I am a Trotskyist to the core when it comes to the issue of the past. It’s complete bullshit to claim that the working class was in power in the late Eastern Bloc. There was nothing left in those states but the raw, negative vestiges of Stalinism, a vestige which will (seemingly) forever form the blackest reaction of all time over the communist movement.
I am reading a book called ‘The Stalinist Legacy’ which criticizes practically all of the 20th century Marxist-Leninist legacy from a Marxist perspective. No, the working class was not in power, a Stalinist bureaucracy was. No, it cannot be called a socialist system without there being democracy in the workplace, without there being political democracy as well. As Luxemburg said, “Democracy is indispensable to socialism and socialism indispensable to democracy.”
The one-party system did not reign because it ‘maintained the will of the entire working class’ all at once, such a view is utopian. It formed as a necessity of the Russian revolution- a condition that by absolutely no indications by Lenin or Trotsky was to be permanent. Go ahead and search all 50 volumes of Marx and Engels, and all 45 volumes of Lenin for the mention of a one-party system, I have. You will find not one mention of such a thing by Lenin, Marx or Engels, it is entirely a vestige of Stalinism to assert that the ideal socialist state (and not only one that just had a revolution, and also was barred from participation by the bourgeois parties) is a one-party state.
In fact, in the ‘people’s democracies’ the necessary prerequisites for full democracy did not exist. Had they though, the overwhelming majority would have likely supported some kind of liberal democratic reforms. This is not to say that this was the case everywhere, it most certainly was not. Eisenhower himself (I believe it was) said that he suppressed elections in Vietnam because if he had allowed them, “80% of the population would have supported Ho Chi Minh”. The same was true for Cuba.
To adequately critique 20th Century Marxism-Leninism I do not believe Trotskyism is enough. We have to go back to Marx himself who asserted the belief that advanced capitalism was a necessary prerequisite to socialist construction. Just as you cannot go from a feudal monarch to a democratic republic without a zero level of Jacobinism, you cannot go from feudalism to socialism without a zero level of advanced capitalism. Was this not the assertion of Marx himself?
The conditions of imperialism put Russia in an impossible situation: a proletarian revolution in a backwards country without international revolution. Lenin himself said the country was doomed in a decade without international revolution. It was doomed from the start. We also have to analyze the nature of the economic system itself. Was it socialist? Certainly not. Was it state-capitalist? Technically, but it was also technically under the dictatorship of the proletariat. I think the assertion of it being a ‘deformed workers state’ is adequate. From a surplus analysis it was anything but socialist.
And yes! It lifted hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty, doubled life expectancy rates, abolished illiteracy, etc. but overall I would classify it as a complete and total disaster. If you read some of Lenin’s later writings it gets even more depressing as even Lenin himself expressed doubts as to the ability of such a backward nation building socialism. He says something along the lines of “yes we’re probably fucked but at least we should try right? Perhaps if we are, the best thing would be more economic development and some bourgeois culture.” Not one year after he died did Stalin propose the treacherous theory of ‘socialism in one country’.A theory that, along with Stalinism generally, has been the sole basis of every single socialist/ communistic revolution since October.
The idea of rapid industrialization (as introduced by Trotsky) was the great triumph of the 20th century Marxist-Leninist movement. The five year plans brought hundreds of millions of people out of the most extreme poverty. But economically it was technically state-capitalist due to its lack of economic democracy and state control. Had it allowed full democratic participation and innovation, I have little doubt that the economic stagnation of the Brezhnev era would have never taken place. Overall I just have to look back and say, “What the actual fuck? I mean seriously. Fuck. This whole thing is fucked. The word communism (the goal) is now and (seemingly) forever will be equated with Stalinism (the totalitarian means of reaching said goal).
Where are we coming from? Where are we now? Where are we going? I hope that I have sufficiently, even if briefly, addressed the question of where we are coming from- the complete betrayal of the original ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin, the vestiges of Stalinism and its effects on world politics today. Without addressing this issue with the utmost vigor and confidence- rooted in a firm and concise Marxist analysis, we will go nowhere at all. Or worse still- will repeat the mistakes and atrocities of the past.