IN THE Economic and Philosophic Science Review, (EPSR) issue number 1194, for July 22, 2003, the following statement is made:
‘Until the Stalinist Revisionist wreckage of the Third International is cleared away, then Leninist revolutionary understanding’s sole answer to deliberate imperialist warmongering will find minds still closed against it’. (EPSR; p.1)
According to the Economic and Philosophic Science Review’, or the EPSR, Stalin led the world communist movement away from Marxism-Leninism into the camp of revisionism. The EPSR wants to put things right, and claims to be the authentic voice of Marxism-Leninism today.
How valid are such claims; did Stalin really lead the communist movement away from Marxism-Leninism towards revisionism, and can the EPSR’s claim that it is the authentic voice of Marxism-Leninism be taken seriously? We think not, but we will not just make this assertion, we will prove it.
Twenty-Five years ago, in 1979, the leading individuals behind the EPSR quite correctly broke from and rejected the WRP’s Healyite brand of Trotskyism. However, in terms of method of historical interpretation this break from Trotskyism was incomplete, or more accurately, never took place.
One of the aspects they took over from the Healyites was to repeat year-after-year that revolution was around the corner, a claim that they have repeated in Healyite fashion for twenty-five years. Of course, in the imperialist epoch which, Lenin described as one of wars and revolution, in a sense revolution is always around the corner. The only question is how far around the corner it is. In other words the abstract proposition that we live in an epoch of wars and revolutions, does not tell us how near a particular revolutionary situation is, more concrete reasoning is needed for this. Few would doubt that imperialism is propelling the world towards revolution, which is very close today, and closer than most people seem to realise. However, the EPSR wants to use this recognition to establish its Marxist-Leninist credentials.
However, the truth if it be told, is that, the recognition of the revolution being very close, or the mere assertion of this fact, and stating the obvious that imperialism is heading for the greatest crisis in its entire history hardly qualifies one as Marxist-Leninist. After all, even non-Marxist-Leninists make such claims. For instance, that the world is heading toward some great fundamental crisis is a prominent claim in most left groups or even in some religious circles, and the latter are as far away from Marxism-Leninism as it is possible to be.
World capitalism is certainly headed for the greatest crisis in its history and this crisis is very near, or more correctly, has already started. Over production of capital, brought about by the attempts to counter the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, has reached a point where it can only be resolved by a great crisis and depression. However, it is not enough to tell the working class and its vanguard, that the international capitalist system is heading for the greatest shock-crisis ever.
What is necessary, surely, is for Marxist-Leninists to point a way out of this crisis. This is where the importance of Marxism-Leninism becomes crucial. Equally important is how to develop and apply it in an ever-changing situation. As the imperialists drag us towards a third world war situation, this inevitably leads to the rise of anti-war movements. Marxist-Leninists cannot turn their backs on this peace movement, but must seek to develop it in the direction of anti-imperialism.
According to the EPSR, Stalin’s attitude to the peace question in the early 1950s illustrates how he led the communist movement away from Marxism-Leninism into the camp of revisionism.
How can the EPSR claim to be against Trotskyism, when their interpretation of the history of the world communist movement is indistinguishable from the usual Trotskyist assertions? Indeed, it is this similarity of interpretation between the EPSR and orthodox Trotskyism, which leads us to dismiss the EPSR’s anti-Trotskyism as so much hot air without any dialectical or theoretical grounding. The claim that the promoters of the EPSR are Marxist-Leninists cannot be substantiated.
In their twenty-five years of existence, we are not aware of the EPSR producing any theoretical critique of Trotskyism. A critique of Trotskyism involves such questions as Trotskyist opposition to the Leninist theory and policy that it was possible to build socialism in one country as part of the world revolutionary process. It would also involve an exposure of Trotsky’s particular version of the theory of ‘permanent revolution’, around which he made the absurd claim that the working class was the only revolutionary class in the Russian revolution and that the peasantry had no socialist potential, thus ignoring the different strata of the peasantry. Further, a critique of Trotskyism would also need to reject Trotskyism’s one-sided theory of a counterrevolutionary soviet bureaucracy, and that for Marxist-Leninists it is not a matter of over-throwing a bureaucracy as such but rather of getting rid of the counterrevolutionary elements within a bureaucracy, which involves a long term struggle. Last but not least, this critique would deal with the claim that the Soviet bureaucracy was ‘Stalinist’. In reality, of course, the repeated purges of the Soviet bureaucracy, proves that rather than being ‘Stalinist’, according to the Trotskyists, the Soviet bureaucracy was very anti-Stalinist in several respects. That was the meaning of the purges.
Having failed to produce a Marxist-Leninist critique of Trotskyism, although claiming to be opposed to it, it is no wonder that the EPSR has proved itself unable to rise above the level of Trotskyist historical interpretation.
The view that Stalin led the communist movement into revisionism is the very essence of Trotskyist historical argument, and no matter what differences they have between them, all Trotskyists share this view.
This view is also the foundation of the EPSR’s on-going attacks on Stalin. Marxism-Leninism, however, comes to the opposite conclusion. It was precisely Stalin who kept revisionism at bay in the international communist movement.
But, the EPSR fails to recognise this, giving such examples as Stalin’s attitude on peace, which was outlined in his ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’. The EPSR quotes from this well-known work by Stalin to prove that the latter’s position on the peace movement was revisionist. Stalin had written that
‘The objective of the present-day peace movement is to rouse the masses of the people to fight for the prevention of another world war.
‘Consequently, the aim of this movement is not to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism, it confines itself to the democratic aim of preserving peace.
‘In this respect, the present-day peace movement differs from the movement of the time of the First World War for the conversion of the imperialist war into civil war’. (J.V. Stalin: Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR; Foreign Languages Press, Beijing; p.36)
The above is the quotation which appears in the EPSR, however, the EPSR opportunistically omit the passage immediately preceding the above, where Stalin writes that. ‘It is said that Lenin’s thesis that imperialism inevitably generates war must now be regarded as obsolete, since powerful forces have come forward today in defence of peace and against another world war. That is not true’. (J.V. Stalin: Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR; Foreign Language Press, Beijing; p. 36)
It should be clear to any student of Stalin’s writings that he is referring to the peace movement of the early 1950s, which he designates as the ‘present-day peace movement’. The following is what the ultra-leftists around the EPSR have to say about Stalin’s position on the peace movement in the 1950s.
‘A more blatant signalling of the OPEN ABANDONMENT of Leninism and rejection of Leninism could not be found
‘In his ponderously clumsy and shallow way, Stalin deliberately targets Marxist-Leninist science on the relentless virility of the imperialist aggressive expansionism and warmongering, in order to philosophically establish the new opportunist retreat into “left-pressure” reformism’. (EPSR: No.1194; p.6)
For some reason, the EPSR is desperate to paint Stalin with a revisionist brush, which leads them to distort what Stalin actually meant. According to the EPSR Stalin’s aim is
‘To make way for the “peaceful road to socialism” and for the peace movement that prevents imperialists from going to war”, the scientific understanding that imperialism’s all-round aggressive expansion can only be stopped by turning imperialist war into civil war, and by the overthrow of the capitalist ruling class…Lenin’s clear understanding and the kernel of his science…has to be jettisoned, and done as “Leninists’. (EPSR: No. 1194; p.6)
In the communist movement, REVISIONISM is the doctrine that the working class no longer needs revolution to overthrow bourgeois rule and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in order to bring in socialism. According to those in revisionist circles, socialism can be brought in peacefully by means bourgeois parliamentary democracy, in an alliance with the left wing of social democracy and supported by a mass movement outside parliament. Revisionists either drop the dictatorship of the proletariat, or downplay its significance for starting and maintaining a socialist society against bourgeois counterrevolution and other enemies of the people.
Since Stalin adhered to the diametrically opposite view it is therefore shameless political slander to tarnish him with the revisionist brush, and place him in the camp of those contemptible traitors, the revisionists.
Thus, according to the EPSR, Stalin position represents
‘…crass Revisionism’. (EPSR: No.1194; July 22, 2003; p.6)
We have given the relevant section on Stalin’s position on peace as quoted by the EPSR. Those who are interested in reading the EPSR’s whole article can go to www.epsr-marx-lenin.co.uk
We have quoted this passage which criticises Stalin’s position on the peace question because it provides us with a clear opportunity to expose the nature of the anti-Leninist, pseudo-left thinking of the EPSR.
As we have said, the ultra-leftists of the EPSR have failed to take into consideration the fact that Stalin was referring to the peace movement at the time, i.e., the beginning of the 1950s. Stalin even goes out of his way to contrast the peace movement of the early 1950’s with the pace movement of the First World War.
As good old ultra-leftists, the EPSR ignores completely that the conditions in the period of World War 1 had considerable differences to the period of the early 1950s.
For our ‘Leninists’ at the EPSR the circumstances of the 1914-1918 war were the same as the 1950s. Don’t laugh. However, more seriously, their failure to see the obvious differences between the two periods leads them into ultra-left, Trotskyist type attacks on Stalin.
Now, according to the line taken by the EPSR, which we regard as totally ultra-leftist, Lenin’s slogan of ‘turning the imperialist war into a civil war’ against the bourgeoisie was quite appropriate for the early 1950s. Is this not absolute pseudo-left foolishness? Stalin is denounced for not taking an ultra-leftist position in the 1950s.
The EPSR disregard the fact that the peace movement which developed after the start of world War 1, was a movement aimed at stopping a war which had already started, a war which was greeted by nationalist cheering when it began. For the Bolsheviks, the way to stop this war was to overthrow capitalism. Lenin’s slogan of turning the imperialist war into a civil war was the recognition that this war would soon lead to a revolutionary situation. In Russia, the reformist support for this imperialist war gave the Bolsheviks the chance to overthrow the social-imperialists.
The simple fact that the EPSR can ignore the differences between the period of 1914-1918 and the period of the early 1950s, thus conflating the two periods and on this basis using this conflation to attack Stalin, demolish any claim they have of being a Marxist-Leninist trend. This tendency has pursued an ultra-leftist line since it came into existence and this has led them to continually denounce Stalin in a way that is no different from the Trotskyists.
Such is the quality of thinking of our ‘Leninists’ at the EPSR!
How is it possible for people claiming the mantle of Marxism-Leninism to ignore the fact that the peace movement of the early 1950s was not the product of an imperialist war of the type of 1914-1918? The peace movement of the early 1950s grew from two factors the existence of nuclear bombs, which the imperialists had used to intimidate the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1947-9, and also the Korean War. This development did not produce a revolutionary situation in the 1950s. Not to mention of course that between 1945-1947 or up to 1949, the Soviet Union was living under the threat of nuclear obliteration from the imperialists.
In the conditions of the early 1950s, in the absence of an imperialist war, i.e., a war between the imperialist powers, and more importantly, in the absence of a revolutionary situation, who can deny that it would have been very foolish indeed if Stalin had decided to use Lenin’s revolutionary slogan in a non-revolutionary situation.
Thus, we see clearly that ultra-leftism has blinded the EPSR ‘Leninists’ from seeing the content of Lenin’s slogan of ‘turning the imperialist war into a civil war’ against the ruling classes in 1914-1918.
While professing Marxism-Leninism, hands-on-heart, we see that the EPSR turns out to be anti-Leninist in method. They make the classic mistakes of all ultra-leftists in that they insist on using revolutionary slogans and demands in non-revolutionary situations, or in taking an exaggeratedly ‘left’ stance in contradiction to the real situation, which serves to isolate the revolutionaries, needlessly, from the masses. While it is not the role of revolutionaries to tail the spontaneity of the masses, because this would be right-opportunism, revolutionaries do not make the opposite mistake of left-adventurism, of running too far ahead of the spontaneous movement.
While it is clear that the EPSR denounce Stalin for not using a revolutionary slogan in a non-revolutionary situation, needless to say, for Stalin to apply revolutionary tactics in a non-revolutionary situation would have led to a complete break from Marxism-Leninism. No other conclusion can be drawn. In trying to make the false claim that somehow Stalin had capitulated to left-reformism, the EPSR are careful to avoid what Stalin actually said about the peace movement of the 1950s. Viewing the movement from the standpoint of its possible development in interaction with real events Stalin remarked that
‘It is possible that in a definite conjuncture of circumstances the fight for peace will develop here or there into a fight for socialism. But then it will no longer be the present-day peace movement; it will be a movement for the overthrow of capitalism’. (J.V. Stalin: Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR; Foreign Languages Press Beijing, 1972; p. 36)
It is clear that Stalin did not rule out the transformation of the 1950s peace movement into a movement for the overthrow of capitalist rule, but then such a peace movement developing on the basis of a different circumstances would became a ‘revolutionary’ peace movement, i.e., would not remain left-reformist.
Referring to the peace movement of the 1950s, Stalin makes the following observation
‘What is more likely is that the present-day peace movement, as a movement for the preservation of peace,
(as opposed to one to stop a particular war, Ed.) will, if it succeeds, result in preventing a particular war, in its temporary postponement, in the temporary preservation of a particular peace, in the resignation of a bellicose government and its suppression by another that is prepared temporarily to keep the peace. That, of course, would be good. Even very good. But, all the same, it will not be enough to eliminate the inevitability of wars between capitalist countries generally. It will not be enough, because, for all the successes of the peace movement, imperialism will remain, continue in force – and, consequently, the inevitability of wars will continue in force.
‘To eliminate the inevitability of war, it is necessary to abolish imperialism’. (J.V.Stalin: ibid.)
Could it be any clearer that Stalin adheres to the anti-revisionist, Marxist-Leninist line that to eliminate war it is necessary to rid the world of imperialism. It is of course not clear to the ‘philosophers’ at the EPSR. Like the Trotskyists, for them Leninism means ultra-leftism. The EPSR’s attacks on Stalin makes a complete mockery of any claim to being the enshrinement of Marxist-Leninist science in Britain.
We have defended Stalin’s position on the peace question of the early 1950s. Stalin was absolutely right from the point of view of Marxism-Leninism, in not putting forward a revolutionary slogan, or demand for the seizure of power in a non-revolutionary situation. Anyone who fails to see that Stalin was correct on this question is lost to Marxism-Leninism, or too far below its level to be taken seriously by communists.
This is not the only mistake that the EPSR makes. Another mistake is their failure to recognise the contradictory nature of the peace movement. All peace movements will tend to have a contradictory nature, reflecting their diverse social content, whether aimed at stopping an imperialist war, which has already started, or one simply to preserve the peace, they will inevitably be a class alliance, made up of the working class and non-proletarian and petty-bourgeois strata. Non-proletarian elements may even dominate a particular peace movement, if not numerically, then at least politically for a period. This applies even more to non-revolutionary situations such as Stalin faced in the early 1950s.
In a non-revolutionary period, the peace movement cannot have the same aims as would be the case in a developing revolutionary situation, which Lenin had faced in 1917, in the period following the outbreak of World War 1.
The main point, which we need to remember, is that the situation faced by Lenin and Stalin, in two different periods were not identical.
Although the EPSR failed to recognise the difference between the two situations, this was a mistake which Stalin certainly did not make.
It should be clear to everyone that a peace movement which emerges out of an inter-imperialist war, which is leading to a revolutionary situation, is not the same as a peace movement which comes into being in the absence of an inter-imperialist war and in a non-revolutionary situation. However, this is not clear to the EPSR, and this leads us to enquire if the writers of Economic and Philosophic Science Review, will ever learn that communist tactics cannot be the same for a revolutionary and a non-revolutionary situations.
The EPSR’s attacks on Stalin, to a significant degree, results precisely from their amazing inability to grasp this simple fact, which is no more than ABC Marxism-Leninism: a peace movement in a non-revolutionary situation is not the same as a peace movement in a revolutionary situation.
The EPSR argues, outrageously, that Stalin’s position was
‘To make way for the “peaceful road to socialism” and for “the peace movement that prevents imperialism from going to war”…’
Stalin, unlike Lenin, was faced with a non-revolutionary situation in the early 1950s, and therefore argued that the peace movement is aimed at preventing war; nor did he absolutise the possibility of the success of such a movement, pointing out that it ‘ will,if it succeeds, result in preventing a particular war, in its temporary postponement…’ and so on. It is clear that the EPSR has opportunistically distorted Stalin’s position on the peace question. The line pursued by Stalin was similar to the one pursued by the Bolsheviks before the First Imperialist War broke out. The peace movement must fight to prevent war, but should war nevertheless breakout, the war should be turned into a civil war against the warmongers, providing the war remains only an imperialist war.
For the EPSR, turning the imperialist war into a civil war against the bourgeoisie, was not a Leninist tactic, but a Leninist principle. They have the same ultra-leftist approach as the Trotskyists who, during World War 2, stood for the policy of revolutionary defeatism, assuming that this war was identical to the previous one. Thus, objectively, helping fascism to defeat the Soviet Union. Having raised a Leninist tactic to the status of a principle the EPSR proceed to use it on every occasion.
In the absence of an inter-imperialist war, together with a non-revolutionary situation, we can hardly expect a Marxist-Leninist like Stalin to have argued for turning a non-existent imperialist war into a civil war against the war mongers – in a situation which was non-revolutionary situation
Unlike the EPSR, Stalin knew that whether a peace movement was reformist or revolutionary depended on certain factors which were outside of the control of the peace movement itself. Since it is not possible to lead a peace movement to overthrow capitalist rule in the absence of a revolutionary situation, what should Marxist do in this case? Obviously, Marxist-Leninists have no choice but to support such a movement with all its limitation. According to the EPSR ultra-leftists we should turn our backs on the peace movement because of its left reformism, thus the EPSR combine ultra-leftism with typical Trotskyist sectarianism.
Of course, it is the foremost duty of Marxist-Leninists to teach the masses, including the peace movements, in non-revolutionary and revolutionary times, that the only way to end war is to end capitalism, but this is a lesson which the masses learn not only through political agitation but by experience as well.
The EPSR informs us, in issue no. 1194, that
‘…the most perverse Revisionism of all, of course, is to still insist in 2003 that the total wrecking of the world revolutionary communist understanding by Stalin’s party and Stalin’s international is nothing to blame Stalin for, who allegedly remains “the truthful follower of Marxism-Leninism.”’ (p.6)
What nonsense, what an outrageous slander. The EPSR must be totally unaware of the struggle which was going on between Stalin and the concealed revisionists in the leadership of the Soviet Communist Party and the State, and indeed, in the wider communist movement, as exemplified in the struggle against the Yugoslav Titoite revisionists.
Against the Titoite revisionists, Stalin waged a determined struggle. This was necessary because amongst other things, Titoism had come against Leninism on such question as the leading vanguard role of the party, and supporting the parliamentary road to socialism. The Titoites even attacked the ‘Stalinists’ for not bringing about the withering away of the Soviet State, ignoring the fact that the Soviet Union was surrounded by imperialism.
Titoite revisionism began to spread its influence in other communist parties, including the CPSU. Programmes like the British Road to Socialism (Now called Britain’s Road to Socialism) certainly drew their inspiration from the Titoite revisionists. This was a programme which Stalin referred to as
‘too timid’. (See John Green’s: Stalin’s Economic Problem of Socialism and Revisionism; p. 6)
By the late 1940s and early 1950s, Stalin was in his declining years and exhausted by the strain of the wartime period. Stalin did not give the main report at the 19th Congress held in October 1952. In Soviet terms, this was the sign that he was losing influence and power; not simply a matter of was physical weakness. Another sign of the covert struggle being carried out against Stalin came even earlier, when the Editor of Pravda, who seemed to have fallen under the influence of Titoism, published the official programme of the British Communist Party, without any Marxist-Leninist criticism. This further backs up the argument that Stalin was losing his stable majority, as he had done for instance, in the period 1928-1933, within the Executive Committee of the Communist International, a factor which allowed deviations to creep into the communist movement.
This serves to illustrate, more than anything else, the correctness of Stalin’s struggle against Titoite revisionism.
What may we conclude about the EPSR’s attacks on Stalin, which are completely unfounded from a Marxist-Leninist point of view?
The EPSR’s central argument is that Stalin led the world communist movement away from Marxism-Leninism into the camp of revisionism. This argument is pure Trotskyism.
The EPSR has clearly demonstrated its pseudo-left credentials with a blistering attack on Stalin’s attitude to the peace movement of the early 1950s. They attack Stalin for not putting Lenin’s revolutionary slogan of the period of the First World War, i.e., turning the imperialist war into a civil war against the exploiters. The EPSR fails to see that the content of Lenin’s slogan was an actual inter-imperialist war, which was leading to a revolutionary situation.
The EPSR are therefore true to form ultra-leftists, of the Trotskyist type, who are prone to using ‘revolutionary’ slogans, which call the masses to action although the situation is ‘non-revolutionary’. They denounce Stalin on the peace question for not making this mistake.
The EPSR constantly refer to ‘Marxist-Leninist’ science. However, Marxism-Leninism is a science, or becomes such, if and only when connected to the correct method. This correct method is dialectical logic, which strives to avoid the superficial and one-sidedness in the estimation of an object in a process of motion.
In the case of the EPSR, their rejection of Trotskyism, but retention of Trotskyist methodology, forms an obstacle preventing them from coming over to Marxism-Leninism, which leads to their endless uninformed attacks against Stalin.