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Despite noble objectives, Stalin failed to comprehend need for cultural revolution

By Harsh Thakor* 

This year the International Communist Movement commemorated the 75th anniversary of the 2 line struggle undertaken by the CPSU led by Stalin against Yugoslavian Communist Party, led by Marshal Tito, and for the first time USSR making a clear distinction, between the people’s democracies and Socialist States under Georgi Dmitrov. Both had historical connotations with respect to the ‘dictatorship of the Proletariat.’
The seeds of New Democracy and People’s Democracy were planted in the experiences of the international communist movement after the usurping of power of Nazism in early 1933. The Seventh Congress of the Communist International of 1935 carved a road to combat the rise of fascism.
There was a dramatic turn in 1935 with the Seventh Congress of the Communist International formulating a new approach to the international revolutionary process. The eruption of Nazism had germinated an initially defensive strategy and tactics in the fight against fascism and imperialism. Under the leadership of Stalin, Dimitrov and the Comintern the communist parties embarked on their new orientation. The Comintern suggested to the CPC from 1935 that there be non-Soviet democratic approach to the national revolutionary process in the struggle against Japanese imperialism.

Creation of People’s Democracies

The new states established in Central and South-Eastern Europe after the defeat of Nazism was initially classified as the New Democracies. After the defeat of the pro-fascist and pro-landlord forces and the beginnings of the orientation towards socialism, the perspective opened of People’s Democracy in these countries. In his Political Report to the Fifth Congress of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party in December 1948, Georgi Dimitrov extensively discussed the question of People’s Democracy in the country, where he formulated the necessity of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat in Bulgaria and constructing socialism within the framework of people’s democracy. And a few months later, prior to the victory of the revolution in China, in July 1949, Mao published the work ‘On People’s Democratic Dictatorship.’ It replaced the earlier theses on New Democracy which were now outdated.5 Stalin made significant observations on the differences between the People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe and China during his discussions with Soviet economists on 22nd February 1950. He pointed out that European People’s Democracies were undertaking the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat while in China this was not yet the case..
People’s Democracy in the East, in China, Korea and Vietnam, were interpreted as having underwent two stages: initially ,starting as an anti-imperialist and anti-feudal revolution and then in the second stage performing the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and advance t towards socialism was posed. This understanding was derived from the experience of People’s Democracy in the European countries.
In Central and South-Eastern Europe the revolutionary process began as an anti-fascist, anti-imperialist one which was intertwined with the anti-feudal movement. The People’s Democracies did not completely install dictatorship of the proletariat immediately or fight directly for socialism in these countries as the principal task was to ensure the defeat of fascism, attain national independence and democratic liberties; end the serfdom and slavery introduced by the Nazis; liquidate the consequences of Nazi rule and terminate the survivals of feudalism. In the initial period of People’s Democracy the middle bourgeoisie participated in the state power in a number of countries.7 At a certain stage from 1948-49 in these states the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry began to sprout into the dictatorship of the proletariat with the objective of the construction of socialism. This was in accordance with the Leninist understanding of the need for the uninterrupted transition from the democratic revolution to socialism. The middle bourgeoisie began to be an obstacle in the onward march to socialism and had to be exposed before the masses and dislodged from state power. In this manner the second stage of People’s Democracy, that of socialist revolution was inaugurated.
In the second phase the economics of the European countries of people’s democracy were not considered socialist but were of a transitional character in which there were three forms of property:
“...nation-wide socialist ownership of the means of production; co-operative ownership which in the main is socialist; private ownership of the means of production, which is of two kinds: ownership by the working peasantry, handicraftsmen and artisans, based on private labour; and capitalist private ownership, based on exploitation.... In each of these countries there are three basic social-economic structures: socialist, small-commodity and capitalist. The Socialist sector has become the dominating structure in industry and is dominant in the national economy. Finally, an important characteristic feature of the economy of the transitional period is that in the countries of people’s democracy there still exist exploiters (bourgeoisie, kulaks).”
These relations of property remained such in the European people’s democracies right through till the close of the Stalin period.

Distinction between People’s democracies and Socialist States

The countries of the European people’s democracies, although they were classified to be dictatorships of the proletariat, were not analysed as socialist nor were their economies analysed to be socialist as some exploiting classes, the middle bourgeoisie and the rural bourgeoisie, were still prevalent The people’s democracies were considered as transitional economies which had barely embarked on the construction of socialism.
Stalin highlighted the formation of a socialist economic market. He did not imply that any of the people’s democratic countries of either the west or the east had become socialist states, remaining within the democratic fold.
The economic result of the formation of two opposite camps was, as Comrade Stalin marked, the single, all-conquering world market disintegrated and two parallel world markets were formed: the market of the countries in the camp of peace and democracy, and the camp of the countries in the aggressive imperialist camp. The fragmentation of the single world market is the most important economic result of the Second World War and of its economic consequences.
Soviet writers under Stalin such as A.I. Sobolev continued to draw a distinction between the socialist Soviet Union, the western people’s democracies which had formed the dictatorship of the proletariat and had embarked on the path of socialist construction and the people’s democracies of the east where there existed dictatorships of the proletariat and the peasantry, allied with national capital, where dictatorships of the proletariat had yet to be established and the path of socialist construction had yet to be inaugurated. These distinctions were to be blurred after the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956.
“In China there exists a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, something akin to what the Bolsheviks talked about in 1904-05.” (Stalin, 1950)
Where did matters stand in terms of the stage of development of the People’s Democracies in Asia: in China, Korea and Vietnam? The views of Mao and Stalin in the period 1949 and 1950 are instructive on this question.
Stalin, during the course of his discussions with Soviet economists on the 22nd of February 1952, made a clear distinction in the nature of the people’s democracies of Central and South-Eastern Europe, exemplified by Poland, and those of Asia, such as China. He argued that in the people’s democracies of Europe, political power lay in the hands of the proletariat; industry was nationalised; the Communist and Workers Parties played the guiding role; and the construction of socialism was taking place not just in the towns but also in the villages. In China the dictatorship of the proletariat did not exist. In its place there was a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. The nationalisation of industry was not complete and there existed a bloc between the communists and the national bourgeoisie.

Turn of Yugoslavia

The transition from the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry to the dictatorship of the proletariat as well as the transition from the anti-fascist, anti-imperialist and anti-feudal stage of people’s democracy to the stage of the introductory steps of the construction of socialism was not achieved through a peaceful process.. This is testified from the case of Yugoslavia which withdrew from the united socialist front of the Soviet Union and the democratic states. The economic basis for this was the fierce opposition of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia to the nationalisation of capitalist elements and the liquidation of the numerically largest section of the bourgeoisie, the kulaks, which was the necessary perquisite for the formation of the collective farms of the poor and middle peasantry. In the correspondence of the CPSU (b) to the CPY, signed by Stalin and Molotov, these questions were raised. In their letter of 27th March, 1948, they stated:
"The CPY denied these charges in the letter signed by Tito and Kardelj dated 13th April 1948. Stalin and Molotov continued their line of argument in their letter of 4th May, 1948 where they contrasted the experience of the Soviet Union with that of Yugoslavia, pointing out that the Yugoslavs were not accepting the Marxist-Leninist theory that the class struggle intensified in the transition from capitalism to socialism." 
Stalin and Molotov cited Lenin:
"It is no accident that the leaders of the CPY were evading the question of the class struggle and the countering of the capitalist elements in the village. The speeches of the Yugoslav leaders obliterated the question of class differentiation in the village; the peasantry was considered as an agrarian whole, and the Party failed to mobilise its forces in an effort to confront the exploiting elements in the villages."
Stalin and Molotov emphasised that there was no room for slackening as in Yugoslavia the land was not nationalised; under the conditions of private property in land, it was concentrated in the hands of the kulaks who used hired labour.
In response to the criticism of the CPSU (b) and other parties the CPY now embarked upon a series of ultra-leftist measures to end capitalist elements and the rural bourgeoisie. These were of a demagogic character as no preparatory measures were taken prior to ‘collectivisation’, such as manufacturing and supplying agricultural machinery, so that the policies could not have been successful. The CPY created a new agrarian formation where ‘collective farms’ were formed not of the poor and middle peasantry as in the Soviet Union but included the rural bourgeoisie, the kulaks. In its resolution of 1949, the Information Bureau stated on the question of the situation in Yugoslavia:
“The ‘producer cooperatives’ forcibly set up and run by kulaks constitute a new form of exploitation of the working peasantry. Kulaks who possess agricultural implements exploit the labour of poor peasants in the so-called cooperatives far more ruthlessly than on their own farms.”
The agricultural machine stations had owned the instruments and means of production in the agrarian sector in Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia projected a model of ‘socialism’ in which capitalist elements could prevail alongside kulak co-operative farms and the ‘self-administrative’ industries engaging in commodity production.
As for the Yugoslavian kulak dominated collective farms they were done away with partly in 1951, and more substantially by the Decree of Property Relations and the Reorganisation of Peasant Work Co-operatives of March 28, 1953. Yugoslavia represented a people’s democracy which profusely halted advance to socialism and which re-established the capitalist path of development. The Cominform pointed out in 1949 that the system of people’s democracy was liquidated in that country completely dismantling the dictatorship of the proletariat.
If Yugoslavia manifested the model or successful example of revisionism in state power of the people’s democracies of the Stalin period it must be remembered that there were analogous trends of the right deviation crystallising in the other countries in Central and South-Eastern Europe. In Poland the major right deviation was that of Gomulka, who resisted the uninterrupted transition to socialism which was directed against the middle capitalists and the peasant bourgeoisie. In the western territories of Poland, Gomulka and his group, contrary to Marxism, created large kulak farms and diminished the role of the poor peasantry in the party organisation in the countryside. The developments in Yugoslavia patronised the Gomulka group in its pro-kulak policies in the rural areas and it now advocated the postponement of the transition to socialism in the countryside.
The collision between the CPSU (b) and the CPY arose in 1948 as Yugoslavia was reluctant to transit to the second stage of people’s democracy - socialism. This necessarily required that the state of Yugoslavia exercise the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Poland

The Gomulka-Spychalski group were defeated, temporarily, in 1949. This paved way for the building of socialism against the remaining capitalist elements and the struggle against the strong remnants of bourgeois ideology in people’s minds. By the 1st of April 1953 there were constructed 7000 agricultural production co-operatives involving 146,500 households. After the 20th Congress of the CPSU and the death of Bierut, Gomulka came to power. Collective farming was never completed in Poland; the peasant bourgeoisie was carefully preserved so that the country was never able effect the transition to a socialist society.

Rumania

Similarly, in Rumania the right-wing deviation of Vasile Luca put the brakes on the foundations of socialism. He opposed the development of industry which produced the means of production thereby retarding socialist industrialisation; crippled the activity of the state farms and the collective farms and undermined the creation of peasant associations for the joint cultivation of the land; and backed capitalist speculative trade by fixing prices of purchasing and contracting on the basis of open market prices. Ana Pauker was charged with neglecting the formation of collective farms; tolerating the activities of kulaks in the development of socialist agriculture; and displaying a lack of concern in the establishment of the Machine Tractor Stations.
The exposure and defeat of the right deviation in Rumania ensured the uninterrupted transition of the first stage of people’s democracy to its second stage, that of beginning the advance to socialism. The advent of Khrushchev was to retard and reverse this process in Rumania and the majority of the people’s democracies.
The views of Mao and Stalin in the period 1949 and 1950 were illustrative on the stage of development of the People’s Democracies in Asia: in China, Korea and Vietnam.
Stalin, during the course of his discussions with Soviet economists on the 22nd of February 1952, made a clear distinction in the nature of the people’s democracies of Central and South-Eastern Europe, exemplified by Poland, and those of Asia, such as China. He argued that in the people’s democracies of Europe, political power stood in the hands of the proletariat; industry was nationalised; the Communist and Workers Parties played the guiding role; and the construction of socialism was crystallising not just in the towns but also in the villages. Mistakingly in his view in China the dictatorship of the proletariat did not exist, and in its place there was established a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.
“In China there exists a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, something akin to what the Bolsheviks talked about in 1904-05.” (Stalin, 1950)
Lenin in Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat argued that until the abolition of classes it was necessary to uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat. He noted that the overthrow of the landlords and the capitalists was a relatively easy task.
The confrontation between the CPSU (b) and the CPY sparkled in 1948 as Yugoslavia was reluctant to transit to the second stage of people’s democracy - socialism. It was imperative for the state of Yugoslavia to exercise the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Post-Stalin Period

In the post Stalin period the question of upholding the dictatorship of the proletariat for building socialism and communism was no longer a criteria or the majority of the communist and worker’s parties holding state power. People’s Albania remained an exception to this trend, and it advanced to being the only people’s democratic state which established socialism. In general it was not regarded as imperative to distinguish between a socialist state and a democratic one. Khrushchev now referred to not one but a plurality of socialist countries at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU in 1956. He reversed the understanding of Zhdanov, Stalin and Malenkov of 1947-1952 on this question. There was now no necessity to demarcate between people’s democratic states where there existed a dictatorship of the proletariat and those where state power was still at the stage of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Nor was there now any initiative to complete the collectivisation of agriculture or to socialise the means of production in agriculture to be considered a socialist country. The eclectic formulations of Khrushchev and the CPSU elevated to the status of ‘socialism’ the people’s democratic states in the west which were in the main in transition to the formation of market economies. I salute Albania under Enver Hoxha for confronting every obstacle in defending the Leninist, revolutionary path.

Conclusion

In my view USSR and Stalin although having noble objectives or successful in accomplishing a Socialist state, failed to comprehend the need for waging or continuing revolutionary struggle within a Socialist Society itself or a cultural revolution. In the truly Marxist sense, the dictatorship of the proletariat had not been established in USSR or East European countries in the Leninist period itself, and the Communist party replacing the Soviets, in many ways, promoting monopoly of the bureaucracy. Trotskyism and revisionism was wiped out or given a mortal blow but still genuine proletarian democracy had failed to be established.
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*Freelance journalist

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