[A-List] Sino-Soviet Split - 1st installment

Henry C.K. Liu hliu at mindspring.com
Sun Jan 29 21:43:23 MST 2006

The Causes and Effects of the Sino-Soviet Split


Henry C.K. Liu

The October Revolution of 1917 was launched on the slogan: ‘All Power to 
the Soviets’ through which the minority Bolsheviks won leadership in the 
Soviets, workers councils that constituted the power behind the new 
socialist government. Democracy was not an objective of the October 
Revolution, but rather a target for elimination in order to establish 
the dictatorship of the proletariat. This was because in feudal Russia 
in 1917, the proletariat was an abstraction yet to be created as a 
dominant class by industrialization. The proletariat in its infancy 
could not possibly command a majority under universal suffrage in a 
feudal agricultural society. Therefore dictatorship of a minority 
proletariat is the only revolutionary path to socialism. In 
pre-industrial societies, democracy is by definition reactionary in the 
absence of a dominant working class. Lenin considered the revolution in 
Russia as a fortuitous beginning of an emerging socialist world order 
that required and justified a dictatorship of the proletariat.

Leninists work for the acceleration of socio-economic dialectics by the 
violent overthrow of capitalism which had been the violent slayer of 
feudalism. Evolutionary Marxists, such as social democrats, believe in 
scientific dialectic materialism which predicts the inevitability of the 
replacement of capitalism by socialism as a natural outcome of 
capitalism’s internal contradiction. But the evolutionary process 
requires the emergence of capitalism as a natural outcome of feudalism’s 
internal contradiction. Marx saw the process of evolution toward 
socialism as taking place in the most advanced segment of the world, in 
capitalistic societies of Western Europe when the bourgeoisie had 
replaced the aristocracy as a result of the French Revolution. The 
Russian Revolution showed that it is in the pre-industrial societies 
that radical revolution is needed to bring about socialism by 
short-circuiting the evolutionary process from feudalism to capitalism 
to socialism.

<><>The first edition of Stalin’s Problems of Leninism which appeared in 
April 1924 asks: “Is it possible to attain the final victory of 
socialism in one country, without the combined efforts of the 
proletarians of several advanced countries?” The answer was: “No, it is 
not. The efforts of one country are enough for the overthrow of the 
bourgeoisie. This is what the history of our revolution tells us. For 
the final victory of socialism, for the organization of socialist 
production, the efforts of one country, especially a peasant country 
like ours, are not enough. For this we must have the efforts of the 
proletariat of several advanced countries.” <>

The strategic key words on internationalism are ‘final victory’ which 
cannot be achieved with just ‘socialism in one country’. But ‘final’ 
means not immediate but in the future. And international communism was 
focused not on the whole world, but on “the proletariat of several 
advance countries” where evolutionary conditions were ripe. Social 
Democrats, such as Karl Kautsky and Eduard Bernstein, titans of Marxist 
exegesis, favor gradual, non-violent and parliamentary processes to 
effectuate inevitable evolution towards socialism. On the other end of 
the spectrum were radical revolutionaries such as Rosa Luxemburg and the 
Spartacists who staged an abortive coup to overthrow the social 
democratic government in Germany. <>

Still, all Marxists share the belief that the structural antagonism 
between a capitalistic bourgeoisie class and a proletariat class in 
advanced economies was a necessary precondition for creating socialism, 
which required the resolution of the contradiction between the efficient 
productivity of capitalism and the economic dys-functionality of the 
mal-distribution of wealth inherent in capitalism. The good of 
capitalism is that it creates wealth; the bad is that the way wealth is 
created in capitalism requires wealth to go to the wrong places. Wealth 
is good; it is the mal-distribution of it that is bad. A class struggle 
emerged after the French Revolution left much of Europe with economic 
and political systems in which the bourgeoisie governed the proletariat 
with exploitative rather than symbiotic relations. But much of the world 
outside of Western Europe was still operating in agricultural feudalism 
in which the landlord class continued to exploit the landless peasants. <>

Lenin up to his death in 1924 believed that the Russian Revolution was 
only a local phase of world revolution. He expected proletariat 
uprisings in Germany, Poland and the Danube valley and declared himself 
as not a “socialist chauvinist”. Lenin and the Bolsheviks sent all 
possible aid to the radical leftist fringes in Germany, Sweden and Italy 
to combat reactionary obstacles. The Soviet Party even considered 
sending troops to help Hungarian Bolshevik Bela Kun. The Third 
International (Comintern) accepted the Bolshevik Revolution as the true 
fruition of Marxism and declared itself as a weapon for world 
revolution. Reaction in the advanced countries to international 
Bolshevik “menace” was basic to the rise of fascism. <>

The October Revolution was an unexpected anomaly because geopolitical 
circumstances caused it to take place in a pre-industrial country the 
majority population of which was peasants rather than factory workers, 
and the main socio-economic conflict was between landlord and landless 
peasant classes rather than capitalist and worker classes. It is then a 
revolutionary task to create a proletariat class in Russia and other the 
Socialist Republics within the USSR as quickly as possible through rapid 
industrialization, not merely to catch up with the more industrialized 
West, but to hasten revolutionary dialectics of transition from 
feudalism to capitalism to socialism. Thus the modernization strategies 
of the Soviet revolutionary government were fundamentally different than 
the imperialist strategies of Peter the Great. It was wrong to see 
Soviet industrialization as inter-imperialist rivalry as the Western 
anti-communist left does. Social engineering had to be speeded up to fit 
revolutionary dialectics. This new proletariat class, not having existed 
before the revolution, had not had the experience of being oppressed by 
capitalists. In fact there was a shortage of capitalists to realize the 
triumphant class struggle that was supposed to be the victorious outcome 
of the revolution. Yet it was problematic for the new proletariat class 
to be a new antithesis against a nonexistence thesis of capitalism. The 
revolution provided the solution by creating a class of state 
bureaucrats, known as party cadres, which opponents immediately name the 
New Class. Notwithstanding the ideological role of the party cadre is to 
guide the revolution toward socialism, this new class acted essentially 
as management against labor in the new industries to facilitate a 
controlled class struggle toward socialism. The socialist proletariat, 
in the absence of a capitalist class, mistook the bureaucratic 
management class as the target of class struggle and played into the 
hands of reactionaries. This eventually culminated in the Solidarity 
Movement that began in Poland, a broad anti-communist social movement 
that united the Catholic Church with the anti-communist left. <>

Trotsky and the adventurist left described the process of “bureaucratic 
counterrevolution” with French Revolution term “Thermidorian reaction” 
that followed Robespierre’s fall on 9 Thermidor of the French 
Revolutionary calendar (July 27, 1794) that ended the Reign of Terror . 
The reference to Thermidor was meant to show that the 
“counterrevolution” was not a restoration, a return to the ancien 
regime, but a counterrevolution on the path toward socialism. Trotsky 
attacked revolutionary aspirations that shifted from the bottom to the 
top with the consolidation of a new order of class rule for the purpose 
of sustaining the revolution, not withstanding that the revolution has 
always been from the top and that the idea that it should have been from 
the bottom was fantasy because the bottom did not exit in Russia. And 
where the bottom existed, there was no revolution. <>

Oppression in pre-revolution Russia was mostly of a feudal nature. A 
peasant revolution without a proletariat core was merely a revolt 
against the established feudal order, not revolution for socialism. This 
peculiar incongruity between revolutionary theory and Russian actuality 
gave impetus to the internationalists to advocate carrying the 
revolution to where revolutionary conditions actually existed – in the 
advanced industrialized countries with a large working class. The 
concessions made to the kulaks and the petty bourgeoisie by the NEP 
between 1921 and 1927 restored needed symbiotic trade between urban 
centers and the rural periphery. This concession advanced the revolution 
from feudalism toward capitalism but it fell well short of the ideology 
of socialist revolution. In the eye of the radical revolutionaries who 
set their aim at instant socialism, the NEP was a disappointing step 
backward. In reaction, Trotsky advanced the concept of “permanent 
revolution”, an incessant drive for proletariat dictatorship on all 
fronts in all parts of the world, even in countries where the 
proletariat did not exist, such as China. Permanent revolution was a 
misnomer. What Trotsky advocated was in fact pre-mature revolution in 
countries where revolutionary conditions were lacking. <>

By the Fifth Congress of the Comintern in June 1924, a time when the 
capitalist system was booming worldwide, albeit in reality heading for 
the 1929 crash, the revolutionary forces were on the defensive and 
Trotsky’s internationalist priority of world revolution was rejected as 
naive advanturism. The situation was similar to neo-liberal market 
fundamentalist globalization of the past two decades when a speculative 
boom anchored on debt was interpreted as evidence of the end of history 
in its march toward world socialism. Marx's laws of motion declare that 
society progresses from feudalism to capitalism at the point when 
feudalism ceased to support the forces of production. In turn, 
capitalism gives way to socialism by the dictatorship of the proletariat 
once its productive potential has been fully exhausted rendering its 
continued existence obsolete. But Russia went straight from feudalism to 
socialism in 1917, as did China in 1949, and Vietnam in 1975. These 
revolutionary states ended up shadow-boxing non-existent capitalism in 
their effort to achieve socialism. <>

In the second edition of Problems of Leninism published in August 1924, 
the very foundation of international communism was reordered to reflect 
the objective reality that the USSR was going to remain the sole 
communist state in a world of long-lasting if not permanent capitalist 
wonders. The Soviet Revolution needed to be protected first and foremost 
from effective, coordinated hostile reaction to revolution in the 
advanced countries giddy with prosperity. These natural cradles of 
inevitable evolution from capitalism toward socialism turned out to be 
powerful counter-revolution headquarters. The role of the Comintern was 
accordingly reduced to opposing foreign counterrevolutionary 
intervention against the USSR to keep the socialist lamp burning, rather 
than engaging with unacceptably high-cost but futile sacrifice in 
struggles that could not possible be won in the prosperous capitalist 
countries or to foster prematurely for untimely socialist revolution in 
pre-industrialized colonies that had no proletariat class. The socialist 
revolution, instead of building on the summit prosperity of the advanced 
stage of capitalism, was saddled with all the decrepit problems of 
feudal decay. Socialism, instead of being the final stage of human 
development, was mired in object poverty without the necessary 
wealth-creating institutions offered by capitalism. Revolution was 
casting a poverty shadow everywhere.

Under such circumstances, the Comintern needed instead to act as an 
instrument of Soviet state diplomacy in a world order full of hostile 
anti-communism states that were materially more prosperous. This meant 
that the Communist parties in all countries had to seek cooperative 
arrangements with whatever influential sections of society they could, 
in the interests of promoting ‘state-to-state friendship with the Soviet 
Union’, temporarily sublimating the revolutionary advancement of the 
class interests of workers. This change in the Comintern line was 
demonstrated in two events in the mid-1920s - the British General Strike 
in 1926, and the defeat of the upsurge of workers in Shanghai, China in 
1926-7. The betrayal of the General Strike in Britain fractured the 
British communists and gave birth to the anti-communist, anti-Soviet 
British left. At the USSR Party Congress in 1927, The Central Committee 
under Stalin defeated Trotsky’s “left deviationism” by a plurality of 
854,000 to 4000 votes. In exile, Trotsky stigmatized Soviet policy in 
this period as “Stalinist”.

Next: Revolution in China

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