How Russia Decides to Go Nuclear
Deciphering the Way Moscow Handles Its Ultimate Weapon
WHAT IS LEFT OF COMMUNISM?
HALF a century after Lenin's seizure of power started the global chain reaction associated with his name, there no longer is a single center to direct what is still conventionally described as the world communist movement. The shock waves released by the original explosion continue to travel, but they follow a course profoundly divergent from that formerly traced out by the Bolshevik party and the Third International. Communism as a global phenomenon and the U.S.S.R. as the focus of a planned industrial transformation do not inhabit the same universe. Rhetorical assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, their respective lines of development increasingly point away from each other.
Ideologically, this divergence manifests itself in the slow erosion of Moscow's hold over the loyalty of its nominal followers. Dark planets circling the dying sun of the October Revolution, the communist parties of Europe, Asia and Latin America revolve in their separate orbits-now drawn together by geography or the pressures of the East-West conflict, now propelled in different directions by the resurgence of nationalism or the impact of the Sino-Soviet split. Deeply riven by the conflicting claims of Moscow and Peking, the communist movement has begun to display unmistakable symptoms of disintegration. Numerical growth is purchased at the cost of doctrinal enfeeblement. "Polycentrism," from being a heresy, shows signs of becoming the norm. Even the first principle of Leninism, the political monopoly of the single-party régime, has ceased to be sacrosanct.
The fiftieth anniversary of the October coup, by an unwelcome coincidence, falls at a time when the celebrants are confronted with the Chinese schism in a new and menacing form-an open confrontation of Asia and Russia. In the struggle to hold the loyalties of their respective followers, Moscow and Peking are increasingly driven back upon barely camouflaged nationalism. The Maoist heresy, from being an obscure quarrel over the interpretation of the depositum fidei, has turned into a rebellion sustained by China's ancient claims to hegemony in Central Asia. Long-standing national and cultural animosities, for years submerged by common acceptance of the Leninist creed, are rising to the surface. Even the possibility of armed conflict between the two major centers of what used to be called the Sino- Soviet camp can no longer be wholly excluded.
Concurrently with this disintegration of the Stalinist inheritance-an inheritance made possible by the Eurasian character of the régime established by Lenin's successor-there goes a revival of those aspects of the Marxist-Leninist synthesis which stemmed from European radicalism and from the pre-revolutionary Europeanization of Russia itself. As China draws further away from the original sources of the common faith, the guardians of Soviet orthodoxy are obliged in self-defense to lay stress upon those elements of the Leninist heritage that connect it with the unbroken tradition of Marxian socialism. Caught between a Western environment which imperceptibly transforms communists into social-democrats, and an Eastern heresy which eliminates the last surviving remnants of classical Marxism, the Soviet régime has come to wear a defensive look. No longer a lodestar for revolutionaries in Africa or Asia, and not yet acceptable to the democratic labor movements of the West, it is in danger of appearing irrelevant to both.
The October Revolution, in Lenin's interpretation, was to have been the opening phase of a gigantic effort to link the proletarian revolution in the West with the national and anticolonial upheaval in the East. Despite the widely advertised disputes among Lenin's successors, this perspective was shared by Trotskyists, Stalinists and Bukharinists alike. It underlay both their doctrinal quarrels over the correct line to be pursued abroad, and the actual conduct of Soviet foreign policy in the age of the Third International and beyond. Its virtual abandonment by Stalin's heirs signifies more than the normal loss of fervor to be expected from the rulers of an increasingly conservative and stratified society; it must be regarded as evidence that the perils inherent in the original Leninist program have finally become apparent to the rulers of the post- revolutionary U.S.S.R. The prime danger is a commitment to world- revolutionary utopianism which rules out any hope of "peaceful coexistence" with the United States, and such a commitment the Soviet leadership at present seems determined to avoid.
What then is left of communism? The question is not intended as a pun, although recent events in China have perhaps made a degree of levity permissible. The "cultural revolution," for all its brutalities and the destruction wreaked upon the country's heritage, is too grotesque wholly to escape the penalty of ridicule. Was there ever anything to match this centrally controlled super-purge whose organizers contrived to dupe themselves with the borrowed language of popular insurrection? Anything to excel the spectacle of a mass movement supposedly launched to overcome the resistance of a handful of "plotters in high places?" Could anything have been more anachronistic than the solemn evocation of the Paris Commune-that tragic uprising of a doomed city-by military leaders acting in conjunction with a fanaticized youth movement? And was there not an element of plain buffoonery in the spectacle of millions dutifully echoing whatever slogans were broadcast over the local radio station by assorted "rightists," "leftists," "ultra-leftists," "plotters," "militarists" or all of them combined? At the very least the spectacle served to demonstrate that conditioned reflexes still count for more in China than the "thought of Mao Tse-tung."
For that matter, what was one to make of the spectacle of Mao giving the army its head, thereby contravening the first principle of a political doctrine which asserts the preëminence of the party? To say that the dictator was driven to this departure from orthodoxy by the miscarriage of his original plans is to concede that the "cultural revolution" had escaped its originator. From the three-cornered struggle between the bureaucracy, the juvenile Red Guards and the army, the last named was bound to emerge as the real (if for the moment decently silent) victor. If Mao was unable to foresee this, what was the worth of his Marxist-Leninist indoctrination? Had it not occurred to him that the synthesizing element of this particular triad must either be the party or the army, and that if the party were wrecked, the final outcome must bear a military stamp? Of what use years of brooding in the wilderness over the sacred texts if this simple conclusion escaped him? Among all the Chinese millions dutifully reciting the Maoist catechism, it would seem that the man least capable of deciphering its meaning was Mao Tse-tung himself.
It may be argued that an intensive militarization of public life is not in principle incompatible with the maintenance of party control, especially if the party is determined to pursue a policy of economic austerity and social egalitarianism. Such a choice could even be defended on rational grounds quite extraneous to Mao's own highly idiosyncratic version of "war communism." It can be held that in a large, poor and overpopulated country with China's special problems, a combination of military discipline and ideological rigor is an effective means (perhaps the only effective means) of wringing an economic surplus from an unwilling population. If this be granted for argument's sake, one still has to account for the transformation of a doctrine which originally expressed the spontaneous protest of the proletariat of early capitalism. The utopian literature of modern communism, as it arose after the French Revolution, was egalitarian enough, but the aims it defined had little in common with the revolutionary nationalism of the Maoist régime. Communism in those days-broadly speaking the half-century ending with the 1848 upheaval and the "Manifesto"-defined the terms in which an élite of French and British workingmen and their intellectual leaders envisaged the distant future. That future was seen under the aspect of a stateless and classless order which would inherit the economic wealth created by the industrial revolution. It never occurred to the early pioneers of this faith, or to the authors of the "Manifesto," that communism might become the "ideology" (in the precise sense of "false consciousness") of a movement seeking to substitute itself for what Marx called the "bourgeois revolution." Yet this is what has been happening in China since 1949, following the precedent set in the U.S.S.R. since 1917.
The paradox is not lessened by the fact that the Chinese have come to stress the purity of their own system as compared to the once admired Soviet model, which is now rejected as insufficiently egalitarian and tainted by bourgeois corruption. Maoism has shown itself even more terroristic than Stalinism in trying to impose uniformity and to prevent the satisfaction of immediate material wants. This kind of terrorism, if successful (a big "if"), can only serve to channel the economic surplus into those sectors of activity to which the highest political authority has chosen to give priority. There is no secret about these priorities: they are military and technological. That is to say, they are at the furthest possible remove from the satisfaction of ordinary individual and social claims.
Once more it may be said that in a poor country on the threshold of modernization this is inevitable, and that other Asian societies (India for choice) might count themselves fortunate if they possessed the social discipline required for the aim of guaranteeing all citizens a minimum of essentials. But the more this argument is pressed, the clearer it becomes that what is being asserted is the superior effectiveness of Chinese communism in promoting the aims historically associated with the capitalist mode of production and the social order built upon it: above all, the sacrifice of immediate satisfactions for the sake of building up the wealth- creating apparatus of industrial civilization. Such an achievement, however important, is quite extraneous to the original signification of the term "communism," not to mention the historic traditions of the labor movement. It is the goal of virtually every dictatorship in a backward country, be its ideology communist, fascist or simply nationalist. The originality of Maoism lies in the methods employed to mobilize the masses in the name of communism for the achievement of aims proper to any national-revolutionary movement: the industrialization of China and the acquisition of military means (including nuclear ones) adequate to the pursuit of great-power politics.
It is irrelevant in this context that these aims are conceived as forming part of the uprising of the world's pre-industrial hinterland (which also happens to be mostly colored), and it is useless to inquire how far such motives are intermingled with more traditional ones. The power of an ideology (in the Marxist sense of the term, not in the trivial meaning assigned to it by pragmatism) is measured by the degree to which it raises men above themselves, gives them a sense of purpose, drives them to sacrifice themselves for what they conceive to be the greater good. It is not the least unnerving aspect of the current situation that the moral austerity of Chinese communism has channeled the energies of a great people into a direction potentially dangerous to itself and its neighbors. The whole phenomenon, whatever the short-range determinants of the conflict between Moscow and Peking, is best understood as an upsurge of national sentiment within the limitations imposed by the acceptance of communism. The genuineness of this acceptance is just what renders the conflict so acute, since it is essential for the Chinese to adhere to the communist creed and simultaneously to impose their own interpretation upon it.
The problem has been solved, as usual in such cases, by a doctrinal schism. China now has its own version of the faith: much as in an earlier age the imposition of Islam upon Persia gave birth by way of the Shiite heresy to a local variant of the conquering religion. As in all such cases, the resulting pseudo-morphosis-the underlying culture reasserting itself in the guise of the new universal faith-must be distinguished from the overt manifestations of the schism, which are largely accidental and secondary. Given the circumstances in which the Chinese Communists won power-namely by gaining the leadership of a national-revolutionary movement whose original inspiration had run dry-an attempt to "Sinify" the Marxist-Leninist inheritance was inevitable. The particular form it has taken is another matter. It is a waste of time to examine Peking's claims to doctrinal orthodoxy. The Chinese are too remote from the origins of European socialism to be taken seriously in the role of exegetes of the classical texts. What matters is that the schism has laid bare the contradictions inherent in Lenin's view of the Russian Revolution as the link between an awakening Asia and a potentially socialist Europe. In so far as Leninism signified such a vision, the Chinese are Leninists no longer, for they no longer believe that the industrial proletariat of the West has a privileged part to play in what is still called the "world revolution."
Marxism-Leninism is in process of disintegration. The vision of a global movement encompassing both advanced and backward countries has been abandoned by Moscow and Peking alike: by Moscow because the growing conservatism of Soviet society is incompatible with such alarming notions; by Peking because there is no longer a revolutionary workers' movement in the West which could be regarded as a reliable ally of a resurgent China. Leninism and Stalinism alike implied a commitment to the goal of a union linking East and West, the Asian peasant and the European or American city- worker. From 1920 onward, when Lenin formulated this concept at the Second Congress of the Third International, the effective political meaning of "communism" hinged upon the belief that the October Revolution had been the first act in this great drama. Leninism, both in its narrower Stalinist and in its more romantic Trotskyist understanding, was the doctrine of a world revolution. Shorn of this perspective it is no more than the theory of the Russian Revolution. Inasmuch as this latter interpretation is now gaining ground among communists in the U.S.S.R. and throughout Eastern Europe, the Chinese have some cause for asserting that the Russians and their allies in the communist movement are no longer serious about the conclusion Lenin set out in his last published piece of writing, when he looked forward to a great confrontation between "the counter-revolutionary imperialist West and the revolutionary and nationalist East": a confrontation in which he expected the U.S.S.R. to side with China and India against Europe and America.[i]
The tacit abandonment of this line of thought by the Soviet régime does constitute a drastic revision of Leninism (though not of Marxism, since neither Marx nor his European followers had ever dreamed of such a thing). Unfortunately for the Chinese it is not really possible for the remnant of the "revolutionary and nationalist East" to assume the role once held by the U.S.S.R. Without the latter, plus its East European satellites, Maoism is no more than an Asian phenomenon, which is another way of saying that the Leninist strategy of 1920-23 has become inapplicable. If Moscow refuses the global role assigned to it in the original scheme, and contents itself with the part of mediator between West and East (or between the United States and China), there is an end to world-revolutionary strategy. It is useless to affirm that an adequate substitute can be reconstituted on Chinese soil. Anything may be asserted on paper, but in the eyes of Asian revolutionaries "Leninism" signified primarily the willingness of the Russian Communist Party to follow the line laid down by its founder between 1920 and 1923, when he explicitly defined world communism in terms of an alliance between the Russian worker and the Asian peasant. To do the Chinese justice, Moscow's departure from this line does represent the abandonment of at least one significant aspect of Lenin's heritage.
If the question be raised how Lenin ever came to associate the coming triumph of what he called "socialism" with such a perspective, the answer must be that he was following out the logic of his lifelong adherence to the Populist (or Bakuninist) notion of a "dictatorship of workers and peasants," which in his theoretical scheme was to administer the tasks of the revolution during a lengthy interim period after the fall of the monarchy. As late as 1923 one finds him discussing the immediate prospects of the Soviet régime in these terms: "We . . . lack enough civilization to enable us to pass straight on to socialism, although we do have the political requisites for it. . . . We must strive to build up a state in which the workers retain the leadership of the peasants, in which they retain the confidence of the peasants. . . . If we see to it that the working class retains its leadership over the peasantry, we shall be able . . . to develop electrification . . ." etc.[ii]
The naïvety of this trust in the capacity of "the workers" to exercise political leadership requires no comment. What matters is the essential coherence of the Leninist viewpoint: the Russian "worker" was to "build socialism" at home and "retain the confidence of the peasant" while doing it. In practice, the "building of socialism" devolved upon the party, which in turn became the nucleus of a new privileged stratum. For all their blinkered ignorance, the Maoists are shrewd enough to see that the jettisoning of Lenin's global strategy ("East against West") has been brought about by what they have come to describe as the degeneracy of the Soviet régime-notably the formal dismantling of the "proletarian dictatorship." It is irrelevant that the latter was always a fiction, for to a communist what truly matters is that his party should represent the masses. What the Chinese cannot forgive is the growing identification of the Soviet régime with the aims of the privileged stratum that has grown out of the post-revolutionary society. It is quite wrong to describe this reaction as "Trotskyist," superficial resemblances notwithstanding. The Maoists are ultra-Stalinists, that is to say, believers in the efficacy of terrorism. What was valuable about Stalin's leadership in their eyes was precisely his readiness to subordinate the material interests of all classes to the aims laid down by political authority. Mao is as certain as Stalin ever was that communism can and must be built by force-even in a country possessing no industry to speak of-and that the new society must remain totally subordinate to the controlling élite until such time as all its citizens have become good communists and lost their appetite for private property. All other notions (including the Trotskyist Utopia of a proletarian revolution in the West) are heretical and must be rooted out, for what matters is that the transformation must be willed. Given the necessary willpower, the material problems will take care of themselves.
To say that Lenin opened this Pandora's Box when he committed his party to the task of "building socialism" in Russia is not to suggest that he would have welcomed the present consequences. He was after all a Russian Social- Democrat by upbringing, and for all his heresies enough of a Marxist to believe that communism made no sense without a workers' movement. At the same time it is plain enough that between 1917 and 1923 he had traveled a good distance toward the conclusions now reached by his Chinese disciples. None the less he still retained his faith in the revolutionary potential of Europe. The inherent instability of this Marxist-Leninist synthesis was masked for a while by the existence of the Third International, notably by its involvement in the mythical "German revolution"-an experiment whose outcome was the National-Socialist dictatorship, passively supported for twelve years by the bulk of the German working class. Yet if this sobering experience has made Moscow's followers more cautious, it has not shaken their doctrinal commitment to a Leninism which shall at any rate continue to bear the marks of its East European origin. It is indeed not possible for orthodox communists to accept the complete dissociation of Leninism from Marxism-something the Chinese have now brought about by setting the army and a state-controlled youth movement against the urban working class.
"Marxism-Leninism" was always a shotgun marriage, for what was original in Lenin (the notion of a world revolution centering on Russia) was not to be found in Marx. Yet for all its equivocal attempts to combine Marx and Bakunin, the Bolshevism of 1917-23 signified an unwillingness to turn one's back altogether upon the Marxian inheritance. Leninism, it was asserted in those days, was the contemporary form of Marxism, and the October Revolution, by bringing socialism to backward Russia, had bridged the gulf between Europe and Asia. One may suppose that Stalin still believed this. His successors plainly do not, and neither do the Chinese, whatever their propaganda may assert to the contrary. For the Maoists, the tradition of the old revolutionary workers' movement has ceased to possess any relevance. It is no longer a matter of asserting that socialism and communism can be built outside Europe; they must be built outside Europe, and there must be no illusions about the ability or the willingness of the European or American proletariat to take the lead in the matter, or even to render significant aid to China's struggle. What was once the faith of the European socialist movement has, after a century of eastward migration, become the ideology of an élite in charge of a national revolution in a retarded country.
This new Islam has its Koran, albeit due reverence is paid to the Old Testament, and why not? Pious Moslems respect the memory of Abraham, but their allegiance goes to the Prophet. The Chinese communists are unlikely to relinquish the claim that Mao stands in the direct succession to Marx and Lenin. To do so would be to renounce the universalism which has become their pride and which, to do them justice, sets them off from the parochialism of an earlier generation of nationalists, for whom the indigenous tradition had to suffice. But in the absence of any tradition linking the Chinese revolution with the Western labor movement, such manifestations of the will to believe must remain ideological. They translate not a shared experience-for what is there to connect the former nationalist agitator from Hunan with the heirs of the Chartists or the followers of Proudhon?-but the determination not to be excluded from what is perceived as a claim to universal import. This transformation of a Western faith into the fighting creed of a movement born and raised under very different stars is precisely what the term "ideology" signifies.
If the disintegration of Marxism-Leninism has the effect of leaving the Kremlin and its adherents in an uncomfortable position midway between East and West, it may be said that Lenin's heirs are thus belatedly paying for their master's originality. One could assemble quite a number of quotations testifying to the fact that in the final year of his political life Lenin had come to realize the perils inherent in what he himself on one occasion likened to the ascent of a high mountain. What this comparison amounted to was an implicit acknowledgment that the October coup had been an adventure into unmapped territory. In his customary fashion Lenin sought assurance by invoking the example of the earlier revolution in France (a bourgeois one). Thus one finds him writing (in February 1922): "Russia's proletariat rose to a gigantic height in its revolution, not only when it is compared with 1789 and 1793, but also when compared with 1871. We must take stock of what we have done . . . as dispassionately . . . as possible. . . ."[iii]
To anyone familiar with Russian Marxism, what stands out here is the casual linking of the French Revolution (1789 and 1793) and the Paris Commune of 1871-the first a successful, if sanguinary, transformation carried through by Lenin's Jacobin ancestors; the second an abortive proletarian insurrection against the bourgeois Republic which had arisen from the subsequent turmoil. It is true that the Parisian Communards of 1871 counted a good many latter-day Jacobins in their own ranks; in particular the Blanquist faction (which more or less ran the Commune) was descended from the radical republicans of the 1840s, though Blanqui himself was fond of describing himself as a "communist." It is also true that Clemenceau, the archetypal bourgeois Radical under the Third Republic, had begun his political life in the 1860s as a follower of Blanqui and in 1871 duly sympathized with the Communards, though he stood aside from the fighting. All this belongs to the inner history of French republicanism-a movement largely inspired by a Robespierrist faith in "temporary" dictatorship.
This tradition is the ultimate source of those passages in the "Communist Manifesto" (1848) and the "Class Struggles in France" (1850) where Marx paid his residual debt to Jacobinism. Marxism, in one of its aspects, has been the link between 1789 and 1917, between the French Revolution and its Russian successor. The reason is quite simply that Marx obtained his political education in the Paris of the 1840s, where the nascent communist sects were led by men like Blanqui who still thought in Jacobin terms. After 1850, Marx (and even more so Engels) abandoned these rather episodic attachments and gradually transformed themselves into democratic socialists. But this transformation became effective only in Germany and England. It was rather halfheartedly accepted in France after the disaster of the 1871 Paris Commune, and it evoked no genuine echo in Eastern Europe, where Marxism continued to signify the "Communist Manifesto" rather than "Capital." In a word, the Marx whom the Russians liked was the early Marx- the man of 1848. And they continued to admire Blanqui. The Russian radicals of the 1860s and 1870s, who transmitted the Blanquist faith in revolutionary terrorism to Lenin, were proud to style themselves "Jacobins." So far, so good. After all, even moderate Marxists like Lenin's teacher, Plekhanov, believed, for sound reason, that Russia would one day reënact the earlier drama in France.
For all that, Lenin's casual allusion to these French examples slid over what to a Marxist is the central difficulty. The French Revolution, after all, had been led by the bourgeoisie-and been successful for this reason. The Paris Commune of 1871, on the other hand, had been bloodily suppressed after two months, and thus could hardly count as evidence that "proletarian dictatorship" was workable. Lenin's own party had launched a victorious uprising and by 1922, when he penned his "Notes of a Publicist," had been in power for almost five years. Was Bolshevism, then, the legitimate successor of Jacobinism? And if it was, could it also claim the heritage of that luckless rebellion in 1871 which had burst the bounds of bourgeois society?
To ask such questions of course is to challenge the whole theoretical construction supporting Lenin's system of beliefs, for had he been less certain about the answer he would not have been the man he was, and neither would the Bolshevik party have become what he made of it. It was essential to his outlook, and to that of his followers, that he and they should see themselves both as "Jacobins" and as communists leading a "proletarian revolution" (and therefore also in the tradition of the 1871 Commune). The self-contradictory character of this notion was plain enough to the Mensheviks, for whom Lenin's "Jacobinism" was just what rendered his Marxism suspect. He had after all made it clear, from 1902 and "What Is To Be Done?" onward, that-unlike the mature Marx-he did not believe the working class could emancipate itself by its own efforts. That task, in his view, devolved upon "the party." But (as one can see from his 1922 writings) the reality of party control must on no account be allowed to weaken the faith that the October Revolution had been a "proletarian" one. In short, he was determined to have it both ways-not merely as a political leader, but as a theoretician too. When confronted with the resulting contradictions he fell back upon the notion that history was always producing unforeseen situations. Thus, although by 1922 his régime had come to terms with what he himself called "state capitalism," he was by no means willing to let his critics have the last word on the subject. Replying to one of them, the economist Preobrazhensky (who as it happened was a left- wing Bolshevik), he flatly asserted that some of the traditional Marxian distinctions were no longer applicable:
Up to now nobody could have written a book about this sort of capitalism, because this is the first time in human history that we see anything like it. . . . Now things are different, and neither Marx nor the Marxists could foresee this . . . for nobody could foresee that the proletariat would achieve power in one of the least developed countries, and would first try to organize large-scale production and distribution for the peasantry and then, finding that it could not cope with the task owing to the low standard of culture, would enlist the services of capitalism. Nobody ever foresaw this; but it is an incontrovertible fact.[iv]
The "incontrovertible fact" was that the proletariat had not "achieved power," either in October 1917 or at any other time; but had he been able to see that his party "represented" not the proletariat but the ruling stratum of a new society, Lenin could not have made the revolution. Illusions of this sort (as Marx had pointed out in connection with the French Revolution) are a vital factor in promoting those historical changes whose true meaning discloses itself after the event.
The meaning of Lenin's revolution disclosed itself under Stalin. By now it requires a considerable act of faith for anyone to believe that the political dispossession of the working class by Lenin's party was merely a temporary affair, for Soviet society plainly is neither classless nor tending in that direction. So much must be granted to its Chinese critics. What the latter fail to perceive is that this outcome was inevitable and by no means the fault of Stalin's "revisionist" heirs. Indeed the term "revisionism" makes no sense in this context, for what is being revised is merely the vocabulary. It is true that calling the U.S.S.R. a "State of the whole people" is ludicrous if one affects to retain Marx's view of the state as an instrument of coercion. But if Lenin was prepared to argue that Bolshevik state capitalism was different from ordinary state capitalism, why should not his successors claim that the state they govern is unlike any other state-not oppressive but liberating? If it is a matter of revisionism, Lenin was the greatest revisionist of them all. After all, it was he who stood the social-democratic tradition on its head by seizing power and then claiming to hold it for "the proletariat." And there was Stalin's subsequent decision to "build socialism" in "one country"-a decision already inherent in Lenin's pronouncements, whatever Trotsky might affirm to the contrary.[v] V
Does it follow from all this that there is no longer something that can be called "world communism"? A movement may be in a state of disintegration and still have considerable staying power. Moreover, the elements that are now being set free may enter new combinations. If Peking has adopted the Leninist part of the Marxist-Leninist synthesis, the West European communist parties show signs of reviving the Marxist inheritance. In doing this they are, after all, simply reverting to a tradition older than the Russian Revolution-a tradition, moreover, which grew on European soil and does not have to be laboriously retranslated into English, German, French, Spanish or Italian. Even the Russians can at a pinch revive the orthodox Marxism of Plekhanov, though doubtless they will continue to assert that he took the wrong line in 1914-18. A fortiori in Western Europe, where the communist parties are still rooted in the labor movement, it should not be too difficult for them to resurrect those elements of the Marxist tradition which they have in common with the social-democrats: above all, faith in the ability of the working class to emancipate itself by its own efforts and without the benefit of an omniscient vanguard of "professional revolutionaries." Conceivably the communist parties in these countries could even be brought to accept political democracy and to renounce, once and for all, the dream of one-party dictatorship, for which the preconditions are anyhow becoming increasingly unfavorable.
Something of the sort may indeed already be under way within the two largest and most important West European parties, the Italian and the French. Faced with the choice between permanent isolation and partial attainment of their aims, their leaders appear to have quietly opted for virtual acceptance of political democracy and toleration of other parties. The social revolution is still affirmed, but there is no longer the same insistence that it must of necessity pass through a dictatorial phase. Since this was the line Marx and Engels themselves took after 1871, when the quarrel with Bakunin obliged them to come down firmly on the democratic side, there should be no trouble about finding scriptural warrant for a position that is both Marxist and democratic.
What stands in the way of such a reorientation is not Marx but Lenin (to say nothing of Stalin, the symbol of terrorism). The communists in the West would have to admit that the Bolshevik experience does not after all provide a suitable model for the advanced societies of Western Europe and North America. If they could bring themselves to do this-and in Western Europe the time seems to be almost ripe-their tactical problems would no longer be insoluble, and in due course they might even win the confidence of their fellow citizens. What such a realignment cannot do is to reconstitute the lost unity of the world communist movement. It is bound on the contrary to hasten its demise as a movement, though not necessarily as a loose assemblage of like-minded parties. For communism since 1917 has defined itself in terms of fidelity to Lenin and the Bolshevik model. A "return to Marx," whatever its attraction after World War II to the pupils of Antonio Gramsci, has little meaning for communists in Asia, Africa and Latin America. To them it signifies quite plainly the renunciation of those hopes and illusions that were symbolized by the myth of the October Revolution.
And yet one does not see how the drift away from Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy can be halted, at any rate outside Eastern Europe, where the problem of gaining power has been solved. Both the rigid ultra-Stalinism of the Chinese and the traditional Marxism of Western Europe represent possible options, whereas the Leninist synthesis of 1917-23 looks more artificial with every year that passes. Too undemocratic for the West, it is still too Marxist for the East. Above all, it is too dependent upon the Marxian notion that there must be some concordance between the development of the productive forces and the evolution to a higher type of society, and that communism cannot simply be legislated into existence by an act of will. Lenin, after all, never quite renounced the primary assumption that socialism (let alone communism) presupposes a high degree of industrial development and a concomitant level of civilization. Indeed, he justified the adoption of the New Economic Policy in 1921-22 on the grounds that Russia was too backward for a shortcut to socialism. It has been left for Mao Tse-tung to take the final step of proclaiming communism the means of overcoming China's pre-industrial backwardness. In doing so he has finally stood Marx on his head, though he can hardly be aware of it.
What is rather more important is that he has severed the link between his own brand of "communism" and the historic workers' movement from which the communist protest against exploitation and alienation originally arose. For what kept this movement going for a century was the faith that the purgatory of the industrial revolution would one day be succeeded by an age when men would find something better to do than to sacrifice themselves and their offspring for the wealth-creating apparatus of capitalist industry. If the European proletariat responded to Marxian socialism, it did so because Marx had taught the workers that "capital" was stored-up labor- their own sweat and blood which had gone to build up the great pyramid of modern industry. His followers then did not conceive that "communism" would one day come to signify an iron dictatorship dedicated to the goal of extracting the last ounce of surplus labor from the toilers, for the purpose of erecting an even more monstrous structure of totally state-owned and bureaucratically controlled capital. They did not, that is to say, foresee the advent of Stalinism, still less of Maoism, which is the application of Stalinist principles to a country far poorer and more primitive than the Russia of the first five-year plan. Whatever the pragmatic value of this gigantic experiment, it holds no promise for men and women whose ancestors in the last century passed through this particular kind of hell, though to be sure the ideology then was a different one.
Nothing can cure the Chinese of their notion that they are "building communism," though in fact they are laying the foundation of yet another state-capitalist structure. The illusion is as necessary to them as the air they breathe, for it legitimizes the drive to make their country great and self-sufficient. But just because the entire nation has been dedicated by its rulers to this back-breaking enterprise, what is officially described as communism has found expression in a riot of populist and nationalist exaltation. The appeal of Maoism is to the people of China-all of them (minus the celebrated "handful of plotters") and to no one besides. Here, for all the solemn tributes to Stalin's legacy, Mao and his followers have perforce abandoned even the Stalinist form of Leninism which still retained some connection with the idea of a class dictatorship exercised in the name of "the workers." Maoism is a populist ideology which equates all the toilers, and if anything prefers the peasants to the city workers. Its appeal is to "the people," not to the proletariat, and its deepest urge is to restore the primitive community of the folk, as it is supposed to have existed in a golden age before the coming of class society. In short, what we have here is the last of the great national-popular convulsions inaugurated in the France of 1793, revived in the Russia of 1917, grotesquely parodied in the Germany of 1933, and now for a change exported to Asia. Impressive enough in its own way, the phenomenon makes sense only if one dissociates it from the Marxian perspective it has inherited from a European movement of the past century. National Socialism does not acquire a different character merely because it chooses to style itself communism. But the revolution is real enough, and its ultimate direction remains to be determined.
[i] Lenin, "Better Fewer, But Better," Pravda, March 4, 1923 ("Collected Works," v. 33, p. 487 ff.). "In the last analysis, the outcome of the struggle will be determined by the fact that Russia, India, China, etc., account for the overwhelming majority of the population of the globe. . . . In this sense the complete victory of socialism is fully and absolutely assured." (Ibid., p. 500). This Eurasian perspective was already inherently Stalinist, in that it identified "the victory of socialism" with the military superiority of an Eastern bloc led by the U.S.S.R. As long as Moscow adhered to such notions, it was possible for the Chinese to tolerate Soviet preëminence (not to mention Stalin's personal whims). To that extent the Maoist claim to the succession is well founded.
[ii] Ibid., p. 501: "In this and in this alone lies our hope. Only when we have done this shall we be able, speaking figuratively, to change horses, to change from the peasant, muzhik, horse of poverty . . . to the horse which the proletariat is seeking and must seek-the horse of large-scale machine industry, of electrification, of the Volkhov Power Station, etc."
[iii] "Notes of a Publicist," first published in Pravda, April 16, 1924 ("Collected Works," v. 33, p. 206).
[iv] Closing speech at the eleventh congress of the R.C.P.(B.), March 28, 1922 ("Collected Works," v. 33, p. 310-311).
[v] There had of course to be a theoretical warrant: this time Marx's letter of November 1877 to the editors of the Otechestvenniye Zapiski, setting out his reasons for believing that Russia had a chance to avoid the "fatal vicissitudes of the capitalist régime." As a justification for forced-draft industrialization at any cost, this was rather thin, but it has now become the warrant for what is called "communism" in all pre- industrial countries, China among them.