Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Democratic Socialism is Capitalism Pt 8

Part 8 of my continuing series of translations of Wu Bing's critique of Xie Tao's advocacy of the social democratic path to the restoration of capitalism in China. For earlier parts of this series, it the label "anti-revisionism" on the right.

8. Distorting the New Economic Policy and Attacking Leninism

At the same time as tampering with the basic theories of Marx and Engels, Mr Xie Tao aims the spearhead of his attack at Lenin and Leninism.

(1) He attacked Lenin for “using changes to the relations of production as equal to the method of nationalization of the productive forces in building socialism”, for this was “a basic error of deviation from Marxism”. The he carried on his distortion of Lenin with a change of tone, saying “Lenin recognized this mistake in his old age and proposed the New Economic Policy, saying ‘Inasmuch as we are as yet unable to pass directly from small production to socialism, some capitalism is inevitable as the elemental product of small production and exchange; so that we must utilise capitalism (particularly by directing it into the channels of state capitalism) as the intermediary link between small production and socialism, as a means, a path, and a method of increasing the productive forces.’ (“The Tax in Kind”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 32, p. 342)”

On the question of Lenin implementing a New Economic Policy in Russia, this has been distorted by the “masters” of certain reforms in our country who attempt to flaunt this banner to lead China along the capitalist road. It has to be said that the proposals and debates surrounding this question are already very old. It is no great interest for Mr Xie Tao to restart this in his Preface.

Everyone knows that shortly after the October Revolution, Lenin placed the task of organizing the socialist economy on the agenda, pointing out “The Bolsheviks have already convinced Russia, have already taken Russia out of the hands of the wealthy, and must now learn how to administer Russia”.(“The Proletarian revolution and the Renegade Kautsky”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 28 p.234). Thus, beginning from the Spring of 1918, on the basis of an analysis of the economic characteristics of the transition period in Russia, Lenin determined the interim plan for the construction of socialism. However, owing to foreign armed intervention and the domestic counter-revolutionary rebellion, the plan could not be implemented in a timely manner. In 1921, the Soviet state ended the civil war and Lenin once more raised the task of restoring the national economy and building socialism. Owing to the destruction of four years of imperialist war and three years of civil war, in addition to severe drought and other natural disasters, there was an extreme shortage of food and fuel, a number of factories had to shut down. In the light of these circumstances, the 10th Congress of the Soviet Party decided to move from a system of collecting surplus grain to a tax in kind. This was the first important policy of the New Economic Policy. Its main purpose was to enable the rapid restoration of agriculture and to establish the worker-peasant alliance on a new basis and get the wheels of the whole socialist economy moving even better.

In an extract from Lenin’s “On the Tax in Kind” referred to by Mr Xie Tao, Lenin said: “The most urgent thing at the present time is to take measures that will immediately increase the productive forces of peasant farming” (“The Tax in Kind”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 32, p. 331). This was in order to restore industry on this foundation and to create the necessary material conditions for the construction of socialism.

Another important measure of the New Economic Policy was the implementation of state capitalism. Implementing the food tax (tax in kind) and allowing farmers to freely dispose of their surplus agricultural products requires some room for freedom of trade. Lenin believed that allowing free trade would definitely give rise to the development of private capitalism, and that this type of situation under the condition of the existence of vast numbers of small farmers was inevitable, and that the Party must conscientiously guide this development along the path of state capitalism. Lenin believed that in the struggle between socialism and capitalism over “who wins and who loses” in the transitional period, state capitalism enters the doorstep of socialism and that this is a strength that the proletarian state can use. State capitalism was capable of limiting capitalism in the economy, was a type of capitalism that was capable of having its limits determined, its purpose was not to develop capitalism but to use capitalism in the service of socialism, on the political level it could divide the bourgeoisie, and at the same time it could help the state carry out struggle against the spontaneous trend towards small scale production and anarchy, and through state capitalism, gradually lead small scale peasant production towards collectivization. In this sense, it really is a type of tool by which the proletariat wages class struggle, so state capitalism was conceived of by Lenin as a method and supplementary means for the transition to socialism under Russian conditions. Later, owing to the new circumstance of the emergence of the struggle over “who wins, who loses” and to the beginnings of rapid large-scale socialist industrial development, state capitalism no longer had the significance it was originally estimated to have.

In the course of the transition to the new economy put forward by Lenin, strong resistance from the bourgeoisie was encountered and opportunists within the Party also attacked Lenin in a vain attempt, in the Party’s policy of “concessions”, to turn the socialist state into a capitalist state. Therefore, Lenin said: On the economic front, the struggle over the problem of who will defeat who will be fiercer than the struggle with Kolchak and Denikin, because “It was, of course, much easier to solve war problems than those that confront us now” (“The New Economic Policy and the Tasks of the Political Education Departments”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 33, p. 48). In the Summer of 1921 the Constitutional Democratic Party and the Octobrists published in Prague “Changing Landmarks”, from which they got the name “Changing Landmarks faction” and attempted to prove that in its turn to the New Economic Policy, the Communist Party was giving up on the construction of socialism and was turning to the bourgeois system. The “Changing Landmarks faction” wrongly estimated the situation, they appealed to the bourgeois intellectuals cooperating with the Soviet political power to urge this kind of transformation on the Soviets. The “Changing Landmarks faction” brazenly proposed the abolition of the nationalisation of banks and industry, the abolition of the monopoly on foreign trade and demanded the restoration of the system of private ownership of land. The united with the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries and wantonly engaged in counter-revolutionary activities to subvert Soviet political power. In the course of just one year of fierce struggle, the New Economic Policy completed its historic mission. Convening the 11th Party Congress in March 1922, Lenin drew an extremely important conclusion: The early period of the New Economic Policy which allowed certain degree of a capitalist component now closing, the task now was the redistribution of the strength for a step in the direction of an attack on private economic capital. At the Congress Lenin said: “For a year we have been retreating. On behalf of the Party we must now call a halt. The purpose pursued by the retreat has been achieved…We now have a different objective, that of regrouping our forces” (“Political Report of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.)”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 33 p.246). Lenin also pointed out at the Congress through the resolution on the report he wrote: “The Party believes it must make concessions towards private capitalism, and has completed each measure stipulated over the past year; on the basis of this point, the Congress has recognised that the retreat has ended and believes the tasks before the Party is to renew the distribution of the Party’s forces in order to completely guarantee the practical implementation of the policies adopted by the Party” (History of the Soviet Socialist Period, Sanlian Bookshop, 1956 ed., p. 511).

This is the long and the short of the historical background to Lenin’s new Economic Policy. From this we can get an in-depth appreciation of how to put into practice the task of building socialism, which was, as far as the newly victorious Russia goes, a completely new experience. On the basis of the fundamental tenets put forward by Marx and Engels, Lenin creatively developed Marxism by integrating it with the specific conditions of Russia, formulated the correct line and policies on how to make the transition from capitalism to socialism following the seizure of power by the proletariat, how to plan and take measures that conformed to the construction and development of socialism, how under specific conditions to work out the necessary strategic retreat to the advantage of the revolutionary cause; and also, which has been stressed repeatedly in many works by Lenin, and particularly in those later works where it was thoroughly explained, how to change over to the strategic offensive at a suitable opportunity. Lenin included amongst the basic elements for the construction of socialism: implementing socialist public ownership and industrialisation; implementing the transformation of agricultural cooperatives according to the principles of socialist public ownership; implementing the socialist distribution system; strengthening the building of political power, the building of the party, and ideological building and cultural revolution etc.

Where, from so many historical materials and from Lenin’s series of expositions on the New Economic Policy, are there the so-called “mistakes” Mr Xie Tao says Lenin recognised in his later years? And where in fact have communists since Lenin “departed from Marxism”? If we say these things, then it is revisionism post-Bernstein! It is the likes of Krushchov and Gorbachev! It is the false Marxism of those Party members hanging up the signboard of new liberalism and trumpeting democratic socialism, of fake Party members! It is revisionism! It is Mr Xie Tao’s kind of people with the surnames “Private” and “Capital”, a faction backed by the elite!

(2) In his attacks on Lenin and Leninism, Mr Xie Tao’s writings also made an issue of the changing of the name of the Russian Party. He raised as an example something that caused people to not know whether to laugh or cry. He said: “In Marx and Engels’ time, the political party of the working class was called the ‘Social Democratic Party’, so democratic socialism is ‘orthodox Marxism’!” However, Lenin “in 1918 changed the name Russian Social Democratic Party to Communist Party”, and this was not correct Marxism but “doing something unorthodox”! I had never imagined that Mr Xie Tao, having engaged in high academic education and social sciences research work, would unexpectedly “ignore” the basic elements of the history of the international communist movement!

What was the nature of the Social Democratic Party of Marx and Engels’ time? It is written in the history of the international communist movement: the Social Democratic Party first appeared in France in the 1840s. It was a section of the petty-bourgeois republicans with a socialist colouring. In 1869, the German working class established the German Social Democratic Party by which name the first batch of workers parties in various European countries subsequently became generally known. In some countries, they were also known as the Labor Party or the Socialist Party. In their early stages they spread Marxism and united the working class and played an active role in promoting the development of the labour movement. It should be noted that the first batch of socialist political parties established in Europe and the US in the 1870s-1880s were not at that time thorough-going Marxist political parties, but were subject to the influence of varying degrees of opportunism, and their guiding principles lacked explicitly revolutionary demands, their ties with the labour movement were not strong, the party foundations were weak, and the majority had not clearly drawn a line of demarcation between themselves and the various bourgeois and petty-bourgeois schools of socialism. They also were more in the nature of propaganda associations and were in the development stage of becoming socialist political parties. Therefore, Marx and Engels gave strong assistance to the socialist parties of various countries to help them change into genuine revolutionary parties of the working class. Meanwhile Marx and Engels waged unremitting struggles against various schools of opportunism. In 1889, six years after the death of Marx, the Social Democratic parties of various countries established the Second International under the direction of Engels. In the last six years of his life, Engels waged an unyielding struggle against “left” and right opportunism to safeguard the proletarian revolutionary nature of these political parties. In the early part of the 20th Century, there was rapid growth of opportunism inside the Social Democratic parties of various countries. Apart from the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik) under Lenin’s leadership and the Spartacist faction of the German Social Democratic Party, the majority of these parties degenerated into bourgeois reformist parties. During the First World War, they adopted the standpoint of social chauvinism, supporting their own bourgeois governments in the imperialist war and allowed the Second International to become bankrupt. After the October Revolution in Russia, they came out in opposition to the October Revolution and the proletarian dictatorship. Against this background, and because the name of the Social Democratic Party was not able to fully express the final goal of the Party, so, in line with Lenin’s proposal about “Our Party must be like the way that Marx and Engels professed it to be, and called the Communist Party” (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol 3, p. 62), the Russian Social Democratic Party at the March 1918 Seventh Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik) made the decision to change it name to the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik). Since then, the Marxist political parties of various countries no longer use the name Social Democratic Party.

In the period between the two World Wars, the Social Democratic Parties resumed contacts through the Berne International, the Vienna International and the International of Socialist Workers Parties etc. In 1951, the Socialist International was re-established in Frankfurt, Germany. In addition to the older parties, it also included several newly emerging parties in the nature of Social Democratic Parties from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their basic position was democratic socialism.

In relation to the change in the name of the Party, Lenin explained it this way in The State and Revolution:

“Engels came to express his views on this subject when establishing that the term "Social-Democrat" was scientifically wrong.

“In a preface to an edition of his articles of the seventies on various subjects, mostly on “international” questions (Internationales aus dem Volkstaat), dated January 3, 1894, i.e., written a year and a half before his death, Engels wrote that in all his articles he used the word “Communist”, and not "Social-Democrat", because at that time the Proudhonists in France and the Lassalleans in Germany called themselves Social-Democrats.

"... For Marx and myself," continued Engels, "it was therefore absolutely impossible to use such a loose term to characterize our special point of view. Today things are different, and the word ["Social-Democrat"] may perhaps pass muster [mag passieren], inexact [unpassend, unsuitable] though it still is for a party whose economic programme is not merely socialist in general, but downright communist, and whose ultimate political aim is to overcome the whole state and, consequently, democracy as well. The names of real political parties, however, are never wholly appropriate; the party develops while the name stays."

“The dialectician Engels remained true to dialectics to the end of his days. Marx and I, he said, had a splendid, scientifically exact name for the party, but there was no real party, i.e., no mass proletarian party. Now (at the end of the 19th century) there was a real party, but its name was scientifically wrong. Never mind, it would "pass muster", so long as the party developed, so long as the scientific in accuracy of the name was not hidden from it and did not hinder its development on the right direction!

“Perhaps some wit would console us Bolsheviks in the manner of Engels: we have a real party, it is developing splendidly; even such a meaningless and ugly term as “Bolshevik” will "pass muster", although it expresses nothing whatever but the purely accidental fact that at the Brussels-London Congress of 1903 we were in the majority. Perhaps now that the persecution of our Party by republicans and “revolutionary” petty-bourgeois democrats in July and August has earned the name “Bolshevik” such universal respect, now that, in addition, this persecution marks the tremendous historical progress our Party has made in its real development--perhaps now even I might hesitate to insist on the suggestion I made in April to change the name of our Party. Perhaps I would propose a “compromise” to my comrades, namely, to call ourselves the Communist Party, but to retain the word “Bolshevik” in brackets.

“But the question of the name of the Party is incomparably less important than the question of the attitude of the revolutionary proletariat to the state” (Lenin, State and Revolution, pp 71-72 Chinese ed.).

From the above discussion by Engels and Lenin on the formation, development and evolution of the proletarian political party, we can see that Mr Xie Tao has been criticised by Engels and Lenin in relation to the transformation of the proletarian party into a reformist party of democratic socialism, and for writing off the differences between the Marxist political party and bourgeois and petty-bourgeois opportunism, and then for seeking for the basis of their democratic socialism in theory and Party history. This is laughable and, naturally, is also futile.

(3) Mr Xie Tao also slanderously asserts that “Leninism is the inheritor and developer of Blanquism”.

On this matter, Mr Xie Tao is certainly not being original, for the “first wind” of this was led at an early stage by the founder of revisionism, Bernstein (right). Of course this was the despicable “wind” of revisionism. In The State and Revolution, Lenin talked about this when criticising Kautsky: “Bernstein, in his Premises of Socialism, of Herostratean fame, accuses Marxism of “Blanquism” (an accusation since repeated thousands of times by the opportunists and liberal bourgeoisie in Russia against the revolutionary Marxists, the Bolsheviks). In this connection Bernstein dwells particularly on Marx's The Civil War in France, and tries, quite unsuccessfully, as we have seen, to identify Marx's views on the lessons of the Commune with those of Proudhon. Bernstein pays particular attention to the conclusion which Marx emphasized in his 1872 preface to the Communist Manifesto, namely, that "the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes". This statement “pleased” Bernstein so much that he used it no less than three times in his book, interpreting it in the most distorted, opportunist way. As we have seen, Marx meant that the working-class must smash, break, shatter (sprengung, explosion--the expression used by Engels) the whole state machine. But according to Bernstein it would appear as though Marx in these words warned the working class against excessive revolutionary zeal when seizing power. A cruder more hideous distortion of Marx's idea cannot be imagined” (State and Revolution, pp94-5).

Xie Tao is the same as Bernstein, he does not have the qualifications to discuss Blanquism, for although Blanquism is utopian communism and revolutionary adventurism they (the Blanquists) had not yet arrived at Marxism, they were not Marxists, but still they something of the revolutionary spirit and revolutionary mettle, but Xie Tao? He does not even have a bit of it! All he has is betrayal and treachery!

Attacking the leaders of the proletarian revolution is determined by the natural disposition of old and new revisionism. This natural disposition is in the class nature of the bourgeoisie. Isn’t the behaviour of Mr Xie Tao also determined by this class nature? He must be honest with himself about this.

1 comment:

nickglais said...

I have reposted the part of Wu Bing on Lenin's New Economic Policy on my new site Political Economy Research to support my case that Lenin was not a market socialist.