No 1608 22nd May 2022
Labour, reformist, Trot and revisionist counter-revolutionaries crawl even further up imperialism’s fundament swallowing ever sicker and more demented anti-Russian propaganda lies on Ukraine and its Kiev Nazi warmonger stooges. But the CIA-MI6 deliberate defeatist disinformation is looking sick itself as the Azov fascists are wiped out and the Russian campaign regroups. Partial defeat for the NATO belligerence which started the war and trained its fascist perpetrators will hamper the crisis driven aggression but not stop the imperialist drive towards World War Three made “necessary” to escape the cataclysmic breakdown of the profit making monopoly capitalist system. Only class war to overthrow the ever more degenerate imperialist order will end continuous war. Build Leninism.
The ever-more-grotesque hysteria of Western political and media Goebbels hate-lies against Russia, desperate to keep public opinion herded behind the barbaric Ukrainian Nazis and their proxy war for NATO (just as nazi); the dirty US-bribed judicial coup toppling Pakistan’s government for refusing to back Washington’s vicious war aggression; bullying pressure on a reluctant Serbia to likewise impose “sanctions” and a failed attempt to fix the Hungarian election and topple chauvinist populist Victor Orban for his pro-Russian stance; all reflect a monopoly capitalist system in terminal crisis.
So too do the incipient splits in Europe, its major powers temporarily serving Washington’s imperialist world war interests but increasingly uneasy about taking on the biggest burden of arms supply dangers and sanctions blockade economic costs, all to the strategic trade war benefit of US imperialism against the EU competition.
Germany is dragging its feet as the costs rise alarmingly for its population and its industry; Italy is hesitant and France is havering as national self-interest lines up behind the chauvinist populism of Marine le Pen in the presidential election, threatening to topple the (also populist) shallow and pretentious Emmanuel Macron.
All of this and much more, are facets of the greatest crisis breakdown in history, tearing open everything thought to be stable and permanent under the bourgeoisie’s centuries-old world domination.
Imperialism is being shaken to its very foundations by Catastrophic economic collapse caused by its internal contradictions (see Marx eg p6, Capital) and solvable, within its greed and profit system, only by destruction on a gargantuan scale (even beyond the WW1 and WW2 capitalist “solutions” to past crises).
So it is deliberately escalating its brutal and cynical warmongering, to get out of it by obliterating the “surplus” capital which has inexorably built up, clogging its world economy and bringing it to a paralysing Slump disaster (imposed on the masses).
Since NATO’s Serbian butchery in 1999 the US empire and its sometimes reluctant imperialist stooges have destroyed, or tried to destroy, at least half a dozen countries in various ways from Iraq and Afghanistan to Syria, Libya and Iran, slaughtering and butchering hundreds and hundreds of thousands of victims. Men, women and children have been cut down, and millions tortured, maimed, “refugeed” and starved with utmost barbarity.
A dozen countries more are currently lined up with demonising propaganda like Myanmar, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Cuba, North Korea and ultimately giant China. And there are more.
Ukraine is just the most immediate on the list, a war lyingly blamed on Russian “tyranny” with an upside down psyops campaign of gross lies, inversions and propaganda poison, but which was instigated by a Western-funded and guided reactionary coup in 2014, massive NATO buildup all around East Europe and eight years of CIA-directed Ukrainian Nazi-nationalist killings of the eastern Russian minority, murderously blitzing 14,000 mostly civilians over eight years.
Kiev’s fascist stoogery was planning to escalate its butchery to an all-out massacre invasion this Spring (with Western political and military “advice”), forcing Moscow’s hand into aiding the Russian speaking eastern provinces firstly and pushing back against its encirclement generally.
Whatever the immediate outcome in Ukraine, where for the moment the Russian intervention appears to have the upper hand despite a torrent of defeatist CIA propaganda nonsense about “low morale, retreats from Kiev, poor equipment” etc etc etc, the imperialist system cannot stop driving on to further destruction, either by stepping up its military aid for Kiev, as already signalled by the missile attack to sink the Russian flagship Moskva,– now said to have been done with a Norwegian, that is NATO supplied and perhaps operated, ship missile, and NATO position intelligence too – or by other means, here or elsewhere in east Europe, in Africa, around China.
The world is being prepared for the total war, WW3, that alone can “restore profitability” (for the victorious capital left standing at the end) and simultaneously divert attention from monopoly capitalism’s incompetence, greed and corruption, covering up its system’s responsibility for the greatest economic and social/political collapse in history.
It cannot be repeated enough, for all those still complacently seeing just another faraway event, or “depressing stuff on the news”, or material for more “leftist” posturing and “peace campaigning” – imperialism is facing complete cataclysm and is on an inexorable path to war. It cannot stop.
No other outcome is possible while it maintains its production for private profit system and it will not give that up voluntarily.
Only revolutionary class war to end this ever-more-unequal, unfair and greed-ridden capitalist arrogance, -once taking history forwards (brutally), but now long out of time and rotten all through, can save the world from the coming devastation by building socialism under the firm control of working class power.
It means overturning the whole stinking society by class war to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a party of revolutionary science (built by the working class).
That is the only perspective in which to orientate and understand all the dizzyingly complex Slump and war events unfolding, and to expose and dismiss the deluge of “disinformation” ie psyops manipulation and Goebbels lies, poured out by imperialism to bemuse and corral obviously dismayed public opinion behind its wardrive, tapping the fears and small hatreds of the petty bourgeoisie and corrupted layers of the working class as well as continuing the general brainwashing with non-stop anti-communism.
Workers will not get any broad and historic understanding from the “Labour movement” and the crew of opportunist fake-“lefts” still crawling around it in various ways, however “Marxist” they claim to be.
Least of all will they hear any revolutionary conclusions.
To the contrary just when the stinking, degenerate and ultimately deadly nature of capitalism is more starkly clear than ever, and the need for the broad historic and philosophic understanding of Leninism most urgent to be built, the swamp is imploding too, cravenly lining up with reaction.
Every kind of class collaborating reformism and pacifism has always been completely intertwined with bourgeois ideology, serving to confuse and fool the working class and keep it bound to the fraudulent notions of abstract individualist “freedom” and bourgeois “democracy” and away from all-out class war.
With the sudden sharpening of the crisis, as the world economic collapse really begins to bite after ten years of “phoney slump” QE credit-propped austerity (which has been savage enough for many in the working class, stripping away social and private living conditions and imposing foodbank penury), all this fake-“leftism” and reformism is exposed as the treachery it really is.
Decades of supposed “opposition”, “resistance”, “class struggle” “internationalism” and even “revolution building” is effectively abandoned to fall in line with the jingoist Tory government including its most vile and arrogant elements, directly or implicitly.
Virtually all the “left”s are on side with the nastiest fascist governments of Eastern Europe like Poland and the Baltic states; on side with the CIA, the MI6 and NATO and on side with Washington itself.
Every filthy word of the anti-Moscow propaganda tide, great fat lies about non-existent “civilian massacres”, “genocide” “mass atrocities” etc willingly and consciously pumped out by the entire bourgeois media, is swallowed virtually without question.
Some have so directly capitulated to the propaganda onslaught, that they pour out even more demented support for the NATO warmongers than the ruling class itself.
This takes to new depths the treachery of the “left” already exposed by its capitulation to imperialism’s meaningless “war on terror”, dutifully lining up with their “condemnations” after every crude eruption of Third World revolt since the 9/11 Third World attack on the New York WTC, giving the barbaric imperialist system all the cover it needs for its non-stop smiting and murderous destruction of country after country and violent “policing” suppression of the rebellious upheavals which are now non-stop through the Middle East and Africa, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Latin America, in one form or another.
In 2001 the parallel could be drawn with the reformist Second International’s World War One treachery when it colluded with each imperialist ruling class to prop it up “in the national defence” voting for war credits and helping drag the working class into the blood and mud horror of the trenches to fight for what were the interests only of each ruling class, battling for colonial prestige and plunder.
Now it is underlined three times over.
Most obvious is the class collaborating trade union tradition and the now totally reactionary Labour Party not just lined-up with the Tories but even criticising them for “being too soft” and not cheering NATO enough (!!)).
Behind them are groups such as the misnamed “Alliance for Workers Liberty” and assorted “left” journalists such as former TV journalist Paul Mason, (whose former Workers Power credentials prove that Trotskyism is no obstacle to a bourgeois career), pseudo-“left” commentators like “liberal” Guardian Zionist Jonathan Freedland and colleague eco-warrior George Monbiot – as well as alleged “left” journals like the “Intercept”, attracting the likes of sly people’s power, anarchistic anti-communist Naomi Klein and the reformist worm Noam Chomsky.
Much of the remaining “left” bends to the hurricane wind of Western propaganda by hiding behind “moral” condemnations and “even-handed” sloganising of social-pacifism, grovellingly going along with the imperialist BIG LIE inversion pretending that the culprit for the war and its destruction is the Russian military “invasion” and calling for the “withdrawal” of the Moscow forces, a de facto retreat from NATO’s belligerence.
Mostly this is mixed in with a mechanical and context free application of the “self-determination” rights for the Ukrainians made into an absolute principle and applied without any current or historical connections, background or linkages, just as the Trots and softer revisionists have done before, for example in supporting the mafia-saturated Kosovo Albanians against the Serbs, another group pleading “self-determination rights” while in fact tied together with Western NATO warmongering.
As many times pointed out, (see multiple back issues EPSR eg No 1098,1099) such rights can only ever be considered in the context of the overall struggle to end imperialism, without which there can be no genuine self-determination advancing the working class struggle and building of socialism; it was the Soviet Union which gave the fullest self-determination rights to all the multiple nations it comprised.
Another wing covers up its retreats with purely academic posturing about “the real struggle is at home” for the working class to “defeat its own ruling class” but without building a scrap of the revolutionary understanding of the world crisis which is fundamental for such a struggle, without challenging the hoodwinking “democracy” lie, and without even giving any explanation of the class forces involved on all sides.
With groups like the Spart Trots, this formulaic cod-Leninist sloganising is applied equally to “both sides”, slyly covering up the huge imbalance between the gigantic NATO forces formed from a score of the richest and most powerful nations on the planet and the most less powerful Russians.
As discussed in recent issues (see EPSR 1606 eg) it is defeat solely for the main enemy that is in the interests of the working class, and equating the two sides undermines that grasp.
The destructive and aggressive force in the world is imperialism represented currently by NATO, overwhelmingly dominated by the US empire, its willing stooges like Britain and less willing “allied powers” such as Germany and France, as well as mostly arm-twisted and coerced smaller fry.
To make the issue into primarily an “inter-imperialist” conflict is to lose sight of (or deliberately obfuscate) the real prospects for setbacks to the imperialist domination of the planet and to undermine any concrete assessment of the balance of class forces in the world.
It is just another variant of pacifist position larded with some posturing about the working class fighting its own ruling class in each country, which misses out the main means by which Washington might be defeated.
Calling for defeat solely for NATO and its reactionary Ukrainian tool is the Marxist position.
But that implies no support whatsoever for Vladimir Putin’s crude bonapartism and its backwardness, still sustaining the gangster capitalist restoration which was allowed to take over the Soviet workers state in 1990-1 and which has been plundering its hard-built collectively-won and owned resources and capacities ever since.
Not only is Putinism hostile to Leninism and the re-establishment of Soviet relations, without which the masses in Russian will continue to face the Slump catastrophe just as those in every other capitalist country, but it has carried out repeated imperialist interventions.
Most obviously these were against Chechen national-liberation ambitions, brutally destroyed by two major wars, and now suppressed by a pro-Moscow local thug dictatorship under Ramsan Kadyrov; in the confused and murky civil war in Syria, suppressing local anti-Western hostility (idiotically characterised as “terrorist evil” – a completely non-Marxist understanding – see EPSR 1248 14-09-04 eg), and most recently in Kazakhstan, with massive troop support for the suppression of a workers revolt (justified by the same craven apeing of imperialism’s meaningless “war on terror” by Putin which has only ever been a “justification” for imperialism’s own warmongering and “might is right” blitzkrieging against all signs of revolt and turmoil).
So as explained in issue No 1606 there is no question of defending Putinism and its unstable balancing act serving the interests of oligarch billionaires.
It needs to be toppled in favour of re-established communism just as soon as the bigger threat, US dominant world imperialism is pushed back.
All this is a major difficulty for the small section of the “left” which has not been stampeded wholesale, sharp enough to recognise the imbalance and the sole responsibility of Western belligerence in setting the war going, but which succeeds only in getting itself, and therefore the working class, tied in knots trying to explain why.
Foremost among them are the Stalinist Proletarian/Lalkar revisionists and their popular front chauvinist lashup in the Workers Party of Britain with opportunist “maverick” former Labourite/Respect MP George Galloway.
Alongside is a coalition of various other revisionist and oddball Trot groups who effectively support Putin by calling for the “defence of Russia in this situation” including the still Healyite-WRP-echoing Socialist Fight group, its breakaway Consistent Democrats and their temporary alliance with the ultra-pacifist New Communist Party.
Correctly enough, as far as it goes, they link their support to recognition of the self-determination rights of the Russian speaking areas of Ukraine which refused to accept the reactionary nationalist (ie Nazi) Ukrainian censorship suppression of their culture, political status and language ever since the 2014 coup, imposed with massive intimidation and violence.
But all of them variously cause major confusion for the working class with a wooden and undialectical approach to their assessment of Russia.
Their problem is to find ways to wriggle out of the obvious fact that it is a capitalist country, and in the epoch of imperialism, as much driven to imperialist ambition as any other (as described above).
There was a counter-revolution 30 years ago, albeit of an unprecedented kind, carried out effectively voluntarily in the abandonment and self-liquidation of the workers state (save for a flurry of violence against its new parliament, after a half-hearted revisionist attempt to stop the changes).
Gorbachevite stupidity and opportunism (see EPSR Book Vol 13 Gorbachevism, Perspectives 2001 and issue No 1118 Perspectives 2002), bemused by cretinous fantasies of “merging the best features of capitalism and socialism to build an eternally peaceful common European home” failed to maintain the dictatorship of the proletariat, simply giving it up in favour of the supposed wisdom and direction of the “free market” and the guidance of “democracy”.
Inevitably that was as manipulated and twisted by ruling class interests, money influence and connections as any such hoodwinking “democracy” fraud in the West (which means totally controlled in favour of the capitalist ruling class).
Putin has even admitted as much, declaring recently that the government in the 1990s around then president Boris Yeltsin was completely stuffed with CIA agents and Western “advisers” virtually instructing the reactionary Yeltsin day to day and letting carpet-bagging gangster capitalism run riot, which brought Russia to virtual economic collapse already by 1998.
The mobilisation of elements of the old Soviet state to partially rein in the oligarchs’ political influence aimed to salvage things but only in favour of “stabilising” the new capitalism.
Putin, himself an ex-KGB officer, has led 20 years of a balancing act between these mega-billionaire monopoly capitalist class interests, Western pressure and the nostalgia in the masses (for a return of Soviet conditions), by restoring some minimal social provisions like pensions, health, education etc echoing, albeit faintly, the giant achievements of the Soviet Union during its 73 years of capitalist-free workers state development.
But such an unstable bonapartist balance, trying to contain this potentially revolutionary sentiment with a few sops, still essentially serves the interests of the billionaire class.
So why defend it?
As explained, the answer is not to do so.
Only the downfall and humiliation of the Western aggression should be called for, along the lines put forwards by Lenin in the revolutionary turmoil of 1917 when the Tsarist reactionary general Kornilov attempted to restore the monarchy by attacking the new bourgeois government.
In August the slippery bourgeois prime minister Alexander Kerensky stood in the way of proletarian revolution and an end to the Russia’s World War participation, but the Bolsheviks were obliged to stand alongside him for the moment, to help fight the greater threat, which they did, (without trusting him at all), immediately resuming the struggle when the coup attempt was seen off.
But to understand this tactic means understanding a dialectical revolutionary perspective.
Not one of the current pro-Russian groups comes near for all their “Marxist” assertions.
So they find another way round the problem - by denying the imperialist nature of Russia!
Instead it is declared to be just bourgeois nationalist.
That means it can declared a “victim of imperialist colonialist bullying” and fighting an anti-imperialist struggle.
Even were that to be true, it would still not make a case for supporting Putin (defending Russia), just as there was no case for supporting Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Bashar Assad in Syria, or Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia – even though each was victimised by imperialist war buildup (with just as much sick Goebbels intelligence and media lie onslaught) (see eg EPSRs No 1173 25-02-03, No 1006 14-07-99 & No 1226 30-03-04).
The call in all those cases was for defeat for imperialism while giving no credence to the leadership, and in fact warning the working class to be completely distrustful even while they were taking on the invasion or blitzing.
Now, it could be argued that there is an anti-imperialist element in this, notably for the eastern enclaves in Ukraine, and their independence from forced (and violent) Ukrainisation after 2014, a cause strangely absent from the West’s tearful and heart-wrenching gross hypocrisy of upholding “freedom” and self-determination (much as the Palestinian’s cause is likewise “overlooked”, or the Kurds, and many others) when it does not suit its warmongering interests.
And just as it was completely Marxist to support the Argentine national-liberation struggle during the 1981 war with Britain, in so far as it had a right to take back the Malvinas islands (Falklands), it could be right to support the Lugansk and Donetsk enclaves as republics.
But against Thatcher there was still no support for the Buenos Aires Galtieri junta as such.
But this still does not make Russia an anti-imperialist power as the CPGB-ML’s Lalkar/Proletarian tries to prove while taking a correct swipe at the “Finnish Communist” (a well known “Stalinist” Internet poster) who declares Russia to be simply a capitalist power seeking to seize territory for exploitation – and therefore presumably that the rapacious forces of Western imperialism are merely there to “defend ordinary people”, doubtless by supplying F-35 flying pigs.
Revisionism is always wooden and mechanical but this interpretation of Lenin take the biscuit:
He claims that the Russian operation in Ukraine has been launched for “geostrategic reasons” – ie, in the interest of Russian monopoly profits – and that Russia wants to take over Ukraine in order to control its markets and exploit its labour. No evidence is given to back up any of these assertions.
[...]the Finnish Bolshevik refers his viewers to the equally dire positions taken by the revisionist communist parties of Greece (KKE) and Sweden (SKP). He does not mention the very different narrative of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), also a revisionist party but one operating outside Nato’s sphere of influence.
(As a side note, the CPRF won 19 percent of the vote in the 2021 Russian legislative election. Not bad in a country that our Finnish Bolshevik claims is guilty of “repressing communists, just like the Nazis do”. The communists in Ukraine, on the other hand, were outlawed several years ago and have been subject to persistent persecution ever since the Maidan coup.)
As Marxist-Leninists, we must hold firm to the understanding that a country can only be classified as imperialist if it really meets all (and doesn’t just appear to meet one or two) of the criteria laid out so carefully by VI Lenin a century ago.
To be an imperialist power it is not sufficient just to engage in international trade or to have a meaningful defence capacity. It is not trade but a reliance on the superprofits brought in through the export of capital by monopolist financiers that indicates that an economy is moving from the lower stage of capitalism to the higher, monopolist stage (imperialism). And it is not a military capability per se that proves aggressive intent, but the use that military is put to. (See the end of this article for Lenin’s full definition.)
An extremely useful article by Stansfield Smith written for the Monthly Review in 2019 was titled Is Russia imperialist? Smith made an excellent and detailed analysis of this question, providing facts and figures to demonstrate that Russia fails to meet even one of the five criteria given by Lenin.
For those wishing to make their own serious study of this question (as opposed to wanting to back up an uninformed viewpoint with a cherry-picked quotation or two), Lenin’s Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism must be their essential starting point.
Anyone who tries to allege this or that country’s ‘imperialism’ without making a convincing, point-by-point case for arriving at such a conclusion should be treated as a provocateur; as someone who wants to sow confusion amongst the workers and demobilise their ability to act in opposition to the criminal aggressions of our rulers.
As a quick rule of thumb, if a country outside Nato is being targeted by countries within Nato, we can be pretty sure it’s not imperialist. And if one finds oneself on the same side as the Trotskyist purveyors of imperialist misinformation on such an important question, it’s probably time to do some soul-searching.
Lenin’s  five criteria:
*concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life [where are the Russian monopolies dominating our lives today?];
*merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this ‘finance capital’, of a financial oligarchy [Russia’s richest capitalists are involved predominantly in industry not finance; only one of the world’s top 100 banks is Russian, the state-owned Sberbank];
*export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance [Russia’s biggest exports are raw materials, not capital; where are the Russian finance capital trusts and monopolies exploiting the labour of the world and repatriating their wealth to Russia?];
formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves [such cartels do of course exist, but they do not include Russian monopolies];
the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed [such division has indeed taken place, but Russia was not a party to the division and does not reap the spoils of imperialist domination and war; indeed, its main crime is to come to the defence of those fighting off imperialist attack (Syria, eastern Ukraine) and to try to keep its own territory free of imperialist domination and superexploitation].
First of all this is simply not true; the oligarchs do exist and certainly play a decisive role in economic life, controlling banks and finance too, as well huge combines in mineral, oil and gas, exploiting resources and labour across the vast territory of the Russian Federation and its multiple separate countries.
Even where Putin’s Bonapartism has taken direct charge of some resources, the enterprises continue to be managed on a capitalist basis.
As mentioned, that includes the unwilling exploitation of populations like the Chechens whose extracted surplus value goes into the pockets of the oligarchs or the capitalist state.
Of course the billionaires “export capital” largely through the million secret and hidden money laundering channels which places like Switzerland, and the City of London especially, are so adept at, depositing tens of billions in “tax havens” from where it goes into the international banking and investment system, not just to buy yachts, villas and to host decadent parties, but to make a profit.
The billionaires are often in close alliance with major Western monopolies (BP, Shell, US and German companies).
That link is currently under strain obviously but for reasons of inter-imperialist conflict, because the whole system is collapsing and there is not room for all the great sloshing lakes of capital to find profitable homes or for every imperialist contender.
Even the “out or in NATO” rule is not exact; groupings of countries may well targets others for inter-imperialist reasons, taking on growing or existing powers like India for example, and equally there can be and almost certainly will soon obviously be, splits within NATO particularly between Europe and the US.
But this shamefully ignorant nonsense does not just ignore facts, it gets its “Leninism” completely upside down.
Starting with the criteria in this way is pure idealism, putting the abstracted “principles” first and trying to squash the real world to fit, the exact opposite of the materialism of Marxist science.
It is also no better than an A-level politics essay, to present the characteristics summing up the analysis of a new period by Lenin as some kind of checklist for each country; these are the symptoms of an entire new world system, in which every capitalist power will be drawn if it has the chance, and is not suppressed by the major powers (this incidentally applying to the medium and rising powers too, not any different to the major players except in being limited in scope; where it can, Brazil or India etc will have just as many imperialist ambitions – witness the purchase of steelworks in Britain by Indian monopolies, or its provocative skirmishes on the border with China).
Lenin’s entire way of working was utterly different, starting with the reality and attempting to abstract principles that could sum it up as best as possible at that moment and in the particular historical circumstances applying (as repeatedly stated also by Marx and Engels - emphasising the constant change and development driven by the contradictions in the world).
Of course Leninism uses and builds on all the understanding so far made, including the profound philosophical advances made by many bourgeois thinkers and even the ancient Greeks, and brought to a high point by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (See Anti-Dühring and Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-criticism) as well as more shorthand principles often incorporated in maxims and slogans).
But Lenin insisted nothing could be understood by applying “rules” first, without observing and analysing all the concretely unfolding events in as much detail as possible (he was always complaining about inadequate statistics).
The central, if not the whole purpose of the revolutionary party is to encourage the polemical struggle to grasp these questions, bringing all new development and their contradictions into the battle for understanding and fighting for an accepted understanding.
Constantly advancing, extending and developing revolutionary theory by carrying the polemic to a point of agreement, is something the entire fake-“left” still refuses to do, despite some occasional veneration of eclectic open forums.
Lenin berated the “old Bolsheviks” many times for mechanical application of “programme”, for example over their condemnation of the 1916 Irish Easter uprising as mere “terrorism – just a petty bourgeois putsch” – and notably in his Letters on Tactics on his return to Russia in April 1917:
Before the February-March revolution of 1917, state power in Russia was in the hands of one old class, namely, the feudal landed nobility, headed by Nicholas Romanov.
After the revolution, the power is in the hands of a different class, a new class, namely, the bourgeoisie.
The passing of state power from one class to another is the first, the principal, the basic sign of a revolution, both in the strictly scientific and in the practical political meaning of that term.
To this extent, the bourgeois, or the bourgeois-democratic, revolution in Russia is completed.
But at this point we hear a clamour of protest from people who readily call themselves “old Bolsheviks”. Didn”t we always maintain, they say, that the bourgeois-democratic revolution is completed only by the “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”? Is the agrarian revolution, which is also a bourgeois-democratic revolution, completed? Is it not a fact, on the contrary, that it has not even started?
My answer is: The Bolshevik slogans and ideas on the whole have been confirmed by history; but concretely things have worked out differently; they are more original, more peculiar, more variegated than anyone could have expected.
To ignore or overlook this fact would mean taking after those “old Bolsheviks” who more than once already have played so regrettable a role in the history of our Party by reiterating formulas senselessly learned by rote instead of studying the specific features of the new and living reality.
“The revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” has already become a reality** in the Russian revolution, for this “formula” envisages only a relation of classes, and not a concrete political institution implementing this relation, this co-operation. “The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies”—there you have the “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” already accomplished in reality.
This formula is already antiquated. Events have moved it from the realm of formulas into the realm of reality, clothed it with flesh and bone, concretised it and thereby modified it.
A new and different task now faces us: to effect a split within this dictatorship between the proletarian elements (the anti-defencist, internationalist, “Communist” elements, who stand for a transition to the commune) and the small-proprietor or petty-bourgeois elements (Chkheidze, Tsereteli, Steklov, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the other revolutionary defencists, who are opposed to moving towards the commune and are in favour of “supporting” the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois government).
The person who now speaks only of a “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” is behind the times, consequently, he has in effect gone over to the petty-bourgeoisie against the proletarian class struggle; that person should be consigned to the archive of “Bolshevik” pre-revolutionary antiques (it may be called the archive of “old Bolsheviks”).
The revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry has already been realised, but in a highly original manner, and with a number of extremely important modifications. I shall deal with them separately in one of my next letters. For the present, it is essential to grasp the incontestable truth that a Marxist must take cognisance of real life, of the true facts of reality, and not cling to a theory of yesterday, which, like all theories, at best only outlines the main and the general, only comes near to embracing life in all its complexity.
“Theory, my friend, is grey, but green is the eternal tree of life.”20 To deal with the question of “completion” of the bourgeois revolution in the old way is to sacrifice living Marxism to the dead letter.
According to the old way of thinking, the rule of the bourgeoisie could and should be followed by the rule of the proletariat and the peasantry, by their dictatorship.
In real life, however, things have already turned out differently; there has been an extremely original, novel and unprecedented interlacing of the one with the other. We have side by side,- existing together, simultaneously, both the rule of the bourgeoisie (the government of Lvov and Guchkov) and a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, which is voluntarily ceding; power to the bourgeoisie, voluntarily making itself an appendage of the bourgeoisie.
For it must not be forgotten that actually, in Petrograd, the power is in the hands of the workers and soldiers; the new government is not using and cannot use violence against them, because there is no police, no army standing apart from the people, no officialdom standing all-powerful above the people. This is a fact, the kind of fact that is characteristic of a state of the Paris Commune type. This fact does not fit into the old schemes. One must know how to adapt schemes to facts, instead of reiterating the now meaningless words about a “dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” in general.
Lenin had already shown in his “Letters from afar” and in his April theses that what was crucial for the advance of Bolshevik Party leadership in order to achieve the socialist revolution was not the existence of a necessarily behind-the-times and necessarily hopelessly general revolutionary programme but an ability to instantly orientate workers in the necessarily unknowable and colossally complex reality of the fast-developing revolutionary situation.
A pedantic harking-back to old programme demands was nothing but a diversion from getting on with the necessary up-to-the-minute analysis of class forces in 1917. (ILWP Bulletin [EPSR] No 629 30-12-91)
Imperialism and its brutal exploitation continues but the forms in which imperialism operates have changed considerably since 1916, through technical developments and not least because of the great wave of revolutionary anti-colonial struggles inspired by the great Soviet victory of 1945 against the imperialist Nazi onslaught (both German and Japanese).
That ended forever the direct territorial form of imperialist domination, replaced by the more subtle forms of intermingled economic neo-colonialism, under the unprecedentedly concentrated monopoly domination of the topdog USA and its ever more extensive and intensive world military networks (now hundreds of bases across the world except in China and Russia as it happens, and a few others like Pakistan).
Lenin’s Imperialism - the highest stage of capitalism (supplemented by Nikolai Bukharin’s Imperialism and the World Economy) certainly is vital theory along with 100 other volumes of Marxism (and far too little read, let alone understood).
But it needs to be the base for a living and developing grasp of an astonishingly complex real world, not as carved in stone and dogmatically (in the worst sense) applied.
Least of all should they be used to deny reality.
Certainly the post-Soviet Russian federation needs deeper analysis, not least because no such phenomenon has existed before, namely a restored capitalism on a once communist foundation, and not just any such foundation but one with a 73 year long history of colossal scientific, industrial, cultural, social and economic achievements and victories which have altered human history forever, whatever reverses have been suffered for the moment (from revisionist errors and retreat).
And the Ukraine war, in fact a war on NATO, throws a host of new questions into the air, about what changes might now be set in motion.
The great revolutionary questions are being thrown up.
But that is exactly what is being avoided by the Brarites, here with their cod-Lenin “rules”.
By denying Putinism’s imperialist nature they place it among the anti-imperialists that they tell the world will slowly change things without the need for universal revolutionary upheaval.
Ironically this “peaceful road” view of the future is encapsulated most of all in a revision of Imperialism’s conclusions, one of the most significant made and most importantly wrong, that advanced by Joseph Stalin in his Economic Problems of Socialism in 1952 in which he asked whether Lenin’s assertion that even in the period of its decay imperialism would still relentlessly expand, any longer held true.
Stalin answered that it could not, because of changed conditions following the Second World War, implying that capitalism was now hamstrung, not least from the rise of the socialist states.
From that followed the notion that imperialism, while dangerously aggressive, was “containable”.
By eliminating the unstoppable expansion of capitalist boom, the inevitable bursting of the bubble – the gigantic Catastrophe now unfolding – simply disappears.
“Peace struggle” was all that was necessary and revolutionary class war necessity could be put on the back burner, conveniently enough for the complacency of Moscow’s bureaucracy.
That meant that anti-imperialist struggle could be tailended as sufficient to change things without any “rocking the boat” with conflict and upheaval. But as the EPSR said about the Brarites' previous similar support for Saddam Hussein:
The SLP Youth delusions about Saddam Hussein’s “anti-imperialist” credentials flow directly out of this paralysed inability to discuss Stalinism’s ultimate bankruptcy.
Moscow’s weak-minded determination to discourage “revolutionary provocations”, which led the mighty German CP to sleepwalk into total annihilation in 1933 and the Indonesian CP (even bigger and even more impressive) to do the same in 1965, - never stopped pretending that anti-imperialist nationalism (e.g. the Sukarno regime pre-1965 in Indonesia) was just as good for the eventual triumph of world socialism (via the Soviet camp winning the peaceful competition with the imperialist camp) as all-the-way revolutionary socialist regimes.
In such Revisionist thinking, once Saddam had stopped being a totally tame stooge of US imperialist policy in the 1970s and had started doing arms deals with the Soviet Union, - then nothing further should be anticipated than the continued onward triumphal march of Moscow’s international “anti-imperialist” coalition of the Socialist Camp, the Non-Aligned states of national-liberation, and the world communist movement.
The obvious total collapse of this Revisionist nonsense post-1990 still cannot register with Stalin worship sectarianism. Naturally, in the world of such long-standing gradualist delusions, such spontaneous “anti-imperialism” resistance (as Saddamism had evolved into under decaying monopoly capitalist pressure would “inevitably go the whole hog one day into total socialist defiance and independence”; - just like it was supposed to happen the whole world over in the good old days of Stalinism. What sad rot.
Leninist science, freed from Revisionist blinkers, would surely have reached the completely different conclusion that the opportunist tyrant Saddam (admitted by SLP Youth) was first and foremost never to be identified as anything but TOTALLY UNRELIABLE, - a petty bourgeois class-treachery, anti-theory disaster just waiting to happen, - going completely rotten just like so many other Moscow Revisionism protégés of the treacherous “peaceful road/peaceful coexistence” era.
Any defeat or setback for the imperialist occupation policy, - by any means, - was the only sensible perspective to educate the world revolutionary movements understanding with, concentrating on the CLASS ENEMY as the only fixed point in this swirling, anti-theory, anti-communist chaos that has been unleashed on the world by the ultimate failure of Stalinist Revisionism, - and encouraging no confidence whatever in any chance defiance of monopoly imperialism that opportunist nationalism might produce (but didn’t under Saddam, - but might usefully yet, under the Shias).
In Iraq as everywhere, an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY is a party of world revolutionary perspective, replacing the collapse into Stalinist Revisionist nonsense of the Third International from the 1920s onwards, - and ONLY such a party can be built on and relied-upon, in Iraq or anywhere else, including Britain. [EPSR Book Vol 21 Unanswered Polemics against Stalinism].
And as also said then:
But even getting the guru-worshippers to debate these issues, let alone even consider that Stalin might have made a series of catastrophic anti-revolutionary retreats in his 30-year career, culminating in this TOTAL Revisionist disaster, - is as impossible now as it was inside the communist movement in Moscow’s hayday.
Another critical aspect that emerges from Stalin’s revisionist line, especially post-WW2 is the alleged division of the world into “aggressive and non-aggressive” imperialism following more or less those which made temporary alliances with the USSR during the war (out of desperation once Hitler had turned on them) and the Nazi-Japanese axis.
From this flows also a supposed division between “ordinary democratic” imperialist powers and fascist-Nazi powers and from that the notion of “denazification” now set out as one of the specific targets of Putin’s “special military operation”.
It is complete disarming garbage.
Fascism emerges from capitalism itself and is simply an expression of its weakness as it slides into crisis and is forced to impose more brutal and ruthless bourgeois dictatorship – sometimes tapping the peculiar and fanatical forms known in history, kept bubbling in the background, and got going with the kind of jingoism and chauvinist scapegoating seen around Brexit, in Trumpism, in Germany’s neo-Nazi movements, and including the Le Pen movement on the rise in France and possibly about to take power, all allied to alleged “anti-elitism” to fool and draw in workers and fearful petty bourgeois elements (just as Hitlerite “national-socialism” did initially).
Sometimes the bourgeoisie simply imposes its censorship, police repression and draconian measures like internment directly, perhaps under the kind of “necessary wartime coalition” government used by British imperialism in 1939-45 or in Ireland during the IRA/Sinn Féin national-liberation war (another “self-determination” oddly not supported by British hypocritical “freedom” pretences).
Most of the appalling fascist tyranny, wars and massacres in the world have been carried out by straightforward “democracy” and the non-stop repression by colonialism in the Third world in the last centuries, and again now in the new crisis period in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc.
But the crucial point is, whatever the form, fascism emerges from capitalist rule, and the collapse of capitalist rule.
There is no such thing as denazification without overturning capitalism.
And failure to make this point can only contribute to the alienation and confusion which will actually push the world even further into fascism.
Putin cannot “denazify“ Ukraine ultimately however many of the Swastika wearing Azov brigade are “eliminated” or captured because Ukraine will remain capitalist, and so will Russia, and so will NATO, the biggest fascist element of all in this brutal turmoil.
Setbacks and failure for NATO will weaken and humiliate Western imperialism creating doubts and loss of confidence that can open minds to the understanding they need – but they will not get it from creating illusions in Moscow and an alleged “national liberation” struggle.
The CPGB-ML revisionist line that fosters such garbage is the same one that has encouraged the Brexit nationalism for the last five years, particularly with the Spitfire roundel “patriotism” being fostered by its Workers Party of Britain racket with arch opportunist George Galloway.
It is a deadly danger to inflame such chauvinist backwardness in the working class, pretending that it is “disrupting capitalism” and therefore leading on to socialism.
It will do no such thing but lead on to war and fascism.
Only the battle to get a correct view of the world and its developments can lead the revolutionary struggle which takes on capitalism and any fascist forms it is driven to adopt.
So bad has this rot set in as a result of revisionist backwardness and refusal to examine the mistakes made by Stalin’s leadership, that the CPGB-ML even half celebrates the advent of the Le Pens and Trumps.
That is about as barmy as half-welcoming Hitler’s ascension on the grounds that it would show the working class how appalling the Nazi national socialism would be so that he could be “voted out” – except the “our turn” part of “after Hitler our turn” never came around because elections were abolished, and so was the powerful Communist Party of Germany, and much of its membership, dragged off to the concentration camps.
Revisionism has been fostering such stupid delusions in “democracy” ever since with equally disastrous results such as Augosto Allende’s horrific coup in Chile in 1973.
Putin’s bonapartist backwardness is born from the same crass revisionism which trained his early days before the end of the USSR.
Meanwhile, like the CPGB-ML, the other grouping refusing to join in the gung-ho NATO onslaught, and urging support for Moscow, (declaring it to be fighting a defensive war) also finds its way round the non-dialectical problems presented by the reality of Putin’s oligarch chums, by declaring Russia to be an “anti-imperialist power”.
This bizarre brotherhood includes the New Communist Party, which spent decades dutifully tailending Stalinist revisionism in Moscow without a word of criticism, whole propping up the Labour Party and the (Stalin-approved) “peaceful road” perspectives of the “official” CPGB (before the name was abandoned and picked up by the current crypto-Trot crew) – and Trots from the Posadists, the Socialist Fight and Consistent Democracy who all spent the same decades hostile to such Stalinism ostensibly, while in reality helping bolster the West’s non-stop anti-Soviet brainwashing with their petty bourgeois idealist moralising, condemning the Soviet Union outright for its errors instead of providing the sympathetic polemical criticism it needed while simultaneously giving unconditional support to it as a workers state.
Staggeringly in their pro-Russian statements now the Socialist Fight and its breakaway CD can still declare the 1991 “overthrow” of the Soviet Union to be a “disaster” despite the Trotskyism they still uphold having spent virtually the whole period since Lenin’s death trying to do exactly that with its call for a meaningless “political revolution”, which could only ever have been a counter-revolution in practice and which was exactly that in various European revolts like Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968 and most clearly around the Polish bogus “trade union” Solidarnosc Pilsudskyites in the 1980s, a key part of bringing the USSR to an end (and creating the subsequent Polish reaction which is now at the forefront bolstering the Ukrainian fascists).
And they are wrong anyway in their typical petty bourgeois gloom and misery designating 1989-91 as a “world historic defeat” for the working class; in fact Gorbachev’s self-liquidation was never a full-on defeat as such.
If it could be called so, it was a world historic defeat only for Stalinist revisionist philosophy which by then was set like concrete, precisely because of the huge achievements of the Soviet state, impeding the continuing development of Leninist revolutionary philosophy without which the world cannot move forwards.
Its collapse was a necessary if bitter clearout.
Supporting Putin is not going to help with that; just to opposite, his own sub-revisionist philosophy simply takes to the pro-capitalist limit the dull-brained nonsense that began with the Stalinist retreats in the first place and ripened into Gorbachevism.
The NCP meanwhile seemingly finds none of this a problem in forming an alliance; possibly because the position the group puts forwards still does not tackle the central question posed by the Ukrainian war, namely that of defeat for imperialism.
Here is what the Consistent Democracy says its line is in a letter to the Weekly Worker:
Our responsibility is to stop US imperialism and its wars in all its forms and to stand in solidarity with those who fight against US domination
And how is this “stopping” to be done??
For all its solidarity with the fight this pure defencism is just a variation on the “peace first” policy the NCP has always advocated, an extreme version of Stalin’s own permanent peaceful coexistence line – declaring that there can be no revolution “until the world has peace”, and willing to sacrifice virtually everything to achieve it.
No wonder it can join hands with the Trots, all united by a complete vacuum in revolutionary understanding.
Lenin in his entire career always said exactly the opposite; that there can be no peace until imperialism is ended because it is a system of permanent war and domination, with all-out destruction the end point as inevitable crisis collapse unfolds.
That will not happen without revolutionary war to overturn the entire system including the relic-kissing religious Russian nationalism advocated by Putin in Moscow and its reactionary suppression of the spontaneous world revolt declared “terrorism” or “extremism” (all unchallenged in any revolutionary way by the CPRF given so much credence by the Brarites).
Defeat for the main enemy first.
And build Leninism immediately.
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