9:18 PMFernando Claudin, "The Communist Movement", 1970
Who is F. Claudin?
In the "Preface" to the 1975 English translation, we read:
"A leader of the Young Communists in Madrid and a student of architecture, Fernando Claudin abandoned, in or about 1933, all personal ambitions in order to become a functionary of the revolution".
The only makes sense if we understand that Claudin was a member of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE), a party that played an openly counter-revolutionary role during the Spanish revolution, 1936-39.
Claudin was "elected to the Central Committee of the Spanish Communist Party as leader of the Youth movement and was a member of the Political Bureau from 1947 to 1965", emigrated with most of the leaders of the PCE after the defeat of the revolution, and engaged in underground activities against the regime of Franco. In 1964 he was expelled by PCE.
Chapter 1: the dissolution of Comintern
Claudin looks at the final period of the Comintern, and the period of the Cominform (1947-1956). We note that neither the Second, nor the Third Internationals stood the test of world wars. The Second ceased existence in 1914. The Third was dissolved formally in 1943. This shows how important a war is for testing an International, or a party.
Stalin was able to “liquidate” the Third International for the same reasons he was able to liquidate “the old guard” of the Bolshevik party. The name for this is reaction in revolution, "Thermidor".The Comintern was dissolved in order to accommodate the interests of the U.S. and British imperialism, with whom Stalin aligned himself against Nazi Germany. This was to “guarantee” that the objectives of the USSR in the war would not be revolutionary.
Chapter 2: the crisis of theory
“World-wide nature of the socialist revolution followed, for Marx, from the very nature of modern productive forces, which makes capitalism a world system… A forteriori, socialism, being the product … of a transition of the productive forces to a still higher level, can not really exist otherwise than as a world system”. If socialism is a world system, then it can established by a world party. The most likely scenario leading to it is a world war ("turning the imperialist war into a civil one", to use the expression from Lenin).
“The essential agent in the grand combination of revolutionary forces foreseen by Lenin continued to be the proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries”.
However, experience of revolutions in XX century revealed that it was mostly peasants led by town intelligentsia who were revolutionary. E.g. in China the peasants were led by Mao, a former librarian in Beijing, in Cuba the peasants were led by Castro, a son of a landowner, a former student of law at Havana University.
Moreover, with the rise of automation and IT (information technologies), the nature of production is transformed so that proletariat is no longer an advanced productive class, but is rather a vestige of the past, just like the peasants were for Marx and Engels. In other words, the more backward strata of the population have become manual workers. Can we call the IT workers "proletariat"? I don't think so. IT workers work with computers, i.e. electronic machines, while those whom we traditionally call the "proletariat" work with mechanical machines. The IT workers and proletariat have different relationship to the means of production. All IT workers own a computer and have an access to Internet. The main productive force in this sphere is technical skill and knowledge. Very few of industrial workers own their means of production. For example, the miners don't own the mine and the corresponding tools necessary for mining.
As the experience of the Second International showed, Europe, the USA, etc. i.e. the centers of imperialism, have become mired in exploitation of the world so that their workers share in the surplus-value extracted from semi-colonial countries (e.g. from China). Hence, these workers can not be revolutionary, and only certain sections within these regions (e.g. Irish workers in England, black and other national minority workers in the USA) can act as auxiliary revolutionary forces. A world revolutionary party is expected to be formed in the Third World, and in the transitional states now undergoing Restoration of capitalism. Witness for example the rise of militant Islam. This is due to lack of a modern revolutionary theory and its breeding ground are the semi-colonial countries of Asia.
The most critical theoretical problem to tackle today, for socialism, is the nature of the regimes now in existence in the countries of the former “socialist camp”. This will define us vis-à-vis other socialist trends and thinkers. We must clearly understand the nature of wars in such former states as Yugoslavia and the USSR. Soon such wars will be seen in China. Imperialism wants us to see these as wars of "big nations" oppressing "the little nations" (e.g. Serbia oppressing Bosnia, Russia oppressing Georgia). But in reality these are civil wars between two or more factions of bureaucracy and gangsters who attempt to divide up the state property. Neither of the sides in the conflicts must be supported, but both must be fought.
Modern “revolutionary” parties are characterized by: 1) lack of theory, 2) routine-ridden, thoughtless "activism". Both of these qualities are used by imperialists and bureaucracy for their purposes.
Chapter 3: Monolithicity
Decay of the Russian revolution = decay of the Communist International. Hence, we have to understand the decay of the first to understand the decay of the second. Causes of decay of the Russian revolution have been best covered by Trotsky. These are: 1) defeat of revolutions in other countries; 2) low level of material culture in USSR, 3) hence, growth of bureaucracy, to the detriment of self-management.
As a result of the growth of bureaucracy in the Soviet state apparatus, we see “selection within the active nucleus of each national Communist party in favor of those elements that were readiest to submit to the will of the centre in Moscow”. The same process takes place within the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union), and in the present leadership of Russia, all the way to Putin (remember his servility to Yeltsin, when he was a prime-minister in 1990's). “Political and theoretical discussions (the latter becoming ever less frequent) degenerated into a kind of ritual, by means of which the truth emanating from on high, from the supreme depository of truth, was passed on to those down below”. Look at the latest congress of "United Russia" (in November 2008), the current ruling party in Russia, to see the same lack of political and theoretical discussions, the word of "truth" being spoken by Putin, Medvedev, Gryzlov, and a few other "leaders".
Chapter 4: The crisis of policy (the Spanish revolution)
Membership in an organization is a function of policy. Correct policy – an increase in membership. Wrong policy – decline in membership. Membership of the Comintern was steadily declining, since the death of Lenin. To understand what that means look at the latest comments of the Greek communist party about the incident where a 15-year old boy was shot by the police in Greece. It is not possible to understand from their writing what happened. We see just a set of dogmatic assertions.
Stalin in January 1934 said: “quite clearly, things are heading for a new war”. Signing of military pacts is a prelude to a world war. Today we see the same thing. Russia has signed military treaty with China, and other states hostile to the U.S. We should suppose that the new world war will use the most modern weapons, such as hydrogen bombs and war in cyberspace. Most likely, neither the regime in Russia, nor in the U.S., will be able to withstand the social pressure from such explosions. What will replace these? The fascists, of the Tim McVeigh type ("Turner's diaries"), or proponents of world socialist revolution?
About Spain in 1936 we read: “the armed combat between revolution and counter-revolution in Spain became automatically transformed into an international problem”. That’s a law of international relations: a civil war in a country immediately becomes an international concern because competing powers want to establish their “influence” in this region. The most important civil wars in the present are in the former Soviet Union. In August 2008 this was Russia vs. Georgia (South Ossetia); in the future, it may be Russia vs. Ukraine (Crimea), Russia vs. Moldova (Trans-Dneister region), Russia vs. Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh), etc. The United States, NATO must sooner or later become involved in these civil wars, and here we have a fuse for a world war.
Prior to WWII, “the primary object of Soviet policy was to consolidate the military alliance with France and achieve an understanding with Britain. But neither the bourgeois France of Blum nor the Conservative Britain of Baldwin and Chamberlain could tolerate a victory of the proletarian revolution in Spain”. Hence, a betrayal of that revolution on the part of Stalin; and later - a dissolution of the Comintern.
In Spain, “the entire future of the Republic depended ultimately upon the type of socio-political regime that would be established during the war (1936-39)”, not after. But the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) proposed first fighting the fascism, and then going towards the social revolution. Dolores Ibarruri, a leader of the Spanish Communist Party, said : “Neither its (PCE) propaganda nor the steps taken with a view to strengthening the army and increasing the production of arms could make up for the vacuum left by the loss of what had been the mainspring of the people’s fighting spirit in the first months: revolutionary enthusiasm”. That’s exactly the situation we have in Russia with Putin-Medvedev regime What enthusiasm can there be towards a regime which oppresses its people? A regime which does not allow the modern production techniques to develop, and hence is forced to export mostly raw materials? A regime that is corrupted from top to bottom, and promotes the welfare of oligarchs? In case of war, revolutionaries’ best chance lies in fighting a guerrilla war, similar to the one in Yugoslavia during WWII.
In Spain, “Guerrilla activity on a wide scale, for which favorable conditions existed in a number of regions of Spain, would not merely have considerably reinforced the military power of the Republic and the likelihood of victory but would also have made possible, in the event of defeat of ‘conventional warfare’, the creation of bases for continuing the armed struggle over a long period, so as to merge, when the world war came, with the anti-Hitlerite resistance”. Revolutionaries all over the world must work for anti-NATO resistance. The main roadblock to this strategy is going to be the Communist Party and the "left". The CP will say: "let’s first defeat the NATO, revolution will come afterward". But we must say: "revolution and defeat of NATO must come together". One is impossible without the other. Defeat of NATO is impossible when a country is headed by people such as S. Milosevic of Yugoslavia.
An Indian Communist, M.N. Roy, said at an early Congress of Comintern: “thanks to the resources drawn from the colonies, European capitalism was in a position to go as far as would be politically necessary in making economic concessions to the proletariat of Europe”. A resolution of the Congress of Comintern said: “Extra profit gained in the colonies is the mainstay of modern capitalism, and so long as the latter is not deprived of this source of extra profit it will not be easy for the European working class to overthrow the capitalist order”. Hence, the world strategy for revolution: first revolution in the semi-colonial and transitional states. Then, finish up by landing the revolutionary troops in the centers of imperialism.
We must keep in mind the following: “At the Fourth Congress of the Comintern, Tan Malaka, representing the Communist Party of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) strongly criticized the blanket condemnation of Pan-Islamism, explaining the revolutionary anti-imperialist significance of a considerable portion of this movement, and how the attitude taken up by the Comintern had been skillfully used by the bourgeois nationalists of the Dutch East Indies in order to isolate the Communists from the peasant masses”. Thus, in Asia, there are Islamists and Islamists. One section of the Islamist movement has a potential to grow into a revolutionary socialist party.
Chapter 5: Revolution and spheres of influence
We have already seen that the Communists from adopting an extreme left position (treating Social Democracy as “social-fascists”) went over to an extreme right position of alliance with bourgeois "progressive" parties, and in some cases even dissolving the Communist party into a bourgeois party (e.g. in China). As a result of USSR’s alliance with France in preparation for WWII, “On 1 Sept. 1939 the (French) Communist parliamentary group unanimously proclaimed ‘the unshakeable determination of all Communists to stand in the front line against Hitlerian Fascist aggression’, and on 1 Sept. the Communist deputies voted for war credits”. Instead of supporting the communist movement within each capitalist country, the USSR allied itself with the ruling classes of these countries. This forced the communists in these countries to adopt a position similar to Social Democracy prior to the beginning of WWI, i.e. social patriotism. But the USSR could not support the communist movement against the bourgeoisie as it was suppressing revolution at home.
“By supporting the Gaullist solution the PCF was preparing the way for the restoration of French capitalism”. During the Second World War, the USSR supported general de Gaul and suppressed the French partisans, the Resistance.
In 1943-4, “the unified resistance network grew strongly throughout France, and in this network the Communists occupied key positions”. But, “as soon as (the French Communist leader) Thorez arrived (in France from Moscow), the party organizations received internal instructions to disband the militias and surrender their arms”. This was at the end of 1944-early 1945. The left elements in the PCF were called “Hitlero-Trotskyites”. This was exactly the policy favored by De Gaul. Upon arriving in France, he “began to install his machinery and limit the powers of the liberation committees.” The capitalist state machinery, broken by the Hitler's invasion of France, was restored thanks to the Communist parties of the USSR and France. In this situation, it was right to oppose the Communist party from the left, to continue the armed struggle against the PCF and De Gaul, relying upon the arms of the militias and the liberation committees.
At the end of WWII, the PCF “was associated with all the acts of colonialist repression practiced by successive French governments”. For example, they give support for France to stay in Algiers.
In Italy, the situation during WWII was similar as in France. In Italy, “the partisan movement grew very fast”. Luigi Longo writes: “there existed in many regions a de facto duality of power, the organs of the Fascist authorities, which were becoming increasingly discredited, and the anti-Fascist executive organs, existing illegally but enjoying great popularity among the people”.
The partisans of Northern Italy sign “a Rome protocol”, in which “the partisans undertook to obey British and American instructions on the conduct of the war, to appoint as military leader of the partisan army an allied ‘secret officer’ and follow his instructions”. Thus the Allies gained a guarantee that the partisans “would not make a revolution”.
Luigi Longo writes: “when the allied authorities reached the north with their troops, they began to remove from important posts the men of the resistance appointed by the national liberation committees, and replaced them with the officials from the old administrative apparatus”. This is Restoration of capitalist state machine. A Soviet historian writes: the Anglo-American military administration “returned to the capitalists and landowners the goods which had been confiscated from them. The occupiers disarmed the partisan detachments and went on to dissolve the National Liberation Committee for Northern Italy”. The PCI was the first to encourage the disarming of the partisans. Thus, CP’s and their remnants in the former “socialist” countries form the main check on the world revolution. Hence, the right strategy, in the revolutionary movement is to struggle against the CP’s, SP’s (socialist parties), and pseudo-Trotskyist parties from the left.
In Yugoslavia, the “national liberation and the revolutionary transformation of the country were closely linked”. This we don’t see today for example in Iraq. “The war of liberation inevitably took on at the same time the form of a civil war against the bourgeoisie and the big landowners”. This is what must be done in Iraq.
The CP in Yugoslavia did not make an alliance with Mihailovic and his Chetniks. As a result, the later were isolated, as they were “obliged to reveal before the people their reactionary aims, the preservation of the old exploitative social system which they held out as the reward of the sacrifices and heroism of the resistance fighters”. This implies that, for example in Iraq, the resistance fighters should not compromise with the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, the Sunni army officers. Rather, the Shiites together with Sunnis should fight both the remnants of the old regime, who cooperate now more and more with occupation authorities.
The examples of France and Italy in 1940’s show that inside the Comintern, the reaction predominated over revolution. Where the Communist leadership was isolated from Comintern, as in the case of Yugoslavia and China, the CP’s were a semi- revolutionary force.
In Greece, “the leadership of the Greek Communist Party was unable to resist the pressure of Moscow with the firmness of the Yugoslav party. It made serious concessions to the policy of ‘national unity’ and accepted compromises with the allies which facilitated the British army’s intervention against the Greek resistance”.
In 1946 a civil war in Greece starts. “Feeling too weak to cope with the situation, British imperialism gave up its role of policeman to American imperialism, and on 12 March 1947 Truman announced that the U.S. was undertaking the ‘protection’ of Greece and Turkey as the first application of the ‘Truman doctrine’.” Stalin did not lend any support to the revolution in Greece, as a result of his agreement with Churchill, dividing up a priori the spheres of influence in Europe between the USSR and Britain.
As a result of a world war, we see a growth of communist and anti-Communist Resistance movements. These include:
As a rule, the resistance to the occupation forces is led by communists. If the resistance does not cooperate with Stalinists (e.g. the Communist Party of Spain), then the communist-led Resistance has a good chance to turn into a regular army and defeat oppressor, while at the same time spearheading a socialist revolution. Hence, the policy for the future resistance movements.
In some cases, the civil war within the amorphous resistance movement can take place after victory over the occupation forces. For example, in Greece the civil war started after the end of the German occupation. The Greek communists were defeated because they allied themselves to Stalin.
Chapter 7: The Yugoslav Breach (the Warsaw Pact as successor to Comintern)
The USSR tried to subvert the regime of Tito, attempting to install the same marionette government as was the case in other Eastern European countries. But the Yugoslavs liberated themselves from the German occupation while the liberation of Eastern Europe was mostly the work of the Soviet army. Thus, Tito was able to retain power in spite of many Soviet agents in his government. Control of the Ministry of the Interior, the Security Services, the Army is the key to the control of the state. If you want to understand the nature of a regime in any one country, look at who is in charge of these departments.
Stalin's break with Yugoslavia had important consequences for the Communist movement and world politics. Encyclopedia Encarta writes: "In October 1947 the Soviet Union arranged a meeting in Poland for the Communist parties of nine countries: USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, France, and Italy." This was establishment of Cominform. The headquarters of the Cominform were in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. But as a result of Stalin's break with Yugoslaiva in 1948, the HQ of Cominform were transferred to Bucharest, Romania.
Wikipedia thus explains the reason for Cominform's establishment: "Soviet leader Joseph Stalin called the conference in response to divergences among eastern European governments on whether or not to attend the Paris Conference on Marshall Aid in July 1947". In other words, there is a need to establish a coordinated international policy of communist parties vis-a-vis developments in the capitalist world.
F. Claudin writes that Cominform followed “the path of class collaboration on a national and international scale, disarmed the (communist) movement and demoralized the groups of new militants who had joined it in the years of resistance and the liberation”. The period of Cominform marked the decline of the Communist movement: “the communist movement continued to brandish the formulae and clichés of the past. There was no research, no real discussion and no new ideas”.
In 1955 a Warsaw Pact was signed, in response to West Germany joining NATO in the same year. Wikipedia writes: "The Warsaw Pact was divided into two branches: the Political Consultative Committee, which coordinated all non-military activities, and the Unified Command of Pact Armed Forces, which had authority over the troops assigned to it by member states".Thus, we see an important development in communist movement: an international political organization is replaced by an international military-political organization, for, according to Clausewitz, war is an extension of politics by other means.
Political-military organization was supplemented by economic organizations. Council for Mutual Economic Aid was established in 1949 by the USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Wikipedia writes: "The communiqué announcing the event cited the refusal of these countries to "subordinate themselves to the dictates of the Marshall Plan" and their intention to resist the trade boycott imposed by "the United States, Britain and certain other countries of Western Europe" as the major factors contributing to the decision "to organize a more broadly based economic cooperation among the countries of the people's democracy and the USSR." Thus, we must aim for an international political-military economic organization.
Yugoslavia, on being expelled from Cominform, attempted to find an international niche in the Non-Aligned Movement, founded in 1955. Wikipedia writes: "While the organization was intended to be as close an alliance as NATO or the Warsaw Pact, it has little cohesion and many of its members were actually quite closely aligned with one or another of the great powers. For example, Cuba was closely aligned with the former Soviet Union during the Cold War era. Additionally, some members were involved in serious conflicts with other members (e.g. India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq). The movement fractured from its own internal contradictions when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. While the Soviet allies supported the invasion, other members (particularly Islamic nations) of the movement did not." Non-aligned movement is a non-movement.
Chapter 8: The East takes over (the Chinese revolution)
The biggest revolution in the wake of WWII was the Chinese revolution. The party heading the fight against the communists was the Nationalist party, the Kuomintang, headed by Chiang Kai-shek. “For Chiang the Communists were the main enemy. As he put it on one occasion, ‘The Japanese are a disease of the skin, the Communists are a disease of the heart'." For the communists inside the transitional countries that means that the main enemy is inside the country: the bureaucracy and its parties. The foreign imperialists are a secondary problem.
Mao, like Tito, pursued 2 goals: 1) social revolution, 2) national liberation. Both Mao and Tito were Stalinists. But this was a special kind of Stalinism, one which went against the will of Stalin. It can be called a left-wing, revolutionary Stalinism. This is a contradiction, a paradox, but this is the stuff history is made of.
Generalizing upon their revolutionary experience, the Chinese envisaged this strategy for world revolution: “the encirclement of the ‘world of the city’ (the area of advanced capitalism) by the ‘world of the country’ (the underdeveloped continents)”. This is similar to the strategy we propose: uniting resistance in transitional states with those of the Third World, against imperialism.
Chapter 9: The New World Balance (the Cold War)
Following "the end" of WWII, another major development in international relations was the Cold War. F. Claudin writes: “the ‘cold war’ was a sort of exploration or sounding carried out to gain a more exact knowledge of the forces and dispositions of the enemy”. This implies several things. 1) The class antagonisms within the society have become transformed into antagonisms between states. 2) The cold war is a preliminary engagement, after which there will be a "hot war".
Stalin, in Sept. 1952, said “that the contradictions between the capitalist countries were ‘practically’ stronger than those between the camp of socialism and the camp of capitalism, and that wars between capitalist countries were therefore a more likely prospect”. Stalin did not grasp the meaning of WWII. The Second World War was primarily the war of fascist Germany against socialist USSR; only in the second place it was an imperialist war “for markets, colonies and raw materials”. This is important to understanding the current American imperialism. The U.S. are primarily interested in destroying Russia, China, etc., and only in the second place they are interested in markets, oil, etc.
What is the "Cold war"? Wikipedia, in Russian, defines it as "a global geopolitical, economic and ideological confrontation between the USA and its allies, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union and its allies". Essentially, this is a confrontation between an old, outdated social system, namely capitalism, and a new system of socialism. The USSR after its break up changed into Russia and other states. The cold war continues, after a temporary lull in 1991-2000. The place of the USSR is taken by Russia. This is an argument favoring the position that the social nature of Russia is not qualitatively different from that of the USSR. The same logic is true for the other former republics of the Soviet Union.
The Cold War can be divided up into two parts: during the existence of the USSR, and after its dissolution. The first part is marked by at least five major crisis.
1) The Berlin Blockade in 1948-9.
2) The Korean war, 1950-3.
3) The Cuban missiles crisis in 1962.
4) The Vietnam war, 1959-75.
5) The war in Afghanistan, since 1978.
For us, however, the second part of the Cold war is more important.
1) The Yugoslav civil war in 1990’s.
2) The war in Chechnya, Russia, in 1990’s.
3) The sinking of the Russian nuclear submarine “Kursk” in 2000.
4) The NATO expansion eastward in Europe, 2000’s.
5) The U.S. support for Georgia in the war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008.
6) The U.S. support for Ukraine in the civil war in eastern Ukraine, since 2014.
1. As a result of WWII, revolution became a fact in the whole of Europe. However, it won a tentative victory only in Yugoslavia and Albania; both of these countries managed to liberate themselves from Nazis without much of help from the Red army controlled by Stalin. The revolution was defeated in: 1) Spain, 2) France, 3) Italy, 4) Greece. In Asia, revolution won a tentative victory in China, and later in Vietnam.
2. What are the reasons for the victories and defeats? We've seen that as a result of an imperialist war, a Resistance movement starts almost in every country occupied by imperialist forces. The party politics before the occupation turns into a civil war between several branches of the Resistance movement. One branch collaborates with imperialism (for example in modern Iraq: some Shiite guerrilla groups, e.g. the leadership of the Mahdi amy), while another branch stands firmly opposed to any collaboration and fights a guerrilla warfare, both against the government and other guerrilla groups.
In this branch of the Resistance movement, everything depends on its relationship to Stalinism. If it does not collaborate with Stalinists (e.g. the Communist Party of the Russian Federation today), then the Resistance movement has a good chance to turn from a guerrilla into a regular army and ultimately defeat the aggressor (e.g. China in 1949). However, if the Resistance collaborates with modern-day Stalinists, then defeat is certain. Hence, the principal fight of the Resistance is against the Stalinists, i.e. those who collaborate with imperialists.
3. What is the nature of the organization that is needed to win in such a fight?
A) It is not just a political party but a guerrilla organization. A guerrilla organization has both a political and a military wing.
B) It is not national party but an International organization, like "Al Qaeda".
C) This organization is a dictatorship of the new revolutionary class, as it is a fighting orgnization.
D) It is a democratic centralist organization; global plans are coordinated with local initiative and self-management.
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