This is a translation of 소부르주아 사회주의와 ‘국가와 혁명’, June 2009. After AI’s translation, we proofread it. There might be errors. All comments are welcome.
The Petty-bourgeois Socialism and “The State and Revolution”
: On the question of State Capitalism
“The history of Marxism is the history of continuous struggle against petty-bourgeois socialism.”/ This era and “The State and Revolution”/ State capitalism: sophistry of distorting and dismissing historical facts/ State capitalism, nothing but a political attitude of petty-bourgeoisie/
State capitalism: a theoretical submission to imperialism and capitalist power/ State capitalism: a theory reflecting the political attitude of stirring petty-bourgeoisie/ State capitalism: a theory of formal logic, not dialect/ Trade Unionist world view and State capitalism/
Anti-communist conclusions and ways to back it up/ Reactionary evaluation on agricultural collectivization/ Historical nihilism of petty-bourgeoisie/ “Capitalism” defined by Cliff/ Distortion of class theory/ Switching concepts and an appeal to petty-bourgeois sentiment/ Swallowing a thorn named Trotsky/ Cliff's way of Choosing the Answer/ Poor Psychoanalysis/
“The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” the founding document of the Fourth International proposed by Trotsky, was written about 60 years ago. As it was a case for the revolutionary science of Marx and Lenin, the “objective revolutionary conditions” at the time of Trotsky is still valid these days, therefore, same applies for “the chief obstacle in the path” toward revolution. It “is the opportunist character of proletarian leadership: its petty bourgeois cowardice before the big bourgeoisie and its perfidious connection with it even in its death agony.” In the chapter, “Against Opportunism and Unprincipled Revisionism”, Trotsky points out the contents of opportunism and revisionism that the working class must expose and overcome in order to advance toward revolution.
The tragic defeats suffered by the world proletariat over a long period of years doomed the official organizations to yet greater conservatism and simultaneously sent disillusioned petty bourgeois “revolutionists” in pursuit of “new ways.” As always during epochs of reaction and decay, quacks and charlatans appear on all sides, desirous of revising the whole course of revolutionary thought. Instead of learning from the past, they “reject” it. Some discover the inconsistency of Marxism, others announce the downfall of Bolshevism. There are those who put responsibility upon revolutionary doctrine for the mistakes and crimes of those who betrayed it; others who curse the medicine because it does not guarantee an instantaneous and miraculous cure. The more daring promise to discover a panacea and, in anticipation, recommend the halting of the class struggle. A good many prophets of “new morals” are preparing to regenerate the labor movement with the help of ethical homeopathy. The majority of these apostles have succeeded in becoming themselves moral invalids before arriving on the field of battle. Thus, under the aspect of “new ways,” old recipes, long since buried in the archives of pre-Marxian socialism, are offered to the proletariat.―The Transitional Program, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, 1938
If you have observed the political arena of working class in South Korea, through the perspective of Marx & Lenin and Trotsky, you will immediately infer the resemblance corresponding to the opportunistic revisionism that the document above pointed out. Then you will find out who are the “disillusioned petty bourgeois “revolutionists” in pursuit of “new ways” not Marxism, how “quacks and charlatans” show themselves up, how they try to revise “the whole course of revolutionary thought”, how they falsely attribute their betrayal to “responsibility upon revolutionary doctrine”, and how they scheme to rearrange the proletarian movement under the banner of “new morals” which are nothing more than the obsolete ethics of bourgeoisie.
In South Korea, these tendencies are represented by Labourism(Trade Unionism or Economism), State capitalism, Stalinism, Feminism etc.
“The State and Revolution” is one of the masterpieces of Lenin. The work, which defends Marxist theory of the state by exposing the opportunistic revision against it, mainly led by Karl Kautsky, was written around August and September of 1917. What is the meaning of this period? As we know, it was just two months before the biggest event in 20th century, the October Revolution, and the class struggle in Russia was heading towards its peak. But, what Lenin wrote in the secret shelter located in Finland, right after he managed to escape from the arrest warranted by bourgeois regime, was not a sort of thing like “The Art of Insurrection.” In a way, the “The State and Revolution” was an abstract(?) or seemingly idle(?) subject far from the urgent circumstances at that time. Perhaps Lenin was pessimistic about the revolutionary situation at that time, maybe he wrote on this topic for the future revolutionaries, not for the revolution just around the corner.
The answer is No.
The reason why Lenin wrote “The State and Revolution” is to meet the practical needs of the Russian Revolution. At that time, Kautsky and his Russian disciples, the Menshevik and the Socialist Revolutionary Party(SRs), were diluting and eating away political consciousness and the struggle of the working class, which were accelerated by the February Revolution. They tried to bring the revolution back to square one by participating or supporting the provisional government, and the core motivation was an opportunistic view of the state. Lenin was keen to feel that the Russian working class must overcome the influence of it in order to move forward. In other words, Lenin acutely understood that his task was proving the fact that a workers’ state can only be established through the destruction of a bourgeois state not through the reform, in order to break down the opportunistic illusion that “socialism can be achieved through gradual reformation of bourgeois state.”
As Lenin said in his lecture, The State, delivered at the Sverdlov University, “(the conception of the state) is the fundamental question around which all political disputes all over the world now centre.” Distorting Marxist theory of the state is the opportunism motivated by theoretical regression of petty-bourgeois socialists, who were weighed down by social pressure of capitalism. Therefore, ideological submission to opportunistic view of the state is nothing more than a betrayal and abandon of revolution. As a result, “The State and Revolution” in 1917 was an essential work to eliminate revisionist theory of the state, the ideological poison spread by petty-bourgeois socialists at that time, namely Kautsky, Menshevik and SRs etc.
And now, the revision of the theory of state, being conducted by the petty-bourgeois socialists, is centered on state capitalism.
One of the effective ways to avoid the refutation from objective facts and science is to insist that my theory is different from the existing ones that have been refuted or exposed. Thus, state capitalism, which in essence a denial of defending the achievements of the October revolution, had continuously invented its own “theory,” once the existing one gets lame, while claiming that it’s different. Thus, as petty-bourgeois socialists, such as Kautsky, Menshevik, and the Socialist Revolutionary Party always did, it has been painted over with Marxism.
Though each claims its own uniqueness, but the core is almost the same. In other words, “the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam are countries established on a collective ownership (or state ownership). However, workers’ democracy does not exist. So, the bureaucracy reigning over the collective ownership is not the parasitic “stratum” of society, but rather the “capitalist class.” As a result, these countries are neither socialist nor workers state. Therefore, none of them are worth defending.”
According to their argument, “No democracy, then it’s capitalism even though private ownership was abolished,” the following bizarre conclusion occurs. “Capitalists abolished capitalist system of ownership through a civil war against capitalists. They established a capitalist state on that basis.”
According to Tony Cliff or Socialist Workers League(SWL), a “capitalist” counter-revolution occurred in Soviet Union around late 20s.(state capitalists designate each different periods as a moment of so called capitalist counter revolution. And as will be mentioned later, it should be “different”) In 30s, due to the rise of emerging capitalists like Kulaks, caused by Bukharin’s market socialist-economic policy, “Bureaucratic capitalists” had to enforce collectivization through violence that almost resembled a civil war. According to Tony Cliff and his pupils, “in Soviet Union, a “capitalist” state was established after crushing capitalists and abolishing private ownership of means of production, which is a premise of capitalism.” There is no explanation why a capitalist country had to be overthrown and private ownership abolished through wars against capitalists and imperialists, in order to establish or on the course of establishing a “capitalist” state. Utter nonsense.
What about North Korea? At the end of World War II, the Red Army, which defeated the Japanese army, then occupying the Korean Peninsula, occupied Northern part of Korea. At that time, the foreign policy of Stalinist bureaucracy was forming a class alliance with capitalists and landowners, alias the People's Front. Thus, under the name of the Unified Front, an appeasement policy was implemented for capitalists and landlords living in Northern region. However, most of landlords and capitalists, who felt threatened by the lack of state apparatus to protect them, chose to move south. Under this circumstance, most of important means of production were nationalized, and land was distributed free of charge to peasants. In addition, private ownership faded in the process of restoring agriculture and industry that had been devastated after the Korean War. However, according to state capitalists, including Socialist Workers Newspaper(SWN), the country established on the land where capitalists fled and private ownership of capitalist-owned means of production was abolished is a “capitalist” state.
The Chinese Communist Party(CCP) led by Mao Zedong eventually won the civil war against the Nationalist Party(NP) in 1949. Mao’s New Democracy, which was expressed in Five-star Red Flag, symbolizing the unity of workers, peasants, intellectuals, and patriotic capitalists under the leadership of CCP, was a Stalinist People’s Front. However, as in North Korea, Chinese capitalists fled to Taiwan along with Chiang Kai-shek’s NP. The means of production that lost its owners became state-owned, and a Stalinist state, which was a transplant of the Soviet system, was established. According to state capitalists, including SWL, this country is also a “capitalist” state. They call themselves Marxists, but never explain why capitalists had to escape on the process of establishing a “capitalist” state or why “bourgeois” state was founded through abolishing the ownership of bourgeoisie.
A similar thing happened in Cuba. The guerrilla forces, led by Fidel Castro and supported by peasants, did not aim to overthrow the capitalist state and establish a socialist state in the first place. They tried to overthrow the puppet regime of American imperialism, which oppressed the Cuban people economically and politically. However, Cuban comprador capitalists, who lost power, fled to Florida with the help of the United States, and the US implemented hostile policies toward the Castro regime. The owners of the means of production vanished. As a result, the means of production was smoothly nationalized by the Castro regime, which relied on the Soviet Union, and the Stalinist system was transplanted. Even in this case, state capitalists ignore the reason why capitalists had to flee in the course of establishing a “capitalist” state and why private ownership, which is the basis of capitalism, had to be abolished.
Then cry out. “State ownership of means of production is not an essential issue for socialism!”
Why on earth do state capitalists present a pile of self-contradiction and an absurd sophistry that conflicts with facts as a so-called “theory?” Also if the “theory” is correct, then why do those so-called “theories” refuse to base itself on the existing tradition by denying the theoretical work of their seniors and finally claim itself brand new? Why are they trying to borrow the name of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, who drew a completely different conclusion, while denying the theoretical tradition of their seniors?
The reason is that the theory of state capitalism is not a theory based on the sum of mankind’s practice, but a political attitude of a specific class. This is the reason why they need a cover called Marx to cloak their political surrender.
Scientific theory is based on historical practice of mankind, and its successor sets himself up on that tradition. Marx and Engels' theory of state was expressed in concrete form through a huge experiment called the French Revolution. Lenin enriched its contents through the struggle against opportunism such as Kautsky, Mensheviks, etc. which emerged during World War I and the Russian Revolution. Trotsky witnessed the Stalinist bureaucratization took place in Soviet Union which ended up with bureaucrats taking control of the state system established by proletarian revolution. Thus, he analyzed this form of state based on the achievements of Marx and Lenin.
However, a specific class (in this case, petty-bourgeoisies) has its own independent interests under certain historical period and social conditions, regardless of the sum of historical practice and tradition as its continuity. Their political attitude (not theory), which comes out as a response to their political position, is independent of previous attitude of the same class. Therefore, it does not need to be based on the tradition nor inherit it. This is the reason why a political attitude named state capitalism should be rebranded again and again for the sake of petty-bourgeoisies of each era.
Also, for petty-bourgeois socialists, it is necessary to break off from the political submission of the past to conceal their political surrender. Because, their senior petty-bourgeois socialists were clearly revealed as traitors in the course of historical practice. In that respect, they must deny their connection between already exposed seniors, put irrelevant Marx or Lenin and Trotsky forward instead and hide behind their backs, in order to hide their political submission. That’s why Shachtman denies Kautsky, Tony Cliff denies both of them, SWL and SWN deny Cliff and introduce their own state capitalism.
Working class, the only class that will accomplish the revolution due to its own social conditions, must push science to the end to realize its own progressiveness. However, petty-bourgeois class, which is partially progressive but at some point shares common interests with the existing system, embraces the science of Marxism to some extent, but when it collides with its own political interests, stops accepting science and starts ‘revising’ discrepancies in favor of its own petty-bourgeois stance.
In this regard, it is absurd and seldom productive to persuade those who advocate state capitalism and ask them to serve to the end for the cause of the working class, by scientifically arguing the errors of each state capitalism. This is because they did not come to such theoretical conclusions through scientific reasoning based on the tradition of science, rather they set up their political attitude first and pretended them as a theory to conceal and justify it. It is frightening that state capitalism will continuously be reproduced with new labels until all existing workers states are overthrown by counter-revolution like the Soviet Union.
If there is a doctor who has not properly diagnosed the symptom of a patient due to his ignorance, he will be retrained to eradicate his ignorance. However, things get different if his misdiagnosis is not a result of ignorance but, an act of intention for the sake of his own interests. Retraining is not a proper response in this case.
Trotsky, the leader of the fourth International, who analyzed the characteristics of the Soviet Union, regressed by Stalinism, became known to South Korea after Tony Cliff. One of the core line of Trotskyism is the defence of Soviet Union, a degenerated workers state. Cliffism is a political trend that emerged by abolishing this line. Nevertheless, as petty-bourgeois socialists always did, it was labeled Trotskyism, and imported into South Korea in the early 1990s. Since then, it has been confusing South Korean socialists to these days. Trotsky’s works, like “The Revolution Betrayed” which directly refutes state capitalism of Tony Cliff, insist on defending the achievements of October revolution and call for political revolution, based on the analysis on the Stalinist workers state. These materials were translated and introduced by International Bolshevik Group(IBT) since 1995.
Now it’s 2009. A number of Trotsky’s own writings and papers based on Trotskyism, exposing the fabrication of state capitalism, have been introduced, under this circumstance, keeping state capitalism without any clear argument is not merely a matter of ignorance.
Almost all sorts of state capitalism, including those emerged after death of Trotsky, was refuted by him. In that respect, there is nothing more to add. All serious comrades, who want to know about the fiction of state capitalism, are sincerely encouraged to read books written by Trotsky himself such as “The Revolution betrayed”, “In Defence of Marxism” etc.
However, I am here to confirm that state capitalism is not a scientific theory, but is only the political attitude of the petty-bourgeois socialists who give up the defense of October Revolution and its extended achievements by yielding to imperialism and to the pressure of their own capitalist countries.
The father of state capitalism was Kautsky. Already in 1919, Kautsky declared the Soviet Union led by Lenin as a “state capitalist system” dominated by a “new class” of bureaucrats. Kautsky's political submission to the bourgeoisie began before that. Just in case for state capitalists who might console themselves by thinking that the theory of Kautsky is too old(?) to be related with the current state capitalism, I cite some quotations from Kautsky to make those state capitalists compare these to their own theory.
In order to save industry, therefore, a new class of officials had to be formed and put in authority over the workers. This new class gradually appropriated to itself all actual and virtual control, and transformed the freedom of the workers into a mere illusory freedom. …… Industrial capitalism, from being a private system. has now become State capitalism. …… To-day, however, both State and capitalist bureaucracy have merged into one system. That is the final result of the great Socialist upheaval, which the Bolsheviks have introduced. It represents the most oppressive of all forms of despotism that Russia has ever had. …… Democracy is the one …… which Socialism declares is the right of civilized men.―Karl Kautsky, “Terrorism and Communism”, 1919
As you can see in the above sentences, all the core arguments of the latest version of state capitalism in 2009, are also contained in Kautsky’s old state capitalism. Also, those who defend their state capitalism under the pretext of Stalinism should note that Kautsky's argument in 1919, similar to one in 2009, was targeted at Lenin, not Stalin.
By the beginning of World War II in late 1930s, class struggle escalated at the global level. Then, Shachtman and Burnham, the members of petty-bourgeois minority faction within the Socialist Workers’ Party(SWP) of United States, defined the Soviet Union as a bureaucratic collectivist system and insisted on abolishing the line of defending Soviet Union, and finally organized a large-scale defection. After that, most of them quickly converted to the right.
The Tony Cliff group broke away from the Trotskyist movement in the early 1950s just as the Cold War was turning into a Hot War in Korea. In 1950, They defined the Korean War as a “proxy war” between Soviet “imperialism” and American imperialism, and exempted themselves from an uneasy duty of defending the Soviet bloc against imperialist aggression by insisting on to take neither side. Let me quote some parts from our article, “Letter to The International Socialists of South Korea(IS) - What’s the right path?”, regarding this issue.
It goes without saying that the view of defining the Soviet Union as “imperialist” is unscientific and anti-Marxist, but the claim that the Korean War is a “proxy war” is not true. Although North Korea was led by Stalinists like Kim Il-sung under the influence of the Soviet Union and China, the social revolution, mainly consisted of nationalization of key industries and agricultural reform based on free confiscation and free distribution of land, was widely supported by North Korean people. The reform of North Korea had a great impact on the South, thus, even before the outbreak of the Korean War, there have been several insurrections of left-wings in support of North Korea, such as the Jeju uprising and the Yeosu–Suncheon rebellion. In addition, the fact that there was vigorous guerilla warfare, starting from the Jeju uprising to the Korean War and even afterward, based in Mt. Jiri, Mt. Odae, and Mt. Taebaek, clearly proves that the Korean War was not a mere proxy war. ―Bolshevik Group, “Letter to The International Socialists(IS) of South Korea - What’s the right path?”
State capitalists remain silent. They are busy hiding their political submission and silently turn a blind eye to historical reality.
The political organizations, that have tried to deny the tradition since Kautsky but have faithfully inherited it in terms of content, are Dahamkke(IS), SWN, SWL and Haebang Yeondae. When North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons testing in 2006, they all together condemned it.
When North Korea launched a rocket in April, which it said was a satellite, it goes without saying that the SWL denounced it along with the capitalist media. “(North Korean rocket launch) No to the imperialist war! For the proletariat internationalism”, the April 16th statement of SWN says, under the subtitle named “Rising tensions toward imperialist war”, “Though North Korea is not an imperialist country, it a capitalist state aiming to be a strong and prosperous nation, in search for a way to ensure its status in the imperialist world system.” By mentioning ambiguous assertion above, they sneak North Korea into the ranks of imperialism. It is similar in skill to Tony Cliff, who promoted the Soviet Union to “imperialism” in 1950 in order to free himself from the duty of defending workers’ state. In addition they never forget to garnish leftist rhetoric saying that “We are not just opposing it by words …… We should strengthen the international solidarity of the working class in each country, in addition, transform imperialist wars into civil wars against ruling class at home, all of these are in direction of realizing proletarian internationalism.”
Did “International Solidarity” stop the US-led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan? Did the “International Solidarity” prevent civil war and imperialist aggression towards Russian Revolution? Should we oppose Iran’s development of nuclear weapons in the face of US imperialist’s aggression? As Marxists, we oppose all imperialist invasions of colonial countries, even if they are not workers’ states. We support all means of self-defense, including nuclear weapons, against terrorist attacks and aggression conducted by imperialists.
SWL’s hatred towards North Korea is well known. In the 14th issue of “Let’s go! emancipation of labour”, the organ of SWL, they said.
“There is no reason for us to mourn the death of Kim Jong Il and the collapse of North Korean bureaucratic regime. It is a reactionary system that must collapse as soon as possible. The problem follows. …… Furthermore, under this circumstance, the working people of North Korea may be won over by the influence of the North Korean bureaucrats, which calls for the “expulsion of US imperialism.” In South, life-threatening measures of reaction, including martial law, might be enforced, and attempt to nullify the achievements earned by decades-long struggle of the working people.”―SWL, “The crisis of Kim Jong Il regime―We must resist against the collusion of Bush and Lee Myung-bak!”
Their North Koreanophobia is so intense that they even say that North Korea is “a reactionary system that must collapse as soon as possible”, and claim that “expulsion of US imperialism.” is just a slogan of North Korean bureaucrats! Their so called “theory” is nothing more than an excuse to decorate its submission to imperialism and capitalist power.
Petty-bourgeoisies, which only a few of them get into the stratum of bourgeoise but rest of them fall into the working class as the capitalist contradiction intensifies, are located on the boundary between the working class and capitalist class. They get stirred by political pressure from both sides. Depending on the dynamic of force between two classes, petty-bourgeoisies get attracted to the sphere of either bourgeoisie or proletariat. They rely on both sides, but at the same time maintain doubts and alert.
They, too, seriously suffer from the contradictions of capitalist society. In addition to alienation and dehumanization, the never ending fear of socioeconomic downfall pushes them to anti-capitalist movements and hatred toward capitalism. Some of them move even further to the point of getting incorporated into the socialist revolutionary movement. On the other hand, petty-bourgeoisies have an attachment to petty privileges they enjoy in capitalist society. They hope to maintain the privileges they are now enjoying intact. They are reluctant to bear conflicts, damages, and sacrifices, i.e. twists and turns that inevitably occur in the process of abolishing the old society and building a new society. Rather, they would choose to endure present society as a better option. From this point, the political degeneration of petty bourgeoisies takes place.
The law of history is abstract and inevitable, but it is realized in a concrete and accidental form. In the law of abstraction and necessity, twists and turns are not expressed. The theory, which represents specific reality in an abstract form, minimizes distortions or serious regressions during the process of progress more than they actually are. The petty-bourgeoisies, led by the theory of promising progress as inevitable laws, are embarrassed and frustrated before the twists and turns that appear larger than expected in concrete social relations and historical reality. Those, who were advancing toward left in hatred of capitalism, shake their heads as they see the distortion called Stalinism and shout, “I want socialism but not this one. No way this can be socialism. I want something pure.”
Natural science teaches that water boils at 100℃ at a pressure of 1atm. However, not in the world of abstract theory, but in the real world, there is no water boiling exactly at 100℃ without any discrepancies. If someone insists on making chicken soup only with water that exactly boils at 100℃, despite a serious explanation about abstraction and concreteness, we should notice that this person doesn't want to have chicken soup.
In order to remain in the socialist camp, it is necessary to endure the pressure of the capitalist system. The most intense class struggle took place on the border line of the imperialist camp and the workers states which deviated from capitalist system after the October Revolution, not on the picket line as trade unionists say. When a bourgeois state confronts a workers state, the working class of the former must support the latter by fighting against its own government. Meanwhile, for bourgeoisies, the existence of workers states has always been a matter of ideological and physical pressure on their own system. Thus, for the imperialist powers and colonial states, tightening the strings of political, ideological and military pressure on workers states while cracking down on their own workers becomes a top priority.
Thus, the attitude towards the workers states, which deviated from the capitalist system, was a lethal issue, which accompanies monstrous oppressions, for the working class in the capitalist countries. Petty-bourgeois socialists failed to withstand the pressure and eventually broke away from the socialist camp. They tried to disguise their submission, caused by pressure from their own government, mass media and daily relationships, as a part of a just attitude called Stalinophobia.
In the history of the South Korea, the attitude towards North Korea has been a life-threatening issue. The anti-communist hysteria is much worse than that of United states in late 30s and United Kingdom in late 50s which made Max Shachtman and Tony Cliff to reject Trotskyism. This pressure, especially inflicted by the National Security Act, provides a fertile ground for state capitalism in South Korea.
Marxism is based on the dialectic. For example, “A” is equal to “A” but at the same time it is not, on the other hand, petty-bourgeoisies, those who were attracted by state capitalism, see the world through formal logic, insisting that “A” can only be “A” but nothing else.
“Vulgar thought operates with such concepts as capitalism, morals, freedom, workers’ state, etc. as fixed abstractions, presuming that capitalism is equal to capitalism, morals are equal to morals, etc. Dialectical thinking analyzes all things and phenomena in their continuous change, while determining in the material conditions of those changes that critical limit beyond which “A” ceases to be “A”, a workers’ state ceases to be a workers’ state.”―Leon Trotsky, A Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party, December 1939
State capitalists trapped in formal logic say, “Countries such as the Soviet Union are not socialist. If so, it is capitalist.” They never understand dialectical view, insisting that “Workers states such as the Soviet Union are socialist but at the same time not socialist. Therefore, we must protect socialist aspects and abolish non-socialist ones.” And pretend not to understand.
Another source of state capitalism is trade unionism.
Spartacist League correctly pointed out the reason why state capitalism is so attractive.
The real appeal of Cliffite “state capitalism”, like the theory of “bureaucratic collectivism” of the American IS, is an analysis of capitalism from the standpoint of trade unionism. Such tendencies have been able to gain a certain significance in the English-speaking world, where the relatively low level of class struggle has made trade-unionist economism prevalent and where the concept of the workers state as a weapon appears remote.―Spartacus Youth League, Trotskyism versus Maoism: Why the U.S.S.R. Is Not Capitalist, “The Anti-Marxist Theory of “State Capitalism”, April 1977
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, class struggle subsided further. The political consciousness of the working class has receded significantly. Withdrawing from the revolutionary ideology, economism, which considers the struggle over wages and employment as the core of the labor movement, dominated the South Korean labor movement.(see “Candlelight Rally of 2008 and the SWL”) For the Trade unionist movement, which focuses solely on wages and employment, it is hard to understand what “the concept of workers state as a weapon against the capitalist class” implicates. State capitalism is an plausible excuse for pushing troublesome and tricky issues aside.
The Spartacist league continues.
The real political content of Cliffite and Shachtmanite theories is the notion that the basic conflict in society is between the direct producers and their consumption needs and the administrators and their accumulationist desires; it is the conflict between higher wages now and economic accumulation. When you read Cliff or Shachtman, this is their vision and the gut-level source of their appeal: "These guys are taking my wages and building factories with it. I t doesn't matter who they are. it doesn't matter what the system is. They are making me poorer.―Ibid.
For Trade unionism, which is based on the political consciousness of the backward parts of the working class, the Marxist proposition, “the state is an armed group in defense of certain system of ownership” is replaced by the question of “how much individual workers can get without considering the system of ownership?” The issues, such as the abolition of private ownership and the state based thereon, don’t matter at all. Despite the fact that the core objective of the proletarian dictatorship is to establish a system of collective ownership, which is a material premise of socialist society, they put the cart before the horse, claiming that without workers democracy, the collective ownership is nothing.
The system of ownership and state power are not separate from each other. State power is an armed group that defends a specific system of ownership. The most important task of the proletarian dictatorship, established after overthrowing the bourgeois dictatorship, is to end the bourgeois system of ownership. The abolition and nationalization of private means of production are the key reasons why workers power must exercise dictatorship. The abolition of private ownership is the goal of workers power, and workers power is the weapon to realize the abolition of private ownership. To explain the relationship between workers power and system of ownership, the core mission of the workers state defending and conducting proletarian dictatorship, and conditions for its withering, Lenin cites a page from “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” written by Engels.
The proletariat seizes from state power and turns the means of production into state property to begin with.(emphasis by Lenin) But thereby it abolishes itself as the proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, and abolishes also the state as state …… When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection, as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon the present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from this struggle, are removed, nothing more remains to be held in subjection — nothing necessitating a special coercive force, a state. The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is also its last independent act as a state.―Friedrich Engels, “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State”
The October Revolution led by Lenin gave birth to a power which aimed to conduct its missions raised above. However, since Karl Kautsky criticized a workers state established by the October Revolution, based on a degree of democracy, the state capitalists, under the same excuses, have rejected to recognize the core achievements of the proletarian dictatorship, i.e. abolition of private ownership and nationalization, established by the October Revolution.
The main proof of Kautsky for insisting state capitalism was cited above. What we see next is his disciples, those who, although come up with different explanations about the Soviet Union's regression caused by the Stalinist bureaucracy, make no less illogical than Kautsky, the “traitor of the proletarian revolution.”
SWN’s article, “Capitalist Nature of North Korean Economy” begins with a sentence, “The nature of a society must be found not from political oppression itself, but from the economic foundation that created such oppression, that is, the relations of production.” SWN pretends to be a genuine Marxist but after that says as follows.
A key condition for the “capitalist” production of goods is not private ownership of the means of production. Private ownership of means of production seems to have become inappropriate as a criterion for distinguishing capitalist mode of production even in the days when Marx wrote “Das Kapital.”―SWN, Capitalist Nature of North Korean Economy
“Private ownership of the means of production …… inappropriate” for “A key condition for the “capitalist” production of goods?” “Private ownership of means of production seems to have become inappropriate as a criterion for distinguishing capitalist mode of production even in the days when Marx wrote “Das Kapital?”
What an embarrassment. Wasn't the phrase from the “Communist Manifesto”, “The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few …… In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property”, written by Marx himself? In order to satisfy their petty-bourgeois world view, state capitalists modify Marxism to suit theirs conclusion without hesitation.
For us who are lost and embarrassed, SWN kindly informs the nature of capitalism as follows.
“Once again, the core of the problem is not the system of ownership, but the essence that reflects the system of ownership. That is the isolated private labor of individual producers of goods, which directly come up against social labor.”―Ibid.
“Not the system of ownership, but the essence that reflects the system of ownership. That is isolated private labor of individual producers of goods, which directly come up against social labor.” What on earth are they talking about? As you see state capitalists are so “knowledgeable” in “Marxism.” What makes us sigh even more is that the subtitle of this article is “Marxist analysis.”
SWL and an internet user “proxy driver” who proclaimed himself Cliffite, speak in the same voice.
“1) election and immediate summoning of the representatives of workers by free votes, 2) remuneration of the representatives that keeps accord with that of ordinary workers, 3) democratic militias. …… The transformation which does not guarantee these contents can not be the socialist transformation(revolution), that is, the Marxist transformation. The transformation which does not guarantee these contents is not a “workers state.” It is not some kind of a deformed or corrupt state, but a country that contains qualitatively different contents. When talking about the socialist state ownership of means of production, if that country does not guarantee contents above, then it is worthless.”―Proxy driver
“Only “nationalization by workers power” can be synonymous with socialism. In other words, “nationalization” by “other powers” rather than “worker powers,” that is, nationalization under capitalist power or non-working class power, is by no means socialism. How to name it is the next thing.”―Presentation of SWL which was submitted during third national debate concerning the movement for building the party
For them, “If it is not democratic, nationalization of the means of production means nothing.” “If it is not democratic, it is not workers power.” So, “if the power is not democratic”, the nationalization on which it is based is “worthless” and “nationalization is nothing more than a formal device.”(SWL) Therefore, it is not worth defending. They do not care whether counter-revolution, which means the abolition of nationalization and the restoration of private system of ownership, occurs. In fact, during the crisis of Soviet Union during 1991~92, state capitalists cheered for the capitalist roaders under the guise of “restoration of democracy.”
Of course, workers power must be democratic. However, the reason why workers power should be democratic is not to soothe the fear of petty-bourgeois socialists such as Kautsky, Shachtman, Cliff, and his juniors towards the power. The reason why workers power must be democratic is that the planned economy of workers state based on nationalization can be operated properly only when it is democratic, and more importantly, it can firmly protect the economic system to move toward socialism from internal and external capitalist roaders.
Trotsky has fully argued against this issue, including discussions by state capitalists who emerged after his death. The following contents from “The Class Nature of the Soviet State” deals with the relationship between “private ownership and worker power” that we are dealing with now. I want to cite the full text, but cited only a part though it is still long. I sincerely hope you read the full text carefully.
The most widespread, popular and, at first sight, irrefutable argument in favor of the non-proletarian character of the present Soviet state is based upon the reference to the strangulation of the liberties of proletarian organizations and to the almightiness of the bureaucracy. Is it really possible to identify the dictatorship of an apparatus, which has led to the dictatorship of a single person, with the dictatorship of the proletariat as a class? Isn’t it clear that the dictatorship of the proletariat is excluded by the dictatorship over the proletariat?
Such enticing reasoning is constructed not upon a materialistic analysis of the process as it develops in reality but upon pure idealistic schemas, upon Kantian norms. Certain noble “friends” of the revolution have provided themselves with a very radiant conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and they are completely prostrated in the face of the fact that the real dictatorship with all its heritage of class barbarism, with all its internal contradictions, with the mistakes and crimes of the leadership, fails entirely to resemble that sleek image that they have provided. Disillusioned in their most beautiful emotions, they turn their backs to the Soviet Union.
Where and in what books can one find a faultless prescription for a proletarian dictatorship? The dictatorship of a class does not mean by a long shot that its entire mass always participates in the management of the state. This we have seen, first of all, in the case of the propertied classes. The nobility ruled through the monarchy before which the noble stood on his knees. The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie took on comparatively developed democratic forms only under the conditions of capitalist upswing when the ruling class had nothing to fear. Before our own eyes, democracy has been supplanted in Germany by Hitler’s autocracy, with all the traditional bourgeois parties smashed to smithereens. Today, the German bourgeoisie does not rule directly; politically it is placed under complete subjection to Hitler and his bands. Nevertheless, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie remains inviolate in Germany, because all the conditions of its social hegemony have been preserved and strengthened. By expropriating the bourgeoisie politically, Hitler saved it, even if temporarily, from economic expropriation. The fact that the bourgeoisie was compelled to resort to the fascist regime testifies to the fact that its hegemony was endangered but not at all that it had fallen.
Anticipating our subsequent arguments, our opponents will hasten to rebut: although the bourgeoisie, as an exploiting minority, can also preserve its hegemony by means of a fascist dictatorship, the proletariat building a socialist society must manage its government itself, directly drawing ever-wider masses of the people into the task of government. In its general form, this argument is undebatable, but in the given case it merely means that the present Soviet dictatorship is a sick dictatorship. The frightful difficulties of socialist construction in an isolated and backward country coupled with the false policies of the leadership – which, in the last analysis, also reflects the pressure of backwardness and isolation―have led to the result that the bureaucracy has expropriated the proletariat politically in order to guard its social conquests with its own methods. The anatomy of society is determined by its economic relations. So long as the forms of property that have been created by the October Revolution are not overthrown, the proletariat remains the ruling class.
Dissertations upon “the dictatorship of the bureaucracy over the proletariat” without a much deeper analysis, that is, without a clear explanation of the social roots and the class limits of bureaucratic domination, boil down merely to high-faluting democratic phrases so extremely popular among the Mensheviks. One need not doubt that the overwhelming majority of Soviet workers are dissatisfied with the bureaucracy and that a considerable section, by no means the worst, hates it. However, it is not simply due to repression that this dissatisfaction does not assume violent mass forms; the workers fear that they will clear the field for the class enemy if they overthrow the bureaucracy. The interrelations between the bureaucracy and the class are really much more complex than they appear to be to the frothy “democrats.” The Soviet workers would have settled accounts with the despotism of the apparatus had other perspectives opened before them, had the Western horizon flamed not with the brown color of fascism but with the red of revolution. So long as this does not happen, the proletariat with clenched teeth bears (“tolerates”) the bureaucracy and, in this sense, recognizes it as the bearer of the proletarian dictatorship. In a heart to heart conversation, no Soviet worker would be sparing of strong words addressed to the Stalinist bureaucracy. But not a single one of them would admit that the counterrevolution has already taken place. The proletariat is the spine of the Soviet state. But insofar as the function of governing is concentrated in the hands of an irresponsible bureaucracy, we have before us an obviously sick state. Can it be cured? Will not further attempts at cures mean a fruitless expenditure of precious time? The question is badly put. By cures we understand not all sorts of artificial measures separate and apart from the world revolutionary movement but a further struggle under the banner of Marxism. Merciless criticism of the Stalinist bureaucracy, training the cadres of the new International, resurrecting the fighting capacity of the world proletarian vanguard―this is the essence of the “cure.” It coincides with the fundamental direction of historical progress.
During the last few years―appropriately enough―our opponents have told us more than once that we “are losing time in vain” by occupying ourselves with curing the Comintern. We never promised anybody that we would cure the Comintern. We only refused, until the decisive test, to pronounce the sick as dead or hopelessly ill. In any case, we did not waste a single day “curing.” We formed revolutionary cadres, and, what is no less important, we prepared the fundamental theoretical and programmatic positions of the new International.―Leon Trotsky, The Class Nature of the Soviet State, October 1, 1933
To summarize in one word how I felt after reading “State Capitalism in Russia”, written by Tony Cliff, Kautsky’s disciple and the founder of South Korean state capitalism, it is a collection of petty-bourgeois communist hatred. And that aversion is wrapped in the name of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky. The revolutionary tradition is being used as a garbage bag by him.
He whispers, soothing his petty-bourgeoisies, who are trembling with fear and disgust for the “socialist” state that emerged in reality, with brilliant figures. “The hate you have is not a result of your cowardice. It's a legitimate science.” Meanwhile, to avoid and confuse criticisms from genuine Marxists, he mobilizes all kinds of dexterity, Changing the core concept, passing evasively, hiding the core, etc. which were revealed in “The Theory of State Capitalism – The Clock Without a Spring” and “The Anti-Marxist Theory of “State Capitalism.”
Chapter 1 of “State Capitalism in Russia” aims to draw the following anti-communist conclusions through various figures.
If the productivity of labour of a worker in Russian industry is about four-fifths of that of a worker in Britain, while his standard of living is a quarter or a third of that of the British worker, can we conclude otherwise than that if the British worker is exploited, his Russian brother is much more so?
Russian worker today compared to the British worker today is worse off than the Russian worker under the Tsar compared with the British worker of that time is clear.―Tony Cliff, “State Capitalism in Russia”
Russia was an underdeveloped country that the bourgeois revolution not socialist one seemed plausible until 1917. It was a country which underwent bloody civil war and famine, and had to spend a huge portion of its social production on its military due to threats and encirclement of the imperialist powers. Whereas, the British imperialism was the strongest power at the time, thanks to the exploitation of so many colonies around the world. Nevertheless Cliff simply compares both countries. Thus, he delivers the uselessness of the proletariat revolution to British workers. This is what Cliff’s “Marxism” and “Science” are.
While claiming to be a Marxist and drawing serious conclusion like this, the basis for supporting the conclusion is generally this way.
“In 1913 the average productivity of labour in Russian industry was about 25 per cent of that in the USA, 35 per cent of that in Germany, and 40 per cent of that in Britain. A committee of the Gosplan, appointed in 1937 to investigate the productivity of labour in Russian industry, found that it was 40.5 per cent of productivity in US industry, and 97 per cent of that in Germany. There is ground for the assumption that this calculation is exaggerated, and that the productivity of labour in Russian industry in 1937 was about 30 per cent of that in the USA, 70 per cent of that in Germany, and about the same percentage of that in Britain. A detailed explanation of how we arrived at this conclusion would be too lengthy.”―Ibid.
It was Cliff who showed off pedantry by introducing all sorts of figures. However, his basis for drawing serious conclusions such as “if the British worker is exploited, his Russian brother is much more so” or “Russian worker today compared to the British worker today is worse off than the Russian worker under the Tsar compared with the British worker of that time” is as follows. “A detailed explanation of how we arrived at this conclusion would be too lengthy.”
It is not even a rationale of argument, but he draws out the nihilism regarding the proletariat revolution through a “ground for assumption.” While drawing the above conclusive conclusion, he says. “A detailed explanation …… would be too lengthy”
Can we really call such a person a Marxist?
I have no data to show how much the productivity of the Soviet Union at the time was compared to the level of advanced capitalist countries. But at least I think this way. If, as Cliff said, productivity of Russia, the underdeveloped country, reached “approximately similar level” to British imperialism in 20 years after the revolution, shouldn't it be used as a basis for praising the greatness of the socialist revolution?
Cliff is presenting the basis of this great “assumption” to the British bourgeoisies, not to the British working class. While suggesting lengthy figures and conducting logical leaps in crucial parts, he shouts. “Workers! Russian workers are being exploited much more than you are! And capitalists, never fear. I just informed the workers that revolutionary Russia is worse than capitalist Britain.”
Productivity is a different concept from production. The proletariat revolution revolutionizes most fields of the economy due to the elimination of capitalist anarchy and the abolition of private ownership, the socialization of a portion of bourgeois exploitation, central planned economy, and passion for revolution. However, productivity, expressed as the ratio of labor input to output does not improve easily. This is because productivity relies heavily on the level of science and technology that the country has reached, and it takes a long time to catch up with the science and technology of advanced capitalist countries. That is one of the reasons why the Russian working class longed for the revolution of advanced European capitalist countries after the revolution.
Although it is not the data from the period, which Cliff was comparing, it is possible to indirectly estimate the gap of productivity between Russia and advanced capitalist countries at that time through current data.
According to “the comparison of Japanese labor productivity at the world stage”(2008), the labor productivity of Japanese manufacturing industry, which ranks seventh in the world, is $86,608 as of 2005. Russian labor productivity ranks 51st with $22,767, Brazil 55th with $19,016, and China 69th with $11,625. As of 2005, Russia is about a quarter (25%) of Japan. China, defined same as Soviet Union by state capitalists with similar logic, is now about 1/8 of Japan, about 60 years after the 1949 Revolution. Meanwhile, according to the “Industrial Productivity Gap and Changes between Korea and China”(2008), “In terms of Purchasing Power Parity(PPP), China's overall industrial productivity is estimated to be around 32% of Korea, manufacturing industry is estimated about 60% of Korea.” In this respect, Cliff's “assumption” that Russia reached “approximately similar levels” in terms of “productivity” with Britain in 1937 makes us tilt our head.
Cliff, who was relentless about Stalinism, cites the exaggerated figures of Stalinists at this point and puts Stalinist Gosplan ahead for his similar “basis of assumption”, which had to be omitted because it would be too lengthy to explain. There is only one reason to use such a shallow trick. That is to establish his logic that “revolutionary Russian workers are more exploited than capitalist British workers.”
This kind of anti-communist sophistry, commonly found in articles of far right, is spread all around his book. He says about the collectivization of agriculture as follows.
Collectivisation not only transformed those who came into industry into proletarians, but also those who remained in agriculture. The overwhelming majority of agriculturalists are in reality, if not in theory, people who do not own means of production; indeed, we should have less justification in calling the Russian agriculturalists of today owners of means of production, then the serfs of the nineteenth century.
Collectivisation has resulted in the freeing of agricultural products for the needs of industrial development, the “freeing” of the peasantry from its means of production, the transformation of a section of them into reserves of labour power for industry, and the transformation of the rest into part-workers, part-peasants, part-serfs in the kolkhozes.―Tony Cliff, “State Capitalism in Russia”
Who does Cliff refer to as “those who remained in agriculture” in this quote? Does it mean Kulaks, who were increasingly becoming big capitalists due to market socialist policies of Stalin and Bukharin? Or independent farmers? Or poor peasants or agricultural workers? Who were the toughest opponents of the collectivization that Cliff described as having made agricultural workers more miserable “then the serfs of the nineteenth century?” “From whose point of view” does Cliff sneer collectivization?
Of course, the collectivization was full of problems. But it was inevitable. Even if it was not a Stalinist bureaucracy, but revolutionary Bolsheviks led by Lenin or Trotsky, collectivization was an inevitable direction to move forward. And if they had led the collectivization, would Cliff have stopped the sarcasm?
Collectivization is to abolish private ownership of agricultural means of production, mainly land, by establishing a system of collective ownership, though not state-owned. As a result, of course, members of the Kolkhoz(Soviet collective Farm) have ownership of farmland collectively, not individually(privately). That a progress toward socialism. However, Cliff regrets that Soviet agricultural workers have not become “direct” owners(i.e. private owner) of the means of production. He sneers at being a member of collective system of ownership not private one, describing it as becoming worse than the serfs of the nineteenth century. Speaking of which, in the next sentence, he outrightly calls the members of Kolkhoz as “serfs.” Can we call this man a Marxist?
Because of those factors mentioned above, revolutionary Russia, Soviet Union, achieved tremendous results in most areas of the economy. In response, Cliff mobilizes Marx and Engels in order to taunt the achievements as follows.
The efforts and self-sacrifice of the people, have raised Russia, despite bureaucratic mismanagement and waste, to the position of a great industrial power, from being, in terms of industrial output, fourth in Europe and fifth in the world to being first in Europe and second in the world. She has stepped out of her sleepy backwardness to become a modern, powerful, industrially advanced country. The bureaucracy has thus earned as much tribute as Marx and Engels paid to the bourgeoisie.
The price paid for these achievements has, of course, been human misery on a scale impossible to estimate.―Ibid.
What an anti-communist defeatism is this evaluation by Cliff, a spokesman for the petty-bourgeois socialists, who were suffocated by the pressure of capitalists.
Yes, Cliff! The Russian Revolution succeeded and proceeded on the basis of a large scale of “human misery, efforts and self-sacrifice of the people.” And if the leadership was healthy, it would have greatly reduced the unnecessary part of the misery, efforts and self-sacrifice. But the revolution, as Trotsky put it, is “a surgery of history.” It is an inevitable choice in history to revive a breathtaking society, and some misery, efforts and sacrifice are inevitable in the process. The history of mankind has overcome the crossroads and achieved developments in that way. It saved mankind from long-term morbidity and greater misery and sacrifice. What is the reason for the “human misery on a scale impossible to estimate” that you sarcastically say about the Russian Revolution and its subsequent historical twists and turns? Is it because of the revolution or the barbarism of capitalism?
Let’s compare Trotsky's assessment of the same fact with that of Cliff to estimate how far his nihilistic world view is far away from revolutionary optimism of the working class.
In December 1913, the Don basin produced 2,275,000 tons of coal; in December 1935, 7,125,000 tons. During the last three years the production of iron has doubled. The production of steel and of the rolling mills has increased almost 2½ times. The output of oil, coal and iron has increased from 3 to 3½ times the pre-war figure. In 1920, when the first plan of electrification was drawn up, there were 10 district power stations in the country with a total power production of 253,000 kilowatts. In 1935, there were already 95 of these stations with a total power of 4,345,000 kilowatts. In 1925, the Soviet Union stood 11th in the production of electro-energy; in 1935, it was second only to Germany and the United States. In the production of coal, the Soviet Union has moved forward from 10th to 4th place. In steel, from 6th to 3rd place. In the production of tractors, to the 1st place in the world. This also is true of the production of sugar.
Gigantic achievement in industry, enormously promising beginnings in agriculture, an extraordinary growth of the old industrial cities and a building of new ones, a rapid increase of the numbers of workers, a rise in cultural level and cultural demands – such are the indubitable results of the October revolution, in which the prophets of the old world tried to see the grave of human civilization. With the bourgeois economists we have no longer anything to quarrel over. Socialism has demonstrated its right to victory, not on the pages of Das Kapital, but in an industrial arena comprising a sixth part of the earths surface – not in the language of dialectics, but in the language of steel, cement and electricity. Even if the Soviet Union, as a result of internal difficulties, external blows and the mistakes of leadership, were to collapse – which we firmly hope will not happen – there would remain an earnest of the future this indestructible fact, that thanks solely to a proletarian revolution a backward country has achieved in less than 10 years successes unexampled in history.―Trotsky, “The Revolution Betrayed”, 1936
Roughly this is the evaluation of the working class on history.
We have checked how state capitalists modify and distort Marxism to justify their sophistry through examples such as SWN. But, Cliff is second to none.
“None of the Marxist theoreticians doubted that if the concentration of capital could reach such a stage that one capitalist, a collective of capitalists or the state, concentrated the total national capital in its hands which competition on the world market continued, such an economy could still be a capitalist economy.”―Ibid.
Here, he says, even “the state, concentrated the total national capital in its hands”, in other words, an economic system which private ownership is greatly abolished(in terms Marxism, a transitional period from capitalism to socialism), is still capitalist, as long as the “competition on the world market” continues. The reason is, of course, to justify his state capitalism just like SWN does, and for him, he had to turn a blind eye to the system of ownership, the core standard of defining the character of society.
On the other hand, Lenin says about the competition, private ownership, and character of society as follows.
“Capitalism in its imperialist stage leads directly to the most comprehensive socialisation of production; it, so to speak, drags the capitalists, against their will and consciousness, into some sort of a new social order, a transitional one from complete free competition to complete socialisation.
Production becomes social, but appropriation remains private. The social means of production remain the private property of a few. The general framework of formally recognised free competition remains, and the yoke of a few monopolists on the rest of the population becomes a hundred times heavier, more burdensome and intolerable.”―Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, 1916
In other words, Cliff defines capitalism, on the basis of whether the “competition on the world market” continues. On the other hand, Lenin says, even if competition is reduced and “the most comprehensive socialisation of production” comes close, it is capitalism, as long as “the social means of production remain the private property of a few.” The essence of society that defines its character is “the system of ownership of means of production”, not competition(Cliff) nor private labor(SWN). Cliff keeps trying to dodge “distinguishing feature of Communism …… Abolition of private property” (“Communist Manifesto”) through that irrevocable sophistry.
In addition, he claims that “None of the Marxist theoreticians doubted” his sophistry. How shameless he is?
Cliff is cunning. He never takes the lead. He does not charge head-on with his own revisionist theory. He makes Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky go ahead and follows them on the rear. As if his sophistry is a succession of their theory.
The same is true when he argues his own revisionist class theory. Lenin takes the lead.
“We call classes large groups of people that are distinctive by the place they occupy in a definite historically defined system of social production; by their relations towards the means of production …… by their role in the social system of labour; and consequently, by their method of obtaining the share of national wealth which they dispose of, and by the size of that share.”―Ibid.
However, he immediately substitutes Lenin’s argument as follows.
“It would be wrong to call the Stalinist bureaucracy a caste for the following reasons: while a class is a group of people who have a definite place in the process of production, a caste is a judicial-political group.”―Ibid.
The core of the class is the ownership of means of production and its form. That’s the reason why, Lenin mentions “their relations towards the means of production” and “the share of national wealth which they dispose of” in his definition. In particular, ownership depends on the possibility of “voluntary disposal(use, disuse, transfer, inheritance, transaction, etc.)” of the property, and that was pointed out in Lenin's definition. However, Cliff switch it to a vague expression, having “a definite place in the process of production.” Of course, it is necessary to make the Soviet Union a “capitalist” and a bureaucracy a “capitalist class.”
The ownership of means of production is at the heart of Marxist class theory. In his lecture, “The State”, Lenin, while emphasizing the importance of the question of the state that we are now dealing with, in relation to the matter of revolution, summarizes the classes that emerged in human history.
The division into slaveowners and slaves was the first important class division. The former group not only owned all the means of production—the land and the implements, however poor and primitive they may have been in those times—but also owned people. This group was known as slave-owners, while those who laboured and supplied labour for others were known as slaves. This form was followed in history by another—feudalism. In the great majority of countries slavery in the course of its development evolved into serfdom. The fundamental division of society was now into feudal lords and peasant serfs. … The slave-owners had regarded the slaves as their property; the law had confirmed this view and regarded the slave as a chattel completely owned by the slave-owner. As far as the peasant serf was concerned, class oppression and dependence remained, but it was not considered that the feudal lord owned the peasants as chattels, but that he was only entitled to their labour, to the obligatory performance of certain services. … The owners of capital, the owners of the land and the owners of the factories in all capitalist countries constituted and still constitute an insignificant minority of the population who have complete command of the labour of the whole people, and, consequently, command, oppress and exploit the whole mass of labourers, the majority of whom are proletarians, wage-workers, who procure their livelihood in the process of production only by the sale of their own worker’s hands, their labour-power.”―Lenin, “The State: A Lecture Delivered at the Sverdlov University”, 1919
Contrary to Lenin's definition, Cliff's definition of class, which deliberately omits issue of ownership, is ridiculous. Nevertheless, for Cliff, the Soviet Union must be a system of state capitalism, so a bureaucracy must be a class. Thus, he continues his sophistry afterwards.
“We can therefore say that the Russian bureaucracy, “owning” as it does the state and controlling the process of accumulation, is the personification of capital in its purest form.”―Ibid.
Under the definition of Cliff, not a person who privately owns the means of production, but a Soviet bureaucrat becomes “the personification of capital(capitalist) in its purest form.” Nevertheless, he knows that in order to sort bureaucracy into a category of capitalist class, he must prove the possession of the means of production and whether the means of production can voluntarily be disposed of. But the objective and obvious reality of the Soviet Union does not give him a chance to prove it. Then, he makes another lame discovery that Soviet bureaucracy is capitalist class because they inherit the “connections.”
In a state which is the repository of the means of production the state bureaucracy – the ruling class – has forms of passing on its privileges which are different from those of the feudal lords, the bourgeoisie or the free professionals. If co-option is the prevailing mode of selection the directors of enterprises, heads of departments, etc., every bureaucrat will try more to pass on to his son his “connections” than he would, let us say, a million roubles (even though this has importance). Obviously he will at the same time try to limit the number of competitors for positions in the bureaucracy by restricting the possibilities the masses have of getting a higher education, etc.―Ibid.
It's not worth dealing with because it's a child's whining, but let's make a thousand concessions. Then, let’s assume that the state bureaucracy is a class because it inherits connections, and Soviet Union is a capitalist society where the inheritance of connections exists. So, if connections are the only ones can be inherited, What is our task? Cutting off the bureaucratic connections? Or going back to a society that enables the inheritance of the means of production, as a “first step” to abolish a society that inherits connections?
Cliff's swindle is spectacular. In addition to switching definition, putting authorities first and so on, he even switches concepts. For example, Cliff cites “The Revolution Betrayed” which is, for advocates of state capitalism like him, a thorn in his throat.
The nationalisation of the land, the means of industrial production, transport, and exchange, together with the monopoly of foreign trade, constitutes the basis of the Soviet social structure. Through these relations, established by the proletarian revolution, the nature of the Soviet Union as a proletarian state is for us basically defined.―Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, 1936, cited from “State Capitalism in Russia”
Right after that, Cliff grumbles along with switching the concepts, and appeals to the petty-bourgeois sentiment as follows.
“[If this definition is correct] it was incorrect in saying: “the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class.”
If the state is the repository of the means of production and the workers do not control it, they do not own the means of production, i.e. they are not the ruling class.”―Ibid.
The term “workers” in the sentence “If …… the workers do not control it” refers to individuals, that is, specific workers who exist in reality. But, the term “workers” in the sentence “they(workers) do not own the means of production” refers to a group, the working class as a whole. These are different concepts.
Why does he use two concepts with the same expression but different implications as if they were same? That’s because he wants to draw the following syllogism expressed as follows. “Workers state is a country where workers own means of production. If workers do not have the control over the means of production, they are not possessing it. Therefore, the Soviet Union is not a workers state.” It has similar logical structure with this sentence. “Mankind evolved from apes. Abdul is a human. Therefore Abdul evolved from apes.”
Even in case of capitalist state, not all individual bourgeoisies have the power of the state. Sometimes, as in the days of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan, capitalist state reigns over individual capitalists and even commits “reckless” atrocities like dismantling a Chaebol. Nevertheless, it is a capitalist state. Cliff’s method of denying workers state by switching concepts is already rebutted in Trotsky’s “The Class Nature of the Soviet State”, cited above.
The following is the part where Cliff appeals to the petty-bourgeois sentiment and grouses about Trotsky's scientific explanation and objective reality.
Accordingly, the bureaucrat and the worker, the NKVD guard and his prisoner, belong to the same class. How can this be, when their positions in the process of production are so antagonistic, when their attitudes to the means of production not only are not the same, but actually clash sharply?
If we accept that the workers and bureaucrats do belong to the same class, then we must conclude that in Russia there is a struggle inside one class, but no struggle between classes, that is, no class struggle. Does not this take the ground from under Trotsky’s attack on Stalin’s assertion that there is no class struggle in Russia?―Ibid.
At this part, Cliff, a skilled swindler, pretends as if he doesn't know much about the world and “intentionally” lose his cool. In reality, we have seen countless workers and union bureaucrats “clashing sharply.” They belong to same class. He definitely knows about it, so it’s not a matter of making a fuss. The Soviet Union was based on a transitional system moving from capitalism to socialism, that is, a society based on state ownership but bourgeois norms of distribution still exists. And it was an isolated revolution that was not supplemented by the revolution of advanced capitalist countries. In this respect, bourgeois elements remained, and eventually went through quantitative accumulation in a negative direction, resulting in a capitalist counterrevolution of 1991~2. He complains that Trotsky does not take his side while conducting an “attack on Stalin’s assertion.” How do you think Cliff?
Cliff, who were trying hard to swallow a thorn named Trotsky, makes Trotsky to take his side, by his brilliant skills.
Trotsky’s last book
It is no accident that even Trotsky with his brilliant analytical faculties had to re-evaluate his basic analysis of the Stalinist regime from time to time. A tremendous shift took place in Trotsky’s position, if only in emphasis from the time the acceptance of the theory of the degenerated workers’ state was a condition for membership of the Left Opposition till the time that Trotsky did not propose the exclusion of the anti-defencists from the International, although he did not accept their position.
A clear step in the direction of a new evaluation of the bureaucracy as a ruling class finds expression in Trotsky’s last book, Stalin.―Ibid.
It is fatal to Cliff that Trotsky, the authoritative revolutionary, insisted on the opposite conclusion to his death. So he imagines. “What if Trotsky had abandoned his line of defending Soviet Union at the last minute.” After clever puns that follows, he eventually makes Trotsky his side. According to him, Trotsky re-evaluated “his basic analysis of the Stalinist regime from time to time” and eventually “did not propose the exclusion of the anti-defencists.” However, Cliff knows that it is “too” impudent to blindly deny such obvious facts, so he adds pitiful clues such as, “if only in emphasis from the time” and “although he did not accept their position.”
Cliff, a skilled swindler, knows how to communicate with those who are ready to trust his views, that is, those who eager to abolish the intrusive line of defending Soviet Union but want to get any theoretical excuses to conceal their betrayal. He is used to writing a leaping argument that starts with a assumption and then concludes. He knows that, even doing so, those who are thirsty for anything that can mask their betrayal will readily overlook even the logical leaps. In the above quotes, Cliff nuances that Trotsky “might have re-evaluated his views,” and after a few sentences concludes that Trotsky took a “clear step in the direction of a new evaluation of the bureaucracy as a ruling class.” And decisively(!), it was reflected in Trotsky's last(!) book. Bravo!
Mr. Cliff, why didn’t you say so earlier. Then there was no reason for you to criticize the line of Trotsky throughout the book. “The line of defending Soviet Union is not a view of Trotsky! He converted at the last minute!” is all what you should have said.
In addition, I would like to give Mr. Cliff a piece of advice. It would have been better if you had ended your paper with that “great discovery.” (in the chapter 7 of “Appendix 1: An examination of Trotsky’s definition of Russia as a degenerated workers’ state”) Your “great discovery” that “a clear step in the direction of a new evaluation of the bureaucracy as a ruling class finds expression in Trotsky’s last book, Stalin.” is refuted by the last chapter of the paper, “What prevented Trotsky from renouncing the theory that Russia is a workers’ state?”
For your information, Trotsky was murdered by Stalin’s assassin on August 21, 1940. His theoretical struggle against petty-bourgeois faction of SWP led by Shachtman and Burnham was published under the title “In Defense of Marxism” after his death. Trotsky's last article in this book was written on August 17, 1940.
Mr. Cliff, the trickster, gives his readers a multiple-choice test and urges them to select the answer.
When Trotsky defined Russia as a society in transition, he emphasised correctly that as such it must by its own immanent laws lead either to the victory of socialism, or to the restoration of private capitalism. If the latter is ruled out, one of three possibilities remain:
1. The internal forces in Russia lead in one direction only – towards communism. This point of view is held by the Stalinists and also by Bruno R.
2. Russian society is neither capitalist nor socialist, and although the productive forces rise uninterruptedly it will not lead to communism; although the exploitation of the masses continues unabated, it will not lead to capitalism. This is the theory of the “Managerial Revolution” and of Bureaucratic Collectivism in Shachtman’s 1943 formulation.
3. Russian society is either a transitional society which has two possible paths before it―state capitalism or socialism―or it is already state capitalism.
Denying the possibility of the internal forces leading to private capitalism and at the same time repudiating Stalinism, Bureaucratic Collectivism (according to both Bruno R’s and Shachtman’s formulation) and Burnhamism, we are left with the third alternative only.―Ibid.
The position of Fourth International, that is, Trotsky's analysis, is the only correct analysis of Soviet society. However, Cliff “excludes” that answer and provides the remaining “distractors”, that is his position and other two sloppy positions, to “readers.” Then, he erases other two options and declares his position as the answer. “We are left only with the alternative called state capitalism.” The readers can never reach correct answer. Because the test was rigged from the start.
Cliff tries everything, but knows that it is impossible to refute Trotsky's position through scientific analysis. Because his position is not science, but just a political attitude of petty-bourgeois pretending as science. Therefore, he does not question the scientific correctness of counterpart’s stance, but raise a question regarding the circumstances of counterpart in order to question the scientific correctness of counterpart’s stance (referred to as “Circumstantial Ad Hominem” in logics.)
What prevented Trotsky from renouncing the theory that Russia is a workers’ state?: Past experience was Trotsky’s main impediment in grasping the fact that a triumph for reaction does not always mean a return to the original point of departure―Ibid.
Cliff now mobilizes psychoanalysis. The reason why Trotsky “could not abandon” the line of defending Soviet Union, which is a theoretical consequence of the theory defining the Soviet Union as a workers’ state, is because of his trauma caused by “past experience.” However, Cliff was not the originator who tried to defeat science by mobilizing such poor psychoanalysis.
The following is a diagnosis of another anti-defencist named Bruno R, who Cliff tried keep at a distance.
Since Trotsky participated in the Russian Revolution, it is difficult for him to lay aside the idea of the workers’ state inasmuch as he would have to renounce his whole life’s cause,―Trotsky, “Again and Once More Again on the Nature of the USSR”, “In Defense of Marxism”, October 18, 1939
What a coincidence! Trotsky had already yelled at charlatans like Bruno R during his lifetime and Tony Cliff after his death.
I think that the old Freud, who was very perspicacious, would have cuffed the ears of psychoanalysts of this ilk a little. Naturally I would never risk taking such action myself. Nevertheless I dare assure my critics that subjectivity and sentimentality are not on my side but on theirs.―Ibid.
Trotsky's argument of the reason why they are figures full of “subjectivity and sentimentality” follows the quote above. I really hope readers to read it.
We have so far demonstrated that abolishing the line of defending (degenerated or deformed) workers’ states, claimed by Kautsky, Shachtman, Cliff, SWL and SWN, is a theoretical justification of submission caused by the stir of petty-bourgeoisies and political pressure of capitalism, also, we argued that, in order to rationalize it, they deviated from the Marxist principle and began to revise it from that point on. And we pointed out that, even though, each of them claims to have different “theories”, but at the heart of it, they are singing the same song in the same tone, misleading the working class of South Korea and the world to the path of defeat.
The core of the discussion is as follows. First, it is a question of whether to defend the system of state ownership (dominant form of ownership in a transitional society moving from capitalism to communism). Whenever the line of defending (degenerated or deformed) workers state is raised, state capitalists mislead the argument by exaggerating it, as if it were supporting the Stalinist bureaucracy, and as if it were recognizing the state as a socialist state. They insist not only to overthrow the Stalinist bureaucracy, but also the system itself. By doing so, they cross over to the counter-revolutionary camp of capitalists.
Second, it is a question of whether to tolerate the current state form of a (deformed or degenerated) worker state. The Stalinist bureaucracy, as seen in the Soviet Union and now in China, is incapable of resolving the current contradictions and is destroying the revolution from its foundation. They must be overthrown through the political revolution of the working class. When the question is raised, Stalinists distort the argument as if it were an assertion of overthrowing the system of state-owned, which is the achievement of revolution.
Unfortunately, Dahamkke(IS), SWL, SWN, and Haebang Yeondae abolished the line of defending workers’ state. They argue for differences, but they will speak out in chorus, at the decisive moment when the forces of workers’ political revolution clashes with the forces of capitalist counter-revolution, in China and North Korea, because they have similar program. Just like taking a bourgeois pacifist stance by condemning North Korean nuclear weapons. Thus, ultimately, they side with American imperialism and South Korean capitalists.
In 1991~2, there was a capitalist counter-revolution in Soviet Union. The collapse of Russia, a degenerated workers’ state, in 1991~2, proved in a negative form that the analysis and prediction of the Fourth International were correct. A capitalist counter-revolution broke out in the degenerated workers’ states of Russia and Eastern Europe. The counter-revolution abolished the achievements of the October revolution. Poverty, unemployment, starvation, discrimination, corruption, prostitution, organized crime, drugs, suicide, etc., came back out from Pandora’s box, throwing the people into misery and transforming society into a capitalist dystopia. “Russia: A Capitalist Dystopia” describes the situation in Russia after the counter-revolution as follows.
The UNDP’s 1999 study observed:
“Before the 1990s, countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS were notable for providing their populations with a high degree of basic security....People’s right to full, lifetime employment was guaranteed. Although cash incomes were low, they were stable and secure. Many basic consumption goods and services were subsidized and regularly supplied. People had food security and were adequately clothed and housed. They had free guaranteed access to education and health. They were assured pensions when they retired and regularly benefited from many other forms of social protection.”
Mikhail Friedman, an “oligarch” described by Freeland as “one of the biggest winners in the capitalist casino,” certainly recognizes the qualitative change since 1991, and even evinces a certain nostalgia for the old days:
“My life was very carefree, just as life was for everyone in the Soviet Union....Materially, of course, people did not live very well, but no one had to worry about anything. The main thing, what was really intense, was friends, spiritual interests, books. The relations between people were far more open. People did not compete. There was not the same disproportion or envy. People today are far more stressed.” —Freeland, op cit
Under capitalism life is both nastier and shorter. Between 1991 and 1995 life expectancy for Russian males dropped precipitously—from 63 to 58 years. The rate of population growth fell from 2.4 percent in 1990 to negative 5.4 percent by 1996. (This figure does not reflect the millions of skilled young people who emigrated in this period.)
The near collapse of public healthcare (currently budgeted at a meagre one percent of GDP, a level found only in the poorest neo-colonies) has led to a resurgence of tuberculosis and other communicable diseases that had previously been brought under control:
“Many of the diseases that are re-emerging could be contained by standard immunization programs. For example, polio cases, now rare in industrialized western countries, have begun to re-appear....”—UNDP, op cit
Between 1989 and 1995, the number of AIDS cases soared, while syphilis rates went up 40-fold:
“Many of these problems could be solved, or at least contained, by a well-functioning public health system, including the implementation of standard immunization and reproductive health programs. The seriousness of the problem signals, however, that primary health interventions have been significantly weakened during the transition period.”—Ibid.
The destruction of the planned economy deprived millions of working people of the ability to feed themselves and their families. This led to an increase in every sort of social pathology from drug abuse to wife beating. Between 1991 and 1995, the number of suicides almost doubled and homicide rates increased dramatically:
“Under-employed young men took to advertising their eagerness to become assassins in the classified ads, using the blunt code phrase ‘willing to take on any dangerous work for a high fee’. Petty criminals began to murder for pathetically small trophies: real-estate shysters killed gullible pensioners in order to inherit their apartments; one crime ring, posing as a car-repair shop, killed and dismembered owners just to steal their vehicles.”—Freeland, op cit
The impact of Russia’s social counterrevolution hit the disabled, pensioners, children and women particularly hard. The ideological bias of the authors of the UNDP report are evident in their apparent amazement that:
“the advent of more democratic [i.e., capitalist] regimes has led paradoxically to lower percentages of women in [positions of authority]. Women have found themselves progressively pushed out of public life. Simultaneously, their access to paid employment has declined and their total work burden both within the household and outside it has increased....
“Violence against women has been on the rise with physical abuse from spouses...and a rising number of women becoming victims of crime. Also, many women who have been desperate to find employment and a better life have found themselves forced into prostitution...by organized crime networks.”
Freeland cites an infamous survey from the early 1990s which reported that “hard currency prostitute” was the top career choice for female students at Moscow State University, Russia’s equivalent of Harvard or Oxford.
Capitalist restoration is estimated to have created more Russian orphans than World War II. According to a 1 June 2001 BBC News Report, in Russia today: “More than 2.5 million children live on the streets—many of them abandoned by parents who can no longer afford to bring them up.” The BBC also mentioned that:
“Nearly all Russian children suffer from one or more chronic diseases by the time they leave school and many are on the way to alcoholism, according to a report published by Russia’s Ministry of Health.
“Only one child in 10, it says, can be considered healthy by the age of 17.”
The UNDP report provides the following summary of the results of capitalist restoration:
“There is no longer any secure entitlement to a decent education, a healthy life or adequate nutrition. With rising mortality rates and new and potentially devastating epidemics on the horizon, life itself is increasingly at risk.”
“The ‘transition’ in most of the countries in the former Soviet bloc...is a euphemistic term for what in reality has been a Great Depression. The extent of the collapse in output and the skyrocketing nature of inflation have been historically unprecedented. The consequences for human security have been calamitous. By conservative estimates, over 100 million people have been thrown into poverty, and considerably more hover precariously just above subsistence.”
Contrary to the rosy prognostications of free-market utopians, Russia’s parvenu bourgeoisie has shown remarkably little interest in retooling, introducing new efficiencies or expanding production:
“The only people prospering in the New Russia seemed to be a narrow layer of the super-rich....Its fortunes were not based on new technologies, more efficient services or more productive factories. Instead, they were built by capturing pieces of the collapsing Soviet state: the country’s oilfields and nickel mines, its television channels and export permits and even the government’s bank accounts. And once Russia’s home-grown capitalist conquistadors had secured their loot, they whisked it away to safer havens abroad as quickly as they could. Between 1991 and 1999, experts estimated that between $100bn and $150bn in flight capital left Russia.
“Russia had created a market economy, but of a distorted kind. With its ten-year economic depression, dying and increasingly deprived underclass and extravagant and parasitic elite, Russia had become a kind of capitalist dystopia, a Soviet ideologue’s lurid fantasy of life in what used to be called the ‘rotting West.’”—Freeland, op cit
The October Revolution was a global event, and thus its collapse also had a global impact. The political, military, and ideological dynamic of forces between capital and labor around the world has changed significantly in favor of the former. The world socialist movement was dampened, and many activists ebbed away. Economic struggles of Each workplace were focused solely on defensive struggles. The prospect of victory fell and despair filled its place. The reformist movement within the system became the major trend.
State capitalists, Dahamkke(IS), SWL, SWN, all turn blind eyes on how the living conditions of Russian people fell horribly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, how serious the political regression of the world and South Korean working class was, and how dynamic of power became unfavorable to working class.
They just cynically watch the catastrophic developments that have occurred since the restoration of capitalism, even to escape their political responsibilities. For state capitalists, Stalinist workers’ states such as the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea are both “reactionary systems that must collapse as soon as possible” or “systems that must be overthrown.” Under this logic, state capitalists cheered at Yeltsin’s group that restored capitalism. According to them, nothing special happened in 1991~2. It was “simply a step sideways”(Tony Cliff) from a form of capitalism to another or “Soviet Union dismantled, state-owned enterprises are privatized, ruling party officials transformed into private capitalists, workers suffered more from restructuring and layoffs. However, that was it, there was no capitalist counter revolution.”(a mention from a member of SWL)
China is now in danger. If China collapses due to the capitalist counter-revolution and so does North Korea, the incident will give a shock to the world and the South Korean working class, beyond that of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991~2. China, a deformed workers’ country, is now at a sharp crossroads.
“A group of 17 senior CCP cadres, including influential retirees from the military and industrial ministries, issued an open letter criticizing the extent of foreign penetration of the economy, the marginalization of the state sector and the low wages that have accompanied the reforms. The authors urged the approaching 17th Party Congress to reverse the pro-capitalist course and return to “Mao Zedong Thought,” i.e., renationalization and central planning. They warned that if the market reforms continue, “a Yeltsin-type person will emerge, and the Party and country will tragically be destroyed very soon” -International Bolshevik Tendency(IBT), “Whither China? Political Revolution or Counterrevolution”
The Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy, represented by the CCP, is being sharply divided into a faction that wants to preserve the collective ownership and the other faction that wants to promote full privatization of state assets. On the one hand, there is a faction that warns “a Yeltsin-type person will emerge, and the Party and country will tragically be destroyed very soon”, but also there is a faction sharply opposing it. In the meantime, the influence of the forces seeking to restore capitalism has increased more than ever, due to the promotion of the market economy. They also receive strong support of imperialists such as the United States and Japan.
Those who share common interests in state-owned system, such as conservatives in CCP, workers and peasants, are increasingly splintering from marketeers in CCP, domestic entrepreneurs, overseas Chinese capitalists, and global imperialists. The victory will be achieved by either side gripping “an organization of violence, defending the system of ownership”, that is, the state power. A decisive battle over state power is imminent in China. The attitude of Chinese working class, at the moment of this crucial confrontation, will determine the consequence. At the same time, however, the position of South Korean working class will also have a great impact on the incident. Will the South Korean working class provide revolutionary inspiration to the Chinese working class, or will they be hypnotized by state capitalism and support counter-revolution? This is the question of “The State and Revolution” of our era.
As for the analysis and political stance on this matter, we introduce quotes from a recent article, “Whither China? Political Revolution or Counterrevolution.”, published by IBT.
“In the event of a major confrontation, the conservative faction would inevitably be forced to rely, if only indirectly, on support from the plebeian masses, while the pro-capitalist elements would be backed by domestic entrepreneurs, the substantial overseas Chinese bourgeoisie and global imperialism.
Those “revolutionaries” who maintain that capitalism has already been restored in China could only view a split in the CCP as a division within the bourgeoisie. The logic of this position would either be neutrality, or more likely, supporting the “democratic” counterrevolution, as the CWI, Workers Power, the United Secretariat and most other ostensibly Trotskyist groups did in August 1991 when they backed Boris Yeltsin's rabble against the decrepit Stalinist remnants of Gennady Yanayev's “Emergency Committee.”
In a similar showdown between Chinese Stalinist “conservatives” and open restorationists, Trotskyists would bloc with the former against the latter, as we did in the Soviet Union in 1991 (see “Soviet Rubicon & the Left,” 1917 No. 11). This is the only position that is congruent with the policy Trotsky outlined in the Transitional Program:
“From this perspective, impelling concreteness is imparted to the question of the ‘defense of the U.S.S.R.’ If tomorrow the bourgeois-fascist grouping, the ‘fraction of Butenko,’ so to speak, should attempt the conquest of power, the ‘fraction of Reiss’ inevitably would align itself on the opposite side of the barricades. Although it would find itself temporarily the ally of Stalin, it would nevertheless defend not the Bonapartist clique but the social base of the U.S.S.R., i.e., the property wrenched away from the capitalists and transformed into State property….
“Although it is thus impermissible to deny in advance the possibility, in strictly defined instances, of a ’united front‘ with the Thermidorian section of the bureaucracy against open attack by capitalist counter-revolution, the chief political task of the U.S.S.R. still remains the overthrow of this same Thermidorian bureaucracy.”
The CCP conservatives are inherently incapable of addressing the underlying contradiction in the Chinese deformed workers' state between the collectivized property at its core and the maintenance of the political monopoly of a venal and incompetent bonapartist bureaucracy. A victory by Stalinist conservatives in a confrontation with a “fast track” restorationist faction would not put political power directly into the hands of the working class; but it would give revolutionaries an opportunity, at a critical juncture, to win the most advanced layers of the Chinese proletariat to the perspective of a political revolution to wrest power from the CCP. A victory by Chinese Yeltsinites, on the other hand, would represent an enormous historical defeat for the working class, both in China and internationally, and create an immensely more difficult terrain for future struggles.
There are important differences between the situation in the Soviet Union under Gorbachev and in China today. On the one hand, China's private sector, while increasing the size of the industrial proletariat by roughly one hundred million, has produced a capitalist class that is vastly more powerful and cohesive than the fledgling Russian bourgeoisie of 1991. Private enterprise contributes 50 percent of China's GDP and accounts for up to 70 percent of employment in some cities. On the other hand, China's workers have a far clearer understanding of the realities of “free market” exploitation than did Soviet workers, and have demonstrated a willingness to actively resist capitalist attacks. The current international economic crisis, which has thrown so many out of work, can only have reinforced anti-capitalist sentiments among China's proletarians and their poor peasant allies.
China's workers manifestly possess both the social power and fighting spirit necessary to overthrow the brittle and deeply fractured CCP bureaucracy. A proletarian political revolution could open the road to an egalitarian, socialist future through the expropriation of both domestic and foreign capital and the institution of a centrally planned economy organized on the basis of genuine workers' democracy. A successful insurrection will require a mobilization of millions led by a revolutionary socialist party armed with an internationalist, Trotskyist perspective. Such a party would advance a program to address the issues faced by workers in private-sector sweatshops and link their struggles to the defense of state-sector employees against privatizations and layoffs. Revolutionaries would also take up the particular problems faced by peasants and members of rural collectives, as well as national minorities, women and other oppressed sectors.
A victorious proletarian political revolution in China would be a world-historic event. It would instantly transform the entire framework of global politics. It would spark a revolutionary resurgence from Indonesia and the Philippines through South Korea and Japan, all the way to the imperialist citadels of Europe and North America. The first step in realizing this goal is to assemble a nucleus of Chinese Trotskyists committed to the unconditional defense of the gains of the social revolution of 1949 and to forging a Chinese section of a reborn Fourth International.