"Communism = Stalinism = Nazism": The Great Lie

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Following eight years of the most gigantic propaganda campaign in human history, devoted to the alleged "death of Communism", the world bourgeoisie responded to the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution 1917 with a carefully prepared, internationally coordinated display of indifference. In most countries, including Russia itself, this question was only dealt with as the second or third item of the main evening TV news broadcasts. The commentaries in the bourgeois press the next morning declared that the question of the Russian Revolution, having lost all relevance for the world of today, remains of interest only for the historian. Commenting on workers' protests taking place at about the same moment (such as the 150,000 demonstration in Prague against the savage anti-proletarian attacks by the Klaus government which emerged from the Czech "velvet revolution" of 1989) the German media noted with demonstrative satisfaction that the class struggle itself had now been "freed from ideological clutter and the pursuit of dangerously utopian final goals".

In reality, this pretended dismissal of the proletarian revolution into the dispassionate hands of bourgeois "historical science" represents a new, qualitatively superior stage of the capitalist attack against Red October. Under the cover of reviewing the results of the research of its historians, the ruling class has organised a world-wide public debate about the "crimes of Communism". This "debate" not only blames the Russian Revolution and Bolshevism for the crimes of the Stalinist counter-revolution, but also, at least indirectly, for the crimes of Nazism, since "the degree and the techniques of mass violence were inaugurated by the communists and (...) the Nazis inspired themselves from this ..." (Stephane Courtois in Le Monde 09110.11. 97). For the bourgeois historians, the fundamental crime of the Russian Revolution was the replacement of "democracy" by a totalitarian ideology leading to the systematic extermination of the "class enemy". Nazism, we are told, appeared only in reaction to this undemocratic tradition of the Russian Revolution, replacing the "class war" of the former with the "race war" of the latter. The bourgeois lesson drawn from the barbarism of its own decadent system is that bourgeois democracy, precisely because it is not a "perfect system", but allows "room for individual freedom" is best suited to human nature, and that any attempt to challenge it can only end in Auschwitz and the Gulag.

Since 1989, the bourgeois attack against Communism and the Russian Revolution was mainly carried by the momentum of the impact of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the east, and the sheer scale of the propaganda making this the collapse of Communism. At that time, the bourgeoisie did not even have to pretend to advance any historical arguments in defence of these lies. But since then, the impact of these campaigns has been eroded by the failure of "western" style capitalism and bourgeois democracy to halt economic decline and mass pauperisation either in the east or in the west. Although the combativity, and above all the consciousness of the proletariat were hit badly by the events and propaganda which followed the- fall of the Berlin Wall, the working class remains undefeated. Its combativity is slowly recovering. Within politicised minorities of the class there is the beginning of a new interest in the history of the working class in general, and in the Russian Revolution and the Marxist struggle against its degeneration in particular. Although the bourgeoisie has the immediate social situation comfortably under control, its extreme anxiety in face of it's progressively collapsing economy and the still intact potential of its class enemy obliges it to constantly intensify its ideological attacks against tile proletariat. This is why the bourgeoisie for instance organises movements such as the French Autumn of 1995 or the UPS strike in the United States in1997 specifically to strengthen the authority of its trade union control apparatus.

This is also why tile ruling class has responded to tile 80tII anniversary of the October Revolution with a flood of books and articles devoted to the falsification of history and the denigration of the proletariat. Far from banishing the question to the universities, these "contributions" have become the subject of intense bourgeois public "debate" and "controversy" aimed at destroying the historical memory of tile working class. In France, a "Black Book" compiling the victims both of the Civil War (imposed by the invading world bourgeoisie on proletarian Russia) and of the (bourgeois) Stalinist counter-revolution, into a list of 100 million victims of the "Crimes of Communism", was even debated in the National Assembly. Alongside the usual slanders against tile Russian Revolution, such as the allegation that it was a "Bolshevik Putsch", this "Black Book" has been used to launch a qualitatively new attack by systematically debating, for the first time ever, the question whether or not "Communism" is worse than fascism. The authors of this pseudo-scientific book, for the most part ex-Stalinists, make a great display of being themselves in disagreement how to answer this question. In the pages of Le Monde (09/10.11. 97) one of them, the above mentioned Courtois, accuses Lenin of crimes against humanity, declaring:

""class" genocide joins up with "race" genocide: the death through famine of the child of a Ukrainian Kulak deliberately left to starve by the Stalinist regime is "equal" to the death of a Jewish child left to starve in the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazi Regime". Some of his collaborators, on the other hand, but also the French Prime minister J ospin, consider that Courtois is going" too far" by putting in question the "uniqueness" of the crimes of Nazism. In parliament, Jospin "defended" the "honour of Communism" (which he identified with the honour of his ministerial colleagues from the Stalinist PCF) by arguing that although "Communism" had killed more people than Fascism, it was less evil since motivated by "good intentions". The international controversies provoked by this book - from the question whether its authors exaggerated the number of victims to have a "round figure" of 100 million, to the difficult ethical question whether or not Lenin was "as evil" as Hitler, all serve to discredit Red October, the most important milestone on the road to the liberation of the proletariat and humanity. The protests, across Europe, of the Stalinist veterans of the Resistance opposed to Germany in World War IT against being compared to the Fascists serve no other purpose today, than to consolidate the lie that the Russian Revolution is responsible for the crimes of its mortal Stalinist enemy. Both the "radical" Courtois and the "reasonable" Jospin, like the entire bourgeoisie, share the same capitalist lies at the heart of the whole "Black Book". These include the lie, constantly affirmed without the slightest proof, that Lenin was responsible for the Stalinist terror, and the lie that bourgeois democracy is the only "safeguard" against barbarism. In reality, this whole display of democratic pluralism of opinion and humanitarian indignation only serves to hide the historic truth that all the great crimes of this century share the same bourgeois class nature - not only those of fascism and Stalinism, but also those of democracy, from Hiroshima and Dresden to the starvation inflicted on a quarter of humanity by "liberal" decadent capitalism. In reality, the whole moralistic debate on which of these crimes of capitalism is more condemnable is itself as barbarous as it is hypocritical. In reality, all the participants in this fake bourgeois debate are out to demonstrate the same thing: that any attempt to abolish capitalism, to challenge bourgeois democracy, no matter how "idealistic" and "well intentioned" it may originally be, is bound to end up in bloody terror.

In fact, the roots of the "largest and longest reign of terror" in history, and the "paradoxical tragedy" of Communism lie, according to Jospin and the chancellor-historian Doktor Helmut Kohl, in the utopian vision of World Revolution of the Bolshevism of the original October Revolution period. The reviews of the French "Black Book" in the German bourgeois press defended the responsible anti-fascism of Stalinism against the "mad Marxist utopia" of October and the World Revolution. This madness consisted in surmounting the capitalist contradiction between internationally associated labour on a single world market and the deadly competition of the bourgeois nation states over the product of that labour, now identified as the "original sin" of Marxism, violating the "human nature" about which the bourgeoisie cares so much.

The bourgeoisie regurgitates the old Kautskyist lies

Whereas during the Cold War many western historians used to deny the continuity of Stalinism with the October Revolution, in order to prevent their eastern imperialist rival profiting from the prestige of that great event, today the target of their hatred is no longer Stalinism but Bolshevism. Whereas the threat of the imperialist rivalry of the USSR has disappeared, the threat of the proletarian revolution has not. It is against this threat that bourgeois historians are today warming up all the old lies produced by the panic-stricken bourgeoisie during the revolution itself, that the Bolsheviks were paid German agents, and October a Bolshevik Putsch etc. These lies, produced at the time by the likes of Kautsky[1] and used by the German bourgeoisie to justify the murder of Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Leo Jogiches and thousands of revolutionary Communists, could exploit the bourgeois media black-out on what was really happening in Russia. Today, with more documentary evidence at their disposal than ever, the paid whores of the bourgeoisie pour out the same white-terror garbage.

These lies are reproduced today, not only by the open enemies of the Russian Revolution, but also by its alleged defenders. In the fifth Annual on Communism produced by the Stalinist historian Herman Weber, and devoted to the October Revolution (Jahrbuch fur Historische Kommunismusforschung 1997) the old Menshevik idea that the Revolution was premature is revamped by Moshe Lewin, who has discovered that Russia in 1917 was not ripe for socialism or even for bourgeois democracy due to the backwardness of Russian capitalism. This explanation for the alleged backwardness and barbarism of Bolshevism is also dished up in the new book, A People's Tragedy by the "historian" Orlando Figes, which has created a furore in Britain. He not only affirms that October was basically the work of one wicked man: a dictatorial act of a Bolshevik Party itself under the personal dictatorship of the "bully" Lenin and his henchman Trotsky ("The remarkable thing about the Bolshevik insurrection is that hardly any of the Bolshevik leaders had wanted it to happen until a few hours before it began", p.481). He above "discovers" that the social basis of this "coup d'état" was not the working class but the lump en proletariat. After preliminary remarks about the poor level of education of the Bolshevik soviet delegates (whose knowledge about revolution had admittedly not been acquired at Oxford or Cambridge), Figes concludes. "It was more the result of the degeneration of the urban revolution, and in particular of the workers' movement, as an organised and constructive force, with vandalism, crime, generalised violence and drunken looting as the main expressions of this social break-down. (...) The participants in this destructive violence were not the organised 'working class' but the victims of the breakdown of that class and of the devastation of the war years: the growing army of urban unemployed; the refugees from the occupied regions, soldiers and sailors, who congregated in the cities; bandits and criminals released from the jails; and the unskilled labourers from the countryside who had always been the most prone to outbursts of anarchic violence in the cities. These were the semi-peasant types whom Gorky had blamed for the urban violence in the spring and to whose support he had ascribed the rising fortunes of the Bolsheviks." (p495). This is how the bourgeoisie today "rehabilitates" the working class from the charge of having a revolutionary history. In its cold blooded ignoring of the overwhelming facts proving that October was the work of millions of revolutionary workers organised in workers councils, the famous soviets, it is the class struggle of today and tomorrow which the bourgeoisie is targeting.

More than ever before, the leaders of the October Revolution have become the object of the hatred of 'the ruling class denigrations. Most of the books and articles appearing recently are above all indictments of Lenin and Trotsky. The German historian Helmut Altrichter, for instance, begins his new book "Ruland 1917" with the following words: "At the beginning was not Lenin". His whole book, while pretending to show that the masses, not the leaders made history, poses as a "passionate defence" of the autonomous initiative of the Russian workers: until, alas, they fell for the "suggestive" slogans of Lenin and Trotsky, who tossed democracy onto what they scandalously called the "rubbish dump of history".

Thousands of pages have been filled to "prove" that Lenin, although the last great struggle of his life was directed against Stalin and the social layer of state bureaucrats supporting him, calling for his removal in his famous "testimony", designated Stalin as his "successor". Particularly striking is the insistence of the "anti-democratic" attitude of against Trotsky. Whereas the Trotskyist movement joined the bourgeois ranks during World War Il, the historical figure of Trotsky is particularly dangerous for the bourgeoisie. Trotsky symbolises at once the greatest "scandal" in human history - that an exploited class toppled it's rulers (October), attempted to extend its rule across the globe (foundation of the Communist International), and organised the military defence of that rule (The Red Army in the Civil War) - as well as the Marxist struggle against the bourgeois, Stalinist counter-revolution. These are the two facts which the exploiters curse most of all, which they at all costs must eradicate from the collective memory of the working class: the fact that the proletariat toppled the bourgeoisie and became the ruling class in October 1917, and the fact that Marxism was the spearhead of the proletarian fight against the Stalinist counter-revolution supported by the world bourgeoisie. It was through the combined efforts of the western and the Stalinist counter-revolutionaries that the British General Strike 1926, the Chinese working class 1926/27, the Spanish working class during the Civil War of the 30s were defeated, that-the German revolution was finally defeated 1923 and it's proletariat crushed in 1933 through the combined efforts of the western and Stalinist counter-revolutionaries. The world bourgeoisie supported the Stalinist destruction of the vestiges of proletarian rule in Russia, in its destruction of the Communist International. Today the bourgeoisie hides the fact that the 100 million victims of Stalinism, the horrific toll compiled in capitalist book keeping manner in its "Black Book of Communism" are crimes of the bourgeoisie, and that the real, internationalist Communists were its first victims.

The bourgeois democratic intellectuals who have now put themselves at the head of the attack against Red October, apart from advancing their careers and boosting their earnings, have a specific interest of their own in imposing an historical tabula rasa. It is their interest in hiding the contemptible grovelling of the bourgeois intelligence at the feet of Stalin from the 1930s on. Not only Stalinist writers like Gorky, Feuchtwanger, Brecht[2] but the whole wretched rabble of bourgeois democratic historians and moralists from the Webbs to the "pacifist" Romain Rolland deified Stalin, defended the Moscow show trials tooth and nail, and supported the witch-hunt against Trotsky[3].

The attack on the aims of an undefeated proletariat

The attack against the revolutionary history of the working class is in reality an attack against the contemporary class struggle. By attempting to demolish the historic goal of the class movement, the bourgeoisie declares war against that class movement itself. Already Bernstein's separation of goal and movement at the turn of the century was a first full scale attempt to liquidate the revolutionary character of the proletarian class struggle "... since the socialist final goal is the only decisive moment distinguishing the social democratic movement from bourgeois democracy and bourgeois radicalism, transforming the whole workers' movement from a futile repair work towards the salvation of capitalist order into a class struggle against this order, to abolish this order ..." (Rosa Luxemburg: Social Reform or Revolution).

In the history of the balance of forces between bourgeoisie and proletariat, periods of the upsurge of class struggle and development of class consciousness within the proletariat have always been periods of a difficult, uneven, heterogeneous, but real clarification concerning the final goal of the movement. Periods of defeat have always seen the abandonment of that goal by the broad masses. Although the working class displayed considerable combativity in the years before 1914, for instance, it was the replacement of the socialist revolutionary goal by reformist illusions, nourished by decades of economic expansion, in the heads of the majority of workers which made their mobilisation for World War possible. During the 1930s this is particularly clear: despite the combativity of the French, Spanish, Belgian, American proletariat, the acceptance by the masses of the bourgeois goals of defence of democracy or of Stalinist Russia against "fascism" was at the centre of their mobilisation for imperialist war. Similarly, the almost insurrectional movements of the Eastern European workers during the 1950s (East Germany 1953, Poland and Hungary 1956), taking place in the midst of the longest counter-revolution in history, failed to develop any long term perspective beyond bourgeois nationalism and democracy.

As opposed to this, periods of the massive development both of struggles and class consciousness, such as the revolutionary wave of 1917-23 opened up by the Russian Revolution, and the present epoch beginning in 1968, were characterised from the onset by the appearance of debates about the final goal of the proletarian struggle. The international wave of struggles opened up by May-June 1968 in France was characterised precisely by the confrontation of an undefeated generation of workers both with the left apparatus of capital (unions and "left" parties), and with the bourgeois definition of socialism given by this apparatus. This ending of 50 years of Stalinist counter-revolution was thus necessarily, inevitably marked by the appearance of a new generation of revolutionary minorities.

These historic examples of the extremely complicated, but inseparable link between the historic course of the class struggle (towards world war or towards decisive class confrontations) and the goal of communism, remind that the present bourgeois campaign against communism, against the October Revolution, far from being an academic question, is a central issue of the class struggle today. An issue requiring in particular the most determined response of revolutionary minorities, of Left Communism throughout the world. But this issue is all the more important today in view of the present period of capitalist decomposition. This period of decomposition is determined above all by the fact that since 1968, neither of the decisive classes of modern society has been able to take a decisive step towards its historic goal: the bourgeoisie towards world war, the proletariat towards revolution. The most important single result of this historic stalemate, opening a phase of horrific rotting of the capitalist system, has been the internal collapse of the Stalinist ruled eastern imperialist bloc. This event has in turn delivered the bourgeoisie unexpected ammunition with which to attack the communist revolution, slanderously identified with Stalinism. In 1980, in the context of an international development of combativity and consciousness spearheaded by the western proletariat, the mass strikes in Poland opened the perspective of the proletariat itself confronting and eventually defeating Stalinism, and thus removing this obstacle blurring the class perspective of communist revolution. Instead of this, the fall of the Stalinist regimes through decomposition has had the opposite effect: blurring the historic memory and perspective of the class, undermining its self-confidence, weakening its capacity to organise its own struggle towards real confrontations with the left control organs of capital, lessening the immediate impact of revolutionary intervention towards the struggles. Given the decisive importance of self-confidence for the first exploited revolutionary class in history, given the key role of the self-organised class confrontation with the bourgeois state and of the intervention of revolutionaries in demonstrating that the proletariat is a class capable of founding society anew, this set-back has made the road to revolution even longer and more difficult than it already was.

But this road towards revolution remains open. The bourgeoisie has not been able to mobilise its class enemy behind capitalist class goals as in the 1930s. The very fact that after eight years of celebrating the "death of communism" the bourgeoisie is obliged to intensify its ideological campaign, to more directly attack Red October, itself proves this. The flood of publications on the Russian Revolution, if they are first and foremost a mystification against the workers, is also intended as a warning of the bourgeois ideologists to their own class: a warning never again to underestimate the proletarian class enemy. One of the central messages of all these publications is that in moments of great social crisis, such as 1917 in Russia, a tiny minority of audacious, disciplined, consistent revolutionaries can "suddenly" win a majority and apparently fuse with the interests and aspirations of the mass workers organisations - can "easily mislead the masses" as the bourgeoisie prefers to put it. Indeed a timely warning, even if there is never anything "sudden" or easy about such processes, which can take decades to mature before reaching fruition. Capitalism is inexorably approaching the greatest economic and social crisis in its history - in the history of humanity in fact - and the working class remains undefeated. No wonder the learned bourgeois publications of today on the Russian Revolution are full of warnings! Never again must a "monster" like Lenin be allowed to travel to his meeting with revolutionary history! Never again should revolutionary leaders like Lenin and Trotsky be allowed to walk about freely (how this problem can be dealt with is shown by the fate of Liebknecht, Luxemburg and of Trotsky himself)! Never again must the working class be allowed to fall prey to dangerous "revolutionary utopias"!

The Perspective of October is still alive

The ideological blow being struck against the proletarian revolution is not decisive. After decades of a campaign of silence, the bourgeoisie is today obliged to attack the history of the Marxist movement, and thus to admit the existence of this history. Today it attacks not only Red October, not only Lenin and Trotsky, but also Bordiga, one of the founders of Left Communism. It is obliged to attack the internationalists who defended Lenin's revolutionary defeatism during World War II. Its accusation that these internationalists must have been apologists for fascism is a lie equally as monstrous as the ones produced against the Russian Revolution. The present day awakening of militant interest in Left Communism concerns only a tiny minority of the class. But was not Bolshevism itself, this spectre of Communism still haunting Europe and the world, for many years but a tiny minority of the class? The proletariat is an historical class, its consciousness is an historical consciousness. Its revolutionary character is not a passing whim, as that of the once revolutionary bourgeoisie, but flows from its decisive place in the capitalist mode of production.

The decades of struggle and proletarian reflection lying ahead, precisely because they will be so difficult, will be years of the torturous but real development of the political culture of the proletariat. If it is to advance in its fight against unheard of material attacks, growing layers of an undefeated class will eventually be obliged to confront the legacy of its own history, to consult the treasure chest of Marxist theory. Under the present historical conditions, it will be impossible for the future struggles to regain a scale and momentum comparable to France 1968 or Poland 1980 without the development of a political culture, without the re-acquisition of past lessons and traditions at least among the most advanced workers, at a superior scale to anything witnessed between 1968-1989. The bourgeois onslaught against Communist October makes this process longer and more difficult. But at the same time it makes this work of re-acquisition all the more important in fact obligatory for the advanced sectors of the class in the defence of its immediate material interests.

The glorious perspective opened in October 1917, that of the world proletarian revolution, is anything but dead. It is the recognition of this fact which motivates the present bourgeois campaign.

ICC

 


[1] The main arguments of Lenin ("Renegade Kautsky") and Trotsky ("Terrorism and Communism") against Kautsky are today, in face of the present bourgeois campaign, more timely and valid than ever.

 

[2] Brecht, who secretly sympathised with Trotsky at the time, wrote his Galileo Galilei in order to justify his own cowardice in not opposing Stalin. The martyrdom of Giordano Bruno, who as opposed to Galileo refused to retract in face of the inquisition, symbolises for Brecht the alleged futility of the resistance of Trotsky.

 

[3] The shamefulness of the bourgeois democratic intelligence is not removed, but made all the more wretched, by the lonely example of the American philosopher Dewey who presided over the tribunal to judge the case of Trotsky. By supporting the duty of a revolutionary to publicly defend his reputation, Dewey showed a greater respect and understanding for proletarian behaviour than the hysterical petty bourgeoisie today campaigning against the ICC's defence of this same principle of a "'jury of honour. Indeed, with its present "anti-Leninist" prostration at the feet of the present anti-communism of the "triumphant" western bourgeoisie today, the disgrace of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia has reached new depths.

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