The international significance of the October Revolution
November 7 this year marks the 90th anniversary of the Great Socialist October Revolution. This anniversary is being celebrated by proletarian parties, revolutionary and progressive people the world over as the greatest event in the history of humanity - of the history of oppressed and exploited humanity in particular. In the 90 years since this momentous event, the world has changed beyond recognition and, notwithstanding the wave of counter-revolutions in eastern Europe, including the great and glorious Soviet Union, the land of socialism, the land of Lenin and Stalin, the motherland of the international proletariat, it has changed for the better. This year's celebrations and festivities provide us with an opportunity to once again emphasise the intrinsic worth and significance of the October Revolution.
Bourgeois historians, even some progressives, regard the October Revolution as merely a Russian phenomenon, a revolution within the state boundaries of the former Russian Czarist empire. Such a view is too narrow and therefore mistaken. As a matter of fact, the October Revolution was an earth-shaking event of an unprecedented and international significance, for it represented a truly radical turn in the history of humanity, a turn from the old, capitalist, world to the new, socialist, world. All revolutions hitherto had merely replaced one exploiting class by another, had merely replaced one form of exploitation by another. The October Revolution, on the other hand, was aimed at the ending of all exploitation of one person by another, and one nation by another. As such, it caused a breach in the front of world imperialism and ushered in a new era, an era of proletarian revolutions. It firmly established the superiority of the Soviet system over bourgeois parliamentarism, the incomparable superiority of Soviet democracy over bourgeois democracy.
Liberation of colonial peoples
Not only did the October Revolution shake imperialism to its foundations in centres of its domination - in its heartlands - but it also struck deadly blows at its rear, its periphery, and thus helped to undermine, weaken, the imperialist domination of colonial and dependent countries. Having got rid of the exploiting classes, the landlords and the capitalists, the October Revolution went on to smash the chains of national and colonial oppression, thus liberating all the oppressed nations of a gigantic state, which during Czarist times was correctly characterised by V I Lenin, that great inspirer of the October Revolution, as a prison house of nations. Marx rightly said that a nation which oppresses other nations cannot itself be free. Likewise, the proletariat of an oppressing nation cannot achieve its own social emancipation without emancipating the oppressed nations. Precisely for this reason, the October Revolution is distinguished by the fact that it accomplished the liberation of colonial people, not under the banner of national conflicts and enmity among nations, but under the banner of brotherhood and fraternal cooperation among the proletarians and peasant masses of the nations of the USSR - under the banner of internationalism.
In liberating the oppressed and colonial peoples, the October Revolution raised them from the slave and pariah status they had occupied hitherto to the position of truly free and truly equal nations, thus setting a contagious and subversive example for all the oppressed nations of the world. From then on the oppressed nations looked to the USSR as a beacon of enlightenment and liberation; as a citadel of fraternal harmony and rapprochement among workers and peasants of different nationalities, races and religions; and as a reliable friend, ally and source of support in their emancipatory struggle against imperialism. In the never-to-be-forgotten words of J V Stalin:
"It was formerly the 'accepted' idea that the world has been divided from time immemorial into inferior and superior races, into blacks and whites, of whom the former are unfit for civilisation and are doomed to be objects of exploitation, while the latter are the only vehicles of civilisation, whose mission it is to exploit the former.
"This legend must now be regarded as shattered and discarded. One of the most important results of the October Revolution is that it has dealt this legend a mortal blow, having demonstrated that liberated non-European nations, drawn into the channel of Soviet development, are not a bit less capable of promoting a really progressive culture and a really progressive civilisation than are the European nations".
The growth, following the October Revolution, of the national revolutionary movement in vast countries such as China, India and Indonesia, and the sympathy of these national liberation movements for the USSR, furnished eloquent proof of Stalin's above observation. The October Revolution marked an end to the era of "undisturbed exploitation and oppression" of the colonial and dependent countries while at the same time ushering in the era of national liberation movements for emancipation from colonial rule and imperialist brigandage, exploitation and domination, the era of the awakening of the proletariat in the oppressed countries, and the era of proletarian hegemony of the revolutionary movements of these countries.
Within 10 years after the October Revolution, the former colonial nations in the territory of the USSR had experienced a complete turn in their fortunes. From being oppressed and exploited victims of Czarist colonial brutality, they had become free and equal members of the family of nations of the USSR. From being downtrodden and illiterate, the peoples of the former subject nations had become literate and cultured active participants in the development of the USSR. From being treated as inferior and unfit for civilisation, they had stepped forward as bearers of advanced science and promoters of a truly progressive culture and a truly progressive civilisation on an equal footing with the formerly dominant Great Russians.
The contrast between the liberation of the oppressed nations at the hands of the proletariat, on the one hand, and their subjugation at the hands of an alien colonial power, on the other hand, can best be seen by comparing the conditions of the eastern republics of the USSR with that of the subject peoples of India in 1927. Whereas, after nearly 200 years of British colonial rule, barely 7% of the Indian population was literate, fewer than 5% had the right to vote for mutilated representative institutions, and the majority lived a precarious semi-starved, poverty-stricken existence, the peoples of the east within the USSR had attained freedom from subjection, illiteracy and hunger. The very existence of the USSR, the prosperous and cultured lives of its people, the fraternal harmony among its nations, furnished eloquent proof of the fact that it is capitalist exploitation of one man by another, and of one nation by another, not national, religious and racial differences, which are the root cause of fratricidal warfare. In providing this proof, the October Revolution demonstrated in practice the possibility, indeed the expediency, of "a fraternal union of the workers and peasants of the most diverse nations based on the principles of voluntariness and internationalism. The existence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which is the prototype for the future integration of the working people of all countries into a single world economic system, cannot but serve as direct proof of this."
More than that. Having planted the seeds of revolution in the centres of imperialism as well as in its periphery, having sapped its might in the 'mother countries' and having undermined its domination in the colonial and dependent countries, the October Revolution thus put in danger the very existence of capitalism in its entirety. The secession of the vast USSR from the world market served to hasten the process of imperialist decay.
Base for world revolution
Not confining itself to shaking imperialism to its foundations, the October Revolution, through the establishment of the first dictatorship of the proletariat, created "...a powerful and open base for the world revolutionary movement", a base of a kind never before possessed by the international revolutionary movement. From then on, the world revolutionary movement could rely on this open centre around which it could rally, organise and merge in "a united revolutionary front of the proletarians and oppressed peoples of all countries against imperialism".
Notwithstanding the treachery of Social Democracy, the partial stabilisation of capitalism following the subsidence of the first revolutionary wave in the aftermath of the imperialist First World War, the rationalisation of production, the victory of fascism in Italy and Germany and the temporary crushing of the proletariat in these two countries, capitalism was never to recover the peace and tranquillity, the equilibrium and stability, that it was accustomed to flaunt before the October Revolution, for the latter ushered in the era of the general crisis of capitalism, whereby revolutionary eruptions must inevitably break out, now in the heartlands of imperialism, now in the rear - in the periphery - straining the capitalist patchwork to breaking point and bringing closer its inevitable downfall.
While weakening and undermining world capitalism, the October Revolution served to strengthen, embolden, encourage and raise the fighting preparedness of the exploited and oppressed classes of the entire world, compelling the exploiting classes to reckon with them as a new, active and important factor in world politics. No longer could the labouring masses of the world be regarded as a passive blind multitude, groping in the dark without any prospects, for the October Revolution, through the establishment of the USSR, created a beacon illuminating their path along the broad highway of proletarian revolution, national liberation and the overthrow of imperialism. The very existence of the Soviet Union, its work in the field of socialist construction, the development of science, engineering and art in the service of the labouring masses, its fraternal and selfless support for the proletarian and national liberation movements everywhere, its struggle against imperialist war and for the preservation of peace, while at the same time increasing its preparedness against imperialist aggression - all these could not help but provide a base, a forum, for expounding and formulating the aspirations and strivings, the wishes, desires and interests, of the exploited and oppressed the world over.
No wonder, then, that while the USSR won the admiration, affection and support of the exploited and oppressed peoples everywhere, it earned the undying hatred of all the exploiters and oppressors, of all the colonial and imperialist powers, who resorted to every means for its destruction - from mass propaganda to economic blockades and war - for only with the destruction of this base of world revolution could imperialism hope to recover some of its former unbridled freedom of action in riding roughshod over the working class and the oppressed people. In the words of J V Stalin:
"There is hardly room for doubt that the destruction of this forum would for a long time cast over the social and political life of the 'advanced countries' the gloom of unbridled, black reaction. It cannot be denied that the very existence of a 'Bolshevik state' puts a curb upon the dark forces of reaction, thus helping the oppressed classes in their struggle for liberation. This really explains the savage hatred which the exploiters of all countries entertain for the Bolsheviks."
Just as in the period of the Great French bourgeois revolution, Paris became a refuge and school for the representatives of the rising revolutionary bourgeoisie, so, following the October Revolution, Moscow became a refuge and a school for the representatives of the rising revolutionary proletariat. Just as earlier on, in the period of the downfall of feudalism, the word 'Jacobin' evoked horror and disgust on the part of the aristocrats of all countries, so in the period of the decline of capitalism, the word 'Bolshevik' evokes horror and abhorrence on the part of the bourgeoisie in all countries. Just as the hatred of Jacobins did not avert the collapse of feudalism, the hatred of Bolsheviks, of Marxist-Leninists, will not save capitalism from its inevitable fall and destruction.
The victory of Khrushchevite revisionism in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) at the latter's 20th Party Congress in 1956, the consequent betrayal of socialism through the wholesale revision, downright distortion and falsification, of Marxism-Leninism in the field of political economy, philosophy and class struggle, committed by the CPSU(B) under the leadership of the Khrushchevites over a period of more than 3 decades, led to the restoration of capitalism in the land of the Soviets - the land of Lenin and Stalin - the land of once triumphant socialism. A little earlier, the eastern bloc of socialist countries had ceased to exist, thanks again to the betrayal by Khrushchevite revisionism. Thus, while the USSR, which, at a time when she was incomparably weaker, could not be defeated by the interventionist armies of the 14 countries, representing the combined strength of imperialism and its stooges, during the war of intervention in the wake of the October Revolution, which broke the back of the allegedly invincible Hitlerite war machine, thus making the single most powerful contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany - this same USSR collapsed so ignominiously, thanks to the enemies within the CPSU(B) and the Soviet state structure.
With the collapse of the USSR and the socialist countries of Eastern Europe, this destruction of what once was the base of world revolutionary movement, there set "in an era of the blackest reaction" in all the capitalist countries and oppressed nations of the world. The proletariat and oppressed peoples have been "seized by the throat" and the position of international communism has been lost, albeit temporarily. The attacks on the conditions of work and civil liberties of the working class in the centres of imperialism, hand in hand with wars against the Iraqi, Afghan, Palestinian, Yugoslav and Colombian people, the continued economic blockade against the DPRK and Cuba, the attempts to strangulate Zimbabwe and to overthrow the Iranian regime, are all the consequence of the disappearance of a state which put "a curb on the dark forces of reaction". Doubtless, under revisionism, the Soviet state had increasingly become less effective as a curb on imperialist brigandage. Nevertheless, its total disappearance removed altogether whatever curb the Soviet Union was able to put on the forces of imperialist reaction.
Colossal as were the reverses suffered by the international proletariat consequent upon the collapse of the USSR and the eastern bloc of socialist countries, it testifies to the strength and legacy of the October Revolution that the victims of renewed imperialist aggression and predatory wars are waging a life and death struggle and scoring historic victories. The heroic resistance of the Iraqi, Afghan and Palestinian people against Anglo-American imperialism and Israeli Zionism is clear proof that the October Revolution changed the world forever, that the days of colonialism are long past, that it is no longer possible for even the mightiest imperialist war machines to impose colonial slavery and bondage even on weak nations. The October Revolution put an end to the era of stability of capitalism and destroyed the myth of the eternity of the capitalist order. Since 1917, imperialism has stumbled from one crisis to another, and with each crisis its fall comes nearer.
Revolution in ideology
In addition to being a revolution in the sphere of economic and social-political relations, the October Revolution also accomplished a revolution in the minds, in the ideology, of the proletariat. Coming to life and acquiring strength under the invincible banner of Marxism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, under the banner of Leninism - the Marxism of the era of imperialism and proletarian revolutions - the October Revolution marked "the victory of Marxism over reformism, the victory of Leninism over Social-Democratism, the victory of the Third International over the Second International". It drew a clear line of demarcation between Marxism-Leninism and Social-Democratism.
Prior to the victory of the dictatorship of the proletariat of the USSR, Social Democracy, while refraining from the open renunciation of the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, although doing nothing towards its realisation, was almost entirely identified with Marxism and could still flaunt the banner of Marxism; after the victory of proletarian dictatorship it was obliged to give up the banner of Marxism, flirting with the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, for such flirtation represented considerable danger to the capitalist order. Having forsaken the essence of Marxian teaching long before, Social Democracy found itself compelled to cast aside the banner of Marxism and openly to adopt a hostile stance against the October Revolution, the first successful dictatorship of the proletariat in the world (leaving out of account the experience of the Paris Commune).
Under the conditions prevailing in the aftermath of the October Revolution, it was impossible for anyone to call himself a Marxist without fervently supporting the proletarian dictatorship in the USSR, without waging a consistent, fearless and determined struggle against one's own ruling class and taking an active part in the preparation of conditions for the proletarian dictatorship in one's own country. Since Social Democracy, in complete repudiation of Marxism and in total betrayal of the proletariat, had no such intention, it was natural that an impassable gulf should have opened up between Social Democracy and Marxism, leaving Leninism as the only vehicle and defender of Marxism.
The logic of its position, and the intensification of class struggle, catapulted Social Democracy into a swamp inhabited by the unashamed, unambiguous and open defenders of capitalism against the first proletarian state in the world and it was henceforth to devote itself wholeheartedly to the struggle for the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and the preservation of capitalist wage slavery elsewhere. The leading figures of Social Democracy in all the European imperialist countries became an ideological prop for capitalism, nothing short of "...real agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class", who, in the "civil war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie", were bound to be "on the side of the 'Versaillese' against the 'Communards'" (Lenin). It was conclusively established that Social Democracy could always be relied upon to be a dependable friend of international imperialism, and an implacable foe of proletarian revolution, in the form of a Trojan horse within the working-class movement.
That Social-Democracy had deserted the camp of the proletariat, and had gone irretrievably over to the camp of the bourgeoisie, was well understood by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), which clearly outlined its stance on the eve of the 1929 General Election in Britain in its pamphlet 'Class Against Class'. In it, the CPGB, having detailed the repeated betrayals by the Labour Party, in and out of government, its complicity in the defeat of the 1926 General Strike, its total commitment to the banner of 'Empire and Mondism', correctly came to the conclusion that the Labour Party was "...a completely disciplined capitalist party" which "stood for capitalist power against working-class power", and was no longer susceptible to working-class influence. Consequently, it was fruitless trying to work for the election of a Labour government and equally pointless to gain affiliation to the Labour Party. Far better, reasoned the CPGB correctly, to build a real working class - communist - alternative. Although the CPGB was to revert in 1935 to its earlier policy of seeking affiliation to the Labour Party, there was little basis in principle or reality for such a change of stance. If the CPGB did not grasp this fact, the Labour Party certainly did. Precisely for this reason, the latter successfully rejected the attempts by the former to gain affiliation to it.
Thus it has been clear as daylight since the October Revolution that it is impossible to overthrow capitalism without destroying Social Democracy in the working-class movement. The era of the downfall of capitalism is bound at the same time to be the era of the downfall of Social Democracy, and of the inevitable victory of Leninism.
International significance of the October Revolution
In the opening chapter of his pamphlet Left-wing communism, an infantile disorder, this is how Lenin stressed the international significance of the October Revolution:
"Now we already have very considerable international experience which most definitely shows that certain fundamental features of our revolution have a significance which is not local, not peculiarly national, not Russian only, but international ... all the fundamental and many of the secondary features of our revolution are of international significance in the sense that the revolution influences all countries..., understanding international significance to mean the international validity or the historical inevitability of a repetition on an international scale of what has taken place in our country, it must be admitted that certain fundamental features of our revolution do possess such a significance."
Continues Lenin: "...at the present moment of history the situation is precisely such that the Russian model reveals to all countries something, and something very essential, of their near and inevitable future. Advanced workers in every land have long understood this; and more often they have not so much understood it as grasped it, sensed it, by revolutionary class instinct. Herein lies the international 'significance' of Soviet power, and of the fundamentals of Bolshevik theory and tactics" (FLP, Beijing 1965, pp.1-2).
As early as 1902, when the Russian Marxists were busy establishing a party of the proletariat in preparation for the overthrow of the Czarist autocracy and the establishment of a democratic republic, with great prescience Lenin had grasped the world-historic significance of the task facing them then. This is how he spoke of this task:
"History has now confronted us [i.e., the Russian Marxists] with an immediate task which is the most revolutionary of all the immediate tasks that confront the proletariat of any country. The fulfilment of this task, the destruction of the most powerful bulwark, not only of European, but also (it may now be said) of Asiatic reaction, would make the Russian proletariat the vanguard of the international revolutionary proletariat." (What is to be done?).
It is clear that in Lenin's view the centre of the revolutionary movement was destined to shift to Russia. Events leading up to the February and October 1917 revolutions in Russia, and the ramifications of the October Revolution have done more than vindicate Lenin's prediction. It is scarcely surprising, then, that Russia, which accomplished such a revolution and was possessed of such a revolutionary proletariat as the Russian "should have been the birthplace of the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution...", that Lenin, the leader of the Russian proletariat, should have become also "...the creator of this theory and tactics and the leader of the international proletariat" (J V Stalin).
Back then it was not Lenin alone that made the above prediction concerning the role of the Russian proletariat and the world significance of the then impending Russian Revolution.. Karl Kautsky, when he was still a Marxist and had not become a renegade, foresaw the shifting of the revolutionary centre to the east, and the possibility of a situation arising in which the Russian proletariat would act as a model and a source of energy for western Europe. In an article that he wrote in Iskra in 1902, this is what he said:
"At the present time [in contrast to 1848] it would seem that not only have the Slavs entered the ranks of the revolutionary nations, but that the centre of revolutionary thought and revolutionary action is shifting from the West to the East. In the first half of the nineteenth century it was in France, at times in England. In 1848 Germany joined the ranks of the revolutionary nations ... The new century opens with events which suggest the thought that we are approaching a further shift of the revolutionary centre, namely, to Russia... Russia, which has borrowed so much revolutionary initiative from the West, is now perhaps herself ready to serve as a source of revolutionary energy for the West. The Russian revolutionary movement that is now flaring up will perhaps prove to be the most potent means of exorcising that spirit of flabby philistinism and temperate politics which is beginning to spread in our midst, and it may cause the thirst for battle and the passionate devotion to our great ideals to flare up in bright flames again. Russia has long ceased to be merely a bulwark of reaction and absolutism for Western Europe. It might be said that today the very opposite is the case. Western Europe is becoming a bulwark of reaction and absolutism in Russia... The Russian revolutionaries might perhaps have coped with the tsar long ago had they not been compelled at the same time to fight his ally, European capital. Let us hope that this time they will succeed in coping with both enemies, and that the new 'Holy Alliance' will collapse more quickly than its predecessors. But however the present struggle in Russia may end, the blood and felicity of the martyrs, whom, unfortunately, it will produce in too great numbers, will not have been sacrificed in vain. They will make them grow more luxuriantly and rapidly. In 1848 the Slavs were a black frost which blighted the flowers of the people's spring. Perhaps they are now destined to be the storm that will break the ice of reaction and irresistibly bring with it a new and happy spring for the nations" (Karl Kautsky, 'The Slavs and revolution', Iskra, no.18, 10 March 1902).
Collapse of socialist countries
Nearly two decades ago, when the Berlin Wall came down, the ideologues of imperialism came forth with the ridiculous assertion that history was at an end; that there would be no room for class struggle henceforth, nor ideological struggle, but instead only "the endless solving of technical problems" and satisfaction of "consumer demands". And when two years later, in 1991, the once-mighty Soviet Union itself collapsed, as a culmination of more than three decades of Khrushchevite betrayal of, and departure from, the teachings of Marxism-Leninism in the fields of political economy, philosophy and class struggle, bourgeois imperialism went truly berserk, pronouncing the death of Marxism, declaring capitalism to be the ultimate and eternal fate of humanity, and that nations were left with only one choice - to join the market economy.
It was neither the first, nor will it be the last, time that the bourgeoisie and its hired coolies pronounced the demise of Marxism. This attempt at the 'annihilation' of Marxism is as old as Marxism and will continue until the overthrow of capitalism. History bears testimony that each time the bourgeoisie pronounces the death sentence on Marxism, the latter rises with renewed vigour, forcing the bourgeoisie to yet again undertake this futile attempt to annihilate it for the millionth time.
In attacking Marxism-Leninism, the imperialist bourgeoisie and its ideological hod-carriers are merely striving to destroy the faith of the proletariat in its ability to overthrow imperialism and to create a new life, free from exploitation, oppression and war, for the vast masses of the people. Hence their constant harping on the theme that Marxism is a 'failed ideology' and that it has been 'destroyed'. Earlier generations of proletarian revolutionaries too had to deal with, and refute, such utter unscientific bourgeois nonsense. Only people totally ignorant of history can utter such drivel, for Marxism is the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement; as such it can no more be destroyed than can the working class.
Far from being destroyed, Marxism-Leninism is even more relevant than before for emancipating humanity from the torments of hunger and war, misery and degradation. Nor could it be otherwise. For the crisis of imperialism, instead of abating, has become even more intensified since the disappearance of the USSR and other socialist countries in eastern Europe. All the major contradictions (between labour and capital; between oppressed nations and imperialism; and between different imperialist countries) in the world are developing with frenetic speed and driving capitalist society at a breakneck pace in the direction of a crash and total breakdown. Only proletarian revolution, only socialism and communism, offer humanity the way out of the hell that is existence under the conditions of capitalism for the vast majority of the inhabitants of our planet.
A divided world and a divided society
Far from being a solution, capitalism is the problem. Impeccable statistics, from the most impeccable of bourgeois sources, prove beyond an iota of doubt that we live in a divided society and a divided world, in which "accumulation of wealth at one pole is ... at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital" (Karl Marx, Capital Vol 1, p.645).
Thus there is, on the one hand, a tiny group of rich imperialist oppressing nations, with a per capita GDP of $25,000 a year, on the other hand there are ranged scores of poor oppressed nations with a per capita GDP of a mere $300 a year. The rich countries, with only a fifth of global population, account for a huge 86% of the world's GDP. The GDP of the Group of Seven richest imperialist countries, with a population between them of only 685 million, account for two-thirds of global GDP, whereas 181 countries, with a combined population of over 5 billion, have just one third of the world's GDP. If the richest 20% of the world's population, living in the richest imperialist countries, account for 86% of global income, the poorest 20%, living in the poorest and oppressed nations, account for an insignificant 1.3%. Over a billion people, inhabitants almost entirely of poor countries, live in absolute poverty on less than $1 a day, whereas 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Of the 4.4 billion people living in the so-called Third World, three quarters (3.3 billion) do not have their basic need satisfied. A quarter have no access to safe drinking water. A quarter have inadequate housing. Nearly a fifth (900 million) go hungry. Nearly a fifth are illiterate. And just under half (2 billion) are without electricity. According to the World Health Organisation, 12 million (more than twice the number of Jewish victims of the Nazi perpetrated holocaust) die in poor countries each year before they reach the age of 5, most of them during the first year of life, from malnutrition, malnutrition-related and other preventable causes. As if all this were not enough, the oppressed countries continue to groan under the unbearable burden of foreign debt which has grown with geometrical progression from a mere $7 billion in the 1950s to more than $2,000 billion today - notwithstanding the massive debt service remittances, amounting to several thousand million dollars. Interest payments alone devour a quarter of the indebted countries' exports.
Excess and marginalisation
Three of the world's richest billionaires have assets equal to the combined GDP of all the least developed countries with their hundreds of millions of inhabitants. The combined wealth of the top 10 billionaires adds up to $266 billion. Three of the richest shareholders of Microsoft - Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer - have assets worth $149 billion, more than the combined assets of the 43 least developed countries. The wealth of a mere 225 billionaires adds up to $1,000 billion, which exceeds the combined income of half the world's people.
The globalisation of the world economy, far from improving the lives of billions of ordinary people around the world, as the giant monopoly corporations and their political and economic spokesmen would have us believe, is leading to further and ever-accelerating polarisation, with accumulation of fabulous wealth at one end and increasing poverty and misery at the other end. The consumption of a child born in any one of the rich imperialist countries is 30-50 times greater than that of a child born in the poor countries. It would take a mere $9 billion a year to provide safe water and sanitation, and $13 billion a year to provide basic health and nutrition to the poorest half of the world's population. The cost of overcoming poverty and providing essential social services in the underdeveloped countries would be no more than $80 billion a year - less than 10% of the global annual military expenditure of $1000 billion, of which US imperialism alone accounts for half. But then capitalism would not be capitalism if it did these things. Capital has "one single life impulse", to extract the maximum of profit. The aim of capitalist production is not to minister to human wants but to produce profits. Only this explains the apparent contradiction of a "shortage of demand for the very commodities which the mass of the people lack" (Karl Marx, Capital Vol 3, p.256).
Instead of taking steps to abolish poverty, which is fully feasible today in view of the marvels of present-day technological advances and the gigantic growth in the productivity of human labour, imperialism, through its financial and commercial institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, is forever busy taking steps, each of which is calculated to further the impoverishment of billions of people around the world through the intensification of exploitation. Since the collapse of the USSR, it has managed to turn the UN into the colonial office of imperialism. If that proves insufficient, it has not the slightest hesitation in resorting to naked armed might, as is shown by its wars against Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan - sometimes with the Neo-Nazi Nato alliance at its head and sometimes through ad hoc coalitions of the willing, the bribed and the coerced.
Thus it is clear that capitalism has nothing to offer, other than grinding poverty, misery and degradation, to the vast majority of the inhabitants of our planet. For their part, the vast masses of the poor countries are not inclined to accept with resignation the role allotted to them by imperialism. Hundreds upon hundreds of millions of people in the vast continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America are responding with fierce resistance to the intensified exploitation, oppression and coercion perpetrated by imperialism. These continents are fast developing into raging infernos, whose fires are sure to devour this beast, imperialism, which has for so long tormented and drenched humanity in blood.
Misery in the imperialist countries
Not only has capitalism nothing to offer to the peoples of the poor and oppressed countries, it has increasingly less to offer in the centres of imperialism as well. The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow in every rich country. In the rich countries of Europe, North America, Japan and Australasia, 100 million people live below the poverty line, fixed at half the average individual median income. In the US, the richest capitalist country and the self-proclaimed leader of the 'free' world, nearly 10% of households are 'food insecure', that is, go hungry, according to the US Department of Agriculture. As the US billionaires watch their investments grow, tens of million of Americans are stuck at, or sinking below, the absurdly low 'poverty line' of $13,000 a year for a family of three, while 30 million Americans are going hungry, millions are homeless, and 40 million have no health cover - all this, not because there are no houses, medicines and food, but because there is a plethora of these. This grotesque absurdity arises because, under capitalism, the means of production cannot function unless they have first been transformed into capital, into means of exploiting human labour power. And it is the necessity of this transformation which "...alone forbids the means of production to function, workers to work and live" (Engels, Anti Dühring, p.383).
Through the imposition of unemployment, misery, poverty and destitution of tens of millions of people even in its heartlands, imperialism is intensifying the contradiction between labour and capital - a contradiction which is but a reflection of the contradiction between productive forces and relations of production, between social production and private appropriation. The bourgeois relations of production have turned into a formidable brake on the productive forces - an impediment to the latter's development. To transform, through the seizure of state power, the socialised means of production into public property, to free them from the character of capital they have borne hitherto, is the historical mission of the proletariat, for such deliverance "is the one pre-conditions for an unbroken, constantly accelerated development of the productive forces and therewith for a practically unlimited increase of production itself" (ibid. p.391).
Capitalist restoration in the eastern bloc
It was the constant refrain of the bourgeoisie that socialism in the former USSR and other eastern European countries had deprived the peoples of these countries of their freedom and retarded their economic growth. And, therefore, only a return to (bourgeois) democracy and the 'free market' could guarantee them unprecedented prosperity. And the results of this restoration? Everywhere production, as well as per capita income have fallen precipitously; life expectancy has registered a drastic fall; the free health service, the education system with its proliferation of crèches, kindergartens and holiday camps, which were a source of legitimate pride to the peoples of these countries, have all but disappeared. Unemployment, which had not been seen in the USSR since 1932, is rampant with an estimated 40 million out of work in the territory of the former USSR. The wealth crated by the honest toil of the Soviet and other people has been stolen by a handful of klepotcrats and mafiosi, while the masses of people have been reduced to penury. Fraternal harmony and cooperative existence have given way to fratricidal warfare; prostitution, alcoholism, drug abuse and drug trafficking, organised and violent street crime, homelessness, and such other wonders of the free market have assumed epidemic proportions. Women, children and old people in these countries have suffered most consequent upon the restoration of capitalism. The peoples of these countries, who have witnessed, taken part in, and benefited from, the glorious achievements of socialism, are justly seething with anger at the new economic and political disposition. It is only a question of time before they rise and overthrow the rule of their kleptocracies and wipe off the shame of capitalist restoration from the face of their societies. Thus the contradiction between the thieving fraternity who rule these countries and the masses of the people is becoming more acute by the day.
Effect of capitalist restoration elsewhere
More than that. The victory of the October Revolution, the successes of socialist construction, the victories of the Red Army and the smashing by it of the powerful Nazi war machine, gave a powerful impetus to the national liberation and proletarian movements, obliging the bourgeoisie in the imperialist countries to improve the conditions of the working class in an effort to assuage the widespread anti-capitalist sentiments among wide layers of the proletariat. As for living standards, it was the best period in the history of the proletariat of the imperialist countries.
With the breakdown of the Keynesian consensus, itself the product of very special circumstances, and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries feels emboldened enough to attack the working class at home (unemployment, cuts in the social wage, curtailment of civil liberties) and the oppressed people abroad (wars against Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine). Going through this difficult and painful period, one cannot help remembering the following words of Stalin at the 7th Enlarged Plenum of the EC of the Comintern, in his polemic against the counter-revolutionary 'left' opposition in the CPSU(B):
"What would happen if capital succeeded in smashing the Republic of Soviets? There would set in an era of the blackest reaction in all the capitalist and colonial countries. The working class and the oppressed peoples would be seized by the throat the positions of international communism will be lost."
Now that the Soviet Union is no more, that the blackest period of reaction has set in, and the working class and the oppressed people have indeed been seized by the throat, revolutionaries can only look back with fondness and nostalgia at the old USSR and wish for its restoration. Equally, only the bourgeoisie and its agents in the proletarian movement - social-democrats, revisionists and Trotskyites - have reason to gloat over the disappearance of the USSR and other socialist countries.
Following the Second World War, US imperialism emerged as the strongest imperialist power and quickly assumed the leadership of the entire imperialist camp. The devastation of the economies of Germany, France and Japan, the existence of a powerful bloc of socialist countries, the victories of the revolutions in China, Korea and Indochina, the rising tide of anti-imperialist liberation movements, and the fear of contagion of socialism spreading further west, all served to make the bourgeoisie of western Europe and Japan accept US imperialism's leadership, for what was at stake was the very existence of imperialism. There was thus a considerable degree of cohesion in the imperialist camp.
However, the economic recovery of Europe and Japan, the building of powerful economies by these countries, rivalling that of the US, and the disappearance of the USSR and other socialist countries of eastern Europe, have served to reactivate inter-imperialist rivalries, with each country involved in a frenzied struggle for cheap raw materials, markets, spheres of influence, territory and avenues for export of capital. The crisis of overproduction on a world scale is egging them on to fight for their respective corner with the utmost of ferocity and ruthlessness. In the final analysis, such questions are not decided peacefully under capitalism. How long it will take, and precisely in what circumstances, and in what configuration, for the imperialist countries to come to blows, no one can foretell. What is certain is that the inter-imperialist contradictions are intensifying at a speed not seen since before the Second World War and, unless frustrated by the revolutionary upsurge of the proletariat, must end in a war, for war cannot be eliminated while imperialism lasts.
A system rotten to the core
In the light of the above, it is abundantly clear that capitalism in its imperialist (monopoly) stage is rotten to the core - it is decadent, parasitic and moribund capitalism, which has nothing to offer to more than four-fifths of humanity. This system is beyond repair. It needs to be abolished and replaced by socialism which gives primacy to production for the satisfaction of human needs. The proletariat and the oppressed people are faced with the choice "Either place yourself at the mercy of capital, eke out a wretched existence and sink lower and lower, or adopt a new weapon - this is the alternative imperialism puts before the vast masses of the proletariat. Imperialism brings the working class to revolution" (Stalin, The Foundations of Leninism, pp. 74-75).
However, rotten though this system is, it will not fall by itself. The working class has to get rid of it. For this, two preliminary conditions are essential. First, the working class must acquire a thorough grasp of the science of revolution - Marxism-Leninism - for "without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement" (Lenin, What is to be done?), and "...practice gropes in the dark if its path is not illumined by revolutionary theory" (Stalin, The Foundations of Leninism). The importance of revolutionary theory "cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity" (Lenin, ibid). What a misfortune, an immeasurable disadvantage, it is for the workers to be lacking in a sense of revolutionary theory, as Engels pointed out so long ago, may be seen "...from the indifference towards all theory, which is one of the main reasons why the English working-class movement crawls along so slowly..." (Engels, Preface to The Peasant War in Germany).
We British Marxists, in view of the history of the British working-class movement, with its long tradition of contempt for theory, which has wrought mischief and confusion in the movement, have a special reason for heeding Engels' warning and his advice to the affect that it is the duty of the socialist proletariat and its leadership "...to gain an ever clearer insight into all theoretical questions, to free themselves more and more from the influence of traditional phrases inherited from the old outlook, and constantly to keep in mind that socialism, since it has become a science, demands that it be pursued as a science, i.e., that it be studied..." (ibid) (our emphasis). The working class is the ruling class in waiting. And it cannot become the ruling class without mastering science, especially the science of revolution. There is no easy way around it, for, in the words of Marx, "There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits" (Marx, Preface to the French edition of Capital Volume 1, p 21).
Exposure of Opportunism
In this context, it is one of our important tasks to make a thorough exposure of opportunism and its chief representative in the working-class movement - Social Democracy (the Labour Party in Britain) and its revisionist and Trotskyite hangers-on. We must take to the proletarian masses the message that Social Democracy, far from representing the interests of the proletariat, merely defends the interests of the privileged upper stratum of the working class; that since the privileged position of this upper stratum - the labour aristocracy - depends on the extraction of imperialist super-profits from the vast continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America, Social Democracy cannot defend one (privileges of the labour aristocracy) without defending the other (imperialism). This is why there is not a crime that Social Democracy will not commit in its defence of imperialism. And this also explains its total contempt for the most downtrodden sections of the working class at home and total disregard for the oppressed people abroad.
Economic basis of opportunism
Further, it is our duty to explain to the working class the economic basis of the phenomenon of opportunism; to explain that the temporary victory of opportunism in the working-class movement of Britain (indeed of all the imperialist countries) is by no means accidental; that there are deep and profound economic reasons underlying the success of opportunism. It is our task to explain to the working class that imperialism long ago engendered a split in the working class, for it has singled out a handful of exceptionally rich and powerful states, who plunder the whole world and who are able to use a portion of the super-profits thus derived to bribe the labour leaders and the upper stratum of the working class, "who are quite philistine in their mode of life, in the size of their earnings and in their entire outlook" and act as the principal "social prop" of the bourgeoisie and as "the real agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class, real channels of reformism and chauvinism" (Lenin, Preface to the French edition of Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism).
Out of the vast sums flowing into the imperialist heartlands from the super-exploitation of billions of oppressed people, out of this "tidy sum" it is possible for the bourgeoisie to throw at least a small portion "as a sop to labour leaders, to the labour aristocracy, in order to bribe them in various ways. The whole thing reduces itself precisely to bribery. This is done in a thousand different ways: by raising culture in the largest centres, by creating educational institutions, creating thousands of soft jobs for the leaders of the co-operative societies, for the trade-union leaders and parliamentary leaders. This is done wherever modern, civilised, capitalist relations exist. All these billions of super-profits serve as the economic basis upon which opportunism in the working-class movement rests" (Lenin, 'Speech to the Second Congress of the Comintern').
Ignoring this overwhelming evidence, in total disregard of reality, all revisionist and Trotskyite organisations continue to deny the existence of the split in the working class, for this denial is absolutely essential to their support for Social Democracy as the representative of the entire working class; for the recognition of the split in the working class cannot but force on them also the need to recognise that Social Democracy represents the interests of imperialism and the privileged layers of the working class. In denying this undoubted split, the revisionist renegades, the Trotskyite counter-revolutionaries and the 'left' social democrats, are also denying, albeit implicitly, the imperialist character of capitalism in Western Europe, North America and Japan, etc.
One only has to cast a cursory glance at the attitude of Social Democracy towards working-class struggles at home, and the national liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples abroad, to become convinced of Social Democracy's impeccable credentials as the faithful servant of imperialism. Far from defending the working class at home and the oppressed peoples abroad, Social Democracy is as a matter of fact leading these attacks. Its hallmark can be summed up as: repression at home and war abroad. In Britain, for instance, the Labour Party's betrayal of the historic 1984-85 miners' strike and its predatory wars against the people of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan, are but a few examples of the total betrayal of the interests of the British proletariat. Its sister social democratic parties on the continent of Europe are no better.
In view of this, the task of the Marxist-Leninists is to "explain to the masses the inevitability and the necessity of breaking with opportunism" (Lenin, Imperialism and the split in socialism).
Under attack, the vast masses of the working class are bound to fight back. It is the job of the communists to organise them outside of, and in opposition to, Social Democracy. This is not a job that can be trusted to the 'left' wing of Social Democracy, to wit the Trotskyite and revisionist gentry, who are marked by a staggering accumulation of corruption and filth through decades of opportunism and compromise with Social Democracy, and whose objects of concern, too, are the privileged sections of the working class and the petty-bourgeois strata. It is a job that can only be accomplished by making a definite break with the ideology and organisational forms of Social Democracy. Genuine Marxists alone are capable of accomplishing this task.
We must fight tooth and nail against all forms of opportunism, for "...the fight against imperialism is a sham and a humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism" (Lenin, Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism).
A Party of the Proletariat
Second, in order to bring down capitalism, the proletariat needs a party of its own, which is strong and disciplined, for "in its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labour for capital, constantly thrust back to the 'lower depths' of utter destitution, savagery and degeneration, the proletariat can become, and inevitably will become, an invincible force when its ideological unification by the principles of Marxism is consolidated by the material unity of an organisation which will weld millions of toilers into an army of the working class" (Lenin, One step forward, two steps back).
In the fight against the omnipotence of giant monopolies, giant banks, the financial oligarchy - the robber barons of capitalist imperialism - the customary trade-union and parliamentary methods of struggle alone are inadequate. Only the Marxist-Leninist theory of revolution, of tactics and methods of organisation offer the road to salvation for the proletariat, which is faced with the stark choice of either meekly placing itself at the mercy of capital, eking out a wretchedly miserable existence and sinking ever lower, or adopting a new weapon. This is the stark alternative with which imperialism confronts the working class; it brings the working class to revolution.
Let us increase our efforts a thousand-fold to build truly revolutionary, strong and disciplined parties, capable of inspiring the confidence and trust of tens of millions of proletarians, and leading them in the struggle for the social emancipation of the proletariat from the horrors of life under the rotten system of capitalism. The contradiction of capitalist society, that between social production and private appropriation, can only be solved by the proletariat seizing state power and transforming the socialised means of production into public property, and organising production on a pre-determined plan for the satisfaction of the needs of society.
"To accomplish this act of universal emancipation", in the memorable words of Engels, "is the historical mission of the proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and thus the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed proletarian class a full knowledge of the conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish - this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific socialism" (Engels, Anti-Dühring).
Communism is the future of humanity
Nothing - not even the reverses and the counter-revolution in the former socialist countries - can detract from the truth and validity of the words I have just quoted. Notwithstanding the undoubtedly great reverses suffered by the world proletariat consequent upon the collapse of the USSR and the eastern bloc, the future of humanity is socialism and communism. The bourgeoisie, its ideologues, its political representatives and hangers-on in the working-class movement (opportunists of the social democrat, revisionist and Trotskyist variety) are, with deliberate intent and malicious glee, using the developments in the former USSR and eastern Europe as a pretext to malign communism and to destroy the faith of the working class in its own ability to not only destroy the old (capitalist) society, but also to build a new (socialist) society. It is not difficult to see that they are doing all this in the hope of condemning humanity to everlasting capitalist slavery.
"The chief endeavour of the bourgeoisie of all countries and of its hangers-on", observed Stalin, "is to kill in the working class faith in its own strength, faith in the possibility and the inevitability of its victory and thus to perpetuate capitalist slavery" (Stalin, 'Report to the Eighteenth Congress of the CPSU(B)' (1939), Problems of Leninism).
So, when our present-day hangers-on of the bourgeoisie, in the name of spurious Marxism, greet with glee the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union and other eastern European countries, when they besmirch all the truly earthshaking achievements of socialism in these countries, they are merely carrying out the behests of the bourgeoisie, namely, to instil cynicism in the working class and kill in the latter faith in the inevitability of its victory. For these shameless 'socialists' the highest achievement of socialism is the election of an imperialist Labour government.
The bourgeoisie, of course, has every interest and reason in representing the collapse of the Soviet Union as a collapse of communism - of Marxism-Leninism. Its class interests dictate that it presents Soviet reality, and the reasons for its reversal, in a distorted form. "If geometrical axioms affected human interests", said Lenin, "attempts would be made to refute them" (Lenin, Marxism and Revisionism, CW.Vol.15, April 1908).
For our part, we unhesitatingly declare that the reverses in the Soviet Union, far from being attributable to Marxism-Leninism, are solely the result of the complete departures from it, thanks to Khrushchevite revisionism, which took hold of the CPSU from the latter half of the 1950s. Thus, what has collapsed is revisionism - not Marxism-Leninism. The collapse of the USSR was the culmination of a long process of revisionism in theory and practice of the CPSU which began with the Khrushchevites coming to power. As long as the CPSU followed the victorious banner of Marxism-Leninism, there was no citadel that the USSR could not storm, no enemy that it could not defeat - from the building of socialism to the world-historic defeat of fascism in the last world war. As long ago as 1934, addressing the 17th Party Congress, Stalin had to occasion to emphasise this truth:
"To what does our Party owe its superiority? To the fact that it is a Marxist-Leninist Party. It owes it to the fact that it is guided in its work by the tenets of Marx, Engels, Lenin. There cannot be any doubt that as long as we remain true to these tenets, as long as we have this compass, we will achieve success in our work" (Stalin, Problems of Leninism).
Far from being ashamed, we are, on the contrary proud of the achievements of Soviet socialism, better than which humanity has not achieved thus far. We are proud of the magnificent and towering conquests of Soviet socialism. We Marxist-Leninists do not swim with every tide and adapt ourselves to every fashionable whim. Our cheerful optimism, as this presentation attempts to show, is based on a scientific understanding of this world and the laws of its development. Whatever the pressures from the hostile class, we assert that socialism and communism is the future of humanity, just as in his time Galileo, in the face of pressure from the feudal church authorities, declared: "[The earth] still moves [around the sun]".
No matter how often our banner falls, we shall pick it up and hold it aloft. Humanity will not put up with the lot assigned to it by imperialism; it will break its chains, for there is no other way for it.
By way of greeting the 90th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution and by way of calling for the victory of proletarian revolution all over the world, let us close with the following words of Lenin:
"Only a proletarian socialist revolution can lead humanity out of the deadlock created by imperialism and imperialist wars. No matter what difficulties the revolution may encounter, and in spite of temporary setbacks or waves of counter-revolution, the final victory of the proletariat is inevitable" (Lenin, Materials Relating to the Revision of the Party Programme, April-May 1917).
And "Let the 'socialist' snivellers croak, let the bourgeoisie rage and fume; only people who shut their eyes so as not to see, and stuff their ears so as not to hear, can fail to notice" that capitalism has no future, for it has nothing to offer other than misery to the vast majority of humanity, that this "wild beast, capitalism, which has drenched the earth in blood and reduced humanity to starvation and demoralisation", will be felled, that its end is "near and inevitable, no matter how monstrous and savage its frenzy in the face of death" (Quotes from Lenin, Prophetic words).
"Imperialism is the eve of the social revolution of the proletariat" (Lenin, Imperialism the highest stage of capitalism).
The twenty-first century shall be the century of the victory of communism - of Marxism-Leninism. In the words of the great Russian revolutionary democrat, Nicolai Chernychevsky, "there shall be joy and festivities in our streets".
Long live the Great October Socialist Revolution!
Long live Marxism-Leninism!
Forward to victory under the glorious banner of Marxism-Leninism!
Comments on this article? E-mail the editor
Go to Back issues
Return to Homepage