How Russia Decides to Go Nuclear
Deciphering the Way Moscow Handles Its Ultimate Weapon
AMONG the factors cited to explain Premier Khrushchev's resumption of an uncompromising "Stalinist" line has been the strong opposition voiced from Peking to any efforts to relax world tensions which might diminish the revolutionary fervor of the Communist peoples. An extreme example of this attitude was furnished by an article in the April 15 issue of Red Flag, the organ of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. The article, written by the journal's Editorial Department, and presumably approved by the Control Secretariat of the Party, is entitled "Long Live Leninism!" It goes beyond usual official pronouncements from Peking in assailing not merely "opportunists" and "revisionists" like Tito but by implication elements in the Soviet Union and in Communist circles elsewhere who favor coexistence and even coöperation with "capitalist imperialism" in a manner which endangers "the emancipation of the proletariat." This emancipation, it is emphasized, "can come about only by the road of revolution and certainly not by the road of reformism."
The article asks: "What kind of 'coöperation' is meant? Is it 'coöperation' of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie to protect capitalism? Is it 'coöperation' of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples with imperialists to protect colonialism? Is it 'coöperation' of socialist countries with capitalist countries to protect the imperialist system in its oppression of the peoples in those countries and suppression of national liberation wars?"
"The modern revisionists," continues the article, "proceeding from their assured dictum on the current world situation and from their assured dictum that 'the Marxist-Leninist theory of class analysis and class struggle is obsolete,' attempt to overthrow totally the fundamental theories of Marxism-Leninism on a series of questions like violence, war, peaceful coexistence, etc. There are also some people who are not revisionists but well-intentioned persons who sincerely want to be Marxists, but are confused in the face of certain new historical phenomena and thus have some incorrect ideas. For example, some of them say that the failure of the U.S. imperialists' policy of atomic blackmail marks the end of violence. While thoroughly refuting the absurdities of the modern revisionists, we should also help these well-intentioned people to correct their erroneous ideas."
These and various other passages in the article seem to attack "revisionists" and "confused" Marxists only for faults of a purely theoretical nature. But in the Communist world differences on ideological matters often indicate sharp differences on current policies, indeed are sometimes voiced as the most serious way of rebuking associates for critical errors in behavior and policy or of laying the foundation for charges of "heresy."
Following the introductory passages from which the above quotations are taken, the article continues:
"In the initial period of the October Revolution, all the imperialist powers resorted to the war form of violence against the Soviet Union, which was a continuation of their policies; in World War II, the German imperialists used the war form of violence on a large scale to attack the Soviet Union, which was a continuation of their policy. But, on the other hand, the imperialists have also established diplomatic relations of peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union in different periods, which is also, of course, a continuation of imperialist policy in another form under certain conditions.
"True, some new questions have now arisen concerning peaceful coexistence. Confronted with the powerful Soviet Union and the powerful socialist camp, the imperialists must, at any rate, carefully consider whether they would not hasten their own extinction, as Hitler did, or bring about the most serious consequences for the capitalist system itself, if they should attack the Soviet Union, and/or attack the socialist countries.
"'Peaceful coexistence' is a new concept which arose only after socialist countries appeared in the world following the October Revolution. It is a new concept formed under circumstances Lenin had predicted before the October Revolution, when he said: 'Socialism cannot achieve victory simultaneously in all countries. It will achieve victory first in one or several countries, while the others will remain bourgeois or pre-bourgeois for some time.'[i] The concept is one advanced by Lenin after the great Soviet people overcame the armed imperialist intervention. As was pointed out above, at the outset the imperialists were not willing to coexist peacefully with the Soviet Union. The imperialists were compelled to 'coexist' with the Soviet Union only after the war of intervention against the Soviet Union had failed, after there had been several years of actual trial of strength, after the Soviet State had planted its feet firmly on the ground, and after a certain equilibrium of power had taken shape between the Soviet state and the imperialist countries . . . ."
The following paragraph suggests that coexistence is good so long as Communism is increasing its strength relative to the "imperialist system."
"So long as there is a continuous development of these mighty forces [in the socialist countries of Asia and Africa, etc.] it is possible to maintain the situation of peaceful coexistence, or even to obtain some sort of official agreement on peaceful coexistence or to conclude an agreement on prohibition of atomic and nuclear weapons. That would be a fine thing in full accord with the aspirations of the peoples of the world. However, under these circumstances, as long as the imperialist system still exists, the most acute form of violence--namely, war--has by no means ended in the world. The fact is not as depicted by the Jugoslav revisionists, who say Lenin's definition that 'war is a continuation of politics,' which he repeatedly elucidated and persisted in while combating opportunism, is obsolete."[ii]
There follows the thought that wars will recur until imperialism disappears.
"We believe in the absolute correctness of Lenin's thinking: War is an inevitable outcome of exploiting systems, and the source of modern wars is the imperialist system. Until the imperialist system and the exploiting classes come to an end, wars of one kind or another will always appear. They may be wars among the imperialists for redivision of the world, or wars of aggression and anti-aggression between the imperialists and the oppressed nations, or civil wars of revolution and counter-revolution between the exploited and exploiting classes in the imperialist countries, or, of course, wars in which the imperialists attack the socialist countries and the socialist countries are forced to defend themselves.
"All types of war represent the continuation of the policies of definite classes. Marxism-Leninism must not sink into the mire of bourgeois pacifism, and can only appraise all these kinds of wars and thus draw conclusions for proletarian policy by adopting the method of concrete class analysis . . . .
"To attain their aim of plunder and oppression, the imperialists always have two tactics: the tactic of war and the tactic of 'peace.' Therefore, the proletariat and the people of all countries must also use two tactics to counter the imperialists: the tactic of thoroughly exposing the imperialists' peace fraud and striving energetically for a genuine world peace, and the tactic of preparing for a just war to end the unjust war when and if the imperialists should unleash it . . . .
"The Jugoslav revisionists deny the inherent class nature of violence and thereby obliterate the fundamental difference between revolutionary violence and counter-revolutionary violence; they deny that imperialist war is a continuation of imperialist policy, deny the danger of the imperialists' unleashing another big war, deny that it will be possible to do away with war only after doing away with the exploiting classes, and even shamelessly call the U.S. imperialist chieftain Eisenhower 'the man who laid the cornerstone for eliminating the cold war and establishing lasting peace with peaceful competition between different political systems.'[iii]
"Modern revisionists seek to confuse the peaceful foreign policy of the socialist countries with the domestic policies of the proletariat in the capitalist countries. They thus hold that peaceful coexistence between countries with different social systems means that capitalism can peacefully grow into socialism, that the proletariat in countries ruled by the bourgeoisie can renounce class struggle and can have 'peaceful coöperation' with the bourgeoisie and the imperialists, and that the proletariat and all the exploited classes should forget the fact that they are living in a class society, and so on. All these views are also diametrically opposed to Marxism-Leninism. They are put forward in an attempt to protect imperialist rule and keep the proletariat and all the rest of the working people perpetually in capitalist enslavement."
The article now lays stress on the fact that peaceful coexistence between nations should not extend to peaceful coexistence of classes within nations.
"Peaceful coexistence between nations and people's revolutions in various countries are by nature two different things, not the same thing; two different concepts, not one; two different kinds of questions, not the same kind of question. Peaceful coexistence refers to relations between different nations; revolution means the overthrow of the oppressors as a class by the oppressed people within a country, while in the case of the colonial and semi-colonial countries, it is, first and foremost, a question of the overthrow of alien oppressors--namely, the imperialists . . . .
"Let us, in the light of bloody facts, both of the historical past and of the modern capitalist world, examine all this nonsense about the 'peaceful growth of capitalism into socialism' put out by the old revisionists and their modern counterparts. Does it follow, then, that we Marxist-Leninists will refuse to adopt the principle of peaceful transition even when there exists the possibility of such peaceful development? No, decidedly not!
"It would be in the best interests of the people if the proletariat could attain power and carry out the transition to socialism by peaceful means. It would be wrong to ignore such a possibility when it appears. Whenever the opportunity for the 'peaceful development of the revolution' presents itself Communists must seize it, as Lenin did, so as to realize the aim of the socialist revolution. The opportunity as such, however, is always, in Lenin's words, 'an extraordinarily rare opportunity in the history of revolutions.' When in a given country a certain local political power is already surrounded by revolutionary forces or when in the world a certain capitalist country is already surrounded by socialism, there might be a greater possibility for the peaceful development of the revolution. But even then, the peaceful development of the revolution should never be regarded as the only possibility and it is therefore necessary to be prepared at the same time for the other possibility; i.e. non-peaceful development of the revolution . . . ."
The authors now assert that a peaceful transition is unlikely at present.
"At a time when the imperialist countries and the imperialists are armed to the teeth as never before in order to protect their savage man-eating system, can it be said that the imperialists have become very 'peaceable' towards the proletariat and the people at home and the oppressed nations abroad, as the modern revisionists suggest, and that, therefore, the 'extraordinarily rare opportunity in the history of revolutions' which Lenin spoke about after the February revolution will become a normal state of affairs confronted by the world proletariat and all the oppressed people, and so that what Lenin referred to as a 'rare opportunity' can be picked up anywhere by the proletariat in the capitalist countries? We hold that these views are groundless . . . .
"The question is not whether the proletariat is willing to carry out a peaceful transformation; it is rather whether the bourgeoisie will accept such a peaceful transformation. This is the only possible way in which followers of Lenin can consider this question.
"So, contrary to the modern revisionists who seek to benumb the revolutionary will of the people by empty talk about peaceful transition, Marxist-Leninists hold that the question of the possibility of peaceful transition to socialism can be raised only in the light of the specific conditions in each country at a particular time. The proletariat must never allow itself to one-sidedly and groundlessly base its thinking, policy, and its whole work on the calculation that the bourgeoisie is willing to accept peaceful transformation. It must, at the same time, make two preparations: one for the peaceful development of the revolution and the other for the non-peaceful development of the revolution. Whether the transition will be carried out through armed uprising or by peaceful means is a question that differs categorically from that of peaceful coexistence between the socialist and capitalist countries; it is an internal affair of each country, one to be determined only by the relative strength of the classes in that country in a given period; a matter to be decided only by the Communists themselves of that country . . . .
"What is opportunism? According to Lenin, 'Opportunism consists in sacrificing fundamental interests in order to gain temporary, partial benefits.'[iv] And what does the fall in the revolutionary level mean? It means that the opportunists seek to lead the masses to interest themselves only in their day-to-day, temporary and local interests, with no thought for their long-term, fundamental and over-all interests . . . .
"Lowering revolutionary standards means lowering the theoretical standards of Marxism-Leninism. It means lowering political struggles to the level of economic ones and reducing revolutionary struggles to within the limits of parliamentary struggles. It means bargaining [away] principles to achieve temporary benefits. At the beginning of the 20th century Lenin in 'What Is To Be Done?' drew attention to the question that 'the spread of Marxism was accompanied by a certain lowering of theoretical standards.' Lenin cited Marx's opinion contained in a letter on 'The Gotha Program' that we may enter into agreements to attain the practical aims of the movement, but we must never bargain over principles and make 'concessions' in theory . . . .
"The modern revisionists and certain representatives of the bourgeoisie try to make people believe that it is possible to achieve socialism without a revolutionary party of the proletariat and without the series of correct policies of the revolutionary party of the proletariat mentioned above. This is sheer nonsense and pure deception. The 'Communist Manifesto' by Marx and Engels pointed out that there were different kinds of 'socialism': there was 'petty-bourgeois socialism,' 'bourgeois socialism,' 'feudal socialism,' and so forth. Now, as a result of the victory of Marxism-Leninism and the decay of the capitalist system, more and more of the mass of the people in various countries are aspiring to socialism and more so-called socialism of different shades has emerged from among the exploiting classes in certain countries."
The article then upbraids persons (Khrushchev presumably included) who have minimized the importance of ideological considerations.
"In regard to the question of safeguarding world peace at the present time there are also certain people who declare that ideological disputes are no longer necessary, or that there is no longer any difference in principle between Communists and social democrats. This is tantamount to lowering the ideological and political standards of Communists to those of the bourgeoisie and social democrats. Those who make such statements have been influenced by modern revisionism and have departed from the positions of Marxism-Leninism.
"The struggle for peace and the struggle for socialism are two different kinds of struggle. It is a mistake not to draw a proper distinction between these two kinds of struggle. The social composition of those taking part in the peace movement is, of course, very complex; it also includes bourgeois pacifists. We Communists stand right in the forefront in defending world peace, right in the forefront in opposing imperialist wars, in advocating peaceful coexistence, and opposing nuclear weapons.
"In this movement we shall stand together with many complex social groups and make necessary agreements for the attainment of peace. But at the same time we must uphold the principles of the working class party and not lower our political and ideological standards and reduce ourselves to the level of the bourgeois pacifists in our struggle for peace. It is here that the question of alliance and criticism arises.
"'Peace' in the mouths of modern revisionists is intended to whitewash the war preparations of the imperialists, to play again the old tune of 'ultra-imperialism' of the old opportunists, which was long since refuted by Lenin, and to distort our Communist policy concerning peaceful coexistence between countries of two different systems into elimination of the people's revolution in various countries . . . .
"The declaration of the Moscow meeting of the Communist and workers parties, November 1957, pointed out that 'the main danger at present is revisionism, or, in other words, right-wing opportunism.' Some say that this judgment of the Moscow meeting no longer holds good under today's condition. We believe this statement to be wrong. It makes the people overlook the importance of the struggle against the main danger--revisionism--and is very harmful to the revolutionary cause of the proletariat. Just as from the beginning of the 70s of the nineteenth century there was a period of 'peaceful' development of capitalism during which the old revisionism of Bernstein was born, so under the present circumstances when the imperialists are compelled to accept peaceful coexistence and when there is a kind of 'domestic peace' in many capitalist countries, revisionist trends find it easy to grow and spread. Therefore, we must always maintain a high degree of vigilance against this main danger in the worker's movement.
"As pupils of Lenin and Leninists we must utterly smash all attempts of the modern revisionists to distort and carve up the teachings of Lenin . . . .
"When a socialist country, in the face of imperialist aggression, is compelled to launch counter-attacks in a defensive war, and goes beyond its own border to pursue and eliminate its enemies from abroad, as the Soviet Union did in the war against Hitler, is this justified? Certainly it is completely justified, absolutely necessary and entirely just. In accordance with the strict principles of Communists, such operations by the socialist countries must be strictly limited to the time when the imperialists launch a war of aggression against them. Socialist countries never permit themselves to send, never should, and never will send their troops across their borders unless they are subjected to aggressive attack from a foreign enemy. Since the armed forces of the socialist countries fight for justice, when these forces have to go beyond their borders to counter-attack a foreign enemy, it is only natural that they should exert an influence and have an effect wherever they go; but even then, the occurrence of people's revolutions and the establishment of the socialist system in those places and countries where they go will still depend on the will of the masses of the people there. . . ."
This last paragraph, indicating that wherever Communist armies go they will establish Communist régimes, recalls that, in the course of the Soviet-Jugoslav polemics in 1948, Stalin expressed regret that the Red Armies had not been able at the close of the Second World War to help the Communist Parties in France and Italy to set up "People's Democracies" in those two countries. The elastic interpretation given by the Chinese Communists to the term "aggression" is also interesting in connection with Mr. Khrushchev's subsequent statement in Paris that the flight of the U.S. spy plane over Soviet territory constituted aggression and would justify the Soviet Union in attacking and destroying the bases from which such flights originated.
[i] Lenin, "War, Program of the Proletarian Revolution," in "Selected Works," Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, v. I, part 2, p. 571.
[ii] See "Active Coexistence and Socialism," Narodna Armija, Belgrade, Nov. 28, 1958.
[iii] "Eisenhower Arrives in Rome," Borba, Belgrade, Dec. 4, 1959.
[iv] Lenin, "Speech at Conference of Activists of the Moscow Party Organization," in "Collected Works," 4th Russian edition, v. 31, p. 412.