More and more these days, particularly among those calling themselves ‘Maoists’ and ‘post-Maoists’ it is becoming fashionable to go after Stalin and his legacy, to critique ‘Stalinism’ and to talk of ‘going beyond Stalinism’. There seems to go along with this a summation of Stalin that completely negates his successes, or that at least says that his errors were primary and successes were secondary, and that, overall Stalin should be thrown out. I want to seriously engage this trend, from my personal point of view. I’m not an expert, but I’ve read a few books and I’ve had a few discussions with people who have varying summations of Stalin and his contributions to the experience of proletarian revolution. This article, I hope, will only be the beginning of a series of discussions regarding this and related questions.
To begin with, lets get a few things out of the way. First, I do not believe that the question of Stalin is the cardinal question before Marxist-Leninists today. It is not the basis of rebuilding the unity of the Marxist-Leninist movement following the series of splits that occurred after his death and then the death of Mao Zedong. It is an important issue, but the basis of rebuilding unity among Marxist-Leninists should be based on agreement on Marxist-Leninist principles (rather than personalities) and anti-imperialist practice, i.e., proletarian internationalism. A summation of the experiences of the international communist movement is, of course, an integral part of building unity on the basis of principles. The 1999 declaration of the International Communist Seminar goes into this as well: “When parties have different ideological opinions concerning various questions, they can gradually surmount them in a process of common practical struggle against the international bourgeoisie, that strengthens confidence in the noblest ideals of humanity and eliminates all forms of opportunism, liberalism and dogmatism.”
Second, “Stalinism” does not exist. It is another term for Leninism, and, based on bourgeois and revisionist slanders, it is a term that attempts to undermine the principles of Leninism.
Third, I should state clearly that Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist. I tend to agree, for the most part, with the summation of Stalin put forward by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the article, On the Question of Stalin. This article is part of a larger polemic with the revisionists of the Soviet Union led by Khrushchev. In this polemic the Chinese communists correctly argued that the revisionists were “completely negating” Stalin’s legacy as part of a concealed attack on the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism. The summation in that article basically is an attempt at an “overall, objective and scientific analysis of Stalin’s merits and demerits by the method of historical materialism and the presentation of history as it actually occurred.”
“On the Question of Stalin”
Regarding Stalin’s merits, the CCP writes:
- Stalin fought tsarism and propagated Marxism during Lenin’s lifetime; after he became a member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party headed by Lenin; he took part in the struggle to pave the way for the 1917 Revolution; after the October Revolution he fought to defend the fruits of the proletarian revolution.
- Stalin led the CPSU and the Soviet people, after Lenin’s death, in resolutely fighting both internal and external foes, and in safeguarding and consolidating the first socialist state in the world.
- Stalin led the CPSU and the Soviet people in upholding the line of socialist industrialization and agricultural collectivization and in achieving great successes in socialist transformation and socialist construction.
- Stalin led the CPSU, the Soviet people, and the Soviet army in an arduous and bitter struggle to the great victory of the anti-fascist war.
- Stalin defended and developed Marxism-Leninism in the fight against various kinds of opportunism, against the enemies of Leninism, the Trotskyites, Zinovievites, Bukharinites, and other bourgeois agents.
- Stalin made an indelible contribution to the international communist movement in a number of theoretical writings which are immortal Marxist-Leninist works.
- Stalin led the Soviet Party and Government in pursuing a foreign policy which on the whole was in keeping with proletarian internationalism and in greatly assisting the revolutionary struggles of all peoples, including the Chinese people.
- Stalin stood in the forefront of the tide of history guiding the struggle, and was an irreconcilable enemy of the imperialists and all reactionaries.
- Stalin’s activities were intimately bound up with the struggles of the great CPSU and the great Soviet people and inseparable from the revolutionary struggles of the people of the whole world.
- Stalin’s life was that of a great Marxist-Leninist, a great proletarian revolutionary. [I have changed the formatting of the text here from separate paragraphs to a numbered list, simply to make the discussion simpler – CZ]
Regarding Stalin’s errors, the CCP writes:
It is true that while he performed meritorious deeds for the Soviet people and the international communist movement, Stalin, a great Marxist-Leninist and proletarian revolutionary, also made certain mistakes. Some were errors of principle and some were errors made in the course of practical work; some could have been avoided and some were scarcely avoidable at a time when the dictatorship of the proletariat had no precedent to go by.
- In his way of thinking, Stalin departed from dialectical materialism and fell into metaphysics and subjectivism on certain questions and consequently he was sometimes divorced from reality and from the masses.
- In struggles inside as well as outside the Party, on certain occasions and on certain questions he confused two types of contradictions which are different in nature, contradictions between ourselves and the enemy and contradictions among the people, and also confused the different methods needed in handling them. In the work led by Stalin of suppressing the counter-revolution, many counter-revolutionaries deserving punishment were duly punished, but at the same time there were innocent people who were wrongly convicted; and in 1937 and 1938 there occurred the error of enlarging the scope of the suppression of counter-revolutionaries.
- In the matter of Party and government organization, he did not fully apply proletarian democratic centralism and, to some extent, violated it.
- In handling relations with fraternal Parties and countries, he made some mistakes. He also gave some bad counsel in the international communist movement. These mistakes caused some losses to the Soviet Union and the international communist movement. [Again, I have broken a paragraph in the text here into a numbered list – CZ]
Out of all of this the CCP argues that Stalin “was primarily correct, and his faults were secondary,” that “it is necessary to safeguard what was primary in Stalin’s life, to safeguard Marxism-Leninism, which he defended and developed” and that “it would be beneficial if the errors of Stalin, which were only secondary, are taken as historical lessons so that the Communists of the Soviet Union and other countries might take warning and avoid repeating those errors or commit fewer errors.”
More on Stalin’s merits
Regarding what the CCP writes about Stalin’s merits, there is little to take issue with. Stalin led the construction of socialism in the world first socialist state. He is also primarily responsible for leading the defeat of fascism in the Second World War. This work is beyond comparison and there is much to learn from it. It would do well to highlight some points on a theoretical level. Many of Stalin’s detractors insist that he is not much of theorist, and we find what is sometimes made into a variant of this criticism from the Chinese above (in saying that Stalin “fell into metaphysics and subjectivism”), but we should remember that Stalin’s collected works fill over a dozen volumes, and these volumes only go up to the 1930s (thereafter the publication was discontinued after Stalin’s death by the Khrushchev clique).
Stalin wrote five texts that I would consider essential reading for any revolutionary Marxist-Leninist:
- The Foundations of Leninism
- Dialectical and Historical Materialism
- Marxism and the National Question
- Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR
- History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) – Short Course
The first two are for the most part expository and to a certain extent over simplify. They explain the theories of Marx and Lenin in a simple and straight-forward way and are a good starting point for further study. They are important in that they are an attempt to popularize Marxism-Leninism among both the rank and file of the CPSU and the broader masses of workers and peasants. Such a popularization is neccessary for the consolidation of socialism. The textbook, History of the CPSU, which was written by Stalin and approved by the Central Committee of the CPSU, is a similar popularization. Regarding this text, Mao wrote, “It is the best synthesis and summing-up of the world communist movement of the past hundred years, a model of the integration of theory and practice, and so far the only comprehensive model in the whole world.” Stalin’s essay on dialectics is also a very good popularization, and Mao certainly develops on it and deepens it in his essays, On Practice and On Contradiction. In On Contradiction Mao said that Stalin’s Foundations of Leninism was “a model for understanding the particularity and the universality of contradiction and their interconnection.” Stalin’s work on the national question had a tremendous influence on Lenin, and is recognized as paramount even by his detractors. He also wrote a significant article on socialist political economy based on a summation of the experience of socialist construction in the USSR. Mao Zedong, though of course critical (see Mao’s Critique of Soviet Economics), insisted that everyone should closely study this text.
Furthermore, Stalin’s writings defending Marxism-Leninism from the ‘Left’ and Right opportunism of Trotsky and Bukharin in the course of socialist construction enriched Marxism.
Stalin also contributed to the communist movement here in the United States. Though Khrushchev’s revisionism would ultimately seize the CPUSA in the 1950s and neccessitate the struggle for anti-revisionists to build a new CP beginning in the 1960s, Stalin nonetheless played an important role by intervening to stop factionalism from tearing apart the Communist Party of the United States in its early years. Furthermore, he helped to challenge white chauvinism and initiate the development of the Comintern line on the African American National Question which remains central to the revolutionary movement in the U.S.
A closer look at Stalin’s errors
It is in the enumeration of Stalin’s errors that the discussion gets interesting. Briefly, in the enumeration of his errors above, I believe that points 2 and 3 are overstated. I think it clear, if we look at “history as it actually occurred” that this is the case. These two points are held over from the earlier CCP document, On the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat which tails behind the ‘critique’ put forward by the Soviet revisionists to a considerable degree. This is not to say that there are no examples of points where Stalin “confused the two types of contradictions” or went outside the norm in terms of democratic centralism. I think much of this is overblown, however, and given the fact that the Soviet Union was facing problems that no country had ever faced before there was much that could not have been foreseen or avoided. Of course the CCP document admits this fact. Ludo Martens does well to address some of these points in his article On Certain Aspects of the Struggle Against Revisionism. The 4th error is more important and deals with Soviet “great-nation chauvinism” in relation to other parties in other countries. There are some real criticisms to be made here, but I won’t dwell on this point for now.
The 1st error, regarding metaphysical thinking and subjectivism, is the main point to address in terms of Stalin’s errors. There is a quote from Ludo Martens’ book, Another View of Stalin, that gets to the heart of these errors. It is worth quoting at length here.
There is no no doubt that Stalin continued, during the latter years of his life, to struggle against social-democratic and bourgeois nationalist tendencies and against Anglo-American subversion.
Nevertheless, it is clear that this struggle was not done to the extent that was necessary to redress and reinvigorate the Party ideologically and politically.
After the war, which had required extraordinary professional effort on the part of military, technical and scientific cadres, the old tendencies of military professionalism and technocratism were substantially reinforced. Bureaucratization and the search for privileges and the easy life were also reinforced. This negative development was encouraged with the `dizziness of success’: the tremendous pride that the cadres had developed from the anti-fascist victory often became presumptuousness and arrogance. All these phenomena undermined the ideological and political vigilance that was necessary to fight the opportunist tendencies.
Stalin struggled against particular forms of opportunism and revisionism. He thought that the class struggle in the ideological sphere would continue for a long time. But he was not capable of formulating a comprehensive theory of its basis and its social base. In other words, he was not able to formulate a consistent theory explaining how classes and the class struggle persist in a socialist society.
Stalin had not completely understood that after the disappearance of the economic basis of capitalist and feudal exploitation, that there would still exist in the Soviet Union fertile ground for bourgeois currents. Bureaucracy, technocratism, social inequalities and privileges allowed the development within certain sectors of Soviet society a bourgeois lifestyle and aspirations for the reintroduction of certain aspects of capitalism. The persistence of bourgeois ideology among both the masses and the cadres was an additional factor that encouraged entire sectors to veer towards anti-socialist positions. The adversaries of socialism always had important resources and ideological and material resources from imperialism, which never stopped infiltrating its spies and buying off renegades; the latter never stopped in their efforts to exploit and amplify all forms of opportunism within the Soviet Union. Stalin’s thesis, according to which `There is no class basis, there can be no class basis, for the domination of the bourgeois ideology in our Soviet society’, was one-sided and undialectic. It introduced weaknesses and errors in the political line.
Stalin was not able to define the adequate forms of mass mobilization of workers and kolkhozians to combat the dangers of restauration. Popular democracy should have been developed, with the deliberate intention to eliminate bureaucracy, technocratism, ambitiousness, and privileges. But the popular participation in such a defence of the dictatorship of the proletariat was not ensured as it should have been done. Stalin always underscored that the influence of the bourgeoisie and of imperialism was reflected in the Party through opportunist tendencies. But he was not able to formulate a theory about the struggle between the two lines in the Party. In 1939, summarizing the Great Purge, Stalin focused exclusively on `the espionage and conspiratorial activities of the Trotskyite and Bukharinite leaders’ and on the manner in which `the bourgeois states … take advantage of people’s weaknesses, their vanity, their slackness of will’.
Stalin clearly underestimated the internal causes that gave birth to opportunist tendencies, which, once infiltrated by secret services, became linked one way or the other to imperialism. Consequently, Stalin did not think that it was necessary to mobilize all of the Party members to combat opportunistic lines and to eliminate unhealthy tendencies. During the ideological and political struggles, all the cadres and members shoud have educated and transformed themselves. After 1945, the struggle against opportunism was restricted to the highest circles of the Party and did not assist in the revolutionary transformation of the entire Party.
It was by analyzing these weaknesses that Mao Zedong formulated his theory about continuing the revolution:
`Socialist society covers a fairly long historical period. In the historical period of socialism, there are still classes, class contradictions and class struggle, there is the struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road, and there is the danger of capitalist restoration. We must recognize the protracted and complex nature of this struggle. We must heighten our vigilance. We must conduct socialist education …. Otherwise a socialist country like ours will turn into its opposite and degenerate, and a capitalist restoration will take place.’ (pp. 282-284)
I think Martens’ criticism here is basically correct, and gets to the heart of what the CCP was getting at in talking about “metaphysics and subjectivism”. So to what extent, really, does Mao go ‘beyond’ Stalin, if at all?
Mao fought against some of the mistaken ideas that were put forward at various times by others in the socialist camp, including the Soviet Union. He led the fight against modern revisionism, which pretends to ‘revise’ Marxism while in truth undermining Marxism’s basic revolutionary principles. In general the anti-revisionist struggle helped Marxist-Leninists clarify a number of pressing theoretical and practical issues.
The 1999 declaration elaborates on this point:
… Mao Zedong made a contribution of international importance. He proceeded to transform the democratic revolution into socialist revolution, undertook socialist construction, put forward the theory and practice of continuing revolution to combat revisionism, prevent the restoration of capitalism and consolidate the gains of socialism.
Mao draws Lessons from the USSR
In an article called “Krushchov’s Phoney Communism and its Historical Lessons for the World“, the ninth comment that makes up the larger Polemic on the General Line of the International Communist Movement, some of the lessons that Mao drew from this struggle concerning how to avoid capitalist restoration were outlined in fifteen points.
How can the restoration of capitalism be prevented? On this question Comrade Mao Tse-tung has formulated a set of theories and policies, after summing up the practical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat in China and studying the positive and negative experience of other countries, mainly the Soviet Union, in accordance with the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism, and has thus enriched and developed the Marxist-Leninist theory of the dictarorship of the proletariat.
The main contents of the theories and policies advanced by Comrade Mao Tse-tung in this connection are as follows:
FIRST, it is necessary to apply the Marxist-Leninist law of the unity of opposites to the study of socialist society. The law of contradiction in all things, i.e., the law of the unity of opposites, is a fundamental law of materialist dialectics. It operates everywhere, whether in the natural world, in human society, or in the human thought.
The opposites in a contradiction both unite and struggle with each other, and it is this that forces things to move and change. Socialist society is no exception. In socialist society there are two kinds of social contradictions, namely, the contradictions among the people and those between ourselves and the enemy. These two kinds of contradictions are entirely different in their essence, and the methods for handling them should be different, too. Their correct handling will result in the increasing consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the further strenghtening and development of socialist society.
Many people acknowledge the law of the unity of opposites but are unable to apply it in studying and handling questions in socialist society. They refuse to admit that there are contradictions in socialist society — that there are not only contradictions between ourselves and the enemy but also contradictions among the people — and they do not know how to distinguish between these two kinds of social contradictions and how to handle them correctly, and are therefore unable to deal correctly with the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
SECOND, socialist society covers a very long historical period. Classes and class struggle continue to exist in this society, and the struggle still goes on between the road of socialism and the road of capitalism. The socialist revolution on the economic front (in the ownership of the means of production) is insufficient by itself and cannot be consolidated. There must also be a thorough socialist revolution on the political and ideological fronts.
Here a very long period of time is needed to decide “who will win” in the struggle between socialism and capitalism. Several decades won’t do it; success requires anywhere from one to several centuries. On the question of duration, it is better to prepare for a longer rather than a shorter period of time.
On the question of effort, it is better to regard the task as difficult rather than easy. It will be more advantageous and less harmful to think and act in this way. Anyone who fails to see this or to appreciate it fully will make tremendous mistakes. During the historical period of socialism it is necessary to maintain the dictatorship of the proletariat and carry the socialist revolution through to the end if the restoration of capitalism is to be prevented, socialist construction carried forward and the conditions created for the transition to communism.
THIRD, the dictatorship of the proletariat is led by the working class, with the worker-peasant alliance as its basis. This means the exercise of dictatorship by the working class and by the people under its leadership over the reactionary classes and individuals and those elements who oppose socialist transformation and socialist construction. Within the ranks of the people democratic centralism is practised. Ours is the broadest democracy beyond the bounds of possibility for any bourgeois state.
FOURTH, in both socialist revolution and socialist construction it is necessary to adhere to the mass line, boldly to arouse the masses and to unfold mass movements on a large scale. The mass line of “from the masses, to the masses” is the basic line in all the work of our Party. It is necessary to have firm confidence in the majority of the people and, above all, in the majority of the worker-peasant masses. We must be good at consulting the masses in our work and under no circumstances alienate ourselves from them.
Both commandism and the attitude of one dispensing favours have to be fought. The full and frank expression of views and great debates are important forms of revolutionary struggle which have been created by the people of our country in the course of their long revolutionary fight, forms of struggle which rely on the masses for resolving contradictions among the people and contradictions between ourselves and the enemy.
FIFTH, whether in socialist revolution or in socialist construction, it is necessary to solve the question of whom to rely on, whom to win over and whom to oppose. The proletariat and its vanguard must make a class analysis of socialist society, rely on the truly dependable forces that firmly take the socialist road, win over all allies that can be won over, and unite with the masses of the people, who constitute more than ninety-five per cent of the population, in a common struggle against the enemies of socialism.
In the rural areas, after the collectivization of agriculture it is necessary to rely on the poor and lower middle peasants in order to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat and the worker-peasant alliance, defeat the spontaneous capitalist tendencies and extend the policies of socialism.
SIXTH, it is necessary to conduct extensive socialist education movements repeatedly in the cities and the countryside. In these continuous movements for educating the people we must be good at organizing the revolutionary class forces, enhancing their class consciousness, correctly handling contradictions among the people and uniting all those who can be united.
In these movements it is necessary to wage a sharp, tit-for-tat struggle against the anti-socialist, capitalist and feudal forces — the landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries and bourgeois rightists, and the embezzlers, grafters and degenerates – in order to smash the attacks they unleash against socialism and to remould the majority of them into new men.
SEVENTH, one of the basic tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat is actively to expand the socialist economy. It is necessary to achieve the modernization of industry, agriculture, science and technology, and national defence step by step under the guidance of the genaral policy of developing the national economy with agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading factor. On the basis of the growth of production, it is necessary to raise the living standards of the people gradually and on a broad scale.
EIGHTH, ownership by the whole people and collective ownership are the two forms of socialist economy. The transition from collective ownership to ownership by the whole people, from two kinds of ownership to a unitary ownership by the whole people, is a rather long process. Collective ownership itself develops from lower to higher levels and from smaller to larger scale. The people’s communes which the Chinese people have created is a suitable form of organization for the solution of the question of this transition.
NINTH, “Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend” is a policy for stimulating the growth of the arts and the progress of science and for promoting a flourishing socialist culture. Education must serve proletarian politics and must be combined with productive labour. The working people should master knowledge and the intellectuals should become habituated to manual labour.
Among those engaged in science, culture, the arts and education, the struggle to promote proletarian ideology and destroy bourgeois ideology is a protracted and fierce clas struggle. It is necessary to build up a large detachment of working-class intellectuals who serve socialism and who are both “red and expert”, i.e., who are both politically conscious and professionally competent, by means of cultural revolution, and revolutionary practice in class struggle, the struggle for production and scientific experiment.
TENTH, it is necessary to maintain the system of cadre participation in collective productive labour. The cadres of our Party and state are ordinary workers and not overlords sitting on the backs of the people. By taking part in collective productive labour, the cadres maintain extensive, constant and close ties with the working people. This is a major measure of fundamental importance for a socialist system; it helps to overcome bureaucracy and to prevent revisionism and dogmatism.
ELEVENTH, the system of high salaries for a small number of people should never be applied. The gap between the incomes of the working personell of the Party, the government, the enterprises and the people’s communes, on the one hand, and the incomes of the mass of people, on the other, should be rationally and gradually narrowed and not widened. All working personell must be prevented from abusing their power and enjoying special privileges.
TWELFTH, it is always necessary for the people’s armed forces in a socialist country to be under the leadership of the Party of the proletariat and under the supervision of the masses, and they must always maintain the glorious tradition of a people’s army, with unity between the army and the people and between the officers and men.
It is necessary to keep the system under which officers serve as common soldiers at regular intervals. It is necessary to practice military democracy, political democracy and economic democracy. Moreover, militia units should be organized and trained all over the country, so as to make everybody a soldier. The guns must forever be in the hands of the Party and the people and must never be allowed to become the instruments of careerists.
THIRTEENTH, the people’s public security organs must always be under the leadership of the Party of the proletariat and under the supervision of the mass of the people. In the struggle to defend the fruits of socialism and the people’s interests, the policy must be applied of relying on the combined efforts of the broad masses and the security organs, so that not a single bad person escapes or a single good person is wronged. Counter-revolutionaries must be suppressed whenever found, and mistakes must be corrected whenever discovered.
FOURTEENTH, in foreign policy, it is necessary to uphold proletarian internationalism and oppose great-power chauvinism and national egoism. The socialist camp is the product of the struggle of the international proletariat and working people. It belongs to the proletariat and working people of the whole world as well as to the people of the socialist countries.
We must truly put into effect the fighting slogans, “Workers of all countries, unite!” and “Workers and oppressed nations of the world, unite!”, resolutly combat the anti-Communist, anti-popular and counter-revolutionary policies of imperialism and reaction and support the revolutionary struggles of all the oppressed classes and oppressed nations.
Relations among socialist countries should be based on the principles of independence, complete equality and the proletarian internationalist principle of mutual support and mutual assistance. Every socialist country should rely mainly on itself for its construction. If any socialist country practices national egoism in its foreign policy, or, worse yet, eagerly works in partnership with imperialism for the partition of the world, such conduct is degenerate and a betrayal of proletarian internationalism.
FIFTEENTH, as the vanguard of the proletariat, the Communist Party must exist as long as the dictatorship of the proletariat exists. The Communist Party is the highest form of organization of the proletariat. The leading role of the proletariat is realized through the leadership of the Communist Party. The system of Party committees exercising leadership must be put into effect in all departments.
During the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the proletarian party must maintain and strenghten its close ties with the proletariat and the broad masses of the working people, maintain and develop its vigorous revolutionary style, uphold the principle of integrating the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of its own country, and persist in the struggle angainst revisionism, dogmatism and opportunism of every kind.
All of this is developed from the summation of Stalin that is outlined above, as well as from looking at the revisionist policies of Krushchev that were sometimes called the “three ‘peacefuls’ and two ‘wholes'”: “Peaceful Competition”, “Peaceful Coexistence”, “Peaceful Transition”, “the Party of the Whole People” and “the State of the Whole People”. These theses developed by Mao are the core of the theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat
Mao’s theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat is a response to Stalin’s most significant mistake, his non-dialectical assment of class and class struggle in socialist society, and was developed out of the struggle against revisionism, both internationally and in China. For Stalin, without a clear understanding of the place of class and class struggle in socialist society, it was simple enough for Krushchev and co. to come to power and to begin the process of undermining the socialist system and restoring capitalism, a process that would take more than 35 years. Hua Guofeng put it this way:
China completed in the main the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production in 1956. From then on, a new question confronted the Chinese revolution – whether contradictions, classes and class struggle still exist in socialist society, whether it remains necessary to continue the socialist revolution and how this revolution is to be carried on. This is also a question for which no correct answer has been found in the international communist movement for a long time.
No ready answers to this question could be found in the Marxist-Leninist works of the past. Marx and Engels founded the doctrine of scientific-socialism and the principles of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but they had no experience of the victory of the proletarian revolution and therefore such a question had never been posed for them in a concrete way. Lenin developed the Marxist thesis on the dictatorship of the proletariat in both theory and practice, pointing out that after the proletariat seizes political power, acute and complicated class struggle still exists as does the danger of capitalist restoration, and that it remains necessary to strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat. But Lenin died too early to see with his own eyes the completion of the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production and it was impossible for him to answer the question clearly and definitively. Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist. He inherited the cause of Lenin and led the Soviet people in achieving socialist industrialization and agricultural collectivization and winning victory in the anti-fascist war. In practice, he waged resolute struggles against various counter-revolutionary bourgeois representatives who had wormed their way into the Party. Yet, theoretically he did not acknowledge that after the collectivization of agriculture, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and between the socialist road and the capitalist road continued in the Soviet Union. For a long time, he did not look at socialist society from a materialist dialectical viewpoint of the unity of opposites, but saw it as an integrated whole where there is only identity, but no contradictions. Under the influence of this idea, there prevailed in the international communist movement for a long time the viewpoint which refused to recognize that class struggle continues between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie after the completion of the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production, that such class struggle will manifest itself in the form of the struggle between two different lines within the Party, and that the danger of capitalist restoration remains.
And what is the basis of this? Bourgeois right, the socialist principle of distribution according to work, and so on. Furthermore, the transition from the bourgeois-democratic to the proletarian-socialist revolution helps to foster the development of the bourgeoisie inside the party itself.
In a period of democratic revolution…there were also opportunists, revisionists, and chieftains of various opportunist lines inside the Party; they were agents of the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes in the Party, but for the bourgeoisie as a whole, they were merely its appendages. Since the landlord and comprador-capitalist classes held the reins of government at that time, the nucleus and the main force of the bourgeoisie, its headquarters and its chief political representatives were outside and not inside the Party…
The principal contradiction in the entire historical period of socialism is the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. With the balance of class forces having undergone a change, the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie finds expression in the Party in an increasingly profound and acute way. Thus the capitalist-roaders emerge in the Party as the force at the core of the bourgeoisie as a whole and become the main danger in subverting the proletarian dictatorship and restoring capitalism (Fang Kang, “Capitalist-Roaders Are the Bourgeoisie Inside the Party,” quoted in Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type).
Basically, what this is saying is that in the new-democratic revolution, which is a two stage process, there is a fundamental shift in orientation of the revoltion as it moves form the one stage to the other. As this shift occurs, the national bourgeoisie transforms from ally to target of the revolutionary forces. Some comrades do not make this transition. On this point Mao said:
To consolidate New Democracy, and to go on consolidating it for ever, is to engage in capitalism. New Democracy is a bourgeois-democratic revolution under the leadership of the proletariat. It touches only the landlords and the comprador bourgeoisie, it does not touch the national bourgeoisie at all. To divide up the land and give it to the peasants is to transform the property of the feudal landlords into the individual property of the peasants, and this still remains within the limits of the bourgeois revolution. To divide up the land is nothing remarkable — MacArthur did it in Japan. Napoleon divided up the land too. Land reform cannot abolish capitalism, nor can it lead to socialism.
In place of a conclusion
This article is only a small part of a greater discussion. There are many points in it that I have only touched on that I hope to return to later. There are also many related points which this article deals with to a certain extent and which I hope to develop further. The question of Stalin is not a historical question, at least not in the academic sense. It is not a matter of developing some kind of ‘apologetics’ for the USSR and Stalin’s policies. It is a question of the summation of experience in the Marxist sense. Much of this work has already been done, but there is still need for clearification on several points, and there is a need to look into Stalin’s practical and theoretical work.
The CCP put forward a famous formula summing up Stalin’s merits and errors – 70/30. In in Be Activists in Promoting the Revolution (1957), Mao wrote,
We have put Stalin’s portrait up in Tien An Men Square. This accords withthe wishes of the working people the world over and indicates our fundamental differences with Khrushchev. As for Stalin himself, you should at least give him a 70-30 evaluation, 70 for his achievments and 30 for his mistakes. This may not be entirely accurate, for his mistakes may be only 20 or even 10, or perhaps somewhat more than 30. All things considered, Stalin’s achievments are primary and his shortcomings and mistakes are secondary. On this we take a view different from Khrushchev’s.
Really I don’t think the 70/30 ratio is the most important thing. For myself, given what I have said above, I may be one of those who count Stalin’s mistakes “only 20 or even 10”. Certainly some of the most vibrant Maoist parties today, such as the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) uphold Stalin as a great Marxist-Leninist. This illustrates the point that not all ‘Maoists’ are anti-‘Stalinist’. It seems to be primarily a Western phenomenon. But of course the most important thing regarding Stalin is still to critically engage his work. Stalin developed the science of Marxism-Leninism. Of course Mao developed the science as well and was able to understand some things that Stalin was not. I think this has everything to do with the limits of experience. Going back to the beginning of this discussion, we should remember that Mao warned against the the wholesale negation of Stalin’s legacy. Unfortunately this is what many ‘Maoists’ are doing these days. They call it “moving beyond” or critique of “dogmatism” but what is it really? Mao warned, “The revisionists, the Right opportunists, pay lip-service to Marxism; they too attack ‘dogmatism’. But what they are really attacking is the quintessence of Marxism.”
Mao said this regarding Stalin: “For the great majority of mankind today are suffering, and mankind can free itself from suffering only by the road pointed out by Stalin and with his help.” Ulitimately this remains true. Today, this means undertaking a critical engagement with Stalin’s work as a weapon for revolution.