Thursday, March 31, 2011


By Staff

Columbus, OH - Around 700 workers, students and community activists poured into and around the statehouse here yesterday, including 200 who were admitted to the House gallery to witness the passage of Senate Bill 5.

Senate Bill 5 is a blatant attempt by Republican Governor John Kasich and the Republican controlled Ohio legislature to break the back of unions while lying to the public about “budget difficulties.” This same governor and his cronies in the state government have also been pushing to eliminate Ohio’s estate tax, which taxes property inherited by the relatives of the very rich. It’s clear that this bill, along with other similar bills in other states, is a coordinated attack on the working class in America and has nothing to do with budget problems.

The bill passed the house by a vote of 53-44 with minor changes from the Senate version of the bill. The Senate passed the House version by a vote of 17 to 16. The passage of Senate Bill 5 was met with loud opposition by the workers and trade unionists who were in attendance at the statehouse. Many opponents of the bill were forcibly removed from the gallery as they sang We Shall Not Be Moved and shouted “Repeal it!” and “Ohio hates you.”

The union busting bill eliminates all collective bargaining rights for public employees employed by the state and state agencies, including corrections officers, state troopers and college professors, among others. City and county employees will have bargaining rights severely restricted. Among the many attacks on workers’ rights, SB-5 makes it so public workers will no longer able to bargain over healthcare benefits or pension contributions. Public employers are not allowed to pay more than 80% of the costs for health care benefits. Teachers’ unions have been stripped of their power to negotiate over layoff procedures, teacher salaries, teacher placement and classroom sizes, with those decisions now being decided solely by superintendents.

Furthermore, public workers cannot agree to contracts in which seniority is considered as a factor when determining layoffs. Public employers “last best offers” will now be considered the default “agreement” whenever a labor contract is in dispute. The bill rigs labor negotiations so that the final decisions made about contracts are left in the hands of politically motivated elected officials, instead of arbitration. Public employers have also been given the power to unilaterally reopen labor contracts when they deem there to be a “fiscal emergency.” Finally, among other things, public workers are banned from striking and striking workers can be permanently replaced.

The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Kasich on March 31 and large demonstrations are expected. Workers, students, trade unionists and their allies are expected to push to put the law up for vote on the ballot in November.

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PCMLR: War to palaces, peace to huts!

[Sent to me via email. Jay.]



Fundamentalist thesis

1. Communist Party (ml) of Romania is an organization Communist nationalist
fundamentalists, the “gun” of the poor against the rich, the political and organizational
arm of the New Proletarian Revolution.

2. Communist Party (ml) of Romania will drive away the bosses from the communist
movement, the new aristocracy away of the labor movement, the privatization parties
away from the movement socialist and the capitalism away the Romanian society.

3. Communist Party (ml) of Romania will fully expropriate the New bourgeoisie of the
Era of Ceausescu and post-Ceausescu and will abolish the private property.

4. Communist Party (ml) of Romania will establish the pluralistic socialism, the
egalitarianism, the direct democracy, the self-management labor force and the planned
competitive economy.

5. Communist Party (ml) of Romania will guarantee to all citizens a place of work, a
minimum wage, state housing, free education, free basic health care.

6. Communist Party (ml) of Romania will institute a 4 / 1 ratio between the maximum
and minimum wages, will prohibit the confidentiality of wages and will suppress the
multiplicity of functions.

7. Communist Party (ml) of Romania rejects the worship of personalities and the elites;
it will transform the politics, taking it away from the professional area, and will impose
the proportional representation of the working classis.

8. Communist Party (ml) of Romania will separate Church and State - ultimately
transforming churches into museums, will fight against pollution and moral decay,
including via the execution of criminals, homosexuals and traitors of the country.

9. Communist Party (ml) of Romania marching in the footsteps of martyrs such as
Tudor Vladimirescu, Avram Iancu, Mihai Eminescu, struggles for the security of
Romanian spirit, for the Great Romania, for the return of Bessarabia, Bukovina, Herta
County, and the Quadrilateral to the Motherland , it strives for "Romania for the
Romanians, only for Romanians and of all Romanians”.

10. Communist Party (ml) of Romania will proclaim the country non-integrated and
non-aligned into the globalized capitalist structures and will promote the solidarity
between all popular forces which fight for social and national freedom from all over the
world, united under the flag of the Permanent Revolution, in the Marxist Leninist way:
Trotsky - Mao - Che Guevara


War to palaces, peace to huts!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Through what period are we passing?

Lenin's Lecture on the 1905 Revolution

From: Marxist Internet Archive

These words of Lenin are very important in light of recent events in Wisconsin, Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere. It reflects on the role revolutionaries in uprisings.

My young friends and comrades,

Today is the twelfth anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, which is rightly regarded as the beginning of the Russian revolution.

Thousands of workers—not Social-Democrats, but loyal God-fearing subjects—led by the priest Gapon, streamed from all parts of the capital to its centre, to the square in front of the Winter Palace, to submit a petition to the tsar. The workers carried icons. In a letter to the tsar, their then leader, Gapon, had guaranteed his personal safety and asked him to appear before the people.

Troops were called out. Uhlans and Cossacks attacked the crowd with drawn swords. They fired on the unarmed workers, who on their bended knees implored the Cossacks to allow them to go to the tsar. Over one thousand were killed and over two thousand wounded on that day, according to police reports. The indignation of the workers was indescribable.

Such is the general picture of January 22, 1905—“Bloody Sunday”.

That you may understand more clearly the historic significance of this event, I shall quote a few passages from the workers’ petition. It begins with the following words:

“We workers, inhabitants of St. Petersburg, have come to Thee. We are unfortunate, reviled slaves, weighed down by despotism and tyranny. Our patience exhausted, we ceased work and begged our masters to give us only that without which life is a torment. But this was refused; to the employers everything seemed unlawful. We are here, many thou sands of us. Like the whole of the Russian people, we have no human rights whatever. Owing to the deeds of Thy officials we have become slaves.”

The petition contains the following demands: amnesty, civil liberties, fair wages, gradual transfer of the land to the people, convocation of a constituent assembly on the basis of universal and equal suffrage. It ends with the following words:

“Sire, do not refuse aid to Thy people! Demolish the wall that separates Thee from Thy people. Order and promise that our requests will be granted, and Thou wilt make Russia happy; if not, we are ready to die on this very spot. We have only two roads: freedom and happiness, or the grave.”

Reading it now, this petition of uneducated, illiterate workers, led by a patriarchal priest, creates a strange impression. Involuntarily one compares this naïve petition with the present peace resolutions of the social-pacifists, the would-be socialists who in reality are bourgeois phrase-mongers. The unenlightened workers of pre-revolutionary Russia did not know that the tsar was the head of the ruling class, the class, namely, of big landowners, already bound by a thousand ties with the big bourgeoisie and prepared to defend their monopoly, privileges and profits by every means of violence. The social-pacifists of today, who pretend to be “highly educated” people—no joking—do not realise that it is just as foolish to expect a “democratic” peace from bourgeois governments that are waging an imperialist predatory war, as it was to believe that peaceful petitions would induce the bloody tsar to grant democratic reforms.

Nevertheless, there is a great difference between the two—the present-day social-pacifists are, to a large extent, hypocrites, who strive by gentle admonitions to divert the people from the revolutionary struggle, whereas the uneducated workers in pre-revolutionary Russia proved by their deeds that they were straightforward people awakened to political consciousness for the first time.

It is in this awakening of tremendous masses of the people to political consciousness and revolutionary struggle that the historic significance of January 22, 1905 lies.

“There is not yet a revolutionary people in Russia,” wrote Mr. Pyotr Struve, then leader of the Russian liberals and publisher abroad of an illegal, uncensored organ, two days before “Bloody Sunday”. The idea that an illiterate peasant country could produce a revolutionary people seemed utterly absurd to this “highly educated”, supercilious and extremely stupid leader of the bourgeois reformists. So deep was the conviction of the reformists of those days—as of the reformists of today—that, a real revolution was impossible!

Prior to January 22 (or January 9, old style), 1905, the revolutionary party of Russia consisted of a small group of people, and the reformists of those days (exactly like the reformists of today) derisively called us a “sect”. Several hundred revolutionary organisers, several thousand members of local organisations, half a dozen revolutionary papers appearing not more frequently than once a month, published mainly abroad and smuggled into Russia with incredible difficulty and at the cost of many sacrifices—such were the revolutionary parties in Russia, and the revolutionary Social-Democracy in particular, prior to January 22, 1905. This circumstance gave the narrow-minded and overbearing reformists formal justification for their claim that there was not yet a revolutionary people in Russia.

Within a few months, however, the picture changed completely. The hundreds of revolutionary Social-Democrats “suddenly” grew into thousands; the thousands became the leaders of between two arid three million proletarians. The proletarian struggle produced widespread ferment, often revolutionary movements among the peasant masses, fifty to a hundred million strong; the peasant movement had its reverberations in the army and led to soldiers’ revolts, to armed clashes between one section of the army and another. In this manner a colossal country, with a population of 130,000,000, went into the revolution; in this way, dormant Russia was transformed into a Russia of a revolutionary proletariat and a revolutionary people.

It is necessary to study this transformation, understand why it was possible, its methods and ways, so to speak.

The principal factor in this transformation was the mass strike. The peculiarity of the Russian revolution is that it was a bourgeois-democratic revolution in its social content, but a proletarian revolution in its methods of struggle. It was a bourgeois-democratic revolution since its immediate aim, which it could achieve directly and with its own forces, was a democratic republic, the eight-hour day and confiscation of the immense estates of the nobility—all the measures the French bourgeois revolution in 1792–93 had almost completely achieved.

At the same time, the Russian revolution was also a proletarian revolution, not only in the sense that the proletariat was the leading force, the vanguard of the movement, but also in the sense that a specifically proletarian weapon of struggle—the strike—was the principal means of bringing the masses into motion and the most characteristic phenomenon in the wave-like rise of decisive events.

The Russian revolution was the first, though certainly not the last, great revolution in history in which the mass political strike played an extraordinarily important part. It may even be said that the events of the Russian revolution and the sequence of its political forms cannot be understood without a study of the strike statistics to disclose the basis of these events and this sequence of forms.

I know perfectly well that dry statistics are hardly suit able in a lecture and are likely to bore the hearer. Nevertheless, I cannot refrain from quoting a few figures, in order that you may be able to appreciate the real objective basis of the whole movement. The average annual number of strikers in Russia during the ten years preceding the revolution was 43,000, which means 430,000 for the decade. In January 1905, the first month of the revolution, the number of strikers was 440,000. In other words, there were more strikers in one month than in the whole of the preceding decade!

In no capitalist country in the world, not even in the most advanced countries like England, the United States of America, or Germany, has there been anything to match the tremendous Russian strike movement of 1905. The total number of strikers was 2,800,000, more than two times the number of factory workers in the country! This, of course, does not prove that the urban factory workers of Russia were more educated, or stronger, or more adapted to the struggle than their brothers in Western Europe. The very opposite is true.

But it does show how great the dormant energy of the proletariat can be. It shows that in a revolutionary epoch—I say this without the slightest exaggeration, on the basis of the most accurate data of Russian history—the proletariat can generate fighting energy a hundred times greater than in ordinary, peaceful times. It shows that up to 1905 mankind did not yet know what a great, what a tremendous exertion of effort the proletariat is, and will be, capable of in a fight for really great aims, and one waged in a really revolutionary manner!

The history of the Russian revolution shows that it was the vanguard, the finest elements of the wage-workers, that fought with the greatest tenacity and the greatest devotion. The larger the mills and factories involved, the more stubborn were the strikes, and the more often did they recur during the year. The bigger the city, the more important was the part the proletariat played in the struggle. Three big cities, St. Petersburg, Riga and Warsaw, which have the largest and most class-conscious working-class element, show an immeasurably greater number of strikers, in relation to all workers, than any other city, and, of course, much greater than the rural districts.[1]

In Russia—as probably in other capitalist countries—the metalworkers represent the vanguard of the proletariat. In this connection we note the following instructive fact: taking all industries, the number of persons involved in strikes in 1905 was 160 per hundred workers employed, but in the metal industry the number was 320 per hundred! It is estimated that in consequence of the 1905 strikes every Russian factory worker lost an average of ten rubles in wages—approximately 26 francs at the pre-war rate of exchange—sacrificing this money, as it were, for the sake of the struggle. But if we take the metalworkers, we find that the loss in wages was three times as great! The finest elements of the working class marched in the forefront, giving leadership to the hesitant, rousing the dormant and encouraging the weak.

A distinctive feature was the manner in which economic strikes were interwoven with political strikes during the revolution. There can be no doubt that only this very close link-up of the two forms of strike gave the movement its great power. The broad masses of the exploited could not have been drawn into the revolutionary movement had they not been given daily examples of how the wage-workers in the various industries were forcing the capitalists to grant immediate, direct improvements in their conditions. This struggle imbued the masses of the Russian people with a new spirit. Only then did the old serf-ridden, sluggish, patriarchal, pious and obedient Russia cast out the old Adam; only then did the Russian people obtain a really democratic and really revolutionary education.

When the bourgeois gentry and their uncritical echoers, the social-reformists, talk priggishly about the “education” of the masses, they usually mean something schoolmasterly, pedantic, something that demoralises the masses and instils in them bourgeois prejudices.

The real education of the masses can never be separated from their independent political, and especially revolutionary, struggle. Only struggle educates the exploited class. Only struggle discloses to it the magnitude of its own power, widens its horizon, enhances its abilities, clarifies its mind, forges its will. That is why even reactionaries bad to admit that the year 1905, the year of struggle, the “mad year”, definitely buried patriarchal Russia.

Let us examine more closely the relation, in the 1905 strike struggles, between the metalworkers and the textile workers. The metalworkers are the best paid, the most class-conscious and best educated proletarians: the textile workers, who in 1905 were two and a half times more numerous than the metalworkers, are the most backward and the worst paid body of workers in Russia, and in very many cases have not yet definitely severed connections with their peasant kinsmen in the village. This brings us to a very important circumstance.

Throughout the whole of 1905, the metalworkers strikes show a preponderance of political over economic strikes, though this preponderance was far greater toward the end of the year than at the beginning. Among the textile workers, on the other hand, we observe an overwhelming preponderance of economic strikes at the beginning of 1905, and it is only at the end of the year that we get a preponderance of political strikes. From this it follows quite obviously that the economic struggle, the struggle for immediate and direct improvement of conditions, is alone capable of rousing the most backward strata of the exploited masses, gives them a real education and transforms them—during a revolutionary period—into an army of political fighters within the space of a few months.

Of course, for this to happen, it was necessary for the vanguard of the workers not to regard the class struggle as a struggle in the interests of a thin upper stratum—a conception the reformists all too often try to instil—but for the proletariat to come forward as the real vanguard of the majority of the exploited and draw that majority into the struggle, as was the case in Russia in 1905, and as must be, and certainly will be, the case in the impending proletarian revolution in Europe.[2]

The beginning of 1905 brought the first great wave of strikes that swept the entire country. As early as the spring of that year we see the rise of the first big, not only economic, but also political peasant movement in Russia. The importance of this historical turning-point will be appreciated if it is borne in mind that the Russian peasantry was liberated from the severest form of serfdom only in 1861, that the majority of the peasants are illiterate, that they live in indescribable poverty, oppressed by the landlords, deluded by the priests and isolated from each other by vast distances and an almost complete absence of roads.

Russia witnessed the first revolutionary movement against tsarism in 1825, a movement represented almost exclusively by noblemen. Thereafter and up to 1881, when Alexander II was assassinated by the terrorists, the movement was led by middle-class intellectuals. They displayed supreme self-sacrifice and astonished the whole world by the heroism of their terrorist methods of struggle. Their sacrifices were certainly not in vain. They doubtlessly contributed—directly or indirectly—to the subsequent revolutionary education of the Russian people. But they did not, and could not, achieve their immediate aim of generating a people’s revolution.

That was achieved only by the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat. Only the waves of mass strikes that swept over the whole country, strikes connected with the severe lessons of the imperialist Russo-Japanese War, roused the broad masses of peasants from their lethargy. The word “striker” acquired an entirely new meaning among the peasants: it signified a rebel, a revolutionary, a term previously expressed by the word “student”. But the “student” belonged to the middle class, to the “learned”, to the “gentry”, and was therefore alien to the people. The “striker”, on the other hand, was of the people; he belonged to the exploited class. Deported from St. Petersburg, he often returned to the village where he told his fellow-villagers of the conflagration which was spreading to all the cities and would destroy both the capitalists and the nobility. A new type appeared in the Russian village—the class-conscious young peasant. He associated with “strikers”, he read newspapers, he told the peasants about events in the cities, explained to his fellow-villagers the meaning of political demands, and urged them to fight the landowning nobility, the priests and the government officials.

The peasants would gather in groups to discuss their conditions, and gradually they were drawn into the struggle. Large crowds attacked the big estates, set fire to the manor-houses and appropriated supplies, seized grain and other foodstuffs, killed policemen and demanded transfer to the people of the huge estates.

In the spring of 1905, the peasant movement was only just beginning, involving only a minority, approximately one-seventh, of the uyezds.

But the combination of the proletarian mass strikes in the cities with the peasant movement in the rural areas was sufficient to shake the “firmest” and last prop of tsarism. I refer to the army.

There began a series of mutinies in the navy and the army. During the revolution, every fresh wave of strikes and of the peasant movement was accompanied by mutinies in all parts of Russia. The most well-known of these is the mutiny on the Black Sea cruiser Prince Potemkin, which was seized by the mutineers and took part in the revolution in Odessa. After the defeat of the revolution and unsuccessful attempts to seize other ports (Feodosia in the Crimea, for instance), it surrendered to the Rumanian authorities in Constantsa.

Permit me to relate in detail one small episode of the Black Sea mutiny in order to give you a concrete picture of events at the peak of the movement.

“Gatherings of revolutionary workers and sailors were being organised more and more frequently. Since servicemen were not allowed to attend workers’ meetings, large crowds of workers came to military meetings. They came in thousands. The idea of joint action found a lively response. Delegates were elected from the companies where political understanding among the men was higher.

“The military authorities thereupon decided to take action. Some of the officers tried to deliver ‘patriotic’ speeches at the meetings but failed dismally: the sailors, who were accustomed to debating, put their officers to shameful flight. In view of this, it was decided to prohibit meetings altogether. On the morning of November 24, 1905, a company of sailors, in full combat kit, was posted at the gates of the naval bar racks. Rear-Admiral Pisarevsky gave the order in a loud voice: ‘No one is to leave the barracks! Shoot anyone who disobeys!’ A sailor named Petrov, of the company that had been given that order, stepped forth from the ranks,load ed his rifle in the view of all,and with one shot killed Captain Stein of the Belostok Regiment, and with another wounded Rear-Admiral Pisarevsky. ‘Arrest him!’ one of the officers shouted. No one budged. Petrov threw down his rifle, exclaiming: ‘Why don’t you move? Take me!’ He was arrested. The sailors, who rushed from every side, angrily demanded his release, declaring that they vouched for him. Excitement ran high.

“‘Petrov, the shot was an accident, wasn’t it?’ asked one of the officers, trying to find a way out of the situation.

“‘What do you mean, an accident? I stepped forward, loaded and took aim. Is that an accident?’

“‘They demand your release....’

“And Petrov was released. The sailors, however, were not content with that; all officers on duty were arrested, disarmed, and locked up at headquarters.... Sailor delegates, about forty in number, conferred the whole night. The decision was to release the officers, but not to permit them to enter the barracks again.”

This small incident clearly shows you how events developed in most of the mutinies. The revolutionary ferment among the people could not but spread to the armed forces. It is indicative that the leaders of the movement came from those elements in the army and the navy who had been recruited mainly from among the industrial workers and of whom more technical training was required, for instance, the sappers. The broad masses, however, were still too naïve, their mood was too passive, too good-natured, too Christian. They flared up rather quickly; any instance of injustice, excessively harsh treatment by the officers, bad food, etc., could lead to revolt. But what they lacked was persistence, a clear perception of aim, a clear understanding that only the most vigorous continuation of the armed struggle, only a victory over all the military and civil authorities, only the overthrow of the government and the seizure of power throughout the country could guarantee the success of the revolution.

The broad masses of sailors and soldiers were easily roused to revolt. But with equal light-heartedness they foolishly released arrested officers. They allowed the officers to pacify them by promises and persuasion: in this way the officers gained precious time, brought in reinforcements, broke the strength of the rebels, and then followed the most brutal suppression of the movement and the execution of its leaders.

A comparison of these 1905 mutinies with the Decembrist uprising of 1825 is particularly interesting. In 1825 the leaders of the political movement were almost exclusively officers, and officers drawn from the nobility. They had become infected, through contact, with the democratic ideas of Europe during the Napoleonic wars. The mass of the soldiers, who at that time were still serfs, remained passive.

The history of 1905 presents a totally different picture. With few exceptions, the mood of the officers was either bourgeois-liberal, reformist, or frankly counter-revolutionary. The workers and peasants in military uniform were the soul of the mutinies. The movement spread to all sections of the people, and for the first time in Russia’s history involved the majority of the exploited. But what it lacked was, on the one hand, persistence and determination among the masses—they were too much afflicted with the malady of trustfulness—and, on the other, organisation of revolutionary Social-Democratic workers in military uniform—they lacked the ability to take the leadership into their own hands, march at the head of the revolutionary army and launch an offensive against the government.

I might remark, incidentally, that these two shortcomings will—more slowly, perhaps, than we would like, but surely—be eliminated not only by the general development of capitalism, but also by the present war...[3]

At any rate, the history of the Russian revolution, like the history of the Paris Commune of 1871, teaches us the incontrovertible lesson that militarism can never and under no circumstances be defeated and destroyed, except by a victorious struggle of one section of the national army against the other section. It is not sufficient simply to denounce, revile and “repudiate” militarism, to criticise and prove that it is harmful; it is foolish peacefully to refuse to perform military service. The task is to keep the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat tense and train its best elements, not only in a general way, hut concretely, so that when popular ferment reaches the highest pitch, they will put themselves at the head of the revolutionary army.

The day-to-day experience of any capitalist country teaches us the same lesson. Every “minor” crisis that such a country experiences discloses to us in miniature the elements, the rudiments, of the battles that will inevitably take place on a large scale during a big crisis. What else, for instance, is a strike if not a minor crisis of capitalist society? Was not the Prussian Minister for Internal Affairs, Herr von Puttkammer, right when he coined the famous phrase: “In every strike there lurks the hydra of revolution”? Does not the calling out of troops during strikes in all, even the most peaceful, the most “democratic”—save the mark—capitalist countries show how things will shape out in a really big crisis?

But to return to the history of the Russian revolution.

I have tried to show you how the workers’ strikes stirred up the whole country and the broadest, most backward strata of the exploited, how the peasant movement began, and how it was accompanied by mutiny in the armed forces.

The movement reached its zenith in the autumn of 1905. On August 19 (6), the tsar issued a manifesto on the introduction of popular representation. The so-called Bulygin Duma was to be created oil the basis of a suffrage embracing a ridiculously small number of voters, and this peculiar “parliament” was to have no legislative powers whatever, only advisory, consultative powers!

The bourgeoisie, the liberals, the opportunists were ready to grasp with both hands this “gift” of the frightened tsar. Like all reformists, our reformists of 1905 could not understand that historic situations arise when reforms, and particularly promises of reforms, pursue only one aim: to allay the unrest of the people, force the revolutionary class to cease, or at least slacken, its struggle.

The Russian revolutionary Social-Democracy was well aware of the real nature of this grant of an illusory constitution in August 1905. That is why, without a moment’s hesitation, it issued the slogans: “Down with the advisory Duma! Boycott the Duma! Down with the tsarist government! Continue the revolutionary struggle to overthrow it! Not the tsar, but a provisional revolutionary government must convene Russia’s first real, popular representative assembly!”

History proved that the revolutionary Social-Democrats were right, for the Bulygin Duma was never convened. It was swept away by the revolutionary storm before it could be convened. And this storm forced the tsar to promulgate a new electoral law, which provided for a considerable increase in the number of voters, and to recognise the legislative character of the Duma.[4]

October and December 1905 marked the highest point in the rising tide of the Russian revolution. All the well-springs of the people’s revolutionary strength flowed in a wider stream than ever before. The number of strikers—which in January 1905, as I have already told you, was 440,000—reached over half a million in October 1905 (in a single month!). To this number, which applies only to factory workers, must be added several hundred thousand railway workers, postal and telegraph employees, etc.

The general railway strike stopped all rail traffic and paralysed the power of the government in the most effective manner. The doors of the universities were flung wide open, and the lecture halls, which in peace time were used solely to befuddle youthful minds with pedantic professorial wisdom and to turn the students into docile servants of the bourgeoisie and tsarism, now became the scene of public meetings at which thousands of workers, artisans and office workers openly and freely discussed political issues.

Freedom of the press was won. The censorship was simply ignored. No publisher dared send the obligatory censor copy to the authorities, and the authorities did not dare take any measure against this. For the first time in Russian history, revolutionary newspapers appeared freely in St. Petersburg and other towns. In St. Petersburg alone, three Social-Democratic daily papers were published, with circulations ranging from 50,000 to 100,000.

The proletariat, marched at the head of the movement. It set out to win the eight-hour day by revolutionary action. “An Eight-Hour Day and Arms!” was the fighting slogan of the St. Petersburg proletariat. That the fate of the revolution could, and would, be decided only by armed struggle was becoming obvious to an ever-increasing mass of workers.

In the fire of battle, a peculiar mass organisation was formed, the famous Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, comprising delegates from all factories. In several cities these Soviets of Workers’ Deputies began more and more to play the part of a provisional revolutionary government, the part of organs and leaders of the uprising. Attempts were made to organise Soviets of Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Deputies and to combine them with the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies.

For a time several cities in Russia became something in the nature of small local “republics”. The government authorities were deposed and the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies actually functioned as the new government. Unfortunately, these periods were all too brief, the “victories” were too weak, too isolated.

The peasant movement in the autumn of 1905 reached still greater dimensions. Over one-third of all the uyezds were affected by the so-called “peasant disorders” and regular peasant uprisings. The peasants burned down no less than two thousand estates and distributed among themselves the food stocks of which the predatory nobility had robbed the people.

Unfortunately, this work was not thorough enough! Unfortunately, the peasants destroyed only one-fifteenth of the total number of landed estates, only one-fifteenth part of what they should have destroyed in order to wipe the shame of large feudal landownership from the face of the Russian earth. Unfortunately, the peasants were too scattered, too isolated from each other in their actions; they were not organised enough, not aggressive enough, and therein lies one of the fundamental reasons for the defeat of the revolution.

A movement for national liberation flared up among the oppressed peoples of Russia. Over one-half, almost three-fifths (to be exact, 57 per cent) of the population of Russia is subject to national oppression; they are not even free to use their native language, they are forcibly Russified. The Moslems, for instance, who number tens of millions, were quick to organise a Moslem League—this was a time of rapid growth of all manner of organisations.

The following instance will give the audience, particularly the youth, an example of how at that time the movement for national liberation in Russia rose in conjunction with the labour movement.

In December 1905, Polish children in hundreds of schools burned all Russian books, pictures and portraits of the tsar, and attacked and drove out the Russian teachers and their Russian schoolfellows, shouting: “Get out! Go back to Russia!” The Polish secondary school pupils put forward, among others, the following demands: (1) all secondary schools must be under the control of a Soviet of Workers’ Deputies; (2) joint pupils’ and workers’ meetings to be held in school premises; (3) secondary school pupils to be allowed to wear red blouses as a token of adherence to the future proletarian republic.

The higher the tide of the movement rose, the more vigorously and decisively did the reaction arm itself to fight the revolution. The Russian Revolution of 1905 confirmed the truth of what Karl Kautsky wrote in 1902 in his book Social Revolution (he was still, incidentally, a revolutionary Marxist and not, as at present, a champion of social-patriotism and opportunism). This is what he wrote:

“...The impending revolution ... will be less like a spontaneous uprising against the government and more like a protracted civil war.”

That is how it was, and undoubtedly that is how it will be in the coming European revolution!

Tsarism vented its hatred particularly upon the Jews. On the one hand, the Jews furnished a particularly high percentage (compared with the total Jewish population) of leaders of the revolutionary movement. And now, too, it should be noted to the credit of the Jews, they furnish a relatively high percentage of internationalists, compared with other nations. On the other hand, tsarism adroitly exploited the basest anti-Jewish prejudices of the most ignorant strata of the population in order to organise, if not to lead directly, pogroms—over 4,000 were killed and more than 10,000 mutilated in 100 towns. These atrocious massacres of peaceful Jews, their wives and children roused disgust throughout the civilised world. I have in mind, of course, the disgust of the truly democratic elements of the civilised world, and these are exclusively the socialist workers, the proletarians.

Even in the freest, even in the republican countries of Western Europe, the bourgeoisie manages very well to combine its hypocritical phrases about “Russian atrocities” with the most shameless financial transactions, particularly with financial support of tsarism and imperialist exploitation of Russia through export of capital, etc.

The climax of the 1905 Revolution came in the December uprising in Moscow. For nine days a small number of rebels, of organised and armed workers—there were not more than eight thousand—fought against the tsar’s government, which dared not trust the Moscow garrison. In fact, it had to keep it locked up, and was able to quell the rebellion only by bringing in the Semenovsky Regiment from St. Petersburg.

The bourgeoisie likes to describe the Moscow uprising as something artificial, and to treat it with ridicule. For instance, in German so-called “scientific” literature, Herr Professor Max Weber, in his lengthy survey of Russia’s political development, refers to the Moscow uprising as a “putsch”. “The Lenin group,” says this “highly learned” Herr Professor, “and a section of the Socialist-Revolutionaries had long prepared for this senseless uprising.”

To properly assess this piece of professorial wisdom of the cowardly bourgeoisie, one need only recall the strike statistics. In January 1905, only 123,000 were involved in purely political strikes, in October the figure was 330,000, and in December the maximum was reached—370,000 taking part in purely political strikes in a single month! Let us recall, too, the progress of the revolution, the peasant and soldier uprisings, and we shall see that the bourgeois “scientific” view of the December uprising is not only absurd. It is a subterfuge resorted to by the representatives of the cowardly bourgeoisie, which sees in the proletariat its most dangerous class enemy.

In reality, the inexorable trend of the Russian revolution was towards an armed, decisive battle between the tsarist government and the vanguard of the class-conscious proletariat.

I have already pointed out, in my previous remarks, wherein lay the weakness of the Russian revolution that led to its temporary defeat.

The suppression of the December uprising marked the beginning of the ebb of the revolution. But in this period, too, extremely interesting moments are to be observed. Suffice it to recall that twice the foremost militant elements of the working class tried to check the retreat of the revolution and to prepare a new offensive.

But my time has nearly expired, and I do not want to abuse the patience of my audience. I think, however, that I have outlined the most important aspects of the revolution—its class character, its driving forces and its methods of struggle—as fully as so big a subject can be dealt with in a brief lecture.[5]

A few brief remarks concerning the world significance of the Russian revolution.

Geographically, economically and historically, Russia belongs not only to Europe, but also to Asia. That is why the Russian revolution succeeded not only in finally awakening Europe’s biggest and most backward country and in creating a revolutionary people led by a revolutionary proletariat.

It achieved more than that. The Russian revolution engendered a movement throughout the whole of Asia. The revolutions in Turkey, Persia and China prove that the mighty uprising of 1905 left a deep imprint, and that its influence, expressed in the forward movement of hundreds and hundreds of millions, is ineradicable.

In an indirect way, the Russian revolution influenced also the countries of the West. One must not forget that news of the tsar’s constitutional manifesto, on reaching Vienna on October 30, 1905, played a decisive part in the final victory of universal suffrage in Austria.

A telegram bearing the news was placed on the speaker’s rostrum at the Congress of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party just as Comrade Ellenbogen—at that time he was not yet a social-patriot, but a comrade—was delivering his report on the political strike. The discussion was immediately adjourned. “Our place is in the streets!”—was the cry that resounded through the hall where the delegates of the Austrian Social-Democracy were assembled. And the following days witnessed the biggest street demonstrations in Vienna and barricades in Prague. The battle for universal suffrage in Austria was won.

We very often meet West-Europeans who talk of the Russian revolution as if events, the course and methods of struggle in that backward country have very little resemblance to West-European patterns, and, therefore, can hardly have any practical significance.

Nothing could be more erroneous.

The forms and occasions for the impending battles in the coming European revolution will doubtlessly differ in many respects from the forms of the Russian revolution.

Nevertheless, the Russian revolution—precisely because of its proletarian character, in that particular sense of which I have spoken—is the prologue to the coming European revolution. Undoubtedly, this coming revolution can only be a proletarian revolution, and in an oven more profound sense of the word: a proletarian, socialist revolution also in its content. This coming revolution will show to an even greater degree, on the one hand, that only stern battles, only civil wars, can free humanity from the yoke of capital, and, on the other hand, that only class-conscious proletarians can and will give leadership to the vast majority of the exploited.

We must not be deceived by the present grave-like stillness in Europe. Europe is pregnant with revolution. The monstrous horrors of the imperialist war, the suffering caused by the high cost of living everywhere engender a revolutionary mood; and the ruling classes, the bourgeoisie, and its servitors, the governments, are more and more moving into a blind alley from which they can never extricate themselves without tremendous upheavals.

Just as in Russia in 1905, a popular uprising against the tsarist government began under the leadership of the proletariat with the aim of achieving a democratic republic, so, in Europe, the coming years, precisely because of this predatory war, will lead to popular uprisings under the leadership of the proletariat against the power of finance capital, against the big banks, against the capitalists; and these upheavals cannot end otherwise than with the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, with the victory of socialism.

We of the older generation may not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution. But I can, I believe, express the confident hope that the youth which is working so splendidly in the socialist movement of Switzerland, and of the whole world, will be fortunate enough not only to fight, but also to win, in the coming proletarian revolution.


First spacecraft begins orbiting the planet Mercury

The "Great Debate" revisited

Isaac Deutscher

Deutscher on the Chinese “Cultural Revolution”

First Published: September 1966
Interview conducted by:
Ernest Tate on behalf of the editorial board of the Italian left-communist journal, La Sinistra.
Martin Falgren
Online Version:
Marxist Internet Archive ( 2011
HTML Markup:
D. Walters, 2011

Question: Many political commentators now speak about the imminence of a “direct clash” between People’s China and the United States. In support of their thesis they show the recent declaration of the Chinese on the Vietnam question. What do you think about this?

Answer: I don’t believe at all that China can contemplate a war against the United States. In other words, I am ruling out the possibility that China should harbour any “aggressive plans”. Whether China and the United States clash eventually or not depends solely on the United States. But the Chinese do reckon with the possibility of an American attack on them; and some of the recent developments in China must be seen in this light. I think that Mao Tse-tung and Lin-Piao are working on the assumption that an American attack is possible or even probable, and that it is the duty of the Chinese government to prepare for this emergency.

This has been a very important factor behind the recent political crisis and the so-called “cultural revolution”. The talk about China’s aggressiveness vis-á-vis the United States, or vis-á-vis the West at large, is empty; it is part of the anti-communist and anti-Chinese propaganda. Unfortunately, Soviet and Titoist sources and also the Western European Communist Party have sinned in this respect, sinned quite disgracefully, by lending a semblance of verisimilitude to this anti-Chinese propaganda.

Some of the Chinese accusations against the Soviet leaders and the leaders of the Western Communist parties are, on this point, justified, as is also the Chinese resentment at the total withdrawal of Soviet aid from China, the diplomatic line-up between the Russians and the Indians and other Soviet moves. I also think that much of what the Chinese say about the opportunistic character of the Russian influence on the international Communist movement is justified. I am saying this because in my subsequent remarks I shall have quite a few critical things to say about the latest events in China and I want to put my criticisms in the right context.

To go back to the question of China’s preparation for the emergency of a possible American attack, it seems quite clear that the Chinese Government, Mao Tse-tung and his present supporters, are thinking in terms of fighting alone against the United States. They assume, in other words, that the Soviet Union will fail them and, in the case of an American attack, will not honour its obligations under the Russo-Chinese alliance. On this assumption, the Chinese would have to face the whole overwhelming technological superiority of the United States, and they would have to frame their military doctrine accordingly. They seem to be starting from the premiss that fighting alone they cannot expect to win in a regular war against the United States, a war such as the Soviet Union fought against Germany between 1941 and 1945, but that they have every chance of resisting and frustrating any American invasion by means of a nationwide guerrilla warfare.

Question: What about nuclear attack?

Answer: Precisely because of American nuclear superiority the Chinese, who cannot dream of nuclear retaliation, must stake everything on decentralised partisan warfare, which cannot be disrupted or paralysed even by nuclear blows.

I would not undertake to judge, of course, the military prospects of a nuclear war. No one is capable of assessing these. We don’t really know to what extent nuclear war would put an end to all strategy, to all our accustomed military thinking. But it is understandable that the Chinese, considering as they are, the threat of an American attack, are inclined to rely on a method of fighting which, if any method at all can be effective, would give them a chance to counterbalance the American technological superiority by their own indubitable moral-political superiority.

This is, after all, what has happened — not so far in conditions of nuclear war — in Vietnam, where American superiority in weapons is being neutralised by the moral and political superiority of the Viet Cong and of the National Front of Liberation. The Chinese imagine any armed conflict between themselves and America to develop on this pattern, as a kind of Vietnamese war on a gigantic scale, a war in which the disadvantages for the United States would grow in geometrical progression, whereas the Chinese, if only they can hold out under the attack, will benefit from fighting with all the resources of their manpower and their morale, from their feeling that they are fighting in a good cause, a sacred cause, in defence of their country and their revolution. They still rely on their tradition of partisan warfare: prior to 1949 Mao’s armies had held out, for nearly a quarter of a century, against the superior forces of Chiang Kai-shek, of the Japanese and, in the last resort, of the Americans as well.

They held out by means of a special organisation of their armed forces and of the areas they controlled during the so-called Yenan Period. The essence of their method consisted in an extraordinarily close, intimate political relationship between their partisan troops and the peasant population of their areas, and, further, in an effective decentralisation of their armed forces and administrative units, so that every unit was in a position to carry on the struggle even while it was cut off from the centre.

They also managed to achieve a close combination of fighting and productive units. What is going on in China now can be described as a conversion of the whole of China to something like the Yenan regime. In the Yenan period the Maoist army controlled a limited territory with a population of 90 or 100 million people. Now they are converting to a comparable regime a nation of 700 million.

They have probably been working on this conversion ever since 1959, when they found themselves under Krushchev’s political attack, and especially since 1960, when Krushchev ruthlessly withdrew all Soviet aid from them. From that moment they began working on the assumption that they could not count on the Soviet alliance in case of war. Until then, until the break with Moscow, China’s armed forces were organised more or less on the Soviet pattern, that is, as a modern army, hoping to benefit from the technological resources of the Soviet Union and to develop its own modern weaponry within not too long a time. Since the break with the Soviet Union, they have turned to a different policy, a policy which is to some extent reconciled with China’s inability to catch up technologically with the probable enemy, the United States, within any foreseeable future. Even the fact that the Chinese have now exploded three nuclear weapons emphasises the tremendous lag.

But this assumption is complemented by another one, namely, that the United States cannot match the moral and political power of China either.

Question: Mr. Deutscher, do you consider it correct for the Chinese to exclude from their strategy. eventual Soviet aid in the struggle against Imperialism? In your opinion, is it correct for them to assume their isolation, to struggle alone — not to involve — and not to have as part of their strategy the involvement of the Soviet Union in common struggle against Imperialism?

Answer: While I recognise that the possibility that the Soviet Union may fail China as an ally must, of course, be present in Chinese minds, I am inclined to take the view that this may be too pessimistic an attitude, which leads the Chinese to reconcile themselves with the possibility of the worst perhaps too soon.

It seems to me that no Soviet Government can really afford, in case of an American war against China, to fail the Chinese as an ally; and that a Soviet Government that would not honour its Treaty obligations towards China would, in all probability, be quickly overthrown by its own opponents in Moscow. But evidently the Chinese do not want to rely on this. The rise of Marshal Lin Piao, who has now become Mao Tse-tung’s second-in-command, is significant in this respect — Lin Piao has represented the policy that aims at training, educating, and organising China’s armed forces on the Yenan model, as a nationwide partisan force rather than as a regular army organised on the Soviet pattern.

It was as part of this policy, and, one is told, on Lin Piao’s initiative, that the abolition of ranks in the Chinese army was carried out some time ago. The abolition of ranks had political as well as military implications — it amounted to a rejection of the entire hierarchical structure of the armed forces, which they had borrowed from Russia, and to a revival of the type of partisan army which had fought and triumphed in the Chinese Revolution.

I have said that the Chinese no longer count on the Soviet alliance. In truth they no longer make any serious appeal to Soviet opinion, any appeal aiming at an improvement in Russo-Chinese relations that would give new life to the alliance. In this, I think, they are mistaken. At the latest session of the Cultural Committee, held in Peking between the 1st and the 12th of August, Mao Tse-tung stated with absolute finality that there cannot be any united front between China and Russia either over the war in Vietnam or in any action directed against American imperialism. He denounced the Russians as “revisionist stooges and helpmeets of American imperialism”. He charged the Soviet leaders with the ambition to establish a Soviet-American world condominium, designed to keep down and suppress revolution and anti-imperialist struggles in Asia and Africa. With such people, Mao said — and this is now embodied in the official resolutions of the Chinese Central Committee — there can be no united front against American imperialism. I am convinced that this Chinese view of the Soviet

Union’s role in the world, and of the class character of the relationships between the Soviet Union and the U.S.A., is profoundly mistaken.

To be sure, the Soviet bureaucracy and diplomacy have gone out of their way to achieve a so-called amicable accommodation with the American ruling class, with Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and even with the Johnson Administration. In their striving for the “peaceful co-existence” with American imperialism the Soviet leaders have behaved in a most opportunistic manner and have shown themselves again and again ready to sacrifice the interests of revolution and of the oppressed peoples of the world.

Nevertheless, there are certain limits to this policy. There are certain limits within which they can be relatively successful in pursuing this policy and beyond which they cannot go. We can see this from the indubitable fact that whatever the Soviet leaders may think and whatever their intentions may be, the hostilities in Vietnam have brought back a tension in Soviet-American relations that seemed to be vanishing before the Vietnamese war. The class antagonism between the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. is still there, undiminished, even if the cold war has been somewhat mitigated during spells of detente.

The Soviet Union is still the only great power, apart from China, whose economy is publicly owned; and no matter what reactionary developments there may be inside the Soviet Union, this fact keeps in being the gulf between the Soviet Union and America. It also creates the objective possibility, and the objective need, for a common front between Russia and China whether over Vietnam or other issues. The logic of their negative attitude towards a common front drives the Chinese to declare that the class antagonism between the Soviet Union and the United States has vanished, and to speak of the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. To anyone who observes the Soviet Union coolheadedly and analyses its social structure with a modicum of realism, this is an absurd contention.

The Soviet Union is very far from any restoration of capitalism, despite the fact that its bureaucracy is privileged and that social inequality prevails there. But even this inequality was much stronger during the Stalin era than it is now; yet the Chinese don’t say that Stalinism brought about the restoration of capitalism — on the contrary, they defend the record of Stalinism! Here is their double and fundamental mistake.

Let me repeat: I hold that many of the accusations they level against the Russians and their criticisms of Russian opportunism in dealing with the Western powers are justified; but, as Lenin liked to say, no one discredits a good cause as badly as he who tries to serve it with excess of zeal — no one spoils a good argument more than he who exaggerates it and overstates it. It is enough, Lenin liked to say, to exaggerate a good argument “just by a hair” to destroy it; and Chinese exaggerate much much more than “by a hair”.

Question: Quite probably you’ve answered this question at another time but it seems to naturally occur here. How is it possible for the Chinese to commit such a colossal error in their analysis of the Soviet Union?

Answer: We must try and feel ourselves into the position of the Chinese. In 1960 when at a stroke Krushchev withdrew all aid from China, all Soviet specialists were recalled; the blueprints of many industrial establishments, the plans, the knowhow, everything was withdrawn. This was a tremendous shock to the Chinese economy and people. The whole industrial development of China was set back by many years; and this coincided with a series of natural calamities and bad harvests. The effect was a traumatic shock. Millions of Chinese lost their jobs in the cities and had to trek back to their native villages where there wasn’t enough food for them. Thousands of factories, into which the Chinese had invested a great amount of their meagre resources, could not be built up and completed. Huge investments were frozen with disastrous results. Since then, I think, the Chinese have been reacting to blows and shocks in an irrational manner, from deep resentment and a sense of grievance.

The Russians had indeed committed a crime against them far worse than any military intervention; compared with the blows the Chinese suffered, the brief, violent, Russian 1956 intervention in Hungary was almost child’s play. China is still smarting under the shock; and Mao Tse-tung and his present supporters are simply not in a position to reason coolly about their relations with Russia. They are speaking from disturbed emotion. Unfortunately, irrationality is still playing a big part, not only in capitalist and imperialist politics but in the politics of revolution in underdeveloped and backward countries as well; and in the politics of the Soviet Union and China.

There are, unfortunately, ominous precedents for all this in the history of the Labour movement. I am thinking, for instance, of the relationship in Germany, just before the rise of Hitler, between the Social Democrats and the Stalinised Communist Party. In those days the Social Democrats did all they could to pave unwittingly the way for Nazism; they did it, first of all, by struggling to preserve German capitalism; and secondly, by their anti-Communism. And the Communist Party, under Stalinist leadership, reacted in a highly irrational way, by denouncing the Social Democrats as “social-fascists” and refusing to join hands with them against Nazism. That was the policy of the so-called Third Period of the Comintern. Allow me, please, to dwell a little longer on this instructive analogy.

I speak here partly from my own experience (I was at the time, in the early 1930’s, involved in the controversies over those policies). The fundamental mistake committed then by the Comintern and by the German Communist Party was that they imagined that Hitler would come to terms with the Social Democrats and would build his Third Reich with their cooperation. The behaviour of the Social Democrats lent some colour to this misconception — the Social Democrats were going out of their way to obstruct any struggle against Nazism; and even at the last moment, when Hitler was already in power, they offered him their collaboration. Yet, despite this, the decisive factor of the situation, one which the Stalinists overlooked, was the basic and irreconcilable antagonism between the aims of the Nazis and those of the Social Democrats, between the kind of regime Hitler was out to establish and the continued existence of any working class parties, whether social democratic or communist.

At that time, Trotsky and some of us argued that Hitler was going to destroy the entire labour movement, both its sectors, the social democratic and the communist; and that this threat to both sectors of the labour movement was and should be used as the objective basis for their joint action against Hitler. The Communist Party didn’t want to see that. They assumed a basic harmony of interest between Nazism and Labour reformism, just as the Chinese now assume a basic harmony between American imperialism and “Soviet revisionism”. They underrated, or rather didn’t see at all the inevitability of a clash, a mortal clash, between Nazism and the Social Democratic Party; and, denouncing the Social Democrats as the “left wing of Fascism”, they refused any common front with the Social Democratic leaders.

The refusal played into Hitler’s hands and also into the hands of those Social Democrats who really didn’t want a common front with the Communists. If the Communist Party had adopted a different policy and pressed them for a common front, the Social Democrats would have found themselves in a difficult situation; a large part of their following would have responded to the Communist call; and this would have made the workers’ resistance to Nazism much more effective and perhaps prevented Hitler’s triumph in 1933 and its consequences.

I really think that today Mao Tse-tung has, as it were, his own version of the theory of “social fascism” which he has applied to Krushchev and his successors, treating them indiscriminately as sheer accomplices of American imperialism. He underrates the antagonism between Moscow and Washington. He underrates the inevitability of conflict between them. I don’t speak of armed conflict here, but of the permanent, continuous social and political conflict that may or may not lead to armed struggle. The Maoists overlook the fact that the Soviet Union has a vital interest in stopping aggression and expansion of American imperialism, no matter how much Krushchev or Kosygin have tried to appease Washington.

The Maoists therefore don’t see any objective basis for their own co-operation with the U.S.S.R., and they reject the united front, instead of calling for it indefatigably, tirelessly, day in and day out; instead of appealing for the united front to Soviet opinion, to the Soviet masses, and to the Communist Parties all over the world. It is the Russians who are calling for joint action; it is they who are appealing for the United Front. One may doubt their sincerity; but the Maoists, by refusing the united front, play into the hands of the American Administration and also into the hands of those in Moscow who really don’t want to do anything over Vietnam, to coordinate action with the Chinese, who really are not interested in promoting the anti-imperialist struggle and the revolutionary ferment in the world.

The Maoists provide those people with a political alibi; and instead of placing the odium of the breach in the Communist camp on those Soviet leaders who are primarily responsible for it, take that odium quite needlessly on themselves. I think that they are committing a great, a fatal mistake, comparable to the mistake committed by the German Stalinists between the years 1929 and 1933. The latter covered up with ultra-radical phraseology a policy of complete passivity and inactions; similarly, I think, the Chinese are covering up a policy of inactivity, which may not be much better than Soviet policy, by means of ultra-revolutionary rhetoric.

It is in this light that we ought to interpret the latest events in China, especially the August session of the Central Committee and the so-called cultural revolution. It seems that the ultra-radical Maoist policy, the refusal of any united front with the Soviet Union, has in recent months or years caused considerable uneasiness and criticism among the Chinese Communist leaders; that men like Liu Shao-chi, who was until August Mao Tse-tung’s second-in-command and is still China’s president, and perhaps even Chou En-lai, saw that this ultra-radical policy was leading Maoism and China into an impasse. Evidently influential quarters in Peking have demanded that an attempt be made to re-establish contact and resume negotiations with Moscow, especially over Vietnam.

For the time being these demands have been rejected. Mao Tse-tung has been stubborn in his refusal to have any talks with the Russians or to make any appeals to them. This accounts for Liu Shao-chi’s sudden demotion in the party hierarchy; he is still a member of the Politburo and the Central Committee but somewhat in the way that Trotsky was a member of the Soviet Central Committee and Politburo, in 1925 and 1926, when he was already in opposition and “disgraced”.

Mao’s critics have, of course, been denounced as revisionists or as agents of capitalist restoration. Yet nothing is less likely than that Liu Shao-chi should be a revisionist. He has been, throughout the Russo-Chinese controversy, on record as a determined opponent of Krushchev and Krushchevism — he has been an orthodox Maoist over the many years during which he has been one of the most distinguished leaders of Chinese Communism. But it is possible to criticise severely Mao’s latest tactics from a perfectly orthodox Maoist viewpoint. It is possible to argue that it is necessary, in the interests of Maoism, precisely in the interests of Maoism, to make a fresh approach to the Russians and to press for a united front against America. This, I assume, is what Mao’s critics have been saying; and if men like Liu Shao-chi and/or Chou En-lai were among them, they must have had considerable support in the Party.

Question: What meaning do you attribute to the latest decisions of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and to the movement of the Red Guards, also in relation to Lin Piao’s position in the hierarchy of the Party?

Answer: The latest events in China have in effect been a showdown between Mao Tse-tung and his critics. Among the latter there may have been revisionists as well, people who have felt a sneaking sympathy with Krushchevism, but there are certainly also anti-revisionists alarmed by the ultra-left turn that Mao has taken. The Chinese press now speaks openly about the party’s division into a “Right”, “Left” and “Centre” although it treats the Left as “only a variety of the Rightist revisionism”. It is quite possible to classify these divisions somewhat differently, to see Mao Tse-tung and Lin Piao as an ultra-left, or at any rate to describe their tactics as ultra-left, and to see that they are opposed by a wide variety of groups. ’In any case, Mao Tse-tung has decided to bring the whole opposition to its knees, no matter what its motives and no matter what shade of party opinion they represent. He or Lin Piao has staged the so-called cultural revolution in order to swamp any inner-party debate over strategy and tactics, over the relationship with the Soviet Union and over China’s attitude towards the war in Vietnam. Backed by Mao, Lin Piao has incited immature school children and undergraduates against the party hierarchy and the critics among the members of the Central Committee. Of course, Lin Piao would have had no chance of winning in this struggle if the school children had been his main striking force. He and Mao have also played the army against the old party cadres. Lin Piao who is a Marshal and Minister of Defence has become Mao’s second-in-command in the Party as well. That gives to the situation a somewhat Bonapartist colouring. One can read in Peking Review and in the bulletins of the Chinese News Agency many reports of attacks staged by the school children and students against Party leaders in various localities, of assaults on local party headquarters and so on. Foreign correspondents in Peking have described those clashes with a lot of circumstantial evidence which, even if part of it is discounted, still points to a severe convulsion of the whole structure of the Chinese Communist Party.

The conversion of China to something like the Yenan regime — to a nation-wide Partisan camp — has its grave economic, social and political implications. Under such a regime it is hardly possible to carry on with — or to resume — China’s rapid, up-to-date industrialisation. The decentralisation that such a regime involves is likely at least to weaken central planning, to obstruct standardisation in industry, to reduce efficiency, to slow down the rate of economic growth and to keep down standards of living. When each administrative region, economic unit, and army corps is to be self-sufficient, an economically rational distribution of resources becomes very difficult or impossible. Such a policy gives rise to frustration, discontent, and opposition. It can hardly arouse enthusiasm in industry.

Characteristically, the “cultural revolution” has made hardly any appeal to the working class. Not only were school children and students its main force, but the working class was conspicuous by its absence. So were the peasants. You could read in Peking Review appeals to the workers that they should not interfere with the cultural revolution; mind you, not that they should participate but that they should not interfere. In other words, this allegedly proletarian revolution was carried out — without any participation of the working class — by elements which, even if they are children of workers, no longer belong to the working class but have entered a different social layer, namely the intelligentsia.

What then has been the value and the meaning of this cultural revolution in its own field, that is, for China’s cultural life? If one takes things at their face value, if one reads literally the various appeals for the cultural revolution, one finds in them things calculated to appeal to certain socialist sentiments. The Red Guards are presented as a spontaneous movement from below, preferable to any bureaucratic establishment working from above. Young people are called upon to rebel against established authority. The Red Guards have been urged to elect their leaders according to the rules established by the Paris Commune, so that every leader could be revoked or deposed by the electors at any time. These evocations of a Marxist-Leninist tradition would be convincing if at the same time you could hear any genuine debate going on in the country, any genuine discussion, any genuine exchange of opinion. Then this movement could be regarded as a manifestation of a new democracy from below. In fact, all that one has been allowed to hear are Mao’s and Lin Piao’s denunciation of their “revisionist” opponents, right or left; you don’t hear any dissenting voice; you are not allowed to find out for yourself what Mao’s critics have been saying, or on what grounds they have been opposing him. In these conditions, the democratic paraphernalia of the “Red Guards” with the implied evocation of the Red Guards of the Russian Revolution, must be dismissed as sheer make-believe. What talk can there be of any genuine movement from below as long as the Chinese working class is not allowed to consider the issues on their merits. I’m sorry I have to say this; I would have preferred to applaud these Red Guards. But they have really acted — unfortunately, I can find no other, more adequate expression — in a hooligan-like manner, stopping any debate, and muzzling any criticism of the Maoist line.

This has led to a senseless attack and humiliation not only of the party cadres but also of the old revolutionary intelligentsia. Most of the intellectuals that are now branded as bourgeois decadents and revisionists are scholars, writers, and artists who have been associated with Chinese communism for 20, 30 or 40 years — before, during, and after the revolution — and who have, since 1949, been in charge of the educational work among the masses. Evidently it is in these social groups and circles that the Maoist policy has met with considerable resistance and so Mao and/or Lin Piao have incited and stage-produced a nationwide riot of school children against the old communist intelligentsia.

Question: Does this explain also the hostility to Western culture as such?

Answer: Naturally, the old intelligentsia have had relatively close ties with Western as well as with their own native cultural traditions. For many of them, Shakespeare and Beethoven and the great figures of French literature are part of a cherished heritage. Since the revolution, and even since earlier, they have cultivated the great Russian writers of the last two centuries. Now you have a reaction against all this. In the name of Marxism-Leninism, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Balzac are denounced as a specimen of bourgeois degeneration. The great “revolutionaries” that denounce them do not even suspect — or do they? — that Karl Marx had a lifelong admiration for Balzac and Shakespeare, that Lenin loved Beethoven and Pushkin (Pushkin’s monument, erected in Shanghai after the revolution, has been defaced!). They have even denounced Tchernyshevsky and Herzen also as products of a degenerate bourgeois culture, not knowing that Tchernyshevsky was a decisive formative influence in Lenin’s thinking and that both Tchernyshevsky and Herzen were the founders and the most brilliant mouthpieces of the Russian revolutionary movement in the 19th century.

All this goes to show that the “cultural revolution” has been negative only, that it has had no positive content, no positive idea. Incidentally, the Soviet press has compared it with the so-called Proletkult, the “movement” for a proletarian culture that developed in the Soviet Union shortly after the revolution. Pravda even described Trotsky as an inspirer of the Proletkult, which should presumably be enough to discredit both the Russian Proletkult and its supposed Chinese counterpart. Now, this is a double falsification. For one thing, Proletkult was a mild and civilised affair compared with the “cultural revolution” in China; for another, Trotsky was not its inspirer but its adversary. He devoted much of his book Literature and Revolution to the refutation of “proletarian culture”; and in this he was at one with Lenin.

True, Trotsky defended the right of the writers and artists of Proletkult to express themselves; he was against their suppression, but he severely criticised their view that it was possible to promote and create any proletarian culture, literature, or art. Pravda and other Soviet papers might have found a closer analogy to the Chinese “cultural revolution” in what happened in Russia during the last years of the Stalin era, when Zhdanov was denouncing Western culture, when the works of Einstein, Freud, Mendel and the many Western scientists and thinkers were banned from Russian universities, when “rootless cosmopolitanism” was being denounced, when all things Russian were glorified, when we were told that almost every important invention and discovery had originated in Russia and that the West had only plagiarised the products of the Russian genius. This is the real analogy! And the analogy extends to the contexts and the backgrounds of the two campaigns. In Russia these outbursts of “cultural” anti-Westernism were, in Stalin’s last years, connected with the cold war and the war in Korea; they were part of Stalin’s attempt to isolate Russia as hermetically as possible from any Western influences and to boost Russian self-confidence.

Now this is precisely what Mao Tse-tung wants to achieve in China at present — he wants to isolate China more hermetically than ever from any outside influence, to boost Chinese morale and pride, to glorify China’s isolation from the world and at the same time to give the Chinese a compensation for their sense of isolation. All this may be seen as part of preparing the national morale for a warlike emergency.

One consequence of this upheaval is a social shift leading to the replacement of the old cadres of the intelligentsia by new cadres who are very young, immature, and uncritical enough to accept Maoism in its latest version. Some such changes through which the old guards and age groups of the intelligentsia give place to new and young ones may, to some extent, be progressive and may occur in any revolution; but when they are carried out as brutally and demagogically as they are being carried out in China now and as were carried out in Stalinist Russia, they impoverish the nation intellectually and spiritually, leave an immense cultural gap between generations, a gap that Russia is feeling till today. I am convinced that just as post-Stalinist Russia has recognised what great harm has been done in this way to the nation and its cultural life, so post-Maoist China will one day — but perhaps too late — recognise it.

Question: There appears to be a contradiction here in terms of the Russian experience: It seems generally agreed that when Stalin carried out the extreme Stalinisation measures and all the things that went with that it was in the interests of the privileged strata in Soviet society, or bureaucracy, as Trotsky described them. In China, however, there has yet to be any evidence produced that there is a development of bureaucracy, of a caste gaining materially an immediate sense. It could be said that the ground has been prepared for such a development but there is certainly no one who would accuse the Chinese leadership of being an extremely bureaucratic privileged stratum as the Soviet bureaucracy was.

Answer: This is correct, and I have myself pointed out this difference on some occasions. I don’t think that the bureaucracy is as formed in China as it is formed in Russia, into a massive privileged social layer. The present movement is causing yet another upheaval in the bureaucracy, and allows us even less to speak of any privileged position of the managerial groups in China. The cultural revolution leads to the overthrow not merely of the old educational cadres but also of technical and managerial elements in industry. On the other hand, it is difficult to see how a country as underdeveloped and poverty-stricken as China is can practise any genuine socialist egalitarianism. That is also impossible. The social inequalities in Chinese society are bound to be quite large, but they seem to be fluid; they are not allowed to crystallise into definite social divisions.

Well, I don’t consider the present Chinese policy as a manifestation of any special bureaucratic struggle for privilege. I have not said this at all. I explain the events in political rather than in socio-economic terms, that is, as a reaction, morbid in part, against China’s isolation by American imperialism on the one hand and by the Soviet Union on the other. I am convinced that even with regard to Russia very often the explanation of Stalin’s moves had to be sought not in the interests of the bureaucracy because Stalin acted quite often against the interests even of his bureaucracy — he was, after all, sending hordes of Russian bureaucrats into concentration camps ! I don’t therefore believe that Stalin’s policies can always be explained by his role as the leader and mouthpiece of a privileged bureaucracy — he often acted only in the narrowest interest of his autocracy, of his personal rule; and at times he acted in the wider national interest. Still less can one consider Mao as the champion of bureaucratic privilege, especially of economic privilege. On the other hand, although there is no fixed crystallised, privileged bureaucracy in China, there exists a lot of political privilege, the paramount privilege under which only the men of the ruling group can express their views and take political decisions. This is indubitable privilege. Even so, until yesterday a man like Lin Shao-chi and his adherents enjoyed that privilege, and now they have been robbed of it. Things do not seem to fit here any clear-cut socio-economic formula. I know it’s always a temptation for a Marxist to find the sociological formula that would fit the situation; but we have very often to analyse phenomena and events in political terms because politics has its own internal dialectics which are not immediately linked with socio-economic phenomena.

If you study Marx’s “Eighteenth Brumaire” or his other “minor” writings, you see how very often he had to do this, how often he discusses politics, in political rather than in socio-economic terms, although ultimately we have always to go back to the socio-economic structure within which the political processes unfold their dialectics. In the present “movement” in China there is much emphasis on egalitarian slogans; but this doesn’t make the “movement” politically more progressive — egalitarianism isn’t enough in a “cultural revolution”. When they throw Shakespeare and Beethoven into the dustbin, they may imagine that they are acting in an “egalitarian” spirit; but this is reactionary, not progressive.

Question: To go back to the political crisis, what are the long-term prospects? And how does the Chinese situation affect the Labour movement and Communism outside China?

Answer: The present crisis is probably also connected with a struggle for the succession to Mao Tse-tung. Here the events also seem analogous to what happened in Russia in Stalin’s last years. For the time being it looks as if Lin Piao were assured of the succession. He is the head of the armed forces, hero of the Red Guards and, with the help of the armed forces, he is taking control of the party machine. But is he, the heir apparent, really going to be Mao’s successor? And if he is, will he continue the present Maoist policy? These are questions that must, of course, be left open.

In any autocratic regime the factor of the personality, of the leader’s personality, plays a great role; and politics is to some extent affected by such “biological accidents” as to what old age a dictator survives or fails to survive. But whenever Mao goes, his successor may well try and make a new beginning; he may especially try to bring back to life the Russo-Chinese alliance. In the meantime there may be changes in the Soviet Union as well. We should not imagine that the situation is static and will remain frozen for goodness knows how many years. Dynamic developments are likely to occur both in the Soviet Union and in China. What has happened in Peking this summer may have settled the struggle over power and policy only in the short run; in the longer run things may once again be in flux, and Mao’s successor or successors may try to re-establish a common front with the Russians. This is only a hypothesis; not a forecast.

It may also be that the Chinese youth movement, which has now been let out into the streets to storm the old party hierarchy and the old intelligentsia, that this movement will unfold its own dynamic. At present the school children and students are told not to interfere with production, not to disorganise the working of industry and agriculture; and with much drum beating they are being led out of the big cities; one phase of the movement is evidently at a close. We learn that the army is appointing its commanders and political commissars to take charge of the “Red Guards”, that it is trying to bring the movement, which may be something of a Frankenstein, under its orders. The new generation which has now been brought on to the political stage, may gradually develop its own political ambitions and aspirations.

In the long run also a great nation like the Chinese is not likely to reconcile itself to the present rather sluggish tempo of economic development. They have had three or four very good harvests in China, and this has improved the economic situation. A new five-year plan has been launched after an interval during which there were no five-year plans, no overall industrial plans. But the targets of the new plan have not been divulged. They are not so impressive that much play should be made of them in public. In isolation, cut off from the outside world, cut off from Russia, China finds her development greatly slowed down; and it is unlikely that the young generation should make peace with this.

Nor does it seem likely that the almost mystical apotheosis of Maoism, that glorification of Mao’s every gesture and word, a glorification touching the depths of absurdity that the Stalin cult touched in Russia in 1950, it seems to me unlikely that all this should survive Mao. Even now there must be some revulsion against this cult of Mao, the great swimmer, the great philosopher, the great scientist (who helps you in selling melons and has an answer to every question that may trouble you); and I don’t believe that China after Mao’s death will want to go on living with this holy picture of him; although Mao will undoubtedly hold his place in China’s revolutionary history, as the great commander of the partisan army that made the Revolution. In this respect Mao isn’t quite what Stalin was — he is rather like a combination of Lenin and Stalin. But the older he gets the more he looks like Stalin and the less does he resemble Lenin.

Such comparisons are, of course, of limited value. In saying that Mao is half-Lenin and half-Stalin, I mean to make a distinction between Mao, the great revolutionary leader, and Mao, the deified despot. It is the latter, the Stalin-element in him that has now come to the fore. I think the new Chinese intelligentsia will react against this just as the old intelligentsia has reacted. In other words, I believe in China’s progress and I don’t see the present phase, deplorable as it is, as being in any sense definitive. And I believe also that sooner or later the objective logic of their situation will drive the U.S.S.R. and China to make a common front.

I should perhaps explain that when I speak of the need for a common front, I do not mean to say that the Chinese and Russians necessarily need to compose their “ideological” differences. On the contrary, such differences should be openly stated and openly discussed in the international communist movement. Any living movement has its internal contradictions and differences, which it can suppress only to its own detriment. In a way, this sectarian-fanatical conflict between Maoism and Krushchevism (and post-Krushchevism) is the price which the Communist Parties of these countries are now paying for decades of Stalinist monolithicism.

After the “monolith” has broken, it turns out that the people who have been moulded by it are incapable of discussing their differences in any rational manner. They haven’t discussed, argued, debated, or even thought for themselves, over so many years and decades that when their differences do break into the open, they take the most obsessive and demented forms. The situation would be hopeless for the Communist Parties, if they were not in the end to learn the language of rational discussion and debate, and if they were not to learn to co-ordinate joint action, regardless of differences of opinion. We communists and socialists in the West should regard it as our task, not to identify ourselves either with the Russians or with the Chinese, for clearly the present attitudes of neither of them can suit anyone brought up in a Marxist school of thought and has at heart the interests of socialism in the advanced capitalist countries. We ought to maintain an independent attitude.

We ought to criticise the Soviet opportunism and the Soviet betrayal of China; and we ought also to try, as far as we can, to argue the Chinese out of their present ultra-radical and irrational idées fixes. We ought to recall to both the Russians and the Chinese their duty to act in common against the danger of world war, against the American aggression in Vietnam, and in the interests of socialism in the world.

Question: Don’t you find anything positive and progressive in the present cultural revolution in China?

Answer: Now the term “cultural revolution” has to be clarified. You may use the term in a metaphorical sense to indicate the cultural rise of formerly oppressed and illiterate people, a cultural rise that must take many, many years and decades. When hundreds of millions, or tens of millions of illiterate peasants are taught to read and write and are further educated, one can speak broadly of something like a cultural revolution extending over the lifetime of two or three generations. But to speak of a cultural revolution as of a single act is absurd. What is a revolution? The classical definition of it is the transfer of power from one class to another. You can make a social and a political revolution. You make a social revolution when one class seizes the property of another and nationalises it. You make a political revolution when you seize political power from one class and another takes it into its hands — then a revolution is made in a single act or within a very short time. A social revolution is already more than a single act. A political revolution may be an armed uprising which overthrows a government and establishes representatives of a revolutionary in office.

But how can you make a cultural revolution in a single act? Can you transfer at a stroke the knowledge and the skills accumulated in the head of one class into the head of another? Revolutionaries who would achieve this would indeed perform a feat of which the philosophers, including the philosophers of Marxism, have not dreamt. One can, of course, kill, or reduce to silence, or send to concentration camps a whole generation of an intelligentsia and in this way deprive society of a certain fund of knowledge, civilised habits and skills that have been accumulated over generations, but this will not turn those who destroy the old intelligentsia into the possessors of the knowledge, the skills and arts they have annihilated.

Lenin, therefore, spoke not of “cultural revolution”, but of the cultural heritage which it was the duty of the Bolshevik Party and of the revolutionary government to preserve and develop. Trotsky posed the problem of employing specialists in this context — he posed it with regard not only to military specialists employed in the army but to specialists employed in the economy and in education as well; he saw this as part of a great endeavour to make the cultural heritage of the past accessible to a new revolutionary class and to the revolutionary regime. Not “cultural revolution” but mastery of the cultural heritage was the guiding idea in Lenin’s time.

To be sure, the Bolsheviks were not just attending to the cultural heritage of the bourgeoisie and of the feudal classes — they did their utmost to carry education into the masses of the Russian workers and peasants — only in this way could the cultural heritage be made accessible to the rising social classes; and Lenin and Trotsky and their followers accepted the cultural heritage critically, with Marxist discrimination, absorbing what was vital in that heritage and overcoming its obsolescent elements. And so much was and is vital, because in science and in the arts the old dominant classes had in a sense transcended themselves and their own limitations.

One may consider Shakespeare as a representative of the bourgeois dream, as the representative of what was in his time an essentially new bourgeois individualistic sensitivity. But in Shakespeare this bourgeois sensitivity transcended its own limitations and rose above itself, as it were, to create lasting artistic values which retain their force after so many changes of governments, regimes, and social orders Similarly, the old Greek drama can be said to have represented a type of sensitivity and a way of thinking that was rooted in a society which lived by slavery; but Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus artistically transcended these limitations and created lasting values, which are not to be overthrown in any “cultural revolution”. (My Italian readers will, of course, remember the contempt with which a Marinetti and other Futurists once treated Dante, Petrarch and the masters of the Renaissance.)

Only savages, or petty bourgeois, half-baked ultra-radicals, or bureaucratic upstarts can make bonfires of the works of the great thinkers and artists of the past. The Maoists, who do it in the same name of Marxism and Leninism, commit moral harakiri. And they harm the revolutionary interest of China, they harm it shamefully and disgracefully ! We must defend the revolutionary cause of China, despite them and even against them!

Isaac Deutscher.

20th September, 1966.