Communism - INSIGHTSIAS

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CommunismIntroductionSystem of political and economic organization in which property is owned by the state orcommunity and all citizens share in the common wealth, more or less according to their need.Many small communist communities have existed at one time or another, most of them on areligious basis, generally under the inspiration of a literal interpretation of Scripture. The“utopian” socialists of the 19th century also founded communities, though they replaced thereligious emphasis with a rational and philanthropic idealism. Best known among them wereRobert Owen, who founded New Harmony in Indiana (1825), and Charles Fourier, whosedisciples organized other settlements in the United States such as Brook Farm (1841–47). In1848 the word communism acquired a new meaning when it was used as identical with socialismby Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their famous Communist Manifesto. They, and later theirfollowers, used the term to mean a late stage of socialism in which goods would become soabundant that they would be distributed on the basis of need rather than of endeavour. TheBolshevik wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party, which took power in Russia in1917, adopted the name All-Russian Communist Party in 1918, and some of its allied parties inother countries also adopted the term Communist. Consequently, the Soviet Union and otherstates that were governed by Soviet-type parties were commonly referred to as “Communist” andtheir official doctrines were called “Communism,” although in none of these countries had acommunist society fully been established. The word communism is also applied to the doctrinesof Communist parties operating within states where they are not in power.The origins of Soviet communismCommunism as it had evolved by 1917 was an amalgam of 19th-century European Marxism,indigenous Russian revolutionary tradition, and the organizational and revolutionary ideas of theBolshevik leader Lenin. Marxism held that history was propelled by class struggles. Socialclasses were determined by their relationship to the means of production; feudal society, with itslords and vassals, had been succeeded in western Europe by bourgeois society with its capitalistsand workers. But bourgeois society, according to Marxism, contained within itself the seeds ofits own destruction: the number of capitalists would diminish, while the ranks of theimpoverished proletariat would grow until finally there would be a breakdown and a Socialistrevolution in which the overwhelming majority, the proletariat, would dispossess the smallminority of capitalist exploiters.Marxism had been known and studied in Russia for at least 30 years before Lenin took it up atthe end of the 19th century. The first intellectual leader of the Russian Marxists was G.V.Plekhanov. Implicit in the teachings of Plekhanov was an acceptance of the fact that Russia had along way to go before it would reach the stage at which a proletarian revolution could occur, and

a preliminary stage would inevitably be a bourgeois democratic regime that would replace theautocratic system of Tsarism.Plekhanov, like most of the early Russian Marxist leaders, had been reared in the traditionalRussian revolutionary movement broadly known as Populism, a basic tenet of which was that thesocial revolution must be the work of the people themselves, and the task of the revolutionarieswas only to prepare them for it. But there were more impatient elements within the movement,and it was under their influence that a group called “People's Will” broke off from the Populistorganization “Land and Freedom” in 1879. Both groups were characterized by strict disciplineand highly conspiratorial organization; “People's Will,” however, refused to share the Populistaversion to political action, and in 1881 some of its members succeeded in assassinating TsarAlexander II.During the period of reaction and repression that followed, revolutionary activity virtually cameto an end. By the time Lenin emerged into revolutionary life in Kazan at the age of 17, smallrevolutionary circles were beginning to form again. Lenin was a revolutionary in the Russiantradition for some time before he was converted to Marxism (through the study of the works ofMarx) before he was yet 19. From the doctrines of the Populists, notably P.N. Tkachev, he drewthe idea of a strictly disciplined, conspiratorial organization of full-time revolutionaries whowould work among important sections of the population to win support for the seizure of powerwhen the moment was ripe; this revolutionary organization would take over the state and use it tointroduce Socialism. Lenin added two Marxist elements that were totally absent in Populisttheory: the notion of the class struggle and the acceptance of the need for Russia to pass througha stage of capitalism.Lenin's most distinctive contributions to Communist theory as formulated in What Is To BeDone? (1902) and the articles that preceded it were, first, that the workers have no revolutionaryconsciousness and that their spontaneous actions will lead only to “trade union” demands and notto revolution; second, the corollary that revolutionary consciousness must be brought to themfrom outside by their intellectual leaders; and third, the conviction that the party must consist offull-time, disciplined, centrally directed professionals, capable of acting as one man.Lenin's tactics led in 1903 to a split in the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party. With hisleft-wing faction, called the Bolsheviks, he strove to build a disciplined party and to outwit anddiscredit his Social-Democratic opponents. After the collapse of tsarism in February 1917, hepursued a policy of radical opposition to the Socialists and Liberals who had come to power inthe provisional government, and he eventually succeeded in seizing power in October 1917.Thereafter he eliminated both the opposition of other parties and his critics among theBolsheviks, so that by the 10th party congress in March 1921 the Bolsheviks (or Communists)had become a monolithic, disciplined party controlling all aspects of Russian life. It was thismachine that Stalin inherited when he became general secretary of the party in 1922.The Third International

The victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia gave a new impetus to the more extreme left wings ofthe Socialist parties in Europe. Lenin's relations with the European Socialist parties had beenhostile even before World War I. During the war he had endeavoured to assert his influence overthe dissident left wings of the Socialist parties of the belligerent powers, and at two conferencesin Switzerland, in 1915 and in 1916, he had rallied these dissident groups to a policy of radicalopposition to the war efforts of their governments and to an effort to turn the war into a civil war.He had already decided by 1914 that, after the war, a Third International must be formed to takethe place of the Second International of Socialist parties, which had failed to oppose the wardespite its strong antiwar tradition. By 1919, when the new Soviet regime in Russia was fightingfor its survival, the intervention on the anti-Soviet side by Britain, France, and the U.S. was apowerful and practical argument to be used by Soviet Russia in its appeals for revolution incapitalist countries. It early became clear the Third International would reflect the influence ofSoviet Russia and that it was likely to become subordinate to Soviet aims and needs.Lenin's 21 conditionsThe Third International, or Comintern, had its first congress in 1919. This gathering of a veryfew parties in Moscow was more symbolic than real; the main structure of the new Internationalwas not hammered out until the second congress in July 1920, also in Moscow. Hopes of worldrevolution ran high; the prestige of the new Soviet state was in the ascendant, and the resolutionsadopted at this congress reflected in the fullest possible way Lenin's idea of what a Communistparty should be. It was to be the “main instrument for the liberation of the working class,” highlycentralized and disciplined according to the formula of “democratic centralism” on which theBolshevik Party had been founded. Twenty-one conditions were laid down by the congress asprerequisites for parties affiliating with the Comintern. These conditions were designed to ensurea complete break with the older Social Democratic parties from which the Communist partieswere splitting off. The new parties were required to adopt the name Communist in their title, tourge open and persistent warfare against reformist Social Democracy and the SecondInternational, to maintain a centralized and disciplined party press, to conduct periodic purges oftheir ranks, and to carry on continuous and systematic propaganda in the army and among theworkers and peasants. Each constituent party was to support in every possible way the struggleof “every Soviet republic” against counterrevolution. Decisions of the Comintern and of itsexecutive committee were to be binding on all members, and the breach of any of theseconditions was to be ground for expelling individual members from their parties—a provisionthat in future years was to be interpreted very broadly.The New Economic PolicyThe prestige of Soviet Russia, the rigid discipline imposed by the 21 conditions, and certainother factors ensured the predominance of Russian control and Russian interests over theComintern. Though the predominance increased during Stalin's time, it was clearly evident whileLenin was still alive. At the third world congress in June and July 1921, the Comintern was

confronted by Lenin with his New Economic Policy—a program encouraging small privateenterprise, which several months earlier he had put into effect inside Russia. Lenin wanted atemporary halt to the revolutionary upsurge in Europe to give him time to develop stable traderelations with capitalist countries, to whom the Soviet state was preparing to grant trading andindustrial concessions. Comintern members were required to support this policy, and theexpulsion of the German Communist leader Paul Levi after the failure of a Communist uprisingin Germany in March 1921 showed how determined the leaders of the Comintern were to putdown inconvenient left-wing “adventures.” It was with the requirements of the New EconomicPolicy in mind that the Comintern executive committee in December 1921 launched theturnaround policy of the United Front and of trade union unity. This policy of rapprochementwith Socialists and liberals was likewise designed to gain support for Lenin's policy ofconsolidation at home by appealing to a broader spectrum of opinion in the capitalist countries.StalinismSocialism in one countryLenin's successor, Joseph Stalin, always claimed to be his faithful follower, and this was to someextent true. Stalin's doctrine that Socialism could be constructed in one country, the SovietUnion, without waiting for revolution to occur in the main capitalist countries (a position he haddeveloped as an integral part of his struggle against Trotsky) was not far removed from the linepursued by Lenin in 1921 when he introduced the New Economic Policy. Both Lenin and Stalinaccepted the primary importance of the survival and strengthening of the Soviet state as the mainbastion of the future world revolution; both accepted the need for a period of coexistence andtrade with the capitalist countries as a means of strengthening socialism in Soviet Russia. Nor didStalin's later policy of industrialization and collectivization, in theory at least, represent adeparture from Lenin's doctrine. Industrialization was central to Lenin's plans, though he did notlive to put them into practice. Stalin's view, however, that the construction of socialism ledinevitably to an intensification of the class struggle, which in turn required a policy of internalrepression and terror, is nowhere to be found in Lenin's writings. On the contrary, Leninrepeatedly emphasized in 1922 and 1923 the necessity of bringing about a reconciliation of theclasses and especially of the peasants and workers.Stalin's internal policy was to have wide repercussions in the Comintern and on Communismgenerally. From 1924 until 1928 his first concern was to defeat his main rival, Trotsky, and thisseems to have been one of the main factors determining his policy at this time. As against themore internationalist and doctrinaire Trotsky, Stalin pursued “socialism in one country” andcontinued to implement Lenin's New Economic Policy with its limited freedom for businessenterprise and peasant individualism. In this he could still claim to be following Lenin's wishes.But Stalin also worked with great skill to ensure his control over the party. By 1927 whenTrotsky was expelled from the party, Stalin already controlled both the network of party officials(the apparat) and the delegates to congresses and conferences. Debate had been replaced byritualized unanimity; dissent was permitted only when it served the purposes of the leadership.

When Trotsky was exiled from the country in 1929, he became the focal point for opposition toStalin among dissident Communists all over the world, although he was to be more a symbolthan an active political force. Having defeated Trotsky and his allies, Stalin next switchedpolicies, abandoning the New Economic Policy in favour of rapid industrialization along with thecollectivization of agriculture. The collectivization policy ultimately produced a famine, costingthe lives of millions of peasants. The reversal of the New Economic Policy and of Lenin's policynecessarily involved eliminating from the political scene Stalin's former allies, headed byNikolay Bukharin, who wanted to go slower with industrialization and to cultivate supportamong the peasants. The protracted conflict, first with Trotsky and his ally G.Y. Zinovyev andthen with Bukharin, was reflected in the Comintern and in the world Communist movement,which became increasingly subordinated to Stalin's policy concerns inside the Soviet Union.Stalin and the CominternThe regimentation of the Comintern and of the parties represented in it began at the fifth worldcongress in June 1924, immediately after Lenin's death. The elimination of Trotsky and hissupporters within the Soviet party was followed by widespread expulsions of the “left” from theother world parties. The control of the Soviet-dominated Comintern apparatus was increasinglyasserted over the tightly disciplined governing bodies of the foreign parties, which in turn ruledover their members with the instrument of the purge. Ideologically, this procedure was carriedout at first under the screen of the United Front, which called for cooperation with SocialDemocrats and other moderate leftists. At the sixth world congress in 1928, however, a furtherswitch in policy was dictated by Stalin's internal conflict: the United Front tactic was abandoned,and the Social Democrats now became enemies along with Fascists. The sixth congress alsodeclared the main duty of the international working-class movement to be the support of theU.S.S.R. by every means. The united front tactic was revived in 1935 at the seventh (and last)world congress of the Comintern under the name of the Popular Front, calling for united actionby Communists and Socialists together against Fascism.Comintern policy changed again in August 1939 when the Soviet Union and Germany concludeda 10-year treaty of nonaggression. This had the effect of freeing Hitler to fight a war againstBritain and France. Anti-Fascism was now jettisoned, and the Communist parties were required,up to the moment when Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, to denounce theallied war against Hitler and to recognize Nazism as “the lesser evil” in comparison withWestern imperialism. The Soviet alliance with Germany is usually seen as proof that Stalin wasprimarily concerned with what he considered to be the interests of the Soviet Union. A secretprotocol annexed to the treaty assigned the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia), abouthalf of Poland, and Bessarabia to the Soviet sphere of influence. The evidence suggests thatStalin considered the deal with Hitler to be based on mutual interests; the German invasion in1941 took him by surprise. After the defeat of Hitler, Soviet territorial demands were againadvanced.

Stalin's method of ruleThe Communist parties of the world were also called on to adopt official Soviet justifications forStalin's internal purges, which involved the extermination of a large proportion of the Sovietparty membership, including most of the leading cadres. The subservience of some Communistparties to official assertions made by the Soviet authorities sometimes earned them the reputationof being little more than agents of the Soviet Union inside their own countries, though this didnot necessarily diminish their influence or importance in several countries of Europe or in theUnited States. They found much support among sympathizers with Marxism, who were preparedto overlook Soviet realities in the service of their ideals or of what they considered to be thehistorical destiny of mankind—in which they saw Stalinism as merely a transitory stage. TheCommunists and their parties and their contacts provided a valuable recruiting ground forintelligence agents of all kinds prepared to act against their own countries in the interests ofSoviet Russia. The effects of Stalin's internal policy on the Communist parties outside the SovietUnion are of vital importance in understanding the attitude adopted by these parties after 1956,when much of Stalin's policy was officially repudiated.Stalin's method of rule came, by imitation, to be the standard in all other parties. It hingedprimarily upon the dominance of his own personality. He ruled over the country in large measurenot through the party, as Lenin had, but through personal agents (like Lavrenty Beria, AndreyVyshinsky, or Georgy Malenkov) and also through the security police (NKVD). The party as aninstitution declined under Stalin, and between 1934 and 1952 there was only one party congress,in 1939. The general secretaries of the Communist parties abroad imitated Stalin, and stricthierarchical subordination became the way of party life.Growth of communism during and after World War IIThe undeclared assault by Hitler on the Soviet Union provoked a wave of sympathy for thatcountry among both the open and secret enemies of Hitler in Europe. The Soviet pact with Hitler,and even the manifest blemishes of Stalin's regime, were forgotten: sympathy with the newlyemerged force of resistance to the Nazi scourge far outweighed past memories. Many, it is true,expected the immediate defeat of the Soviet Union. As time went on, however, and the Sovietstruggle continued with enormous sacrifice of life and with courage and skill that none couldhelp but applaud, admiration for Soviet military achievements grew even among those who hadbeen most critical and apprehensive of the Soviet political role before the war. The Communistsof other countries shared in the prestige won by Soviet military prowess. This was particularlythe case in occupied France and Italy where the underground Communist parties played a vitalrole in the resistance movements. In Yugoslavia, too, the Communist partisan movement led byTito (Josip Broz) outstripped the nationalist guerrillas in effectiveness and won the materialsupport of Britain.Russian nationalism

The policy pursued by Stalin accentuated the nationalist side of the war and attempted in everyway to play down the Communist element. At home, tsarist history and the rituals of the EasternOrthodox Church were invoked in efforts to raise patriotic sentiments to the highest possiblepitch. Abroad, Communist aims and ideals were replaced by anti-Nazi, liberal-democraticslogans. The dissolution of the Comintern in 1943 was in line with this polic

Communism as it had evolved by 1917 was an amalgam of 19th-century European Marxism, indigenous Russian revolutionary tradition, and the organizational and revolutionary ideas of the Bolshevik leader Lenin. Marxism held that history was propelled by class struggles. Social

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