Theories of Restored Capitalism
Since what is often termed the “collapse of the socialist camp,” there has been an explosion of theories as to why socialism as the capitalists saw it, embodied by the USSR and its allied nations, failed to achieve communism or even survive to the end of the century. From a superficial viewpoint, not only did the bulk of the world’s self-proclaimed socialist governments collapse, but those countries still calling themselves socialist have, for the most part, made huge concessions to the market if they have not embraced open capitalism in all but name. This leads to the popular myth of socialism “not working.”
In contrast, on the anti-capitalist left-wing, theoretical stances can be roughly divided into two groups. One group, encompassing Marxist-Leninists, attempts to make a materialist analysis of real-world socialism’s history. People subscribing to these theories acknowledge that the USSR was at some point socialist, based off analysis of its relations of production, its class character and so on. They also say that socialism was betrayed or corrupted by revisionists (those who distort or water-down Marxism), and that both the USSR and its client states in Eastern Europe degenerated into state-capitalist and imperialist regimes.
The debates among this group hinge on which nations achieved true socialism, when and for how long the USSR was socialist, whether China was ever socialist and most importantly, what sort of mistakes were made in socialist societies that permitted the growth of revisionism?
People who espouse such views, though their analysis may be flawed from time to time, are usually taking a materialist, realistic viewpoint. These views acknowledge that class struggle is not something that happens perfectly. When such people are at their best, they often qualify their criticisms of past regimes with reference to the benefits of hindsight, and they are honest to say that the nature of that future class struggle following a socialist revolution will be determined largely by the reactionary ruling class, not the best-laid plans of Marxist-Leninists. There is no one-shot, one-way path to socialism and communism. That is a realistic view of life.
Then there is another school of thought, a far more idealistic viewpoint held by anarchists, Trotskyists, “Left-Communists,” and some of their fellow travelers. They seem to think they have found a perfect way to run around the question of “why did socialism collapse?” Their specific explanations will differ on a number of points and in terminology, but the answer is generally to claim that all the socialist governments of the 20th century were not only not socialist, but in fact had nothing to do with socialism.
This is usually followed up by their personal definition of socialism, or the definition accepted by their particular sect of leftist ideology. Naturally because none of these states in question fit that definition, they cannot possibly be socialist. In the mind of such people, it is perfectly acceptable to encourage workers to rise up against capitalism, to struggle for its replacement by socialism, all the while reminding them that well over a dozen nations in the last century had “socialist” revolutions while somehow not even approaching their idealistic standard of “real socialism.”
Apparently real socialism, as it is exists in the minds of such people (and nowhere else) is something more delicate than a butterfly, for if ever the best-laid plans of socialists should not bear fruit, and especially if they should adapt their tactics or system in an attempt to deal with adverse conditions, they run the risk of crushing socialism. In simpler words, it’s all or nothing.
Societies and modes of production are complex things. Anyone who has had the misfortune of debating the ills of capitalism with a libertarian can probably attest to the rather dishonest tactic of disavowing every existing capitalist regime in history as not being “true capitalism”, so as to absolve capitalism as a whole from any crime committed in the name of profit. Any state intervention in the private sector will be labeled “socialist” in a bizarre worldview where the state and private sector are wholly separate entities, the former being responsible for all evil and the latter the epitome of all that is good and just. When idealists attempt to defend socialism by disavowing existing attempts at socialism entirely, they are basically guilty of the same faulty logic. Socialism, according to ones ideal, is put forth in a hitherto non-existent, ideal form, real socialism did not live up to that ideal, ergo it cannot be socialism.
In the more privileged countries of the west, particularly those with a history of liberal democracy, this mode of argument seems to be most popular. Americans for example, even leftists, have trouble getting their head around the socialist USSR under Lenin and Stalin, largely because they fail to understand the historical conditions of the Soviet Union. It is illogical to look at Soviet society in a vacuum, as though the Bolsheviks and their allies in the post-war Peoples’ Democracies implemented policies solely on their personal whims for “power mad” reasons.
The Truth About Socialism
The anarchists, Trotskyites, Left-Communists and their ilk would have us believe that the answers are so simple. They should have put the workers in charge, they shouldn’t have tried to build socialism in one country, and they should have relied on the working class’ self-liberation rather than a vanguard party, and so on forever.
In reality, we have no examples of a stable, functioning anarchist society beyond the level of a commune or small village. We also have no Left-Communist country or society, nor a socialist state built upon the ideas of Trotsky. We thus have absolutely no reason to believe that these ideas are any better than Marxism-Leninism, or for that matter any superior to the “Stalinist” policies they were opposed to. It is wholly illogical to attribute the downfall of the USSR to “socialism in one country,” and even more illogical to use that downfall as proof of the merits of the euro-centric and imperialist idea of “permanent revolution.”
It may be better than the socialism in the USSR and Albania on paper, but if it can’t leap off the pages into reality, it’s absolutely worthless. The right to pass judgment “from the left” on the highly successful policies of Marxism-Leninism shall go to those who manage to build a socialist society which surpasses those pioneered and built by Lenin, Stalin, Hoxha, and their thousands of comrades and the working masses.
The American Party of Labor inevitably faces an uphill battle against those on the left who have been permitted to skirt the question of socialist revolution by disavowing every historical socialist revolution, preferring instead to try and sell the workers snake oil in the form of utopian socialist ideas with no working model, no coherent solution, and no contingency plan to deal with unforeseen consequences.
The American Party of Labor sees socialism as having existed in the USSR and Albania. We see it in the context of history and we do not attempt to sell our working comrades a rose-garden view of socialism, where from the first days after the overthrow of the ruling class all workers begin to live in harmony and run their society and economy in perfect alignment with the proletariat’s objective long-term interests.
We are born into a capitalist world drenched in blood and have set ourselves to fight against the fearsome war machine of global imperialism. We have very little evidence to tell us what measures will be necessary to counter the threat of capitalist restoration; we can only promise to ourselves and our comrades that we will learn from past mistakes and past collapses. Even then, the process by which socialism comes to dominate and overthrow capitalism on a worldwide scale will still be far from the ideal of those who prefer to imagine life under communism without considering the conditions of the road leading there.
Virtually all members of the American Party of Labor are veterans of debates as to the definition of socialism. Our Marxist-Leninist, anti-revisionist party maintains that the Soviet Union, from the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 to the beginning of Khruschevite reforms starting after 1956, was indeed socialist. We also maintain that the Peoples’ Socialist Republic of Albania, through nearly all of its existence, was socialist, and in many ways more progressive in this respect than the USSR. Whether it fits our ideal or our goals for a socialist society in the United States does not matter in the least.
Letter from a Reader
With the above positions in mind, the Party has recently received a letter from a self-identified socialist, giving us an excellent opportunity to respond to this kind of idealistic thinking. The author, who will remain anonymous, seems to have an ambiguous purpose in writing his letter. It seems critical of the Party’s view of socialism, yet does not bear much in the way of hostility. They have clearly taken a lot of time to write it, and this justifies a reply.
Below the author’s letter shall be reproduced. We shall address the author’s letter point-by-point.
What makes a socialist party truly socialist? First of all, they must not support any capitalist or imperialist country and war. They can not pursue “peaceful existence” with capitalist country’s.
Generally the American Party of Labor (henceforth referred to by our acronym “APL”) would agree, but this is a bit vague. What constitutes “support?” If a socialist country is weak, does it give up its right to the title of “socialist” simply because it pursues some kind of peaceful agreement with its neighbors so as to consolidate the victory of the revolution? True, this is walking a fine line, but diplomacy is a field too complex to take such a black-and-white position.
While they were having fun implementing their social experiment in Catalonia, The anarchists in Spain forgot that any success they might achieve would be worthless if they couldn’t win the war against the fascist Franco that was going on at the time. A future socialist nation may find it necessary to make some concession to tame an imperialist power temporarily, but if in the end the tables turn and socialism is victorious, that embarrassing compromise will become a footnote of history. Lastly on this point, the APL does not support any imperialist country, nor any wars of the ruling class; ergo this can’t be seen as an attack on the socialist nature of the APL.
Unlike the communist China and North Korea of the past and present there should be no “one” leader, the masses must be in complete control or there can be no socialism.
While our party will say that neither China nor North Korea are Marxist-Leninist, and we certainly don’t support a “one leader” system, the idea of “the masses must be in complete control or socialism does not exist” is simply idealistic and utopian.
Even under communism it is unlikely that “the masses” could possibly be in complete, total control. Even with the withering away of the state, there will always be the necessity to delegate responsibility to various groups of people, preferably democratically, either by vote, by lot, or both. Direct democracy is preferable, insofar as the conditions allow it, but if the burden of making all society’s decisions is equally placed on the shoulders of each individual, things might not turn out as well as planned.
Every individual would need to familiarize himself or herself with every aspect of politics, economics, society, and so on, aided by an unfailingly diligent press and information service, so as to make competent, informed decisions on every issue, thus extending the “work” day perhaps far beyond twenty-four hours. Alternatively, people may, for whatever reason, shirk their responsibilities, and make self-serving, shortsighted, emotionally-based, or simply foolish decisions. Socialist democracy should permit all citizens the opportunity to participate in the running of society in various forms, preferably in those areas for which they show an interest and personal aptitude. We set this as a goal, and we will aim for it, and that is as much as anyone can realistically hope for in this world.
Socialism in America is different than that of any other socialism in the world. More specifically, socialism in the USA sounds difficult to achieve. It is not possible for it to be like any other example of socialism in history.
Though this smacks of American exceptionalism, the last sentence is somewhat true. Socialism in any country will be different from other examples, even if they occur in countries where socialism existed before. Even if the place is the same, the time is still different.
Therefore, it doesn’t matter what your socialist ideology is, but what is important is that we are all, in fact, socialist. Trust me, I know how “important” everyone’s specific ideology is to them. Leninist, Marxist, Trotskyism, Maoism, Stalinist, and Guevarist, there are so many ways for us to split and divide among ourselves. Yet all of the socialist people in the United States can not just get over this, not even to realize our common dream: socialism.
Without criticizing the author’s cheap use of “isms,” some of which do not even exist, this is simply not true. There are very pronounced theoretical lines between Marxist-Leninists and Trotskyites, for example. This is why the APL will be publishing a theoretical journal very soon, so that it can explain these divides and the differences between us and our opponents. Many on the left do want socialism and what it entails, that is, a society heading towards a classless communist society. However, some have ideas that are not revolutionary or are based on unrealistic expectations, such as anarchists.
I believe our dream of socialism can be achieved by finding ways to bridge our divides. When I think of the biggest divides between socialist parties besides Maoism vs Leninism etc., I think of reformist against revolution. It is true that everyone wishes that socialism could be constructed peacefully through democracy and the capitalist class would just bend to the will of the masses. This is the main ideology that reformists take. That is to say, reformist think they can reform capitalism democratically. Revolutionaries however, do not dare toy with the idea that a capitalist class would ever hand over the power to the people. Revolutionaries believe that there must be armed revolution to overthrow the power of the ruling capitalist class. In most cases revolutionary socialists believe in something called constant revolution, which means that after a socialist party or movement is in control, there needs to be steps taken to insure that the movement doesn’t turn into state capitalism.
Our party does not believe in reformism or peaceful revolution, so this is not an issue for us. As for the necessity of preventing the rise of state capitalism, this is what we call anti-revisionism, and class struggle after the revolution. It is an ongoing process that will inevitably take a long time.
I would like to take a second to give the reader an example of what I mean by a socialist movement turning into state capitalism. I would like to start off with China because I think it is the easiest way to explain “peaceful existence with capitalist states” and state capitalism. First, let’s talk about “peaceful existence”. This is where said country (China) will work with a capitalist state to generate profits. China sells a lot of merchandise to the United States, but that is not the problem. The problem is that the Chinese state exploits its workers to achieve greater profits for a small amount of the capitalist class and the political elite. The actual workers in china get paid around 5 cents a day (not in US money, in Chinese), while the plant and warehouse owners make millions annualy. This is clearly not an example of worker’s socialism or state socialism, but both market and state capitalism and also worker exploitation is taking place. This is what usually happens when a socialist movement stops being revolutionary, it takes a turn to the right and eventually becomes a capitalist state. Accepting “peaceful existence” with capitalist states is in my eyes is the first step to capitalism for non-revolutionary socialist states.
Our Party, following the analysis made by Enver Hoxha of Albania, does not see China as ever being socialist, or at best a weak socialist society which quickly degenerated due to the Maoists’ misguided policy of allowing local bourgeoisie elements into their party. However, this whole argument against China has little to do with peaceful coexistence. China once criticized the Soviet Union’s “peaceful coexistence” under Khrushchev. They then went to the opposite extreme; teaming up with the United States under the utterly false idea that Soviet social-imperialism was far worse than American imperialism, which was said to be the weaker of the two. In fact the truth was just the opposite.
Constant revolutionary socialist states like Cuba avoid slowly turning capitalist because the majority of the population is made up of revolutionary socialist people.
This is where we slam on the brakes. Cuba and the DPRK are probably the best examples of surviving revisionist states today, but one needs to remember that they do have a private sector, and everything that is necessary to restore full capitalism in the country already exists. In fact, the blockade and America’s ongoing anti-Cuban stance coupled with Cuban national pride may be the only thing preventing American capitalists from rushing in, buying up the infrastructure, and plundering the island nation even more than Cuba’s own bourgeoisie already does. Oh, and incidentally, the masses in Cuba are not in complete control and never have been—in fact to a far less extent than the USSR or Albania.
Which kind of means that they do not want to work with imperialist and capitalist country’s and would rather work with other socialist or progressive movements and states than to bend to the will of a capitalist nation.
Firstly, Cuba itself is a state-capitalist country. Cuba not only has worked and still works with imperialist nations, such as the post-Stalin USSR, but it has also been trying to lift the American embargo so as to trade with all nations around it, perhaps even the US itself. Of course, trade does not inherently equal revisionism, but in Cuba’s situation where it is run on a colonial “cash-crop” economy and the relations of production are for profit, and not for the needs of society, this opening up is merely another sign of integrating itself into the global imperialist market and becoming another US puppet.
Cuba has even gone as far as helping progressive and socialist minority groups in capitalist countries, as opposed to just cooperating with the capitalist ruling class in that nation. I hope everyone reading this now understands a little more about the difference and different ending results that reformist and revolutionary ideals can bring about (I apologize if the example is open and vague, I didn’t want to bore anyone).
Again, this is strange because at the beginning, the author stated that socialism must mean that there is no one leader, and that the masses must be in complete control. Cuba does not fulfill those requirements, which belong to the author of this letter and not I, nor the APL. Now suddenly Cuba, which by those idealistic standards would be state-capitalist and reformist, is being held up as an example of real revolutionary socialism?
we (socialists) who live here in the United States have a very large, uphill battle in-front of us. We are at war with the conservatives, the media and ignorance. It is time that we go on the offensive on all fronts of the battle. First of all, the socialists in America must all learn to work together and discredit any socialist party not willing to cooperate and work with other socialist and liberal movements. Another thing real liberals in America need to move away from is the democratic party.
This is populism, not socialism. There are enough irreconcilable contradictions just between those who call themselves Marxists and anarchists, much less liberals, many of whom do not have any kind of class-based outlook regardless of what they may claim. Embracing liberals also means embracing a great number of petty-bourgeois types who are notoriously fickle and squeamish at any thought of revolution.
The overwhelming majority of liberals, or “progressives” as they identify themselves these days, have no interest in eliminating capitalism. On the contrary, many of them believe it can be tamed. As for “socialists working together,” it is not simply a matter of calling yourself socialist—you have to have a correct political line, one that will actually lead to socialism.
They are kind of enemy number one. The democratic party uses our ideals to get votes while discrediting socialism as “evil” as Obama once so lovingly put it. If we tore down the democratic party today, the socialist parties would get a million new members tomorrow.
The Democratic Party of the United States does not share our ideals in the least. They are, like the Republicans, an imperialist party made up of the bourgeoisie that serves the interests of capitalism. They have been responsible for just as many atrocities and militarism as the Republicans. Their class interests are not our interests in any way, shape or form.
These days they barely even pretend to care about workers. Their basic appeal to the workers is to point out the alternative to the Republicans. This is the base of the two-party system: it’s nothing but a political good-cop, bad-cop routine. Furthermore, the socialist parties would NOT get a million new members tomorrow if the Democrats were dissolved. If anything, the Green Party would benefit, or perhaps another section of the bourgeoisie.
Unfortunately one thing I think most people have a problem with is understanding that when the socialist revolution happens here in the USA the hero’s of that revolution will not be Lenin or Mao or any of the past revolutionaries, It will be Americans like you and me and our comrades across the country. We must find our way to the revolution by ourselves as oppose to looking to past revolutionaries and trying to duplicate their revolutions path. We are not Russia or Cuba or Vietnam, we have to be the United States of America’s socialist revolution.
Again, this is technically true, but at the same time people need to realize that the experience and theory of revolutionary figures are important. It would do Americans good to learn that there are extremely important figures in history who weren’t American, and in some cases came from very small and poor countries. That being said, our party does its best to promote the best of the theory of Lenin, and the line of Joseph Stalin and Enver Hoxha without constantly flogging these figures as though they were prophets or infallible. At the end of the day they were men of their time, facing overwhelming difficulties, trying to navigate amongst the jagged rocks of history to build socialist societies.
I have had a lot of people ask me which party I think could best lead a socialist revolution or which party I think is most likely to have electoral success. I always give them the same answer, there is no one party that is capable of either and the only way we will bring about true revolution in the states is through unity.
Again, this is populism, not revolutionary thinking. Calls for “unity” are common in many idealistic movements and they are most often misinformed. “Unity” in this case means unity with enemy forces, including racists, sexists, national-chauvinists, etc. If we are revolutionaries, we want a revolution and must work for it.
Victory is something that can be achieved with the correct strategy, not a hodge-podge of relatively like-minded people who temporarily put their glaring contradictions on hold. History often shows that such broad coalitions often fail despite their numbers. However, history has shown repeatedly that dedicated parties based on not only a sound ideology and strategy but also composed of members who agree on a general program and direction are successful.
Solidarity is a nice jester(sic) but only unity will bring us closer to reaching our goals. These divisions among our groups have been our down fall since the 1800′s. Why is it that the USA has never had a serious uprising?
Assuming we don’t count the Civil War or the La Rebellion as “serious uprisings,” the reason why there was no serious uprising in the decades of radicalism during the 60s and 70s is that there was a hodge-podge movement of various groups, virtually none possessing a coherent, realistic analysis of American capitalism, nor a revolutionary ideology. The New Left of that era was largely influenced by identity politics and the pseudo-Marxist ideas made popular by the so-called “Frankfurt School.” As such, many of these movements were suspicious of Marxism and socialism in general. Many of the youth behind these movements were idealistic and romantic, often from privileged backgrounds. Like the Hippies or the members of the SLA, they imagined that their activities were every bit as revolutionary as the Tupamaros or the 26 July Movement. Is it any wonder that such delusional people failed to spark a real revolution?
Because everyone is so worried about their public image that some groups are afraid to actually fight for the liberation of this country. It is important that we discredit these groups, they are counter-revolutionary and a back slide to our goals for freedom. The revolution has no time to worry about groups who will not fight but will ask for power once the revolution is won.
Who the author is referring to precisely we cannot say.
‘CHE’ Guevara once said: “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the heart of the beast.” This statement still rings true today. You see we are lucky as North Americans because we will have to fight the hardiest fought victory in the history of socialist struggle.
Why would the American struggle for socialism be the hardest fought? In the foreseeable future it would be difficult if only because America is the leading imperialist country in the world and has had a very weak Marxist/socialist tradition.
On the other hand, one reason it has not developed a strong socialist foundation is largely because of populist appeals like those the author is suggesting. Still, it would be wrong to claim that the struggle for socialism would be hardest in the US simply because socialism as an idea is unpopular. For one thing, the US would most likely not have to face a massive invasion. Civil war yes, but by the time the US is vulnerable to socialist revolution, there will most likely be no power in the world willing or able to invade.
It will take countless man hours of research, fighting and maneuvering to win our uphill struggle against the bourgeoisie politicians and their armed cronies. People will lose their friends they will suffer losses but their sacrifice will bring about the greatest change ever seen by the world.
This could be said of many countries.
A United Socialist States of America would bring about a end to world hunger because the government could no longer pay farmers to not plant crops to keep food prices up.
This is not the sole reason for world hunger—the author completely liquidates imperialism and exploitation in continents like Africa as a source of hunger. Furthermore, a collapse of the US government would also make the reserve currency of many countries worthless, expose secret agreements, and release billions of dollars worth of high-tech military weapons around the world, while destabilizing regimes which can no longer rely on US military support. In other words, it’s not going to be a bowl of cherries. It is necessary, and the end results will be worth it, but don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Instead the new government would grow as much food as possible and trade our surplus food for the materials we need to poorer countries or country’s in the middle of drought. This country with our help could become the greatest country in the world.
The rest of the world is still on a market economy, which means that flooding the market with excess food would drive down prices for peasants in many countries. Again, don’t jump the gun and make assumptions.
Divided we are useless, but unified we are strong we are a force to be messed with, we are socialist and it’s time we start acting like it and quit all this in-fighting and useless complaining.
This is oversimplification. For one thing, in-fighting amongst left-wing groups is far more civil than amongst our enemies on the right, so you can take solace in that fact. As Marxist-Leninists however, we strive to build our theories and strategies based on a dialectical, materialist analysis of the past and present, rather than proclaiming some ideal and then demanding that any revolution live up to that ideal without exception. Sadly, not all leftists agree with that method. There are “divides” in the left, and for very good reasons.
If all a party does is cry about what is going on in the world and does nothing about it then are they really a socialist party? No. Because a socialist party is a revolutionary party by nature and will never stand by and watch oppression and exploitation take place without raising a finger.
The problem is that when revolutionary parties of the past raised more than a finger, in fact raised their fist, people such as the author have attacked them, sometimes with even more tenacity than the anti-communists themselves. They acted, but they did not act according to the theories of this or that philosopher or theorist, ergo they were condemned as equal to if not worse than the capitalists. Who is to blame for this kind of counter-productive infighting?
It is time comrades, brothers and sisters of freedom that we rise. We rise and make our voice heard and put our plans into motion. It is time for revolution in the USA, it is time to break OUR chains of oppression. No longer should we sit on the sidelines and wait for something to happen to kick start a revolutionary movement, from now on it’s our responsibility to make that something happen.
Revolution does not occur simply because people will it to. It is partially conscious action on the part of revolutionaries, and partially due to conditions outside of their personal control. Revolutionaries continually act so as to be ready to take advantage of a revolutionary scenario and try to hasten it as much as possible. However, populist appeals with the aim of building some kind of loud mass, even when punctuated with such radical, romantic slogans, will not lead to change of any sort.
It is time for a socialist America, time is up for the billionaires and major land lords. It is the people’s time! It is the worker’s time! Let us take what is ours comrades, let us take our freedom and let’s make this a equal world for ALL who live in it.
Stirring words indeed, but it will take more than this romantic, youthful zeal to pull off a successful revolution. The American Party of Labor makes honest attempts to work with other progressive groups for common goals, and also attempts to engage in constructive criticism with Marxist organizations and parties which it considers revisionist. We do this not because we are trying to build some kind of broad coalition, but because debate and criticism are the only way to refine theory and practice.
We engage in these discussions and polemics because we are convinced as to the general correctness of our methodology, and hope that others will agree to the extent that they will join us in our struggle. Our Party is young, but it is filled with dedicated revolutionaries who are passionate about revolution. There are no dreamers among us. You will not see us use our Party’s line as an excuse not to take action toward our goals. Rest assured of that.