Stefan Engel, Chief Editor of the Revolutionärer Weg and Former Chairman of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD), delivered the keynote speech for Topic 2, “On the Revisionist Betrayal and the Reversal of the October Revolution,” on the first day of the People’s Conference on the Continuing Validity of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The conference was held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on 23-24 September 2017. This is the full text of his speech. The PDF version is attached at the end.
Introductory Paper by Stefan Engel for Topic 2
“Revisionist Betrayal and Conclusions”
at the Amsterdam People’s Conference
23-24 September 2017
The socialist October Revolution of 1917 was the first victorious revolution for the overthrow of the imperialist world system.
It was only possible because Lenin waged a comprehensive preliminary battle against bourgeois ideology, in particular against revisionism, and at the same time further developed the proletarian ideology in a decisive way to reflect the conditions of imperialism.
The substance of this ideological struggle was the question of power.
With their “peaceful transition to socialism,” revisionists like Kautsky created tremendous confusion, disruption and division within the revolutionary movement.
Lenin drew the crucial conclusion that the struggle between Marxism and revisionism, the “question … of the very essence of proletarian revolution, namely, the dictatorship of the proletariat … is the key problem of the entire proletarian class struggle.”1
This struggle against the blurring of the distinction between capitalism and socialism – the essence of revisionism – put its stamp on all subsequent disputes, not only in the building of the socialist Soviet Union.
It decided whether the international revolutionary working-class movement advanced or suffered severest setbacks.
The triumph of modern revisionism in the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union in 1956 and in China after the death of Mao Zedong had particularly devastating effects.
In Indonesia in 1965 or in Chile in 1973 the illusion of the “peaceful road to socialism” spread by modern revisionism cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of communists and liberation fighters.
“21st Century Socialism”, the bourgeois-democratic concept of the former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, also encouraged dangerous illusions in the alleged gradual transformation of the bourgeois state machinery, and led the struggle for freedom, democracy and socialism up a dead end especially in Latin America.
Opportunism had acquired a material basis with the emergence of imperialism.
In particular, imperialism created the economic opportunity to bribe broad strata of the proletariat.
In the First World War opportunism transformed into social-chauvinism when most of the leaders of the Second International concluded an imperialist truce with their governments.
During socialist construction in Russia, historically necessary compromises were a further breeding ground for the encroachment of bourgeois ideology and for opportunism.
No doubt, the old state apparatus was smashed by the October Revolution.
However, the victorious proletariat could not readily do without the bourgeois administrative experts, engineers and technicians.
This also involved the according of privileges such as high pay.
The New Economic Policy subsequent to the October Revolution also was a necessary concession of the proletarian state to small-scale industry and to the peasants.
Lenin was very much aware of the danger posed by these temporary concessions to the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois element.
He therefore mobilized the socialist consciousness of the workers and broad masses to raise labor productivity and institute a system of accounting and control from below, carried by the entire people.
He urgently warned against the danger of the destruction of socialism and the restoration of capitalism by petty-bourgeois elements:
“In a country like Russia, the overwhelming preponderance of the petty-bourgeois element … engender[s] particularly sharp vacillations in the temper of the petty-bourgeois and semi-proletarian masses. …
The experience of all revolutions in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries shows most clearly and convincingly that the only possible result of these vacillations – if the unity, strength and influence of the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat is weakened in the slightest degree – will be the restoration of the power and property of the capitalists and landowners.”2
After Lenin’s death the successful construction of socialism in struggle against bureaucracy took on more intense forms.
Alongside the old administrative and economic bureaucracy with its bourgeois intellectuals and specialists a bureaucracy emerged in the socialist state, economic and party apparatus.
The insidious encroachment of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking in the bureaucracy of party, state and economy began with changes in the way of life.
As conscious contrast to the higher payment of bourgeois specialists, immediately after the October Revolution the Council of People’s Commissars, following the example of the Paris Commune, determined a maximum salary for party officials.
The abolition of the party maximum in 1934 was a serious mistake.
It made privileges and a petty-bourgeois lifestyle possible for party functionaries.
This led to a creeping change in the mode of thinking of not a few cadres.
Together with the sense of power coming from the work as bureaucrat, among a part of the leading party officials the striving for a bourgeois way of life, for capitalism, increased.
These functionaries were also particularly susceptible to opportunist or revisionist ideas.
All his life Stalin waged a resolute struggle against party bureaucrats with petty-bourgeois thinking.
But in doing so he made two major mistakes that also had historical reasons.
He fought the petty-bourgeois bureaucracy not mainly through criticisms by the workers and the masses and through their ideological-political mobilization, but instead relied chiefly, in a one-sided way, on the state security service, which itself was increasingly bureaucratized.
And he neglected the ideological-political struggle against the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking.
Stalin’s death opened the floodgates for the victory of the petty-bourgeois bureaucracy.
At the Twentieth Party Congress of the CPSU in 1956 a new bourgeoisie led by Khrushchev seized political power.
It destroyed the ideological foundation of Marxism-Leninism and replaced it with the ideological foundation of modern revisionism:
“Peaceful road to socialism” instead of proletarian revolution to overthrow capitalism!
“Peaceful coexistence” instead of proletarian internationalism as general line of socialist foreign policy!
“State of the whole people” instead of dictatorship of the proletariat!
Khrushchev’s secret speech at the close of the Twentieth Party Congress vilified Stalin in the most outrageous way and became the reactionary starting point for the victory of modern revisionism.
Up until then Stalin was the undisputed leader of the international Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement.
Destroying his reputation among the masses played right into the hands of anticommunism, which now received the seemingly clinching confirmation from a very authoritative source, the Secretary General of the CPSU.
The establishment of a bureaucratic state-monopoly capitalism of a new type in the Soviet Union was the basis for the emergence of Soviet social-imperialism.
With that, modern revisionism unleashed its destructive force everywhere in the world.
Other socialist countries were forced into neocolonial dependence on the Soviet Union.
In the German Democratic Republic, too, the Ulbricht group swung to the new revisionist course relatively quickly.
The basis for this was petty-bourgeois disdain for and arrogance towards the workers and their mass criticism, as for example in the protests of June 1953; intrigues against critics, egotism, bourgeois ambition, careerism, etc.
The rapid transformation of almost all communist parties associated with the CPSU into revisionist parties highlighted the fact that the problem of the mode of thinking had become the dividing line between the construction or destruction of socialism.
The Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong’s leadership took the lead in the struggle against modern revisionism.
In 1966 Mao Zedong developed the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, as highest form of class struggle in socialism, when important parts of the leadership of the CPC took the revisionist road.
The ideological-political mobilization of millions of workers, women, young people, peasants and progressive intellectuals made this the decisive method for winning out over modern revisionism and defending socialism.
On the basis of Mao Zedong Thought a new communist movement emerged to defend Marxism-Leninism against modern revisionism.
The MLPD carried out its building as a new-type party from the outset as a dialectical negation of the old communist movement and its defeat at the hands of modern revisionism.
Willi Dickhut, leading thinker and co-founder of the MLPD, observed from his experience in the Communist Party of Germany, KPD, that tens of thousands of party functionaries had learned Marxism-Leninism by rote, as a dogma, at party schools, but had no understanding of its living, creative essence.
Dogmatism led to ideological-political poverty in the old communist movement and threw the doors wide open to modern revisionism.
By elaborating and further developing the doctrine of the mode of thinking and creatively applying it to the new problems of party building, class struggle
and the preparation for the international revolution, the MLPD was able to pursue a successful path.
What with the crisis-riddenness of imperialism, bourgeois ideology also got into a crisis and, in its openly reactionary forms, increasingly lost influence on the working class.
Those in power therefore gradually developed a system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking in society at large in order to veil the class contradictions and corrode class consciousness.
The petty-bourgeois mode of thinking became a mass phenomenon for disorienting, disorganizing and demoralizing the working-class and people’s movements.
The constant struggle between proletarian and petty-bourgeois mode of thinking among the masses, in the international revolutionary and working-class movement and in the Marxist-Leninist party became a new condition in class struggle and in party building.
Little by little the MLPD has grasped all essential aspects of party work as conscious application of the dialectical method at the level of the doctrine of the mode of thinking, fighting this through in theory and practice in principle-based struggle against the influences of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking.
Today the struggle against modern revisionism and neo-revisionism requires a new quality.
The intensification of contradictions in the imperialist world system and the aggravation of class confrontations expand the potential for a revolutionary world crisis.
But at the same time they are an extended fertile ground for opportunism and social-chauvinism, or the advance of a petty-bourgeois social-chauvinist mode of thinking in the working-class and people’s movement.
Especially the new-imperialist countries China and Russia pursue everywhere in the world the transition of modern revisionism to social-chauvinism.
The struggle for freedom, democracy and for the socialist revolution basically has to be directed against every imperialist, without exception, not only against US imperialism as major warmonger.
Dear friends and comrades,
The MLPD has developed several main features of party building on the foundation of the proletarian mode of thinking.
a) The MLPD is a revolutionary working-class party with a consolidated proletarian character.
More than 70 percent of the members are of proletarian class origin and live in a proletarian class situation.
The party leadership and the functionary body are most closely linked with the party base; they actively participate in the rank-and-file work of the basic units.
The main fighting line of the party is the Marxist-Leninist rank-and-file work in factories and trade unions.
The remolding of comrades of petty-bourgeois origin and class situation to a proletarian mode of thinking plays a special role so that they completely merge with the life and struggle of the working class.
b) The party finances its work independently; its means come solely from contributions and donations of its members and of the masses.
There is the principle of a party maximum for functionaries:
The income of full-time functionaries is related to the average wage of a skilled worker as a maximum which will be controlled.
c) The MLPD has a solid theoretical foundation.
The system of the theoretical organ Revolutionärer Weg, 35 issues to date, covers all essential aspects of Marxism-Leninism and provides reliable ideological-political orientation for party building and class struggle.
New manifestations and essential changes in nature, society and human thinking are analyzed in time and foresightedly.
Currently this was the issue of the emergence and development of a group of new-imperialist countries, seriously questioning the existing structure of the imperialist world system, but also having created the conditions for a new upsurge of the struggle for socialism.
d) The concrete analysis of the concrete situation at the level of the doctrine of the mode of thinking investigates how the masses process objective reality as struggle between petty-bourgeois and proletarian mode of thinking and act accordingly.
e) The strategy and tactics in the struggle over the mode of thinking of the masses organizes the superiority of the proletarian mode of thinking in the struggle against the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking.
The aim is that the masses adopt the party’s strategy and tactics as their own and that class consciousness consistently develops in interaction with the objective development of class struggle.
f) The organizational principle of democratic centralism guarantees that the experiences and initiatives of all members enter into the unified action of the party and that the fundamental unity of the party is preserved and strengthened.
g) Through principled criticism and self-criticism with the masses and within the party, the party develops in a creative way.
h) The proletarian culture of debate is our conclusion from Mao Zedong’s work on the correct handling of contradictions within the party and between the party and the masses, in order to cope successfully with the effect of opportunism and modern anticommunism.
I) In the new-type system of organizational and cadre work, the scientific work to lead party building is developed via the party’s leading bodies.
j) The system of self-control aims at avoiding mistakes.
Under the leadership of the Central Committee it unites the control from above through independent control commissions with the control from below through the members and with the self-control through each cadre.
k) The promotion of the generation change as well as the promotion of workers and women plays a prominent role to confidently develop a new generation of leading personalities.
l) The decisive driving force for cadre development is the proletarian ambition of each revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist to stand up selflessly for the self-liberation of the working-class.
The capability of the Marxist-Leninist party to lead the masses to the proletarian revolution, to the international socialist revolution, and to accomplish it successfully, hinges on the struggle against revisionism of different colors and the struggle against the petty-bourgeois revisionist mode of thinking in the revolutionary working-class and people’s movement. ■
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1Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 28, p. 231
2Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 32, p. 248