictions, were forced out of business and ruined. But this policy did not destroy the economic foundations of the kulaks as a class, nor did it tend to eliminate them. Th is policy was essential up to a certain time, that is, as long as the collective farms and state farms were still weak and unable to replace the kulaks in the production of grain.
At the end of 1929, with the growth of the collective farms and the state farms, the Soviet Government turned sharply from this policy to the policy of eliminating the kulaks, of destroying them as a class. It withdrew the laws on the renting of land and the hiring of labour, thus depriving the kulaks both of land and of hired labourers. It lifted the ban on the confiscation of the kulaks’ property. It permitted the peasants to confiscate cattle, machines and other farm property from the kulaks for the benefit of the collective farms. The kulaks thus lost all their means of production. They were expropriated just as the capitalists had been expropriated in the sphere of industry in 1918. Th e difference, however, was that the kulaks’ means of production did not pass into the hands of the state, but into the hands of the peasants, united in the collective farms.
A step-by-step plan was adopted for the implementation of this policy. Depending on the conditions in various regions, different rates of collectivisation were established and the targeted year for completion of the collectivisation was fixed. Th e production of tractors, harvesters and other agricultural machinery was increased manifold. State loans to collective farms were doubled in the first year itself. 25,000 class-conscious industrial workers were selected and sent to the rural areas to help implement this plan. The process of collectivisation despite some errors, advanced rapidly towards success. By 1934 ninety percent of the total crop area of the country had been brought under socialist agriculture, i.e. state farms or collective farms.
The whole process of the collectivisation of agriculture was nothing less than a revolution in which the proletariat had allied with the poor and middle peasants to break the hold of the kulaks.
This revolution, at one blow, solved three fundamental problems of Socialist construction:
a) It eliminated the most numerous class of exploiters in the country, the kulak class, the mainstay of capitalist restoration;
b) It transferred the most numerous labouring class in the country, the peasant class, from the path of individual farming, which breeds capitalism, to the path of co-operative, collective, Socialist farming.
c) It furnished the Soviet regime with a Socialist base in agriculture—the most extensive and vitally necessary, yet least developed, branch of national economy.
With the victory of the collectivisation movement, the Party announced the victory of socialism. In January 1933, Stalin announced that, “Th e victory of Socialism in all branches of the national economy had abolished the exploitation of man by man.” In January 1934, the 17th Party Congress Report declared that, “the socialist form of social and economic structure—now holds undivided sway and is the sole commanding force in the whole national economy.” Th e absence of any antagonistic classes was later repeatedly stressed while presenting the Constitution in 1936 and in later Political Reports.
Errors in Russian Experience: Th e Russian experience in socialist construction was of central importance to the international proletariat, and particularly to all countries where the proletariat seized power. Stalin in his work Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR tried to theorise regarding the process of socialist construction and the economic laws of socialism. He however did not make a self-critical analysis of the Russian experience. Later Mao made an analysis of the Russian experience and pointed certain errors in the practice, as well as in Stalin’s formulations.
Mao pointed out the following principal errors in the Russian experience:
1) Not giving due importance to the contradiction between the production relations and productive forces. Th is was reflected in the prolonged coexistence of two types of ownership – on the one hand ownership of the whole people, as represented in the nationalised industries and the stated farms and on the other hand ownership by the collectives. Mao felt that prolonged coexistence of ownership by the whole people with ownership by the collectives was bound to become less and less adaptable to the development of the productive forces. Essentially a way had to be found to make the transition from collective to public ownership.
2) Not giving importance to the mass-line during socialist construction. Mao pointed out that in the earlier period mass-line was adopted, but afterwards, the Soviet party became less reliant on the masses. The things emphasised were technology and technical cadre, rather than politics and the masses.
3) Neglecting the class struggle. After the success of the collectivisation process not enough importance was given to continuing the class struggle.
4) Imbalance in the relation between heavy industry on one side and light industry and agriculture on the other.
5) Mistrust of the peasants. Mao criticised the Russian policy for not giving due importance to the peasantry.
Besides drawing these lessons from Stalin and the Russian experience, Mao learnt from the Chinese experience. He thus made an attempt to develop the Marxist theory of socialist construction.
Chapter 22: Fight against Trotskyism and Other Opportunist Trends
Throughout the period of the Russian Revolution and even after the seizure of power the Bolshevik line had to wage struggle against various opportunist lines. One of the most important of these anti-Marxist trends was Trotskyism, named after its originator, Leon Trotsky. Trotsky was a member of the RSDLP who at the time of the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, sided with the Mensheviks. Later he tried to form a bloc separate from both the Bolshevik and Menshevik trends and even presented himself as the ‘centrist’ who would unite the two groups. After the success of the February Revolution he self-criticised for his errors and was admitted into the Bolshevik party and taken into the Central Committee. After the October Revolution he was Commissar of Foreign Affairs (1917-1918) and Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs (1918-1924) from which post he was removed for his opportunist and factional activities.
In the period of socialist construction in particular, Trotskyism played a very disruptive and factional role. Stalin led the Party in a firm struggle against Trotskyist opportunism. Th e three specific features of Trotskyism, which were outlined by Stalin, in his speech on Trotskyism or Leninism are:
1) Th e theory of permanent revolution: – According to this theory, Trotsky proposed that the proletariat should quickly move from the bourgeois democratic stage to the socialist stage of the revolution without the help of the peasantry. He thus was opposed to any talk of dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. He thus rejected the role of the peasantry, the strongest ally of the proletariat. Th is theory which looks very ‘Left’, actually in essence meant the betrayal of the revolution because without the peasantry there was no hope of success for the proletariat and the revolution was bound to end in failure. Another aspect of this theory was that revolution in the advanced capitalist countries was necessary for the building of socialism. His theory of permanent revolution was also a theory of world
revolution, which proposed that though revolution would start on a national basis, the revolutionaries should immediately work to spread it in other countries. Again this proposal appears very ‘Left’ but actual meant a very defeatist understanding that opposed the possibility of building of socialism in one country.
Lenin opposed this anti-Marxist theory as soon as it appeared in the period immediately following the 1905 Revolution, when Trotsky was not part of the Bolshevik trend. However it appeared in various ways and had to be fought against at various points after the October Revolution, when Trotsky had joined the Bolshevik Party and become one of its leading members.
Th e first instance was immediately after the Revolution, during the negotiations for peace with Germany. Trotsky on the basis of his theory wanted war to continue as he felt that it would help the revolutionary situation in Germany and the success of the revolution in Germany, an advanced capitalist country was more important than the consolidation of the Russian Revolution. Lenin and Stalin forcefully opposed this argument, but a special Seventh Congress had to be held to discuss and defeat this understanding.
Another example of this theory was Trotsky’s Opposition’s fight against the introduction of the NEP (New Economic Policy). Being an opponent of the alliance with the peasantry, he felt that the NEP was nothing but a retreat. He did not accept the need of preserving this alliance and preparing the ground for socialist construction. Again this understanding had to be fought against and defeated at the Tenth Party Congress.
A third example was at the time of turning from the NEP to Socialist Industrialisation. At that time Trotsky united with other elements to propose that it was not possible to build socialism in one country. Th is proposal based on Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ and ‘world revolution’ understanding would have meant a defeatist and opportunist approach towards socialist construction which would supposedly base the success of socialism in Russia on the success of revolution in the developed capitalist countries. Stalin united the Party against this understanding at the Fourteenth Party Congress in 1925.
2) Th e second feature of Trotskyism is its opposition to Bolshevik party principles. Trotsky’s opposition to democratic centralism and the concept of the Leninist party was apparent from the very beginning in his support to the Mensheviks during the split with the Bolsheviks. Even later in 1912 he united all the opportunist trends like the Liquidators and Recallists to form a faction called the August bloc. While pretending to be a ‘centrist’ who was going to unite the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, Trotsky actually totally supported the Mensheviks and was working jointly with them. Lenin, supported by Stalin and others, opposed and fought against this opportunist bloc.
In 1923, when Lenin was grievously ill, Trotsky took advantage of the gap in leadership to demand the withdrawal of all norms of democratic centralism in the party. He united all varied opposition elements to formulate a Declaration of the Forty Six Oppositionists, which demanded freedom of factions and groups in the Communist Party. This factionalist demand was also defeated.
However Trotsky’s demand for ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ was totally opportunist and depended whether he was in a position of decision-making or not. Th us when he was at the centre of decisionmaking in 1920, Trotsky proposed the ‘militarisation’ of the trade unions and subjecting them to the discipline of the army. He opposed democracy being extended to the trade unions and the election of trade union bodies. Lenin, Stalin and other comrades led the struggle against this understanding and asserted that the trade unions should base all their activities on methods of persuasion.
3) Th e third feature of Trotskyism was its repeated false propaganda against the Bolshevik leadership. In the initial period Trotsky concentrated all his attacks on Lenin. In the later period Stalin became the focus of all manner of defamation.
After Trotsky could not succeed in winning over the party to his side in open debate, he started secret manipulations. In 1926 he started a secret faction with an illegal press and secret propaganda. This was discovered and he was finally expelled from the Party. He moved abroad but continued to maintain links with other factionalists within the Party. In 1929 another group (the Right Opposition) was formed under the leadership of Bukharin, a PolitBureau member, which opposed the fight against the kulaks and the advance of the process of collectivisation of agriculture. This line too was defeated.
In the thirties however Trotskyism ceased to be a political trend within the working class. It gave up attempts at open propagation of its anti-Marxist line but shifted to secret planning and manoeuvring. Trotsky and the top Trotskyists in the Soviet Union developed links with foreign intelligence services and started working on plans to assassinate leading elements in the Party and take over the leadership of the party. It was as part of this plan that Comrade Kirov, at that time second after Stalin in the Party leadership, was murdered in 1934. In the investigations that followed, the main conspirators, many of who were Central Committee members, were discovered. Open trials were held where they admitted to their crimes. Many were sentenced to death and executed.
Chapter 23: Tactics During World War II
During most of the period between World War I and World War II the world capitalist economy was in a state of collapse. World industrial production grew at a very slow pace and world trade remained stagnant. In fact the total world trade in 1948 (three years after the end of World War II) was the same as that in 1913 (the year before World War I started. Th e worst phase was what was called the Great Depression of 1929-33, from which capitalism did not really recover, even upto the start of World War II in 1939. It was a crisis that affected practically the whole world, from the most industrialised to the most backward. Industrial production fell and unemployment reached the highest levels ever. In Germany almost half the working class remained unemployed. Prices crashed affecting the economies of almost every country.
As economic hardships increased, contradictions sharpened and there was widespread social and political unrest in many countries. In Latin America there were attempts to overthrow the government in almost all the countries, many of which were successful. Th ere was also an upsurge in the independence movements in many countries, including India. Thus throughout the colonies and semi-colonies there were struggles and a shift towards the left. In the imperialist countries, the ruling classes tried desperately to control the social effects of their crisis. Some of them introduced social welfare schemes to divert the masses from struggle. Most of the ruling classes however used repressive means to suppress the people. Many countries brought in rightist and fascist regimes. Italy was the fi rst to turn to fascism. Japan shifted from a liberal to a national-militarist regime in 1930-31. Germany brought the Nazis to power in 1933. In many other imperialist countries also there was a rise of rightist parties and a retreat of the reformist parties.
The Communist International analysed this growth of fascism. It showed how three factors in the post-World War I situation had affected the imperialist classes and was leading to the rise of fascism. Firstly the success of the October Revolution and the victory of socialism had made the bourgeoisie fearful of the advance of the proletariat and the success of the revolution in their own countries. Secondly they were facing the most severe economic crisis in the history of capitalism. Thirdly, the first two factors were making the toiling masses throughout the world turn towards revolution. The response of the imperialist ruling classes to all these three factors was to bring in fascism.
At the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, which was held in 1935, fascism and the danger of war were analysed in detail. Fascism was defined as the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinist and the most imperialist elements of finance capital. It was explained how the imperialists were planning to drastically increase the loot of the toiling masses. They were preparing to wage a new imperialist world war, to attack the Soviet Union, to divide up China among the imperialist powers, and thus to stop the advance of the revolution. As major imperialist countries started setting up fascist governments, they aggressively started local wars in preparation for a new world war for the re-division of the world. As Germany and Japan started attacking and invading new areas, the other imperialist powers like Britain, France and the USA started a policy of compromise and concessions towards the fascist aggressors and attempted to use them to destroy the Soviet Republic. It was in the context of such dangerous tactics by the imperialists that the international proletariat had to work out and implement its tactics.
The tactics of the proletariat were directly opposed to the tactics of the imperialists. The aims of the international working class were the defence of the Soviet Union, the defeat of fascism and the instigators of war, the victory of the national liberation struggles and the establishment of Soviet power in as many countries as possible.
In order to achieve these aims the Third International adopted tactics as per Marxist principles of war tactics. As during the World War I, the International called on all communists to try and prevent the outbreak of war and in case a war actually broke out, the International gave instructions that all communists should work to convert the unjust, imperialist war into civil war and thus complete the revolution. However the main difference from the World War I situation was that now there was a single socialist base – the Soviet Union. It was the duty of every communist to defend this socialist base. Th us in case the Soviet Red Army was forced to enter the war in the defence of the Soviet Union, then the nature of the war would change. It would become a just war for the defence of socialism and it would become the task of every communist to mobilise the workers and toiling masses of all countries for the victory of the Red Army over imperialism. Thus the Communist approach to the war and the tasks of the Communist Parties of the world was made clear in 1935 itself, four years before the actual outbreak of war.
The Third International further drew up detailed united front tactics in order to fight fascism and implement the above understanding. In the capitalist countries two types of fronts were to be formed. One was the anti-fascist workers’ fronts, which were to be formed along with the Social-Democrat parties. Th e other was the anti-fascist people’s fronts, which were to be formed where necessary along with other anti-fascist parties besides the Social Democrats. In the colonies and semi-colonies, the task was to form anti-imperialist people’s fronts including the national bourgeoisie. Th e final aim of the communists in participating in all these fronts was to achieve the victory of revolution in their own country and the worldwide defeat of capitalism.
In the years leading up to the war most of the Communist Parties tried to implement the above tactics. United fronts were formed and movements developed in many countries. However during the various twists and turns in the situation, and in the differing concrete conditions in various countries, some of the parties were not successful in implementing the correct tactics.
The Soviet government however, which faced the most dangerous situation, was able, under Stalin, to employ the correct tactics in the concrete situation of World War II. In the pre-war years all attempts were made to build up a united front of the non-fascist governments against the group of fascist aggressor countries. However it soon became clear that these countries were not interested in a united front but were trying their best to use Germany to crush the Soviet Union. In order to defeat such tactics, Stalin entered into a no-war pact with Germany in August 1939, forcing the first part of the War to be a war between the imperialist powers. Thus Communist parties throughout the world worked according to the tactics of ‘turning the war into civil war’ during the first two years of the war. Th e Soviet Union used this period to make all possible preparations for its defence in case any of the imperialist countries launched an attack.
This happened in June 1941, when Germany attacked the socialist base. With this attack the Red Army was forced to respond and the character of the war changed to that of an anti-fascist people’s war and the tactics as envisaged earlier by the Third International became applicable. Some of the parties, employing the correct tactics and making use of the severe revolutionary crisis, could achieve revolution. In particular, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), was able to lead the Red Army and the whole Soviet people to a heroic victory in the war. It defeated the mighty German army and joined hands with the Communist parties and fighters of the East European countries to liberate them from German occupation. Thus, utilising these tactics, the international proletariat not only succeeded in protecting its Socialist Base, but by 1949, could break the imperialist chain at several places, come out of the imperialist world system and build a Socialist Camp covering one third of humanity. Thus the strategy and tactics charted out by the Third International, during the period of Second World War were proved in practice to be basically correct.
However there were also serious failures. Th is was mainly due to incomplete education by the Third International leadership on the correct approach in implementing these tactics, and the strong remnants of the Second International reformist approach in many of the European parties and the parties formed by them—like the Communist Party of India. Parties like the CPI and the Communist Party of Great Britain spent most of its time in the people’s war period trying to increase production. Many such parties did a lot of strike breaking activity and got alienated from the working class. Some others like the Communist Party of France, who joined in united fronts with ruling class parties, did not even try to maintain any difference between communists and other reactionaries in the united front. Such an approach led to these parties becoming tails of the ruling classes in the united fronts that they participated in. It also led to the development of rightist tendencies, which in the following period would result in the leaderships of almost all these parties taking the path of revisionism.
Th e Third International, while not being able to combat these revisionist tendencies, had also lost its effectiveness in providing guidance in the vastly differing conditions faced by the various member parties. Except for the regular publication of its periodicals, Comintern activity had greatly reduced from 1940 and even the customary May Day and October Revolution Manifestos were discontinued between May 1940 and May 1942. It was finally decided to dissolve the Comintern. Since a Congress could not be convened in the conditions of war the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) sent out a resolution recommending the dissolution of the International to all its sections. After receiving approval from most of the sections, including all the important sections, the Comintern was dissolved on 10th June 1943.
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