Manual Final Throes:Communisms Last Grasp

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The complete 'suppression of the exploiters' was followed by the strengthening of the instruments of state suppression and the narrowing of democracy for the majority of the population, including the working class. The anti-Leninist theory advanced in the name of Lenin to 'justify' this process was that the class struggle becomes more rather than less intense with the entrenchment of socialism. In some respects this became a self-fulfilling prophecy; a retreat from democratic norms intensified social contradictions which, in turn, became the excuse for an intensification of the 'class struggle'.

One of the key rationalisations for this thesis was the undoubted threat, even after the end of the civil war, posed by imperialism and fascism to the very survival of the Soviet Union and the continuing Western conspiracies to prevent the spread of socialist power after But events have demonstrated that if the survival of the Soviet Union was at risk from the fascist onslaught it was, among other reasons, also the result of damage wrought to the whole Soviet social fabric including its army by the authoritarian bureaucracy. And if Western 'conspiracies' have succeeded in threatening the very survival of socialism in places like Eastern Europe, it is the narrowing rather than the extension of democracy which has played into their hands.

The term 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' reflected the historical truth that in class-divided social formations state power is ultimately exercised by, and in the interests of, the class which owns and controls the means of production. It is in this sense that capitalist formations were described as a 'dictatorship of the bourgeoisie' whose rule would be replaced by a 'dictatorship of the proletariat' during the socialist transition period. In the latter case power would, however, be exercised in the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people and should lead to an ever-expanding genuine democracy - both political and economic.

On reflection, the choice of the word 'dictatorship' to describe this type of society certainly opens the way to ambiguities and distortions. The abandonment of the term by most communist parties, including ours, does not, in all cases, imply a rejection of the historical validity of its essential content. But, the way the term came to be abused bore little resemblance to Lenin's original concept.

Mass killings under communist regimes

It was progressively denuded of its intrinsic democratic content and came to signify, in practice, a dictatorship of a party bureaucracy. For Lenin the repressive aspect of the concept had impending relevance in relation to the need for the revolution to defend itself against counter-revolutionary terror in the immediate post-revolution period. But, unfortunately, practices justified by the exigencies of the earlier phases became a permanent feature of the new society. As time went on the gap between socialism and democracy widened; the nature and role of the social institutions such as the Soviets, the party and mass organisations which had previously given substance to popular power and socialist democracy, were steadily eroded.

The steady erosion of the powers and representative character of elected institutions led to the alienation of a considerable portion of society from political life. The electorate had no effective right to choose its representatives.

Has Socialism Failed?

Gone were the days when the party had to engage in a political contest to win a majority in the Soviets. The legislative organs did not, in any case, have genuine control over legislation; by their nature they could only act as rubber stamps for decisions which had already been taken by party structures. The executive and judicial organs were, for all practical purposes, under the direct control of the party bureaucracy.


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In practice the majority of the people had very few levers with which to determine the course of economic or social life. Democracy in the mass organisations was also more formal than real. The enormous membership figures told us very little about the extent to which the individual trade unionist, youth or woman was able to participate in the control or direction of their respective organisations.

At the end of the day these organisations were turned into transmission belts for decisions taken elsewhere and the individual members were little more than cogs of the vast bureaucratic machine. The trade union movement became an adjunct of the state and party. Workers had no meaningful role in determining the composition of the top leadership which was, in substance, answerable to the party apparatus. For all practical purposes the right to strike did not exist. The extremely thin dividing line between management and the trade union collective on the factory floor detracted from the real autonomy of trade unions.

Apart from certain welfare functions, they tended, more and more, to act like Western-style production councils, but without the advantage of having to answer for their role to an independent trade union under the democratic control of its membership. Much of the above applied to the women's and youth organisations. Instead of being guided by the aspirations and interests of their constituencies, they were turned into support bases for the ongoing dictates of the state and party apparatus.

In the immediate aftermath of the October revolution, the Bolshevik party shared power with other political and social tendencies, including Mensheviks and a section of the left Social Revolutionaries. In the elections for the constituent assembly in , the Bolsheviks received less than a third of the popular vote. There may be moments in the life of a revolution which justify a postponement of full democratic processes.

And we do not address the question of whether the Bolsheviks were justified in taking a monopoly of state power during the extraordinary period of both internal and external assault on the gains of the revolution. Suffice it to say that the single-party state and the guiding and leading role of the party subsequently became permanent features of socialist rule and were entrenched in the constitutions of most socialist states. This was accompanied by negative transformations within the party itself. Under the guise of 'democratic centralism' inner-party democracy was almost completely suffocated by centralism.

All effective power was concentrated in the hands of a Political Bureau or, in some cases, a single, all-powerful personality. The control of this 'leadership' by the party as a whole was purely formal. In most cases the composition of the highest organ - the congress which finalised policy and elected the leadership - was manipulated from the top. The Central Committee elected by variations of a 'list' system emanating from the top had only the most tenuous jurisdiction over the Political Bureau.

Within this latter body a change of leaders resembled a palace coup rather than a democratic process; invariably the changes were later unanimously endorsed. The invigorating impact of the contest of ideas in Marxist culture was stifled. In practice, the basic party unit was there to explain, defend, exhort and support policies in whose formulation they rarely participated. The concept of consensus effectively stifled dissent and promoted the completely unnatural appearance of unanimity on everything. Fundamental differences were either suppressed or silenced by the self-imposed discipline of so-called democratic centralism.

In these conditions the democratic development of party policy became a virtual impossibility. Hegel coined the profound aphorism that truth is usually born as a heresy and dies as a superstition. With no real right to dissent by citizens or even by the mass of the party membership, truth became more and more inhibited by deadening dogma; a sort of catechism took the place of creative thought.

And, within the confines of a single-party state, the alternative to active conformism was either silence or the risk of punishment as 'an enemy of the people'. Is this suppression of the right to dissent inherent in the single-party state? Gorbachev recently made the point that:. And a great deal will depend on how we deal with it'.

Gorbachev's thought has special relevance to many parts of our own continent where the one-party system abounds. It straddles both capitalist and socialist-oriented countries and in most of them it is used to prevent, among other things, the democratic organisation of the working people either politically or in trade unions. This is not to say that all one-party states in our continent have in fact turned out to be authoritarian; indeed some of them are headed by the most humane leaders ho passionately believe in democratic processes. Nor can we discuss the role they have played in preventing tribal, ethnic and regional fragmentation, combatting externally inspired banditry, and correcting some of the grave distortions we inherited from the colonial period.

In relation to the socialist perspective, it is sometimes forgotten that the concept of the single-party state is nowhere to be found in classical Marxist theory. And we have had sufficient experience of one-party rule in various parts of the world to perhaps conclude that the 'mission' to promote real democracy under a one-party system is not just difficult but, in the long run, impossible. But, in any case, where a single-party state is in place and there is not even democracy and accountability within the party, it becomes a short-cut to a political tyranny over the whole of society.

And at different points in time this is what happened in most socialist states. The resulting sense of political alienation of the great majority of the people was not the only negative feature of existing socialism. Of equal importance was the failure to overcome the sense of economic alienation inherited from the capitalist past. It is instructive to note how Western anti-Marxists and liberals understood and even welcomed the imposition of the most blatant dictatorial methods to deal with the counter-revolutionaries in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of the Ceaucescu regime.

A stark illustration of this is the failure of any of the women's organisations in the socialist countries to mount agitation against the continuing inequalities between men and women in key social and political sectors. It is utterly inconceivable that the women's organisations could have failed to notice the continuing male-oriented structure of the family and the overwhelming male domination more so than even in the capitalist West of all structures of political power.

The total number of votes cast was Of the major parties, the Social Revolutionaries received Some of the socialist countries were ruled by a front but in substance the allies of the communist parties had little, if any, power or effective autonomy. The concept of alienation expressed 'the objective transformation of the activity of man and of its results into an independent force, dominating him and inimical to him Under capitalism, in the course of the production process, the worker himself 'always produces objective wealth, in the form of capital, an alien power that dominates and exploits him'.

Consciousness of this fuels the class struggle against capitalist relations of production. The aim of communism is to achieve the complete mastery and control over social forces which humanity itself has generated but which, under capitalism, have become objectified as alien power which is seen to stand above society and exercises mastery over it.

Communism, according to Marx, involves the creation of a society in which 'socialised humanity, the associated producers, regulate their interchange with nature rationally, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by some blind power'. The relevance of all this for our discussion is that only genuine socialist relations of production can begin the process which will lead to the de-alienation of society as a whole and generate the formation of a new 'socialist person'. The process of de-alienation - whose completion must await the stage of communism - cannot be advanced by education and ideology alone; conditions must be created which lead progressively to real participation and control by each individual as part of 'socialised humanity' over social life in all its aspects.

The destruction of the political and economic power of capital are merely first steps in the direction of de-alienation. The transfer of legal ownership of productive property from private capital to the state does not, on its own, create fully socialist relations of production, nor does it always significantly change the work-life of the producer. The power to control the producers' work-life and to dispose of the products of labour is now in the hands of a 'committee' rather than a board of directors.

And if the 'committee' separates itself from the producers by a bureaucratic wall without democratic accountability, its role is perceived no differently from that of the board of directors. It remains a force over which the producer has no real control and which despite the absence of economic exploitation of the capitalist variety dominates him as an alien power.

State property itself has to be transformed into social property. This involves reorganising social life as a whole so that the producers, at least as a collective, have a real say not only in the production of social wealth but also in its disposal. In the words of Gorbachev, what is required is 'not only formal but also real socialisation and the real turning of the working people into the masters of all socialised production'.

De-alienation requires that the separation between social wealth creation and social wealth appropriation and distribution is ended and society as a whole is in control of all three processes. A degree of self-management at the level of individual enterprises is only one ingredient in the process of de-alienation; conditions must be created making possible full popular control over all society's institutions of power not just as a 'constitutional right' but as a reality. The unavoidable inheritance from the past and the most serious distortions of socialist norms in most of the socialist countries combined to perpetuate alienation, albeit in a new form.

Private ownership of the main means of production was replaced by state ownership. Private capital, as an alien power, no longer dominated or exploited the producer. But without real socialisation the key condition for de-alienation continued to be absent. In general, the over-centralised and commandist economies of the socialist world helped to entrench a form of 'socialist' alienation. At the purely economic level this form of alienation often turned out to be the worst of both worlds.

Under capitalism economic compulsion sanctified by the rule of capital threatened unemployment, etc. Capitalist economic levers based on the sanctity of private property are, at the end of the day, not over-concerned with the problems of alienation and more easily provide the incentive in relation to the workers that 'he who does not work, neither shall he eat'. Under socialism guaranteed employment and the amount of remuneration did not always depend upon quality, productivity or efficiency, opening the way to parasitism at the point of production.

Reward based on the socialist maxim of 'to each according to his contribution' can obviously play a part in increasing productivity.

Margaret Thatcher: The 'Iron Lady's' pivotal role in ending the Cold War

This incentive was too often absent and stood in the way of the process of de-alienation. Episodes of direct compulsion against producers, such as the forced collectivisation of the early 's and the extensive use of convict labour as a direct state and party exercise, made things worse. Like all forms of primitive accumulation, these episodes created a most profound sense of alienation whose negative consequences are still being felt.

Pure exhortation and political 'mobilisation' did not, in the long run, prevent the onset of stagnation. Alienation, albeit in a different form, continued and inhibited the full potential of socialist economic advance. There were, of course, other negative factors which require more extensive examination than is possible here. These include policies based on what has been called the 'big bang theory of socialism' which ignored the historical fact that many of the ingredients of social systems which succeed one another - and this includes the change from capitalism to socialism - cannot be separated by a Chinese Wall.

The economy of a country the day after the workers take over is exactly the same was it was the day before, and it cannot be transformed merely by proclamation. The neglect of this truism resulted, now and then, in a primitive egalitarianism which reached lunatic proportions under the Pol Pot regime, the absence of cost-accounting, a dismissive attitude to commodity production and the law of value during the transition period, the premature abandonment of any role for market forces, a doctrinaire approach to the question of collectivisation, etc.

But rectification of these areas alone would not establish the material and moral superiority of socialism as a way of life for humanity. Only the creation of real socialist relations of production will give birth to the socialist man and woman whose active participation in all the social processes will ensure that socialism reaches its full potential and moves towards a classless communist society.

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Under existing socialism alienation has persisted because of a less than full control and participation by the people in these processes. In short, the way forward is through thorough-going democratic socialism; a way which can only be charted by a party which wins its support through democratic persuasion and ideological contest and not, as has too often happened up to now, by a claim of right. The commandist and bureaucratic approaches which took root during Stalin's time affected communist parties throughout the world, including our own. We cannot disclaim our share of the responsibility for the spread of the personality cult and a mechanical embrace of Soviet domestic and foreign policies, some of which discredited the cause of socialism.

We kept silent for too long after the Khruschev revelations. It would, of course, be naive to imagine that a movement can, at a stroke, shed all the mental baggage it has carried from the past. And our 7th Congress emphasised the need for on-going vigilance. It noted some isolated reversions to the past, including attempts to engage in intrigue and factional activity in fraternal organisations, sectarian attitudes towards some non-party colleagues, and sloganised dismissals of views which do not completely accord with ours.

The implications for socialism of the Stalinist distortions have not yet been evenly understood throughout our ranks. We need to continue the search for a better balance between advancing party policy as a collective and the toleration of on-going debate and even constructive dissent. We do not pretend that our party's changing postures in the direction of democratic socialism are the results only of our own independent evolution. Our shift undoubtedly owes a prime debt to the process of perestroika and glasnost which was so courageously unleashed under Gorbachev's inspiration. Closer to home, the democratic spirit which dominated in the re-emerged trade union movement from the early 's onwards, also made its impact.

But we can legitimately claim that in certain fundamental respects our indigenous revolutionary practice long ago ceased to be guided by Stalinist concepts. This is the case particularly in relation to the way the party performed its role as a working class vanguard, its relations with fraternal organisations and representatives of other social forces and, above all, its approach to the question of democracy in the post-apartheid state and in a future socialist South Africa.

We have always believed and we continue to do so that it is indispensable for the working class to have an independent political instrument which safeguards its role in the democratic revolution and which leads it towards an eventual classless society.

But such leadership must be won rather than imposed. Our claim to represent the historic aspirations of the workers does not give us an absolute right to lead them or to exercise control over society as a whole in their name. Our new programme asserts that a communist party does not earn the title of vanguard merely by proclaiming it. Nor does its claim to be the upholder of Marxism give it a monopoly of political wisdom or a natural right to exclusive control of the struggle.

We can only earn our place as a vanguard force by superior efforts of leadership and devotion to the cause of liberation and socialism. And we can only win adherence to our ideology by demonstrating its superiority as a theoretical guide to revolutionary practice. This approach to the vanguard concept has not, as we know, always been adhered to in world revolutionary practice and in an earlier period we too were infected by the distortion. But, in our case, the shift which has taken place in our conception of 'vanguard' is by no means a post-Gorbachev phenomenon.

The wording on this question in our new programme is taken almost verbatim from our Central Committee's report on organisation. The document reiterated the need to safeguard, both in the letter and the spirit, the independence of the political expressions of other social forces whether economic or national. It rejected the old purist and domineering concept that all those who do not agree with the party are necessarily enemies of the working class.

And it saw no conflict between our understanding of the concept of vanguard and the acceptance of the African National Congress as the head of the liberation alliance. Despite the inevitable limitations which illegality imposed on our inner-party democratic processes, the principles of accountability and electivity of all higher organs were substantially adhered to. Seven underground Congresses of our party have been held since The delegates to Congress from the lower organs were elected without lists from above and always constituted a majority.

The incoming Central Committees were elected by a secret ballot without any form of direct or indirect 'guidance' to the delegates. In other words, the Leninist concept of democratic centralism has not been abused to entrench authoritarian leadership practices. Our structures, down to the lowest units, have been increasingly encouraged to assess and question leadership pronouncements in a critical spirit and the views of the membership are invariably canvassed before finalising basic policy documents.

Our 7th Congress, which adopted our new programme, The Path to Power, was a model of democratic consultation and spirited debate. Special procedures designed to exclude suspected enemy agents as delegates to Congress limited complete free choice. But, in practice, these limitations affected a negligible percentage. Overall, despite the security risks involved in the clandestine conditions, the will of our membership finds democratic expression.

This spirit of democracy also informs our relationship with fraternal political forces and our approach to the political framework of a post-liberation South Africa. As we have already noted, one of the most serious casualties in the divide which developed between democracy and socialism was in the one-sided relationship between the ruling parties and the mass organisations. In order to prevent such a distortion in a post-apartheid South Africa we have, for example, set out in our draft Workers' Charter that:. No political party, state organ or enterprise, whether public, private or mixed, shall directly or indirectly interfere with such independence.

The substance of this approach is reflected in the way our party has in fact conducted itself for most of its underground existence. Our extended Central Committee meeting reiterated the guidelines which inform our relations with fraternal organisations and other social forces. Special emphasis was once again given to the need to safeguard, both in the letter and in the spirit, the independence of the political expressions of other social forces, whether economic or national. We do not regard the trade unions or the national movement as mere conduits for our policies.

Nor do we attempt to advance our policy positions through intrigue or manipulation. Our relationship with these organisations is based on complete respect for their independence, integrity and inner-democracy. In so far as our influence is felt, it is the result of open submissions of policy positions and the impact of individual communists who win respect as among the most loyal, the most devoted and ideologically clear members of these organisations.

Old habits die hard and among the most pernicious of these is the purist concept that all those who do not agree with the party are necessarily enemies of socialism.


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This leads to a substitution of name-calling and jargon for healthy debate with non-party activists. As already mentioned, our 7th Congress noted some isolated reversions along these lines and resolved to combat such tendencies. But, in general, the long-established and appreciable move away from old-style commandism and sectarianism has won for our party the admiration and support of a growing number of non-communist revolutionary activists in the broad workers' and national movement. We also consider it appropriate to canvass the views of such activists in the formulation of certain aspects of our policy.

For example, we submitted our preliminary conception of the contents of a Workers' Charter for critical discussion not only in our own ranks but throughout the national and trade union movements. Our party's programme holds firmly to a post-apartheid state which will guarantee all citizens the basic rights and freedoms of organisation, speech, thought, press, movement, residence, conscience and religion; full trade union rights for all workers including the right to strike, and one person one vote in free and democratic elections.

These freedoms constitute the very essence of our national liberation and socialist objectives and they clearly imply political pluralism. Both for these historical reasons and because experience has shown that an institutionalised one-party state has a strong propensity for authoritarianism, we remain protagonists of multi-party post-apartheid democracy both in the national democratic and socialist phases, is desirable.

We believe that post-apartheid state power must clearly vest in the elected representatives of the people and not, directly or indirectly, in the administrative command of a party. The relationship which evolves between political parties and state structures must not, in any way, undermine the sovereignty of elected bodies. Police detained hundreds of anti-Putin protesters during rallies in May, but smiled, waved and posed for pictures with visiting fans over the last five weeks.

Worryingly, Fifa have been only too willing to cooperate along the way, even after the corruption scandal that engulfed the governing body in Fifa has shown at Russia it has no moral quibbles with human rights abuses, as long as its bottom line is not affected. Putin will have loathed the iconic image of Mbappe high-fiving a political protester from punk group Pussy Riot, dressed in a police uniform, who invaded the pitch during the final with three others, all while a massive global audience watched.

The biggest winner of all may just have been Macron, who kissed Mbappe and Griezmann on their foreheads at the medal ceremony, as well as the top of the World Cup trophy before it was presented to France captain Hugo Lloris. He continued having fun when he joined the French team in their changing room, giving a speech and striking the dab pose while larking about on Snapchat with Paul Pogba and Benjamin Mendy.

For Macron, it was the sweetest of victories, in more than just football terms, and he got to do it all in front of Putin and really rub the Russian president's nose in it. Skip to main content.

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Monday, 16 July, , 4: Monday, 16 July, , 5: More on this story. Opinion World Cup opening ceremony: Putin throws a shameful party for himself 16 Jun Football Did Maradona just deliver the weirdest post-game interview ever? Football Fifa The Best: Punk band Pussy Riot takes responsibility for World Cup pitch invasion protest The lowest-ranked team heading into the tournament, Russia were a penalty shoot-out away from reaching the semi-finals, riding a wave of patriotic pride that will have had Putin rubbing his hands with glee.

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