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Valuable experience of the USSR in the struggle for socialism
On 14 January 2023, the Revolutionary Communist Party of France organized an event in Paris on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Union. Below, you can find the contribution made at the event by Eliseos Vagenas, member of the CC of the KKE and Head of the International Relations Section.
“If someone said that the Soviet Union would disintegrate, for us it would be like the sun would not rise the next day” the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, had said in an interview. This phrase captures the feelings of millions of communists and other progressive people who understood that the overthrow of socialism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union would mean a major social setback for the working people all over the world.
A few weeks ago marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The unification of peoples on an equal basis, and even with the right to withdraw from the USSR, created a new type of state organization, based on the principles of solidarity and internationalism among the workers of the most diverse nations. A state was formed based on the common economic basis of socialization of the means of production, central planning of the economy, and workers’ control.
Truths that bourgeois propaganda cannot hide
Today there is no USSR; it was dissolved 31 years ago. The result —among other things— was the factory of lies and slander against it, but this cannot change certain constants of reality, such as:
- Through the formation of the USSR, the peoples living in the territories that previously belonged to the Tsarist Empire and were characterized by profound economic, technological, social, and cultural backwardness, experienced an unprecedented economic and social development, a national and cultural renaissance. The exploitation of man by man was abolished. Many of the hundreds of nations living in those lands acquired written language, illiteracy was overcome, and science and culture thrived.
- The peoples of the USSR experienced unprecedented social and political achievements, such as free health care, free education, cheap housing, the 8-hour working day, low retirement age (at 60 for men and 55 for women), the elimination of unemployment, the protection of maternity and childhood, social security, the important steps towards the abolition of the inequality of women, the election of the people’s representatives directly from the workplace and the right to recall them in the case that they failed to honour their commitments, even before the next elections were called, etc.
- The radiance of the social and political achievements of the USSR had a considerable influence throughout the capitalist world. The peoples who were fighting for their rights against colonialism, capitalism, and imperialist war found a firm supporter in it.
- The USSR was the main force that crushed the monster of fascism that capitalism gave rise to. Leningrad, Stalingrad, the Battle of Moscow and Kursk and so many other sacrifices of the Soviet people will go down in history, just like the picture of the Red Army raising the Red Flag at the Reichstag, driving a nail into the heart of Nazi Germany.
- The USSR sailed into new, hitherto uncharted, waters in social development. In its course, it could not avoid weaknesses, distortions, and mistakes such as the change in the way the soviets were elected (1936) and the “borrowing” of market mechanisms (1960s) that led to the weakening of workers’ power, social ownership of the means of production, and centralized scientific planning. As a result, the economic, social, and political conditions that paved the way for its overthrow with “perestroika” (1980s), began to gradually form.
- The overthrow of socialism in the USSR did not take place through popular uprisings and revolutions, but “from within and from above”, as a result of the opportunist transformation of the CP and the corresponding political course of the Soviet power. In practice, the forces of opportunism, which had dominated the leadership of the CPSU, played a treacherous role for the cause of socialism by guiding the process of counter-revolution. They expressed those social forces that had emerged within the Soviet society, gradually controlling the structures of Soviet power and the CP, seeking to restore capitalism.
Anti-communism as common ground for the promotion of imperialist plans
Today, 31 years later, we must ask the peoples: What is eventually our world like? Has it become better without the USSR?
Were the right-wing, social-democratic, “Eurocommunist” parties, which fought the USSR and celebrated its end, right?
Today, the peoples who are facing the ever-increasing problems caused by capitalism can see that after the dissolution of the USSR and the overthrow of the socialist system in 1991, up to today, in 2023, the brutal exploitation of man by man has intensified. Important hard-won achievements of the working class, of the peoples, are being crushed. Terrible labour conditions are returning, with the dismantling of Social Security, the restriction of trade union freedoms and rights, the increase in unemployment. Economic crises are intensifying and a series of anti-labour and anti-popular laws are passed. Social problems are exacerbating due to the commercialization of health and education, the acute housing problem, the foreclosure auctions of primary residences, energy poverty, soaring prices, inflation that eats away at people’s income, and heavy taxation on the popular strata.
At the same time, imperialist competition and contradictions are sharpening, leading to imperialist interventions, conflicts, and wars such as the one in Ukraine. The threat of a nuclear catastrophe is growing stronger, while there are large flows of refugees and immigrants.
Of course, bourgeois approaches, both in the territories of the former USSR and in the West, try to present capitalism as a “one-way street” with no alternative way out for the peoples, reproducing many slanders about the “inefficiency of the centrally planned economy, without a market”, about alleged “crimes of communism”, such as the infamous “Golodomor” that has been promoted in Ukraine by all bourgeois regimes for the past 30 years, or claims that the USSR was dissolved because Lenin and the Bolsheviks laid a mine in its foundations, as V. Putin states.
The common denominator of all of them is anti-communism and the distortion of historical facts, aimed at promoting their anti-popular policies and plans.
On the slander that the war in Ukraine is related to the “reestablishment of the USSR”
Moreover, some bourgeois mouthpieces that fought the USSR, are once again trying to mislead the people, claiming that the war in Ukraine is due to Putin, “who wants to reestablish the USSR”. However, Putin, Zelenskiy, and the other bourgeois regimes in the territories of the former USSR are cut from the same cloth as them! They are the result of the overthrow of socialism and the restoration of capitalism.
This cannnot change because the Russian leadership, like any bourgeois leadership, is like a chameleon. It has no problem in exploiting this or that ideological construct, or even the legacy of the USSR, against which it fought passionately in the recent past and continues to do so in its own way, to promote its own class interests in the great “race” that has broken out with the other imperialist powers (USA, NATO, EU) over raw materials, energy, commodity transport routes, geopolitical pillars, labour power, and market shares. This, however, does not at all mean that it seeks to “resurrect” the USSR. This is not the intention of all those parasites who hold the reins of the economy and power in Russia today, as in every capitalist country. Their aim was and is the capitalist unification of the territories of the countries that came from the former USSR, where the Russian bourgeoisie will play a strong and distinct role, similar to that of Germany and France in the process of capitalist unification in the territories of the EU countries.
The war, therefore, is not due to some pro-Soviet nostalgic disposition of the Russian leadership, but to the confrontation between the forces of the Euro-Atlantic imperialist bloc (USA, NATO, EU) and the emerging Euro-Asian imperialist bloc (Russia, China, etc.).
The “reestablishment” of the USSR, which was a union of Socialist Republics, the common state “home” of the peoples building a new socialist–communist society, depends neither on the tricks of the Russian oligarchy nor the degree of nostalgia of the population, which is constantly increasing, despite the torrent of anti-communist propaganda. It depends on the practical will and the high degree of organization of the peoples, as well as on their readiness to reclaim once everything that belongs to them and they were deprived of over the past three decades.
On the erroneous identification of the USSR with capitalist Russia
The dominant powers in the EU and the USA seek to identify today’s Russia with the USSR, under the pretext of “totalitarianism” and “authoritarian leaderships”, launching a new witch-hunt. Among other things, they are trying to identify the unacceptable Russian invasion of Ukraine with the internationalist military aid that the Soviet Union provided to various countries in the past. In this regard, we see that the campaign to destroy Soviet monuments has been intensified in several countries. In Poland, new legislation banning the Communist Party is being promoted.
Under these circumstances, those leftist-communist forces who justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine, accept the pretexts about the “demilitarization” and “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, and even more so proceed to identify the USSR, a workers’ state, with today’s capitalist Russia, where the interests of the few are in control, are doing a terrible service to the labour and communist movement. The attempt to draw parallels between the Soviet-Finnish war (1939–1940) or the Great Anti-Fascist War of the Soviet people (1941–1945) and the imperialist war in Ukraine are far from misleading because they are detached from the class character of the forces that clashed back then and now. These forces overlook that the struggle waged in the imperialist Second World War, a part of which was the hard and heroic struggle fought by the Soviet people and the Red Army, was just only for the USSR and the partisan movements of the occupied countries led by the Communist Parties. It was certainly not just for the bourgeois “democratic” regimes, e.g. of Britain and the USA that participated in the Anti-Hitler coalition. Those forces, like the German fascist leadership, were responsible for the imperialist war and committed enormous crimes during it. Their interests were extremely anti-popular, as was shown by the imperialist intervention of Britain and the USA in Greece at the end of the Second World War.
The identification of today’s China with the USSR is out of touch with reality
Therefore, the USSR is one thing and today’s capitalist Russia is another. The same goes for China, where capitalist relations of production prevail, labour power is a commodity, and social needs have been commodified, as is the case in the rest of the capitalist world. Starting in 2012 and up to the present day, consistently more than 60% of China’s GDP is produced by the private sector. Millions of people are condemned to poverty, when China ranks first in the world in number of billionaires who own colossal e-commerce groups, banks, factories, hotels, shopping malls, movie theatres, social media, mobile phone companies, etc. At the same time, tens of millions of itinerant internal migrants, who are engaged in temporary jobs and may remain unemployed, are not counted in official statistics and may account for up to 30% of the country’s labour force. Tens of millions of people are excluded from modern social services, such as technical and higher education and health care services due to their commodification and low incomes. What relevance can all this have to the experience of the USSR? In our view, none!
We need to draw conclusions from the negative experience of the USSR as well
Some refer to the security systems of the UN and the OSCE (note: former Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe), which were set up with the active contribution of the USSR in 1945 and 1975 respectively, in order to call for the formation of new “security systems”, both international and regional, which can supposedly take into account the “security concerns” of all sides and ensure peace again, as in the days of the USSR. These views, fostered by social democratic and opportunist forces calling for the creation of a “new security architecture” that will supposedly peacefully allow the interests of the US, NATO, and the EU to be reconciled with those of Russia and China to achieve a “peaceful coexistence”, are utterly misleading for the peoples. That is because there can be no “peaceful imperialism”, since, as Lenin has shown and has been proven historically and theoretically, no agreement, no international or regional organization between capitalist states can permanently guarantee peace.
Often these pacifist proclamations are just a “fig leaf” for the support of the bourgeoisie of each country in imperialist competition and wars. The stance of the French CP and the CP of the Russian Federation is very characteristic regarding this issue as well. On 25/2/2022, i.e. the day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the French CP was in favour of “a prospect of lasting peace and security in Europe, based on the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and the 1990 Charter of Paris”. On 30/11/22, this position was combined with the vote of the French CP in the French parliament in favour of the country’s military armaments to the benefit of the reactionary Zelenskiy government, as well as the further strengthening of NATO with the accession of Finland and Sweden. At the same time, from the point of view of the CPRF, the support of the Russian bourgeoisie regarding the imperialist war in Ukraine is being provided, among other things, on the grounds of defending the “Russian civilization” in the “war of civilizations” and on the need for “a new architecture of security and international relations”, which began to take shape with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is known that at critical moments, opportunism, using various palatable arguments, e.g. “in favour of peace”, supports the imperialist plans and wars of the bourgeois classes of each side. As is well known, the KKE as well as 44 CPs and 30 CYOs have stood against imperialist war. The KKE stresses that the working class and the popular strata must not choose one or the other imperialist side in this conflict. The right side of history is the strengthening of the struggle against capitalism, for the overthrow of bourgeois power, for the construction of the new, socialist society.
At the same time, we must note that a series of erroneous assessments and the political line of “peaceful competition” between the two systems that prevailed in the USSR after the 20th Congress of the CPSU, were a following wind for Eurocommunism and opportunist views in general. We are speaking, first of all, of the overestimation of the positive global processes after the end of the Second World War that prevailed in the USSR, as well as of the erroneous distinction on the part of the USSR between the bourgeois powers of other countries that distorted “Lenin’s reference to peaceful coexistence concerning the economic and trade relations between the two socio-economic systems, (which) was transformed and given an ideological and strategic content”. Such a position, however, in practice “embellished capitalism and reinforced the false notion that, at least for a certain historical period, the two systems could coexist and peacefully compete with each other”. Based on the above, utopian positions and opportunist policies about international and regional “security systems” were developed, which would supposedly ensure the “peaceful coexistence” and mutual “respect” of the two socio-political systems, underestimating the predatory nature of imperialism.
The KKE, after studying the history of the USSR, has assessed that “The line of ‘peaceful co-existence’ as was developed in the post-war period, to some extent at the 19th Congress (October 1952) and primarily at the 20th Congress of the CPSU (1956), acknowledged the capitalist barbarity and aggression of the USA and Britain, and of certain sections of the bourgeoisie and its respective political forces in the western European capitalist states, but not as an integral element of monopoly capitalism, of imperialism. In this way, it allowed the nurturing of utopian perceptions, such as that it is possible for imperialism to accept on a long term basis its co-existence with forces that have broken its worldwide domination.”
Today, we are called upon to examine the historical course of the USSR, to reject anti-Sovietism and anti-communism fostered by bourgeois and opportunist forces, and at the same time to reject the embellishment of the USSR. We must critically confront this socialist past, learning from both its strengths and weaknesses, in order to better respond to today’s demands for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalist barbarity and the building of the new, socialist–communist society.
We are confident that the 21st century will be a century of new socialist revolutions and uprisings, having the valuable experience of the first attempt to build the new society as an additional asset.
 History Essay of the KKE, Volume B, 1949–1968, p. 94.
 History Essay of the KKE, Volume B, 1949–1968, p. 93.
 18th Congress of the KKE, Resolution on Socialism, “Assessments and conclusions on socialist construction during the 20th century, focusing on the USSR. The KKE’s perception on socialism.”