Robert Griffiths’ ‘defence’ of communism – confessions of a Khrushchevite revisionist
Writing in the Communist Party of Britain’s (CPB) ‘independent’ daily revisionist rag, the Morning Star, 3 October 2005, the CPB General Secretary, Robert Griffiths, drew readers’ attention to a report to be put before the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe “on the need for international condemnation of the crimes of Communism.”
Griffiths quotes from a memorandum, issued by “Goran Lindblad, rapporteur for the Council of Europe’s political affairs committee” which is responsible for the report, that claims there has been “no serious in-depth debate on the ideology which was the root of widespread terror, massive human rights violations, death of many millions of individuals and the plight of whole nations”. At this point a communist would agree with Lindblad that there had been “no serious in-depth debate on the ideology” of communism, but would also point out that that was the last thing this report was looking for either. As the crisis of imperialism grows daily, the imperialists and their puppets frantically try to sully the name of communism by citing supposed crimes in the hope that the oppressed of the world will overlook communism as an alternative to the organised madness that is imperialism. A communist would argue against the claim of Lindblad, of these so-called crimes of communism, by a defence of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the necessity for the terror against the overthrown bourgeoisie and their supporters, against the wreckers, saboteurs and traitors, but then, neither Griffiths nor his party can or should be considered communist. Instead Griffiths takes issue, quite rightly, with the numbers of executions, imprisonments, etc., Lindblad throws around (although his own grasp of numbers is in serious doubt, a point we will deal with later on) but essentially he agrees with Lindblad that many crimes were committed by communism.
Griffiths further quotes Lindblad as saying “in many European countries, there are communist parties which have not formally condemned the crimes of communism.” The CPB, of course, is not one of those parties and Griffiths can’t wait to wring his hands in moral indignation at the terrible things that that have been done in the name of communism (of course, being the petty-bourgeois, pacifistic egalitarian that he is, he also lists the crimes of imperialism), but it is very telling that Griffiths notes that “Lindblad acknowledges that repression – or ‘terror’- decreased significantly in Eastern Europe from the mid-1950s …” This is an obvious – if oblique – reference to Comrade Stalin, and the CPB, like their Trotskyist friends and the Social-Democrats they both pander to, always attack Stalin in order to attack Marxism-Leninism and the glory that was the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin.
Refuting Lindblad’s allegation that the ‘crimes of communism’ had not been condemned by ‘communists’, Griffiths shows his truly revisionist credentials by stating – “The first really detailed and largely accurate account of the crimes and violations committed against socialist democracy in the Soviet Union was provided by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in his speech to the 20th party congress in 1956. Many communist parties around the world have since accepted that serious crimes and violations occurred, developing their analysis further since the collapse of the socialist states in the early 1990’s.” He continues – “There are some communists in the Maoist tradition who count Khrushchev’s revelations as further evidence of his revisionism and treachery. Against all the evidence of Moscow state, party and Comintern archives now open to the world, such people deeply discredit themselves and the cause of communism by persisting in their delusions and deceptions.”
For a clear, if necessarily brief, look at Khrushchev and his speech at the 20th Congress of the CPSU let us turn to an article in Lalkar (May/June 1991) called Historical Questions and reprinted in Perestroika – The Complete Collapse of Revisionism by Harpal Brar: “Khrushchev, finally throwing off his Bolshevik mask and revealing his true revisionist essence, launched into a vicious attack on what he termed Stalin’s personality cult. Two brief comments about Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin need to be made. First, in the duplicitous and dishonest manner typical of revisionists and other capitalist-roaders all over the world, the Khrushchevites never had the courage to release this report in the USSR, so fearful were they of the Soviet people’s hostility to anyone attempting to belittle the role of Stalin. Instead they released it abroad through their contacts representing the imperialist press agencies in Moscow. The Soviet citizens, to their bewilderment, were in turn bombarded with an anti-socialist and anti-Stalin diatribe, which has continued to this day, by the imperialist broadcasting media. This division of labour between the revisionists in the USSR and imperialism has continued unabated and, since the accession of Gorbachev to power, reached a qualitative new high. Secondly, in 1956 Khrushchev did not feel strong enough to denounce and negate the achievements of socialism. Instead he and his followers had to sing its praises, while instituting, slowly but surely, economic reforms which, departing from socialism, increasingly put emphasis on measures of a capitalistic nature in the management of the economy – decentralisation and loosening of the economic planning mechanism; reform of price formation and the transfer of enterprises to cost accounting; greater incentives and the introduction of self-management principles. All these measures, introduced over the past three and a half decades, have led to the present qualitatively new situation in which the USSR, according to no less a person than its Finance Minister, is on the verge of an economic catastrophe.”
The crimes of the revisionists in leadership positions in the Soviet Union were to bring down the Soviet Union, and the revisionists of today attempt to make sure that Communism does not rise again. To do this and still call themselves communist they attack Stalin but, as a further quote from the above article from the 1991 Lalkar states, the target is always the achievements of the Soviet Union and the principles of Marxism-Leninism – “There is a German saying, which Lenin was fond of repeating, which goes like this, we hit the sack but the blows are intended for the ass. From Khrushchev to Gorbachev, the revisionists have done much to malign Joseph Stalin, but their calumnies are really aimed at Marxism-Leninism and the earth shattering gains of socialism. It is only in this context that one can really understand the vituperation, the wrath, the vitriol, the invective, with which the imperialist bourgeoisie and its ideological representatives within the working class – the revisionists, Trotskyists and other Social-Democratic tendencies – inveigh against Stalin. If forty years after his death imperialism and its agents find it necessary to annihilate the man for the thousandth time, it surely must be the case that the achievements associated with his name still constitute an insuperable barrier to their restorationist schemes. His name, therefore, continues to haunt them and disturb their sleep.”
Griffiths claims that only communists in the Maoist tradition point to Khrushchev’s speech as further proof of his revisionism.
He is very chuffed with this sorry excuse for an argument. The question is not whether those who expose Khrushchevite revisionism are Maoist or not. The point at issue is whether or not the triumph of Khrushchevite revisionism between 1953 and 1956 started the rot which, after three decades of distortions of Marxism-Leninism in the spheres of theory, politics and economics, led to the collapse of the USSR and the CPSU. This question Comrade Griffiths cannot shift by sticking labels on his opponents. Far from being ashamed of association with Mao Tse-tung, his leadership of the Communist Party of China, and the achievements of the Chinese revolution, we are very proud of them and happy to be associated with them. Indeed, if Robert Griffiths thinks to upset us by linking us to comrade Mao we must here correct his mistaken belief and say that we treat his intended insult as a compliment, especially when it comes from a man so ready to link himself with the likes of the despicable traitor Khrushchev.
Turning now to the “evidence of Moscow state, party and Comintern archives”, Griffiths, to back up his point says – “…For example, J Arch Getty and Robert Thurson, two US scholars linked to Yale University, have shown that the number of prisoners – criminals and the politically purged – incarcerated in Soviet gulag camps in the late 1930s was less than double the US prison population today. The number executed when the purge was at its height, in 1937 and 1938, totalled slightly under 700,000. That is a shocking and unforgivable figure, but it is not the tens of millions claimed by anti-Soviet propagandists down the decades.” Again we shall have to use rather long quotes to answer the distortions and pandering to bourgeois prejudices that emanate from Griffiths properly.
Of the two US scholars named, the work of one, professor J Arch Getty, is quoted, along with the research work of G T Rettersporn, a CRNS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) researcher, and V A N Zemskov a researcher from the Institute of Russian history in a booklet by Mario Sousa entitled ‘Lies concerning the history of the Soviet Union’ and which is available in this country from the Stalin Society. Sousa states – “to the gulag labour camps were sent those who had committed serious offences (homicide, robbery, rape, economic crimes etc) as well as a large proportion of those convicted of counter-revolutionary activities. Other criminals sentenced to terms longer than three years could also be sent to labour camps. After spending some time in a labour camp, a prisoner might be moved to a labour colony or to a special open zone.” All of these establishments were part of the penal system and as they move down from gulag labour camps to special open zones they became less strict and prisoners had more freedoms. All prisoners were expected to work but in the last two categories prisoners were paid, and kept, wages.
Further Mario Sousa says – “In 1939 there was a total in all the camps, colonies and prisons of close to 2 million prisoners. Of these 454,000 had committed political crimes … Those who died in labour camps between 1937 and 1939 numbered about 160,000 … in 1950 there were 578,000 political prisoners in labour camps.” Mario Sousa explains that during epidemics, before the introduction of antibiotics, large numbers of prisoners died but that as a percentage taken against the free population of the Soviet Union they fared no worse and their losses throughout the war years were better than the free population who lost 25 million defeating fascism. Likewise, during food shortages the prison population death rate was roughly equal to that of the free Soviet population death rate. Sousa also states that – “The number of convicts in the US today is 3 million higher than the maximum number ever held in the Soviet Union!” We would ask the reader, before moving on, to just go back to the figures given by Griffiths when comparing the numbers of prisoners held by the Soviet Union and the USA.
What then of those 700,000 death sentences that so shock Mr Griffiths to the point where he cannot forgive them? Sousa explains -“It is necessary to mention here at the start that the number of those sentenced to death has to be gleaned from different archives and that the researchers, in order to arrive at an approximate figure, have had to gather data from these various archives in a way which gives rise to a risk of double counting and thus producing estimates higher than the reality. According to Dimitri Volkogonov, the person appointed by Yeltsin to take charge of the old Soviet archives, there were 30,514 persons condemned to death by military tribunals between 1 October 1936 and 30 September 1938. Another piece of information comes from the KGB: according to information released to the press in February 1990, there were 786,098 people condemned to death for crimes against the revolution during the 23 years from 1930 to 1953. Of those condemned, according to the KGB, 681,692 were condemned between 1937 and 1938. It is not possible to double check the KGB’s figures but this last piece of information is open to doubt. It would be very odd for so many people to have been sentenced to death in only two years. Is it possible that the present-day pro-capitalist KGB would give us correct information from the pro-socialist KGB? Be that as it may, it remains to be verified whether the statistics which underlie the KGB information include among those said to have been condemned to death during the 23 years in question common criminals as well as counter-revolutionaries alone as the pro-capitalist KGB has alleged in a press release of February 1990.”
Further Sousa states – “The conclusion we can draw from this is that the number of those condemned to death in 1937-38 was close to 100,000… It is also necessary to bear in mind that not all those sentenced to death in the Soviet Union were actually executed. A large proportion of death penalties were commuted to terms in labour camps… Many of those sentenced to death had committed violent crimes such as murder and rape. 60 years ago this type of crime was punishable by death in a large number of countries.”
It is obvious from reading the above that the self-declared communist, Griffiths, took his figure of “slightly under 700,000″ from an unsubstantiated press release by the pro-capitalist KGB in 1990. If that is the action of a so-called friend of the Soviet Union, is it really beyond the bounds of possibility that a declared enemy of the Soviet Union, such as the KGB was in 1990, might falsify those same figures?
Moving on, although it is important to get the actual figures of those imprisoned or executed within a realistic range we must not leave this without defending the necessity of using the penal system against counter-revolutionaries. When a socialist revolution occurs and overthrows the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (bourgeois democracy if you will, it is the same thing), then that bourgeoisie becomes much more deadly and dangerous than it was before and calls in all its numerous contacts throughout the world, uses all its powers of persuasion allied to the habits of obedience of many workers and petty bourgeois individuals to cause trouble and to try to foster dissent and dissatisfaction among people in the hope that they may yet retrieve the ill-gotten gains that the revolution has taken from them. This is why a period of proletarian dictatorship (democracy) is necessary. We know that the CPB do not recognise the dictatorship of the proletariat or even the violent revolution that brings it about, instead putting forward the idea of a peaceful transition to socialism through voting Labour and pushing it to the left, but there is no other road to the socialist revolution or of protecting that socialist revolution other than violence.
Here are the words of Lenin on the subject – “The traitors, blockheads and pedants of the Second International could never understand this dialectics – that the proletariat cannot triumph unless it wins a majority to its side, but to confine the winning of a majority to, or make it conditional upon, obtaining a majority of votes at the polls under the rule of the bourgeoisie is either the densest stupidity, or a sheer attempt to fool the workers. In order to win the majority of the population, the proletariat must, in the first place, overthrow the bourgeoisie and seize the power of the state; secondly, it must set up a Soviet government and smash the old machinery of state to atoms, whereby it immediately undermines the rule, authority and influence of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeois compromisers over the non-proletarian toiling masses by satisfying their needs in a revolutionary way at the expense of the exploiters” (The Election to the Constituent Assembly and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Selected Works. Vol.6, page 475).
Further – “The doctrine of the class struggle, as applied by Marx to the question of the state and the socialist revolution, leads inevitably to the recognition of the political rule of the proletariat, of its dictatorship, i.e., of power shared with none and relying directly upon the armed force of the masses. The overthrow of the bourgeoisie can be achieved only by the proletariat becoming transformed into the ruling class, capable of crushing the inevitable and desperate resistance of the bourgeoisie, and of organising all the toiling and exploited masses for the new economic order.” (The State and Revolution. Selected Works. Vol 7. page 26).
Lenin has further bad news for the heroes of the CPB – “Opportunism does not carry the recognition of class struggle to the main point, to the period of transition from capitalism to communism, to the period of the overthrow and complete abolition of the bourgeoisie. In reality, this period inevitably becomes a period of unusually violent class struggles in their sharpest possible forms and, therefore, during this period, the state must be a state that is democratic in a new way (for the proletariat and propertyless in general) and dictatorial in a new way (against the bourgeoisie)” (Ibid. page 34).
And just in case our friends, the opportunists, have not yet realised that the transition period, which is not a couple of weeks or months or any set time but necessarily takes as long as it takes, is a period of the oppression of the exploiting class that has been overthrown and its lackeys by the new ruling class, the proletariat, we give two last quotes from Lenin – “Dictatorship is power based directly upon force and unrestricted by any laws. The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is power won and maintained by the violence of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, power that is unrestricted by any laws.” (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. Selected Works. Vol. 7. page 123).
“Not a single problem of the class struggle has ever been solved in history except by violence. When violence is exercised by the toilers, by the masses of the exploited against the exploiters – then we are for it” (The Activities of the Council of Peoples Commissars. Selected Works. Vol.7. page 269).
We have deliberately taken these quotes from different works to show that this isn’t something Lenin said once and has been misinterpreted or taken out of context – on the contrary, there were so many to choose from that we could have filled the pages of this paper with apt quotes from Lenin on just this one subject.
Griffiths, arguing as best he can from within his self-imposed revisionist straitjacket against the notion that the crimes of Fascism are comparable to the events at the time of the dictatorship of the Proletariat in the Soviet Union, goes on to say – “The communists have never been forgiven for the leading role that they played in the fight against fascism at every level. For many anti-fascist liberals and conservatives, the contribution made by the Soviet Red Army and communist-led partisans is an embarrassment which they would prefer to bury rather than acknowledge.”
Griffiths is correct to point out that the Soviet Union played the leading role in the defeat of fascism 60 years ago and that communists around the world also played a part in this, but that is not why the liberals, conservatives or Social-Democrats cannot forgive them. No, the Soviet Union was hated and detested long before the 2nd World War. What is unforgivable in the eyes of this imperialist gentry is the fact that communism brought into being that inspiration to the oppressed of the world, the October Revolution, and with it the dictatorship of the proletariat! This is what makes a shiver run down their spines and it is this which they seek to hide and bury or distort and slur, and it is in this odious work that the imperialists’ greatest assistance comes from revisionist parties like the CPB who are as terrified by the proletarian dictatorship as the imperialists themselves.
Lastly, we have to take issue with another of comrade Griffiths’ revelations. He says, near the end of the article in question:
“As for Lindblad’s report, he has openly proclaimed two of his three motives. First, he is anxious to educate – or indoctrinate -‘the young generations who have no personal experience of communist rule’. Second, he declares that ‘communist regimes are still active in some countries of the world and the crimes committed in the name of communist ideology continue to take place’. His third unspoken, motive is more domestic. Lindblad is a right-wing Swedish MP. In that country, the Left Party of communists and socialists has risen to hold the balance of power in Sweden’s parliament. A massive anti-communist campaign has been underway in that country for several years in order to try to discredit leading members of the Left Party who refuse to renounce their communism.”
Griffiths gives Lindblad three motives here and we shall deal with them one at a time.
Of course Lindblad will try to indoctrinate with lies those young enough to have no knowledge of the Soviet Union but, as we have already said, people of the ilk of Griffiths help in this anti-Soviet mis-education.
Having succeeded in getting the revisionists to condemn the past communist regimes, Lindblad would be stupid not to try and draw parallels with present socialist regimes. Of course, a communist would here jump to the defence of Cuba, the DPRK, etc., but as we have also proved now, Griffiths is no communist. Instead of defending existing socialist regimes he makes up a third motive for Lindblad’s report that he can then attack as mercilessly as Don Quixote attacked the windmills.
Griffiths talks of “the Left Party of communists and socialists” but a glance at their website, www.vansterpartiet.se, where they, incidentally, call themselves the Left Party of socialists and feminists, reveals them to be nothing more than Social-Democrats. The Left Party does, however, have a fair amount of members calling themselves ex-communists. There is a communist Party in Sweden called simply the Kommunist Party, previously the Kommunist Party Marxist-Leninist (revolutionary), which does adhere to the principles of communism (www.kommunistiskpartiet.org), both websites can be read in English and we would ask readers who are able to visit them both and see which one has “leading members who refuse to renounce their communism”. Once again, it can be seen that Griffiths and the party he speaks for disdain communists to pander after Social-Democrats.
The CPB may not like what is written here but they are quite welcome to come and debate these points with us and to try and defend their revisionist position or, even prove to us that they are the real Marxist-Leninists and we are just a bunch of ultra-Stalinist tankies. We think it more likely that the silence from them on this issue will be deafening.