This post reproduces an unearthed working text, part of an exploration of the nature of socialist transformation, dating from the 1980s. It was an uncorrected (or criticised) first draft that remain in the desk drawer superseded by more pressing concerns. Little more than a historical curiosity it reflects the questioning at that time.
Book Review: The PLA’s Understanding of Modern Revisionism.
The Party of Labour of Albania [PLA] takes pride in its “ardent defence of the Marxist-Leninist principles” and its “devasting attacks on Khruschevite revisionism.” Although pre-dating its concern to the thesis of the 1956 20th Congress of the CPSU, it was Enver Hoxha’s speech at the Moscow Meeting of 81 Communist and Workers’ parties on November 16, 1960 that marks the open opposition to modern revisionism.
To celebrate this historic event an anniversary conference, entitled “Soviet Revisionism and the Struggle of the PLA to Unmask It” was held in November 1980. The papers presented on the development of modern revisionism and the class character of the Soviet Union are far from satisfactory with their slant towards stating argument and conclusion, occasionally peppered with factual material. There seems little evidence of any deeper understanding of modern revisionism than was first expressed in the polemics of the 1960s, and actually retains obviously erroneous positions such that “the origin of the evil in the ranks of international communism lay in the anti-Marxist thesis of the 20th Congress” of the CPSU. Asif the post war experience of the liquidation of the American CP and adoption of ‘The British Road to Socialism’ (endorsed by Stalin) were not instances in the development of revisionism.
“…the 20th Congress created real ideological confusion in the ranks of the communist parties and anti-imperialist forces on the most important problems of strategy and tactics. The campaign against Stalin cast a black shadow over the historic experience of the October Revolution and the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union and over its foreign policy.”
Soviet Revisionism and the Struggle of the PLA to Unmask It. Tirana: 1981 p71
The revisionists attack on Marxism through the spectre of “Stalinism” has led to a mechanic defence of Stalin. A Marxist analysis of such a dominant revolutionary and of the revolutionary tasks he led has too often been reduced to a position that he made a few mistakes but was no Khrushchev. The PLA has not moved to this position but takes an entrenched, unblinking attitude that permits only praise.
If we paraphrase the argument of the conference it becomes clear that the 20th Congress is regarded as a pivotal episode crowning a process of revisionism yet to be consolidated. However that process is dated from the time of Stalin’s death as if revisionism mushroomed up without a prior development during Stalin’s time at the helm of the party and state. Thus a fatal flaw in the Albanian analysis of revisionism is the incredulous development whereby the socialist state began to degenerate top downwards. This avoids explaining how the ‘revisionists’ came to be in positions of power.
The way in which modern revisionism is defined affects the scope of any historical analysis of its origin and continued existence as an ideology. If “the rise to power of revisionism means the rise to power of the bourgeois” then one needs to reconcile that whilst revisionism occurs in the realm of doctrine and ideas, the reproduction of an objectively determine social group, such as the bourgeoisie, requires a material base.
Why is it that the class nature of a state can be changed through a <<peaceful counter-revolution>> within the governing apparatus? Can one charge capitalist restoration on ideological revisionism without offering an explanation on the generation, organisation and capture of state power by a new bourgeois class?
Even though Lenin warned “…that the theoretical victory of Marxism obliged its enemies to disguise themselves as Marxists” The Historical Destiny of the Doctrine of Karl Marx (1913), can ideas so alter the form of ownership of the means of production, the social relations engendered, and the economic character of the state so that the dominant social class previously represented by the state loses its power?
It is imperative to have a firm theoretical basis on which to build revolutionary strategies. And how one analysis the Soviet Union remains instrumental on one’s attitude and political practice towards the struggle for socialism. However, as evident in the conference papers, there was no repetition of Lenin’s observation in “Marxism and Revisionism” (1908) that:
“The fight against the revisionists on these questions resulted in as fruitful a revival of the theoretical thought of international socialism as followed from Engels’ controversy with Duhring twenty years earlier.”
The public polemic that took place during the early 1960s resulted in static, positional, sloganized abuse after its initial development.
The PLA now claims that the CPC’s opposition to revisionism, which it describes in terms of “great zigzags and vacillations”, were never waged from sound, principled Marxist-Leninist internationalist positions, but “from pragmatic and chauvinist great power positions” (p28). Unlike, as Professor Plasari informs us, the PLA’s “adherence to proletarian principles, its wisdom, vigilance and courage in defence of Marxism-Leninism, its correct line, our Party and our Socialist homeland.” (p9)
Moreover, the Albanians now assert that, in the summer of 1964, “Mao Zedong suddenly raised territorial claims against the Soviet union, thus openly displaying his great-state chauvinism….(and) neutralised the ideological struggle against Khruschevite betrayal, and unjustly attacked Stalin.” (p109) Whereas the resolute defence of Marxism-Leninism remains the Albanian prerogative and (supposedly) its positions offer “the best cure against revisionism”. The brief survey of the Albanian analysis of modern revisionism in practice suggest otherwise.
To paraphrase their argument:
*** The revolutionary class struggle within the proletarian party, to safeguard its proletarian line and its Marxist-Leninist ideological and organisational unity is a law, a fundamental principle
*** The abolition of private property and the exploiting classes becomes a reality only after the construction of the economic base of socialism.
*** However, besides non-antagonistic contradictions which are typical of socialism, antagonistic contradictions still exist during the entire period of transition to communism. The antagonistic contradictions in socialist society have their peculiarities and are resolved in the context of the existing socialist order.
*** Behind the scenes, Khrushchev and co. prepared the terrain when Stalin was alive and were awaiting the appropriate moment. Immediately after the death of Stalin the period up to the 20th Congress (February 1956) was the preparatory stage to gain control of key positions as inner-party struggle degenerated into struggle for power amongst individuals and groups in the leadership of the CPSU.
*** The elimination of Beria, and exploiting the ambitions of Marshal Zhukov, meant that the main organs of internal control bolstered the 1957 putsch against Molotov, Malenkov and Kaganovich.
*** The period from the 20th Congress to the 22nd in October 1961 marked the stage that saw the process of liquidation of the policy, principles and norms of the Marxist-Leninist party.
*** A purging of the party, between 1954 -1964, saw the expulsion of over 70% of the C.C. elected at the 19th Congress (1952) that stripped the party of its attributes as the vanguard of the working class, as the sole political force of the state and society, transforming it into a party of the apparatchiki.
*** At the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, under the pretext of the << systematic regeneration of the party>> over 40% of the members of leading forums were replaced. Again in 1963 under the slogan of <<reorganisation of the party>> more than half the members of these forums were replaced.
*** With the ‘New Program’ the strata of bureaucrats and apparatchiki, who usurped the leadership of the party and the state, who carried out the <<peaceful>> counter-revolution, and who seized the real possession of the means of production, consolidated into a new bourgeoisie. As such it was the logical culmination of the 20th Congress which laid the <<theoretical>> and practical basis for the course of conciliation, rapprochement and counter-revolutionary collaboration with imperialism.
*** So according to the Soviet revisionists, in socialist society class struggle quits the stage and is replaced by unity which is considered << the most important condition for the successful resolution of contradictions>> ; they absolutize unity and conceive of it in an abstract manner. The party is disarmed by negation of class struggle.
*** The liquidation of the proletarian character of the CPSU by the 22nd Congress, the theoretical absurdity of a so-called <<party of the entire people>> in practice eliminates the leading role of the working class. IN parties not holding state power, advocating the so-called ‘mass party’ opens the door to anyone who votes for that party, to all kinds of petty-bourgeois elements, from the ranks of the workers’ aristocracy and bureaucracy, bourgeois liberal intellectuals etc.
[This treatment of the development of revisionism lacks the ideological depth of Fiqret Sheliu’s About Some Actual Problems of the Struggle Against Modern Revisionism (pp131-181 in Some Questions of Socialist Construction in Albania and of the Struggle Against Modern Revisionism. )
So the counter-revolutionary process of the restoration of capitalism began with the usurpation of the leadership of the party and state, brought about by their degeneration into a bourgeois party and state. The alteration of their character, the counter-revolutionary transformation in the fields of the political and ideological superstructure, could not fail to lead to the alteration of the character of the structural base also because the new Soviet bourgeoisie could not exist and rule politically and ideologically without also creating its economic base.
Mere juridical proclamation does not define the character of ownership. What is important is its real aspect, the economic aspect. From the economic aspect, the important thing is, first who decides how property is used; second, what mechanisms are used for the administration of this property; third, who profits from his property.
With the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, state socialist property was not fragmented, but degenerated into state monopoly property. Quoting Engels, “ the economic relations of a given society presents themselves, in the first place as interests.” Analysis of the property relations from this point of view, i.e. in whose interest is property used in the Soviet Union, whom does it serve, reveals its capitalist essence. There is only a bureaucratized centralism which is made possible by the specific conditions of the Soviet capitalist order in which state monopoly property is dominant.
State monopoly property emerged during the process of the degeneration of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the party of the working class into a dictatorship and party of the new revisionist bourgeoisie.
Formally, the main means of production are not the directly the property of the bourgeoisie as they are in a classical capitalist society, however there has been an alteration to the social class structure of the Soviet Union where there are now the class of exploiters and the class of the exploited. This regardless of the fact that amongst them there are strata of different economic levels according to the place they occupy in the production and distribution of surplus value.
Such is the peculiarities of the birth, the forms of expression and economic mechanism with the aid of which the right of ownership is exercised in the Soviet Union. By formally retaining bureaucratic centralism to the economy and in the state, and taking measures <<to strengthen>> it within the bounds allowed by the intrinsic laws of the market economy, the Soviet bourgeoisie tries to present the Soviet capitalist economy as << regulated and planned >> economy.
“Thus, the correctness of the Marxist-Leninist thesis that the socialist social character of property depends on the class nature of the state, on the class in the interests of which it is used, was confirmed.” (p165)