Special | Lessons from the Thirty Years Following the Collapse of the USSR

9 December 2021
In August 1991, mass demonstrations in Moscow and across the entire USSR brought down the dictatorial regime of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The process had been underway for a few years at that point. It began with the rebellion in Armenia in 1988; continuing with the national struggles of oppressed nations within the USSR, and in the context of the mass mobilizations which brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989; it also included the revolution that brought down the Communist Party and executed the tyrant Ceausescu in Romania in 1989 and the rest of the movements that swept away the eastern European dictatorships of the communist parties following Moscow’s leadership.
The inability of the CPSU to prevent the collapse of Stalinist regimes in its eastern European satellites was already a sign of profound crisis within Russia following the implementation of perestroika, which restored capitalism and set up Soviet society for a massive drop in quality of life.
by the International Workers League — Fourth International
In 1991, facing a coup attempt by the most repressive wing of the bureaucracy, led by Yegor Ligachov, the masses took to the streets to defeat the coup and bring down the CPSU, opening a period of democratic liberties in the USSR. Yeltsin would take up the reins in Russia, and a few months later announce the end of the USSR in a meeting with the leaders of Ukraine and Belarus.
What was the nature and outcome of this movement? As the fall of the USSR was highly celebrated by imperialist forces as a victory of capitalism and mourned by Stalinists as the defeat of socialism in the face of “counterrevolution”, even today there remains much confusion about what exactly took place and how to evaluate it.
Was it a victory or a defeat for the workers’ movement? Reviewing what happened and taking a position is important in order for militants to have a satisfactory understanding of historical reality.
The IWL-FI, after making an initial response that included major errors, set out to develop a more thorough analysis in 1997, which was published in the book El Veredicto de la Historia (English: The Verdict of History), written by comrade Martín Hernández, and arms us not only to understand the process of restoration in the USSR and Eastern Europe but in China and Cuba as well. In this article, we will be going through this analysis and proposing some new questions stemming from it in order to more precisely understand the disintegration of the USSR.
What was the USSR in 1991?
In 1917, the working class took power under the Bolshevik Party. Lenin and Trotsky always said that the Russian Revolution would only be able to resist imperialist pressures and reach socialism if the proletariat of the most developed capitalist economies also took power. The Russian Civil War (1917-1923) etc. provided a material base for the reinforcement of the most bureaucratic and conservative sections of the Bolshevik Party and state.
The revolution survived, but with deep contradictions: a new layer of state functionaries, comprising both some of the old members of the tsarist bureaucracy as well as new bureaucrats and careerists, took power in the workers’ state following a long and violent political struggle. This then, was the origin of the workers’ state’s bureaucracy: a concrete step back which took place following the rise to power of Stalin within both the party and the state following the death of Lenin in 1924.[1]
The Stalinist counterrevolution forged a path out of the blood of the comrades who resisted this process. As the result of brutal repression, Trotskyists and other opposition groups filled the Soviet prisons.[2] From that point, the new bureaucratic caste turned its focus to attacking the Leninist program of the Bolshevik Party that had led the revolution. Stalin would write a theoretical justification for the reversal of policies and the new doctrine of “socialism in one country”, but would continue to grotesquely claim Lenin’s name and legacy, as well as that of Marxism.
The bureaucracy implemented a full retreat on the questions of women, family, and homosexuality. The same would occur to oppressed nations, up to and including a rehabilitation of the tsarist “Great Russian” chauvinism and antisemitism.

Stalin and his cronies imposed the doctrine of “Socialism in one country”
Stalin’s idea was that the USSR, isolated from the rest of the world, had already reached socialism, a perspective that was both utopian and reactionary. The other facet of his policy was “passive coexistence with imperialism”. After all, if it is possible to build socialism in one country, then it would not be necessary (or at least not a top priority) to support the global revolution.
This perspective justified the USSR’s counterrevolutionary pacts with various imperialist forces negotiated by Stalin.
In this way, the USSR stopped being a platform for world revolution, which was the only way for the USSR to reach socialism itself. Instead, the USSR became, through its leadership of the stalinized Third International, the prime obstacle impeding the victory of the international revolution. The result was that the USSR would continue to be isolated in the face of imperialism, and later in the face of the direct threat of Nazi fascism. Between 1938 and 1940, Stalin struct a shameful pact with Hitler that divided Poland between the two states, each of them occupying a portion of the country. The pact was written in the blood of workers and the Polish people
The Nazi invasion of the USSR in 1941 was the result of Hitler’s unilateral decision to break the pact. The German invasion took Stalin and the rest of the Soviet high command entirely off guard, despite having been informed in advance of the threat of attack by the communist spy network led by Leopold Trepper, Red Orchestra. To make matters worse, Stalin had in 1938 ordered the liquidation of the leadership group of the Red Army, severely impacting the USSR’s defense capabilities.
The entire high command of the Red Army led by Tukhachevsky and Yakir, heroes of the civil war, had been executed in secret. The purge eliminated 90% of the generals, 80% of the colonels, and 30,000 officers of lower ranks. This left the Red Army severely weakened on the eve of World War II. Seeing this degree of disorganization in the Red Army, Hitler felt brave enough to attack the USSR.
The victory against Nazi fascism was really a victory of the working class and Russian people, not of the Stalinist bureaucracy. The heroic resistance of Russian workers and peasants was able to reverse the war, particularly from 1943 on, following the victory of Russian workers in Stalingrad. This victory opened the path for the military defeat of Nazism and turned the tide of the war, not only in the USSR but across the rest of Europe.
But, instead of lending support to this great workers’ victory in order to kickstart the global revolution, Stalin continued to defend the policy of surrendering revolutions in order to sign pacts with North American and British imperialism, codified in the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. At these conferences, Stalin accepted that western Europe would remain capitalist in the wake of Nazism’s defeat.
From 1945 on, as revolutionary movements began to grow across countless countries, including the major capitalist powerhouses, the Communist Parties of France, Italy, and Greece, which had led the resistance to Nazi fascism were ordered to hand over control of their countries to the bourgeoisie. Similarly, in China, the Communist Party was ordered to support a coalition government with Chiang Kai-shek.
Stalin emerged in a stronger position following the victory against Nazism. But the further entrenchment of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union following the war and its disastrous bureaucratic conduct led to a slowdown of economic growth by the end of the 1950s. The economy was growing but at a much slower pace.
The restoration by the bureaucracy
There is a widespread perception that the Soviet bureaucracy governed the USSR with the active or passive support of the working class. Once more, the innumerable demonstrations and acts of resistance by the working class against the totalitarian control of the CPSU are overlooked. The fall in quality of life sparked workers’ resistance across the entire USSR.
To give only one example of these demonstrations, in 1962, under Khrushchev’s government, there was a strike by more than 10,000 miners at Novocherkask, which was destroyed by murderous repression unleashed by the CPSU by means of the police and KGB.[3]
Between 1963 and 1968, across all of Eastern Europe, the bureaucracy attempted to pass reforms to improve the situation. These reforms, which on one hand tried to modernize management practices, and on the other increased the reliance on foreign trade for the acquisition of technologies, resulted in disaster.
The USSR as well as the states of Eastern Europe began to enter an economic crisis with no exit in sight. The invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 brought new, explosive contradictions to the fore, putting significant strain on both the military and economy of the Soviet Union, which found itself wrapped up in a military occupation that lasted for many years, a campaign with enormous costs that failed to even slightly stabilize the occupied country.
When Gorbachev took power in 1985 following the death of Chernenko, the situation was becoming more and more uncontrollable. Andropov, who had been the head of the KGB for many years and the successor to Brezhnev in the Secretary General of the CPSU, supported Gorbachev’s rise to power. Andropov already had restorationist ambitions and hoped that Gorbachev, whose background was agriculture and who was keenly aware of the fact that the USSR was losing ground against the imperialist countries in this sector due to problems relating to the bureaucratic apparatus, would chart a new course towards market reform.
But Andropov’s mandate was cut short by illness, and the rise of a new generation of leaders intent on restoring capitalism would occur after Chernenko’s short tenure as Secretary General.[4] Andropov had modified the composition of the Central Committee of the CPSU in order to pass pro capitalist reforms. This paved the way for Gorbachev to take the highest office in the Soviet Union, confirming the domination of the restorationist wing of the CPSU over the party and state.
The plan of this majoritarian sector of the bureaucracy was to open the economy to foreign investment and foreign trade, to end the centralized planned economy and to establish direct connections with North American imperialism, in order to maintain “peace” and “peaceful coexistence” a position of concession and surrender that was signed into action at the Reagan-Gorbachev summit.


November 1985, Reagan and Gorbachev at a summit in Switzerland

It was no accident that only a few years later, Gorbachev received the Nobel Peace Prize, and he remains celebrated by imperialism even today. In Russia, on the other hand, his name became associated with an era of austerity, inflation and misery. Gorbachev had no choice but to leave political life behind.
The implementation of Gorbachev’s restorationist project
But capitalist restoration, seriously initiated in 1986 only brought more harm to the population and a deepening economic and social crisis. Free market prices meant that the bill for market liberalization was paid by the working class. To make matters worse, the war in Afghanistan continued to bleed the country dry of resources.
Discontent grew exponentially. Oppressed nations continued to be oppressed in relation to Russia. In this context, rebellion broke out in Armenia in 1988.
Pro-democracy protests broke out across Eastern Europe. In 1989, the wave of revolutions in Eastern Europe hit a climax: the Berlin Wall fell, followed by the fall from power of several Communist Parties, among them the dictator Ceausescu in Romania, who ended up executed by a firing squad.
The crisis spread to the bureaucracy and dictatorial regime in the CPSU itself. It had already demonstrated its weakness in that, unlike 1956 in Hungary and 1968 in Czechoslovakia, it was unable to step in and put down the uprisings in its eastern European satellite states, such as East Germany in 1989.
The democratic revolution against the dictatorial CPSU regime and the bourgeois state
This pile of crises and defeats would weigh heavily on the USSR between 1989 and 1991. Truly, the USSR of this period was an ex-USSR, with a bourgeois state apparatus already undergoing a transition to capitalism. Gorbachev was planning to continue a controlled transition to capitalism, and implemented limited liberalizations of political expression, but the countries profound crises sparked a process that Gorbachev’s government was unable to control.
This process gave rise to leaders such as Boris Yeltsin. Coming from the apparatus of the CPSU itself, he started a dissident campaign to go even further than Gorbachev on the road to market liberalization and peace with imperialism, and took up the demand for democratic concessions such as immediate open elections for regional governments. This grew his popularity, and his position as the leader of the movement against the bureaucracy would be confirmed by his election as president of the Russian Federation. From this position, Yeltsin would challenge the authority of the CPSU and propose faster and more aggressive political and market reforms.
At this point, a wing of the bureaucracy, led by figures such as Ligachov, hoped to maintain political control through the application of violent repression (much as Deng Xiaoping had in China during the Four Modernizations), and for this reason, they opposed Gorbachev’s controlled liberalization policies (known as glasnost) and called for the imprisonment of Yeltsin and similar individuals.
On August 19, 1991, tanks and armored cars invaded central Moscow. Soldiers took over state buildings, television transmitters, and post office headquarters. A group of high ranking leaders of the CPSU, led by Ligachov, announced the seizure of power by the State Emergency Committee due to the “serious and regrettable illness” of then-Soviet president Mihail Gorbachev. It was a coup d’etat against the Gorbachev line.


Attempted Coup (August 1991) AFP

When this group of CPSU bureaucrats attempted to carry out a coup to lock down the regime there was an immediate mass reaction. People took to the streets of Moscow and forced a division of the armed forces right as they were ordered to repress the people. The army refused to to attack the crowds in front of the Russian parliament, and the coup is thus defeated and the coup leaders were forced to resign following arrests. But power was not returned to Gorbachev: the single-party regime and its repressive institutions collapsed, and the CPSU was removed from power. The struggle for democratic rights would end up bringing down the regime.
Stalinism’s defeat was a victory for the workers
Stalinism was a global project which, as we have seen, was the primary road block for revolutions in the 20th century. Thus, the defeat of the CPSU at the hands of the soviet masses was a victory on the international level, as it was a major blow against Stalinism, the entire international Communist Party apparatus, and in doing so removed the main obstacle impeding the working class and its revolutionary organizations.
This gave way to breaks away from Communist Parties all over the world, freeing up forces for the construction of Leninist internationalist parties, providing better conditions for the return of the Marxist program to the workers’ movement as a vacuum opened up within these struggles. The crisis of revolutionary leadership was not resolved, but better conditions for its resolution had arrived.
But that alone did not destroy the apparatus nor its existing ideologies. The bourgeoisie continued its ideological war, saying that Stalinism and bureaucracies were synonymous Marxism and socialism in the hopes of fighting these ideologies. The proof of this can be found in the anticommunist propaganda campaigns launched since the fall of the USSR that present this event as a “procapitalist revolution that defeated socialism”. It falls to revolutionaries to fight against this interpretation. The construction of revolutionary parties requires permanent ties to the class struggle and ideological battle against alternatives that are by turn bourgeois, reformist, or neo-Stalinist.
Interpretations of 1991, 30 years later
We can group the two existing interpretations of what happened into two major categories:

  1. The historical and consistent Stalinist line: according to them, the problems in the Soviet economy and the COMECON [5] were primarily the product of imperialist interference and a western ideological campaign that swayed the minds of workers in the USSR and Eastern Europe, which were also plagued by saboteurs working for imperialism. The West and its propaganda won influence over the workers.

This account is an insult to the Russian working class, which was able to defeat the Nazi invader in 1943 and defend the social bases of the workers’ state despite its disastrous trajectory; much like the working classes of Hungary in 1956, Poland in 1956 and 1980-1981, and Czechoslovakia in 1968 which could have opened a new path for a socialist workers’ democracy that could liberate these countries from their bureaucracy.
But, these movements were destroyed by repression and the invasion of Russian troops, under the pretense that these workers’ movements were led by imperialist agents, just like the workers who attended protests or strikes in the USSR, the hundreds of thousands of dissidents who were repressed and assassinated in Stalinist concentration camps, beginning with the Bolshevik leaders that Stalin liquidated without exceptions towards the end of the 1930s.
Discoveries regarding the existence of opposition members in Stalin’s jails 1930-1939, revealed by the KGB’s very own archives and the work of Pierre Broué[6], who had been fighting for the defense of a socialist program and anti bureaucratic revolution, and for this cause they suffered at the hands of an apparatus of torture and repression as brutal or even worse than that of tsarism and Nazi fascism, in camps such as the Vorkuta labor camp in Siberia.

Protest in Alexanderplatz, former GDR November 4, 1989
This neo-Stalinist narrative that the workers were tricked by imperialist rhetoric is a desperate attempt to deflect blame for the counterrevolutionary bureaucracy, which began with Stalin, continued with Kruschev and Brezhnev through to Gorbachev, and which counted among its ranks the Rákosi in Hungary, Gomułka in Poland, and Ceausescu in Romania; these were the traitors of the vanguard of the working class of their own countries and the enemies of the opposition groups that hoped to stop their counterrevolutionary plans. It was these bureaucratic leaders who paved the way for restoration and took it to its conclusion from 1985-1986 on across the USSR and all of eastern Europe under their dictatorial control.
On the other hand, some Stalinists and neo-Stalinists accuse Gorbachev, as they once accused Khrushchev in the 1950s, of having caved in the face of imperialist pressure and aggression. Khrushchev took power in the USSR and denounced Stalin’s crimes in 1956.
In the 1960s, both the Maoists and the Communist Party of Albania, as well as their followers such as the Communist Party of Brazil, adopted the line that Khrushchev was a pro-capitalist “revisionist”, positioning themselves as the defenders of Stalin’s legacy in the face of Khrushchev’s revisionism due to Khrushchev’s revelation of Stalin’s crimes following the latter’s death in 1953.
Influenced by the strengthening of Stalinism after World War II, in the footsteps of the Yugoslavian revolution and Tito’s victory, and even more so following the victory of the Chinese Revolution under Mao Tse Tung in 1949, and later revolutions in Southeast Asia, this type of political position was further revitalized by the Cuban revolution in 1959 and the guerrilla tactics of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Although these processes had divided Stalinism itself, their positions did not cease to be Stalinist. Some forces, such as the Castroists and the Vietnamese CP ended up aligning themselves with the Soviet bureaucracy. Others, such as the CP of China and the CP of Albania led by Enver Hoxha, broke with the Soviet Union and established a separate international tendency.[7] At the time, Maoists denounced the Soviet bureaucracy as the defenders of “social-imperialism”.
This position has now regained strength among those who hope to rehabilitate Stalin as a true defender of socialism. Such groups concede that there were some injustices and that even the Moscow Trials of the 1930s could be considered mistakes by a communist leader with a generally correct orientation and some “mistaken methods”, and whose opponents would have led the USSR to immediate disaster.
Trotsky made an important historical analogy when he demonstrated that these sorts of methods are a prerequisite for the counterrevolutionary bureaucracy to guarantee its control, and that the extermination of the opposition was a historical necessity for the bureaucracy to maintain itself in power and secure its privileges, much like how the Napoleonic Thermidor was necessary to put an end to the revolutionary process that had begun in 1789 in France.

  1. Throughout the 60 years that the bureaucracy of the Russian workers’ state held power, there was another group of tendencies on the socialist left that raised sharp criticisms of Stalinism and the Soviet bureaucracy, but limited their hopes for change to that of an internal regime of reforms within the USSR and the gradual replacement of the bureaucracy by forces for renewal inside the USSR that could restore its political direction

In times of polarization, these tendencies would take a centrist position, prioritizing “defense of the USSR” ahead of any other political consideration. They mistook the defense of the conquests of the Russian Revolution and its workers’ state with defense of the Stalinist bureaucracy itself.
Among the forces that made up the 4th International in the post-war era that claimed the mantle of Trotskyism, this same sort of analysis was dominant for the majority of the postwar period through 1991. Even the majority of Trotskyists mourned the fall of the dictatorship of the bureaucracy in the USSR. For them, the Russian masses had been won over to capitalist restoration and were responsible for the pivot to capitalism through their support of the movement.
There were sectarian tendencies, such as the British SWP, which did not take up the call to defend the workers’ state from imperialist attack. They determined that the USSR was “state capitalist”. Their position during incidents such as the Korean War was “Neither Washington nor Moscow”. And there were also sections such as Lambertism in France and Healyism in the UK that did not recognize the creation of new bureaucratic workers’ states following WWII and maintained their analysis for the period of 1952-1980.
But the section that took leadership of the Fourth International and caused its fragmentation in the post-war era was Pabloism, which clearly cast its lot with the Soviet bureaucracy. They confused Trotsky’s proposal for “defense of the USSR” for defense of the USSR’s bureaucracy. They refused to support uprisings in East Berlin in 1953 because the uprising opposed the USSR, and in doing so, would be to the benefit of imperialism.
Although Pablo broke with Trotskyism, his allies still maintained positions that capitulated to Stalinism. When the Unified Secretariat was reorganized in 1963, the European parties, led by Mandel, Pierre Frank, and Maitan, passed over to Castroism; they became guerrillaists in the 1960s-1970s, and they maintained this position even after the Cuban CP acquiesced to the Stalinist apparatus.
Mandel and Perestroika
The unifying thread of Mandel’s position (and before him Pablo), was a mistaken analysis regarding the nature of the bureaucracy; their analysis was that the bureaucracy had a dual character: on the one hand, it was opposed to the workers, and on the other it needed to defend the workers’ state as this was the source of its privileges as a bureaucracy.
Thus, the most important theorist of the Unified Secretariat, Ernest Mandel, would say that it was a grave mistake to believe that the bureaucracy could lead to capitalist restoration.[8] He held onto the hope that perestroika would open the door for “self-reform”, and considered Gorbachev to be a “self-aware” member of the bureaucracy.
These illusions about the restorationist wing of the CPSU led to mass confusion among the ranks of the Unified Secretariat, leaving them ill-equipped to respond to the revolutions in Eastern Europe and the fall of the CPSU regime.
Such confusion led the Unified Secretariat to mourn the end of the bureaucracy, confusing the domination of the bureaucracy for the maintenance of the workers’ state and treating the fall of the Stalinist regimes in 1989 and 1991 as a historical defeat for socialism and the proletariat.
This perspective led Bensaid, the key theorist of the Unified Secretariat following the death of Mandel, to theorize a “new era”[9], opened by the supposed historical defeat of the workers’ movement, which, now retreated to a more primitive level of organization due to capitalism’s victory. For him, socialist revolution was off the table for an entire historical era.
Contrary to Trotsky, who always made it clear that the continued dominance of the bureaucratic class over the USSR would result in capitalist restoration, this sector of Trotskyism turned into a fellow traveller of Stalinism, in other words, they identified with the bureaucracy and felt defeated alongside it, identifying these defeats as an ideological victory for imperialism. These positions are themselves an echo of imperialist propaganda announcing the end of socialism and a capitalist “end of history”. What was their key mistake?
First, they upheld the slogan of “actually existing socialism”, a position which would be incomprehensible to the masses of Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Czechia and Poland. They would say “it’s bad with Stalin and the bureaucracy, but it’s worse without them”. And they neglect to identify the counterrevolutionary and ultimately restorationist role of the Soviet bureaucracy, from Khrushchev to Brezhnev, from Andropov to Chernenko and Gorbachev.
As Trotsky wrote about the Spanish Revolution, the masses did the most that was possible without revolutionary leadership. It was not the masses, but the bureaucracy which took Russia back to capitalism. The masses were unable to improvise a leadership during the years of Stalinist repression; all attempts to form a Marxist opposition to the bureaucracy were persecuted, and their instigators were tortured and imprisoned as “pro imperialists”.[10]
On the international level, there was no role model to lead the way to any alternative. The Chinese CP had passed on from being a new hope—when it had only recently defeated imperialism and its puppet Chiang Kai-Shek in 1949—to building its own new bureaucracy.
The Chinese CP also came into conflict with the Soviet bureaucracy in order to ally themselves with the US. Mao accepted a proposal from Nixon to form a united front against the USSR, and even declared war on Vietnam, which had only recently won its liberation against US forces, to seal the deal.
It was during this period that Maoists denounced the USSR as “social imperialism”. With this justification in hand, they would turn around and support even the Pinochet dictatorship. As they did this, they began their own process of restoration in 1978, before even the Soviet bureaucracy set upon this economic path in earnest.
The Cuban CP, which enjoyed a period of some independence in the first few years of the Cuban Revolution, when they supported the creation of the Latin American Solidarity Organization (OLAS), but beginning in the 1970s they began to fall in line with the Russian bureaucracy, co-signing all of its international policies, and acting as its foot soldiers in sub-saharan Africa, backing the MPLA’s class-collaborationist and anti-dissident leadership in Angola. In Latin America, Cuba pressured the FSLN to not break with the bourgeoisie in El Salvador and pressured the Sandinistas to not expropriate the bourgeoisie in Nicaragua. Finally, they supported mass repression in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Poland in 1981. They became a Stalinist Communist Party like any other following the Soviet line.
On the other hand, the majority of the left during the 1970s-1990s was split between support for the Russian bureaucracy or the Chinese one. Or even the Cuban bureaucracy, which would go ahead and support the line of the CPSU.[[11]
That is to say, there was no example for workers or intellectuals dissatisfied with bureaucracy and Stalinism to follow that would provide an antibureaucratic socialist alternative that would defend the necessity of political revolution that would impose workers’ democracy. Even the self-described Trotskyist tendencies for the most part capitulated to Stalinism, whether in its Russian, Chinese or Cuban manifestations.
The harsh reality of the world under “triumphant” capitalism is a deep economic and social crises, misery and hunger for billions of people, constant oppression and violence against women, racism against people of color, the persecution of minorities, and xenophobia against immigrants.
As a summary of everything that capitalism offers to humanity, we are in the middle of an outright genocide set off by the current pandemic, especially among the poorest layers of the population. The disequilibrium between capitalism and the environment is taking our planet to levels of environmental destruction such that put the survival of future generations into question. If capitalism is not wiped from the face of the earth, human civilization will not have a future.
Paradoxically, in this dire situation, the vast majority of the so-called left has now moved on to say that socialism and communism are utopias that do not provide a way forward.
Among those who call for another alternative are those who defend Chinese-style “market socialism”, campists who call on us to recognize the supposed “advances” of the Chinese government and that it is necessary to support them as the only opponents of the United States. Whether it is called “market socialism” (which preserves continuity with the workers’ state established following 1949) or a “hybrid model”, this regime will supposedly play a progressive role against imperialism.
This is the new edition of “socialism in one country”, but now it’s even worse: a defense of a capitalist dictatorship that exploits its workers and peasants is held up as the example that all socialists and activists around the world should follow, and defend all of the horrors of the Chinese dictatorship as a lesser evil, as the only possible solution available today.
Another section argues that socialism is divorced from reality, that it is inherently totalitarian, and that the most we can hope for is a radical democratization of existing society (i.e. capitalist society). They confuse socialism and communism as defined by Marx and Engels with the Stalinist dictatorship.
Perhaps it is worthwhile at this point to quote the director Damian Szifron in his film Wild Tales: “if you go to a theatre to see Shakespeare’s Hamlet and it so happens that the director of the piece and the actors are all terrible, you can’t blame Shakespeare without first understanding how the cast has attacked Shakespeare himself and transformed a brilliant work into a fifth-rate melodrama”
But the reality of our planet, with ever-growing inequality, where 1% of the population holds 50% of the wealth of the world in its hands, which lurches from one economic crisis to the next, where even guaranteed employment is a distant dream for billions of people, only confirms the words of the Communist Manifesto. “The ruling classes tremble in fear of the idea of a communist revolution. Workers have nothing to lose but the chains that bind them. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite”.
Lenin, during the foundation of the Third International, affirmed that “the universal, historical importance of the Third International, the Communist International, resides in that it began to put into practice the most important of Marx’s slogans, the slogan to resume the development of socialism and of the workers’ movement within a century, a slogan that can be expressed in this concept: the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This brilliant foresight and theory is transforming into a reality…It began a new historical era. Humanity will free itself from the last form of slavery: capitalist slavery, or wage slavery. In freeing itself from slavery, humanity will for the first time obtain true freedom.”
We are still in the same era described by Lenin. The only way forward is still socialist revolution led by the working class, to expropriate the bourgeoisie and impose workers’ democracy, and which continues the fight for the revolution and for socialism on a global scale. This is the true path to changing the world. It is the only true alternative for the future, and it will be assembled through the struggles and organization of the working class.
[1] Lenin’s last battle, when he was already ill, was precisely against the rising bureaucratic class.
[2] This process is well-described in Communists against Stalin, by Pierre Broué, recently edited by Editora Sundermann. 
[3] In the magazine Lutte de Classes 219, November 2021, by the organization Lutte Ouvriére de Francia, there is an article describing this strike.
[4] In chapter 10 of his book, My Life, Gorbachev recounts the process between Andropov grooming him for leadership, dying a short year later, Chernenko’s succession, and following his death, finally Gorbachev’s election in the now already modified CC to the highest office in the USSR.
[5] This was the name of the economic bloc that connected the USSR to the countries of Eastern Europe, under the control of Soviet bureaucracy.
[6] This information can be found in his book, Communists against Stalin.
[7] Later, following Nixon’s visit to Mao and the resumption of economic and political relations between the PRC and the US, the PC of China and PC of Albania would break ties, with both bureaucracies charting their own trajectories towards capitalist restoration.
[8] These positions are well-explained in the book The Verdict of History by Martin Hernandez
[9] This perspective is very clear in the 1995 text A new era by Daniel Bensaïd.
[10] In Pierre Broué’s book, Communists against Stalin, there is a vivid description of the heroic work carried out by this opposition. The opening of the KGB archive allowed for the discovery of the existence of apolitical organization active in the horrible Stalinist prisons of the 1930s, with at least 8,000 members, who had been condemned to long sentences and/or death by the Stalinist regime.
[11] A story that embodies this relationship quite well is that in 1989, several important leaders of the Brazilian PT and other organizations of the Latin American left were participating at an East German cadre school in Berlin on the night of the fall of the Berlin Wall. These cadre were left totally perplexed by what was happening in front of them; after all, how could there be a mass uprising in a “socialist” country?
Translated from Portuguese to Spanish by Natalia Estrada and Spanish to English by Carlos Sapir

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