At its last session the Cominform passed a resolution excommunicating your party and its leadership. This has deeply stirred the members of Communist parties and revolutionary workers throughout the world. How, indeed, could they fail to be stupefied by such an abrupt about-face by the Cominform leaders who suddenly compel them to disparage a country which only yesterday was proclaimed the best model of “People’s Democracy.” Only three months ago, l’Humanité, central organ of the French Communist Party, sang praises to the “land of Tito.” Today, l’Humanité cannot find a slander too vile with which to besmirch your party.
Only recently, Enver Hoxha, premier of Albania, declared at the fourth session of the Albanian People’s Assembly:
Our people could neither enjoy the fruits of their war victories nor be assured of reconstructing their country and progress toward a better life, if it were not for the powerful, fraternal assistance accorded us in all spheres of life by the new Yugoslavia.
Today, the same Enver Hoxha cynically says:
The Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party and its chieftain Tito have disrupted all the economic and political relations with our country....They aim to transform it into a colony of Yugoslavia....They have tried to suppress its independence....
The servility with which most of the leadership of the Communist parties have carried out the orders handed down from above is surpassed only by their evident dishonesty. Your party is accused of “lack of democracy.” At the same time your accusers set up a hue and cry in which your party is condemned without the Communist Party members having been informed objectively about the existing differences, without affording you an opportunity to defend yourselves, without letting the members of various Communist parties become acquainted with the text of your reply to the Cominform resolution.
The double-dealing of these “leaders” is shown even more clearly by their refusal to accept your invitation to attend your Congress. This refusal means nothing else but that the leaders of the Communist parties refuse to acquaint their members with the real situation in Yugoslavia. They prefer to despicably deceive the Communist workers throughout the world rather than “disobey” an order sent by Russia.
These facts, coupled with the treatment you are receiving, illustrate the methods of “persuasion” used by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party. They intervene in the life of other Communist parties by means of brutal and ultimatistic ukases; they arbitrarily impose their rule on all parties, without the least consideration for the traditions, experiences or sentiments of the respective party members. At the same time, the leaders of the Russian Communist Party jealously guard their own privileges, regarding as treachery the slightest criticism of their own policies, and arrogating to themselves the right to excommunicate anyone who balks at following slavishly the countless zigzags of their tortuous party line.
The evil you have suddenly discovered, however, has existed for a long time. It existed during the final decade of the Communist International as well as during the five years since its dissolution. The grave sickness of the Communist parties and the main cause of the innumerable setbacks and bloody defeats they have suffered are to be found in the absolute control arrogated to themselves by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party. This control has led to a constant subordination of the interests of the socialist revolution, in one country after another, to the episodic needs confronting Russia.
Today the Kremlin is determined to force you to abandon your industrialization policy, just as in January 1945 it forced Thorez to disarm the French partisans for the benefit of de Gaulle. During the Spanish Civil War, when the workers seized the factories, the Kremlin forced the Spanish Communists to declare that this was “treason.” It instructed the German Communist Party to follow the suicidal course from 1930 to 1933 which permitted Hitler to seize power.
But events each time proved that far from rendering the Soviet Union stronger in the face of the imperialist forces, the weakening of the international proletariat isolated the Soviet Union still more and permitted the imperialists to deal terrible blows, such as that of 1941.
Once again today, in order to maintain their absolute sway over the Cominform, the leaders of the Russian Communist Party do not hesitate to employ against your party, policies which play into the hands of American imperialism and which can be utilized by all the enemies of the working class against the Soviet Union itself.
Comrades, you yourselves have already raised the question of the reason for this non-communist conduct of the Russian leadership toward the Communist parties of other countries. In this connection you might indeed have used the term “degeneration” in your reasoning. One should not fear this word, nor its real meaning and content. The outstanding trait of a Bolshevik is his courage in approaching reality and seeing it as it actually is, no matter how bitter the truth, no matter how painful the examination of this reality may be. It is a crime for a communist to deceive the workers or his own comrades—and this happens to be the real crime that the Communist Party leaders of many countries have just committed once again. But it is an even bigger crime to deceive oneself through fear of the sad reality which one does not wish to accept.
It would be the grossest self-deception to assume even for a moment that a country, governed by a party whose conduct toward its sister parties is so utterly non-communist, can nevertheless play the role of the vanguard of socialism. It would be self-deception to assume that policies which led to crises in so many Communist parties can still remain Leninist policies.
Yes, the Soviet Union and the leadership of the Russian Communist Party have degenerated. Yes, they have ceased to represent the vanguard of the world communist forces since the time they subordinated the interests of the world revolution to their own interests. We repeat: They act in their own interests and not those of the Russian proletariat. The interests of the workers and the oppressed of all countries are one and the same, and the interests of communism are indivisible the world over. That is why the abandonment by the Russian leaders of the cause of communism beyond the Soviet frontiers proves beyond doubt that they have abandoned this same cause inside the Soviet Union itself; that is to say, their degeneration is profound.
Causes of the Degeneration of the Soviet Union
However painful it may seem to you, it is now necessary to put your finger on the social origin of this degeneration. In Lenin’s time, and even after, Communist functionaries in both the party and the government strictly adhered to the rule that their salaries could not be higher than the average wage of a skilled worker. Non-Communist specialists and technicians, whom the young Soviet Republic sorely needed, were of necessity paid higher salaries, but they were placed under the strict control of the workers lest they should abuse those advantages which the state had been compelled to grant them. The workers remained the masters in the factories, in the soviets, in the party. Communist discipline was voluntary, arising from the enthusiasm for the class struggle and the victorious revolution. The party’s internal life, along with that of the Communist International at the time, was regulated by discussion, as impassioned as it was free. The most important decisions were reached on the basis of genuine conviction, that is to say, in accord with the experience and level of consciousness of the party members. The party was intimately tied to its class and through these ties brought the entire proletariat into participation in the running of the state and the economy.
Today all this is changed in the Soviet Union. The soviets are dissolved. The workers do not exercise the slightest control in the factories; instead they are completely at the mercy of the factory manager’s every whim. The discrepancies in basic earnings are even greater than in capitalist countries. Communist functionaries collect salaries as high as those of petty-bourgeois spetzes (specialists). An abyss separates the living conditions of the working masses from those of the bureaucracy which runs the economy and the state. This bureaucracy has completely wiped out inner-party democracy; it has eliminated and murdered the Old Guard Bolsheviks; it has converted the party into a vehicle for protecting its own privileges; it has destroyed the party as the instrument of international communism.
This bureaucracy has today become a closed caste which guards its positions as jealously against the workers at home as it is doing against you.
One of your most remarkable accomplishments in Yugoslavia, just as in the October Revolution in Russia, is the extension of free high school and college education to all children of workers and poor peasants. You must be aware of the fact that as far back as eight years ago the Russian government abolished this enormously progressive development and reintroduced the system of paying for high school and college education, thereby in practice restricting such education to the children of functionaries and well-to-do petty bourgeois, and sentencing the overwhelming majority of children to semi-ignorance. Is this not the best proof that the leaders of the Russian state and party have stopped the forward march toward socialism, and in fact have gone into reverse gear toward an ever increasing social inequality?
The existence of these bureaucratic privileges in Russia, far from being combatted by the leaders of the Communist Party of the USSR, is systematically protected; this also explains at the same time the ideological form assumed by the degeneration of this leadership. In Lenin’s time, the leadership of the Bolshevik Party and of the Communist International, even when directly engaged in negotiations with imperialist powers, openly declared to the world proletariat that capitalism and socialism are two incompatible regimes. Not for one minute did it suspend calling upon the workers of all the capitalist countries to overthrow the rule of their own exploiters, and actively preparing them for it. It always fitted the domestic and foreign policy of the USSR into the framework of the strategy of world socialist revolution, and considered its prime task to be that of giving maximum assistance to the Communist parties of other countries so that they could take advantage of every revolutionary situation which opened up before them for the overthrow of capitalism.
Of course Lenin and the leadership of the Bolshevik Party and the Communist International at that time, could not exclude the possibility, even the necessity, of temporary compromises with imperialism. Every sane revolutionist understands that every war, and certainly the social war of the working class against the capitalist class, is necessarily interrupted by periods of calm, of truces and of armistices. But as Lenin so lucidly explained in “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder, such compromises in the class struggle are allowed solely on condition “of knowing how to apply these tactics in such a way as to raise and not lower the general level of proletarian class consciousness, revolutionary spirit, ability to fight and to conquer.”
This conception of Lenin flowed logically from the doctrine of the Bolshevik Party and of the Communist International, according to which the socialist revolution can be only the work of the conscious and sovereign working masses.
Results of Degeneration
The social degeneration of the USSR has brought it to a complete revision of these fundamental principles of Leninism. Today it proclaims and makes all the leaders of the parties which follow it also proclaim that capitalism and socialism are two systems which can live side by side in complete peace and harmony. It categorically forbids the leaders of the Communist parties in bourgeois countries to speak of “revolution” or of the overthrow of capitalism in their countries. On the contrary it orders them to restrict their propaganda to the “defense of the national independence” of their own capitalist countries! These same leaders who today accuse you of “misunderstanding the Marxist-Leninist conception of class and of the state” have themselves kept the communist workers of the capitalist countries in the darkest ignorance on these questions. They were not content only to enter the capitalist governments of France, Italy, Belgium, etc. from 1945 to 1947 and to forget everything that Lenin wrote against the reformist Social-Democracy on the impossibility of “conquering” the bourgeois state apparatus from within and on the necessity of destroying it and replacing it with a new workers’ Soviet state apparatus. They have gone so far during this period as to forbid the workers to make use of strikes for improving their miserable living conditions, and this in countries which are the bastions of European capitalism!
All these maneuvers have not in the least deceived the imperialist bourgeoisie, as the emissaries and foreign agents of the leaders of the Russian Communist Party would have us believe. The bourgeoisie has not for a moment given up its view that the Soviet Union is a mortal enemy. But they have confused, disoriented and deceived the workers of the capitalist countries. Only yesterday the workers saw the leaders of the Communist parties opposing their class movements, whereas today such movements are abruptly and bureaucratically launched. Thus the workers have the impression of being the dupes of a policy which is foreign to their own interests and of being utilized solely as a “maneuverable mass” by their leaders.
This policy broke the revolutionary fervor of the masses which, in France, Italy and elsewhere in 1944, equaled the fervor you experienced in your country. This is explained precisely by the fundamental revision of the very conception of socialism wrought by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party. Whereas Lenin and the Communist International in its initial period considered socialist revolution in the capitalist world the product of mass action, the present leadership of the Russian Communist Party is preoccupied exclusively with the military, economic and territorial expansion of the USSR. Whereas Lenin and the Communist International in its initial period considered it their most important task to assist the Communist parties of other countries onto the road of revolutionary mobilization of the masses in their own countries, the present leadership of the Russian Communist Party, contemptuous of foreign Communist parties and workers—as you know well from your own sad experience!—does not in the least hesitate to bar the revolutionary and socialist road to its fellow parties when this is required by its own sordid considerations. This break with the Leninist conception of world revolution is the most conclusive ideological proof of the profound degeneration of the present leadership of the Russian Communist Party and of its complete rupture with the interests of the world proletariat.
Under these conditions, it seems particularly cynical for the present leaders of the Russian Communist Party and of the Cominform to accuse you of misunderstanding “proletarian internationalism” and of following a nationalist policy. This is said by those same Russian leaders whose chauvinistic propaganda during the war, in which they refused to draw a distinction between the German workers and their Nazi butchers, was chiefly responsible for the absence of a revolution in Germany, whereas in Yugoslavia the partisan movement was able to attract into its ranks thousands of worker-soldiers from the occupation armies. This is said by a Togliatti who did not hesitate to launch, along with the genuine fascists of the MSI (Movimento Sociale dell’Italia), a chauvinist campaign for the return of former colonies to his capitalist country. This is said by a Thorez whose nationalist hysteria on the question of reparations for imperialist France gives untold satisfaction to bourgeois politicians in the Poincaré tradition. Really, these people are certainly in a very poor position to give lessons on internationalism to anybody.
It is no less true, comrades, that the nationalism introduced into the Communist parties corresponds precisely with this same kind of degeneration which you now discern in Russia. No progress can be made toward socialism unless every trace of nationalism is extirpated from the thinking of communist militants. To fight for the right of self-determination of each nation, to struggle against national oppression, continually introduced and extended under imperialism in its decadent phase, is a primary task for the communist movement. And genuine communists are distinguished from petty-bourgeois nationalists precisely by the fact that they conduct this struggle in an internationalist spirit, always drawing a line between the bourgeoisie and proletariat of the imperialist country, carrying on the struggle within the framework of the revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of capitalism in their own country. It is particularly necessary to eliminate from propaganda all appeals to a national tradition which can injure the workers of other countries, all attacks against nations as such, all territorial demands based on chauvinist arguments. The Austrian and Italian bourgeoisies are today hoping that the Communist parties of their countries, under the directives from the Cominform, will line up in the capitalist camp to “solve” the problem of Carinthia and Trieste in the interests of imperialism. You must understand that there is only one way to foil the infamous maneuvers of the bourgeoisie and of the leaders of the Cominform against your party: that is to appeal boldly to the international solidarity of the workers, to proclaim aloud the right of peoples to self-determination, and to propose solutions of outstanding problems along this line.
You have settled the national question in your country with some degree of success. A truly communist and internationalist attitude toward international problems would not fail to strengthen immeasurably your position in the consciousness and feeling of millions of workers throughout the entire world.
What Road Will You Follow?
Comrades, your Congress which is about to meet, the delegates which will compose it, and the thousands of communist members whom they will represent, find themselves, on this day following the Cominform resolution against your party, confronting decisions of truly historical import. Three roads are open to you and you must choose one of them. Your choice will decide for years, if not for decades, the fate of your country and of its proletariat, and will exercise a profound influence on the evolution and future of the entire world communist movement.
The first road open to you would be to consider that despite the serious injuries dealt you by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party, it is above all necessary today, in the present world situation, to maintain a complete monolithic unity with the policies and ideology of the Russian Communist Party. There are certainly members in your midst who will propose such a course and will even suggest that it is preferable, under these conditions, to make a public apology and a declaration accepting the “criticism” of the Cominform, even to change your leadership, and wait for a “better occasion” to defend your particular conceptions within the “big communist family.”