25-26 December 1991 form a turning point in modern history. Those days witnessed the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the state born of the Great October Revolution of 1917. Apart from the fleeting reign of the Paris Commune for 72 days in 1871, this was the first revolution that abolished the capital relationship and thereby established the first workers’ state. The entire world situation throughout the 20th century, not only in Russia but also all around the world, was determined by the existence of this state, whose position was, at least theoretically, fortified by other victorious revolutions within and after World War II. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, along with capitalist restoration in most of the other post-revolutionary societies, dealt a serious blow to the aspiration for collectivist, communist, socialist solutions to problems that the working classes and, for that matter humanity at large, faced in an age of capitalist decline. The international socialist-communist movement has still not recovered from the shock. So we need to dwell on the processes that eroded the bases of the workers’ states and in particular the USSR and answer the question “why?”. This is necessary both for convincing once again the younger generations of the emancipatory power of socialism and Marxism and also for displaying correct helmsmanship when the opportunity for the working classes to take state power in this 21st century presents itself. This opportunity will surely come. What is important is to be ready for it by studying the pitfalls of the past and learning from them. That is why, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the dissolution of the USSR, for several days we will publish articles and statements by parties and their leaders from Russia and elsewhere to commemorate but also to learn from the Soviet experience.
The first two pieces that we are publishing today are both from Russia itself. Iosif Grigorievitch Abramson is a Soviet communist who has lived through the greater part of the history of the Soviet state and is now one of the leaders of the Russian Party of Communists. He is here writing his assessment, precisely on the thirtieth anniversary of its dissolution, his outlook on why, on the basis of what objective and subjective factors, the Soviet experience collapsed.
The second piece is a statement published by the United Communist Party (OKP in its Russian acronym) directly on the legal and political aspects of the act of dissolution, accusing in no uncertain terms the restorationists of the manipulation of the rules and of the will to destroy the Soviet Union.
The OKP, as well as the RPK, are sister parties for RedMed under the umbrella of the International Christian Rakovski Center.
Systematization of the reasons for the failure of most socialist projects*
Let us summarize the results of the review of the greatest historical breakthroughs, unforgettable feats accomplished in the twentieth century by the communists and working people of the USSR and, following their example, after the Second World War, of many other countries, an overview of the enormous achievements in the initiated movement towards the transition to the highest phase of communism and -along the way- considerable mistakes, theoretical and practical perversions, made along the way. The negative factors, alas, turned out to be stronger and interrupted the development of most socialist projects. The systematization of the causes of failure will be the natural conclusion of the essay of our dramatic 74-year history.
Two preliminary remarks, one of which is a reminder: We have repeatedly stated in our analysis that objective reasons tend to be intertwined with subjective reasons. The second remark boils down to explanation: The list of reasons is purely chronological. The fact is that, regardless of the significance of the error, each new wrong decision intensifies the inhibition of development in the intended direction, bringing it closer to a dead end.
The initial, objective difficulty that the Bolsheviks faced immediately after the brilliantly carried out October Uprising was not unexpected - the significant industrial, scientific, technological, and cultural backwardness of Russia. This fully corresponded to the scientifically grounded Lenin’s prediction that the imperialist chain would break through in its weak link. Realizing the categorical necessity of overcoming this backwardness as quickly as possible, the government headed by Lenin, with a general shortage of basic necessities, did not spare the scarce resources available to create powerful scientific centers. The priority of the development of fundamental and applied science for a long time remained a defining feature of Soviet domestic policy.
The subjective collective mistake of the party leadership, including V. I. Lenin, was that it remained unchanged Party Charter when the Eighth Congress of the RCP(b) adopted a new, Second Party Program. Rosa Luxemburg’s wise warnings were not heeded. Later, this became the objective reason for the transformation of democratic centralism into bureaucratic centralism.
In 1921, VI Lenin recognized the party’s collective subjective mistake of delaying the surplus appropriation system, or “military communism”, which complicated the relationship between the working class and the peasantry, instilled a mood of a certain distrust to the Bolsheviks in the countryside, which at first widely supported the slogans of October, especially “Land for the peasants!”. The X. Congress, which adopted the NEP, “seriously and for a long time” (!), corrected this mistake.
Early 1922. Agreeing with the need to introduce the post of general secretary in the Central Committee of the RCP (b), V.I. Lenin made by this a mistake, trusting the recommendation of L.B. Kamenev to appoint I.V. Stalin on this post. Lenin’s realization of this subjective mistake came relatively quickly, and at the end of December of the same year, he was preparing a closed Letter to the Congress, in which he recommends removing Stalin from the post of general secretary. However, Stalin manages to strengthen his position in the governing bodies of the party during the first year of his tenure as general secretary that the Thirteenth Congress (1924), the first congress after the death of V.I. Lenin, does not accept the recommendation of the outgoing founder of the party. Stalin remains at the head of the entire party apparatus. This consolidates the victory of the bureaucratic tendency over the democratic one, which becomes the objective reason for the beginning of the process of the bureaucratic degeneration of the CPSU (b) -KPSU.
This process, fatal to socialism, was aggravated by the erosion of the class, proletarian composition of the party. In 1925, the announced so-called Leninist appeal diluted the CPSU (b) with a large number of poorly trained and poorly educated cadres. In 1927, the NEP was stopped. Lenin’s “seriously and for a long time” shrank to 6 years. And it was far from being “serious”. The collectivization of the village, which began in 1928, was largely violent, which radically contradicted the demand of V.I. Lenin - it is imperative to observe the principle of voluntariness of collectivization. In general, we can conclude that the end of the 1920s was marked by the disregard of the leadership of the CPSU (b) of Lenin’s political testament, embodied in his works of late 1922-early 1923, the leitmotif of which sounds a persistent warning about the two main dangers threatening Soviet power - great-power bureaucracy and great-power chauvinism nurtured by centuries of monarchical absolutism. Ignoring this warning objectively served to psychologically consolidate the correctness of the party’s course in the class consciousness of the victorious proletariat: Yes, they say, Lenin is dead, but Stalin is at the helm, “the successor of his cause, Stalin is Lenin today.”
1934, XVII. Congress of the VCP(b). The main theme is the results of the first five-year plan, successes and new tasks in the process of industrialization of the country unfolded by the party. But when the congress, which later received the name “Congress of Winners”, came to an end, to the election of the central bodies of the party for a new term, a situation arose unexpectedly for the counting commission: about 20% of the delegates, i.e. about 200 people, have crossed I.V. Stalin out from the ballots for the Central Committee election. The chairman of the counting commission reported to the general secretary about this before the official announcement of the results. In the official protocol against the name of Stalin, there were 3 votes, the same number as against S.M. Kirov. Was it not this event that took place at the final sessions of the “Congress of Victors” that served as an incentive to intensify the propaganda of the absolutely anti-Marxist thesis “on the intensification of the class struggle as we move in the socialist direction,” first put forward by Stalin back in July 1928? This subjective “contribution” to Leninism became the theoretical “basis” of the Great Terror of 1937-38. The atmosphere of fear that was incompatible with socialism that enveloped the country and, most importantly, the physical destruction of practically the entire broad active of the Leninist party was the objective result of that subjective, to put it mildly, Stalin’s mistake. In turn, this meant that in 1938 the history of the Bolshevik Leninist party was objectively completed and, under the same name, the party of the Stalinist dream became a political subject, “a kind of order of the sword-bearers.”
1936-39. The most acute contradictions in Soviet society. On the one hand, pride in the Motherland, the Soviet Union, providing comprehensive internationalist support to Republican Spain in its struggle against the fascist rebels of General Franco, who receive assistance from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. On the other hand, in 1937-38, there was a fear of the coming of every night, which could be the last in general, or at least for many years of separation from the family. This by no means dialectical contradiction inflicted deep moral and political trauma on people. And objectively it did not contribute to their rallying in the development of socialist principles.
1941-45. The Great Patriotic War, the indescribable feats of Soviet people at the front and in the rear, the feats of cities that shook the whole world, the defense of Leningrad, which endured the horrors of the blockade, the Stalingrad Battle, and finally the Victory - all of this tremendously raised the authority of the Soviet Union, Stalin personally as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, raised also the authority of the European Communist Parties, organizers of Resistance movements in the occupied territories. The subjective hopes of the main subjects of social development -the proletariat and workers of all social strata- have merged together and, accordingly, the objective possibilities of restoring the country’s economy and further systematic development, without returning the threat of violent methods from the authorities.
1948 – March 1953. It would seem that Stalin should have taken advantage of such a mass mood of hope and emerging confidence in his absolute power. At first, the first 2-2.5 years after the Victory, this trust was strengthened thanks to the confident actions of the USSR government. There was a rapid economic recovery, the well-being of the population grew, the prices for food and basic necessities fell. But suddenly some kind of paranoia seized the leader. One after another, campaigns were launched aimed at creating a mood of hostility among the masses towards various circles of the Soviet intelligentsia: The “case of doctors”, the fight against “cosmopolitanism” (forgetting that it can be both bourgeois and communist - Marx called himself a cosmopolitan), the defeat of genetics, domestic biology from the leading positions in world science, persecution of cybernetics, which served as the basis for the lag in IT technologies that has not yet been overcome, a series of resolutions of the Central Committee of the CPSU on literature, cinema, music .... And the “Leningrad case”, which was a repetition of state terror with execution practically without trial, but only at the direct command of Stalin, 26 leaders of the city party organization, including all five leaders of the city during the blockade, and camp terms for about 300 heads of enterprises and universities ... Economy Faculty of Leningrad State University remained for some time without a single professor. Naturally, in the circles of the intelligentsia, including the students, and in party circles, an attitude of rejection from such a leadership, from such a party, from such “socialism” arose and grew stronger. So the subjective features of the autocratic leader of the state, called Soviet, socialist, objectively generate in him the forces of resistance to such power, to such a system. And these forces of resistance differ in nature: Some are left, others are right.
1953-56. Death of Stalin, showdown in the Presidium of the Central Committee, arrest and execution of Beria, XX. Congress. The shock from the report of N.S. Khrushchev, who revealed the scale of the crimes committed in the pre-war and post-war years on the background of the personality cult of Stalin, was gigantic. Both in the USSR and abroad, especially in the Communist Parties. But objectively, the XX. Congress of the CPSU gave rise to hopes for recovery.
1956-62. Optimism is the dominant feature in the moods of the peoples of all the republics of the Soviet Union all these 6 years, which have been called the “thaw”. New names of factory innovators, foremen who come to lagging brigades in order to eliminate the lag in a short time, are noted by newspapers, radio, TV channels, newsreels, scientific breakthroughs, and the USSR is the first in space! 1957, October - the first satellite, April 12, 1961 - the first man in space, and this is a Soviet man. Literature, theater, and cinematography demonstrate a colossal rise. But all this relative freedom, “freedom with shouts” (of the same Khrushchev), ended abruptly in the June days of 1962 with the Novocherkassk execution. It is striking that the representatives of the party-state leadership, who only six years ago exposed Stalin’s crimes, found it possible to repeat the same thing. The Novocherkassk tragedy vividly demonstrated the unacceptable separation of the upper nomenklatura from the working class, whose interests it is called upon to defend. And this is one of the objective reasons that the bulk of the workers did not defend the Soviet socialist project in 1991.
1966-70. Successfully launched reforms in Hungary, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia owe a subjective factor, proactive and strong-willed leaders: Yanosh Kadar, Alexey Kosygin, Alexander Dubchek. The shameful entry of the troops of the USSR and several states of the Warsaw Pact into the territory of Czechoslovakia, as well as the decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU to terminate the provisions of the Kosygin reform from 1971, objectively proved a high degree of bourgeois-bureaucratic degeneration of the majority in the leadership of the Soviet Union, ignoring Lenin’s plans concerning the socialist transition to communism.
*The final chapter of the work Objective and subjective reasons for the defeat of socialist projects (Abramson I.G., Alternatives, 2021, 4 (113), pp. 30-55).