What Marx and Lenin could not foreseen

For Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, the capitalist system was doomed to collapsed. They had high believes that this system of greed would not survive the 20th century. Lenin himself saw in the first world war, a starting point on which the whole system would collapse. However both he and Marx could not foreseen how two leftist ideologie, turned against the socialist idea. This not only weakened the workers movement, but allowed capitalism to be seen as the ”only” alternatieve for humanity!

Marx died in 1883 and Lenin in 1924. Both men never witnessed the final betrayal of social democracy and the traitorous role of the Stalinist communist parties. The first first signs of this betrayal were visible in 1914, when the workers parties of Europe abandoned proletarian internationalism for bourgeois petty nationalism. British, French and German socialist leaders called on workers to fight for God, King (Kaiser) and Fatherland against each other!

A socialist leader who rejected the war was James Connolly. A revolutionary socialist and co-founder of the modern Irish; Labour Party, Connolly (Like Lenin in Russia and Liebknecht in Germany) rejected the nationalist propaganda which flooded the workers movement in 1914. Ireland was part of the British Empire and not yet independent. James Connolly wanted to liberate the Irish workers from the iron grips of British imperialism. In 1916, while Britain was deeply fighting against Imperial Germany, Irish nationalists and revolutionaries started an uprising to separate Ireland from the British Empire!

The Easter Rebellion started on 24 April 1916. Three paramilitary groups participated in it. The biggest was the bourgeois-nationalist; Irish Volunteers, while James Connolly organized the Irish Citizens Army. The third force was the Irish Women’s Council who supported the two male dominated paramilitaries. In all over 3.000 rebels stood up to British rule, but fighting was limited to Dublin. The uprising was crushed by British soldiers after only five days. 64 Irish rebels lost their lives while over 132 British were killed and 300 wounded. James Connolly and the rebel leadership were captured and executed!

Although the support from Irish workers was limited, the execution of Connolly would led to massive rejection of British rule. By 1919, another uprising started which led to the Irish War of Independence. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 gave Ireland self-governing dominion and in 1931, Ireland left the British Empire for good. James Connolly is today remembered not as a revolutionary socialist, but as a Irish freedom fighter. The Labour Party still uses Connolly in their history books, although it is clear that the real James Connolly would have left the party he had co-founded, had he lived in 2016!

Today the ideology if social democracy is no longer leftist. Although still called ”socialist” or ”progressive” by the capitalist media, most social democratic parties support austerity, deregulation and neoliberal economics. This all began in the late 1980’s as capitalist leaders demanded the complete surrender of social democrats to the forces of the markets. For 50 years social democrats stood between workers and capitalists. They acted as a compromising force and kept the workers movement within the boundaries of capitalism. The fear of the communist parties made them an acceptable partner to many bourgeois parties in coalition governments!

British socialists were split over the first world war. The Labour Party leadership finally did choose to support the war for King, God and Empire. In Germany the same happend, when the anti-war socialists like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht left the Social-democratic Party of Germany, to found the Independent Social-democratic Party of Germany in 1916. Labour formed its first government in 1923, which only survived for 10 months. Many capitalists feared the party and its socialist ideology. But by now the socialists were moderate and no longer revolutionary. The first so called ”socialist” government, changed nothing for British workers. With the victory of the Conservative Party in the 1924 general election, the ruling class won back power. Had the Labour Party carried out a socialist program, it could have won the election!

Social democracy turned into an anti-communist, anti-revolutionary ideology. By the 1930’s, most workers parties rejected the socialist revolution, favoring a parliamentary road only. The communist parties had degenerated into rubber-stamps for Moscow and the Stalinist bureaucracy. Those who had criticized Stalin were expelled and found themselves outside the communist movement. Some rejoined the social democratic parties, others tried to form socialist parties based on anti-Stalinist revolutionary socialism. But social democracy and stalinism dominated the leftist spectrum, leaving little room for revolutionary socialist parties based on genuine socialism!

Karl Marx had no idea that the political parties he saw as forces of the working class, would turn against the whole idea of socialism. Reformist thinking in the workers movement was already happening while Marx was alive. Evolutionary socialists had rejected his revolutionary thinking and called for compromises with bourgeois forces. These moderate socialists would dominate the workers movement after 1945. Today social democracy has moved beyond evolutionary socialism, in fact they no longer call for socialism altogether. Marxist thinking was renounced in fully either in the late 1950’s or 1970’s. By the dawn of neoliberalism at the end of the Cold War, most workers parties were ready to capitulate to the capitalist class!

The rise of stalinism was unknown to Marx. Even Vladimir Lenin did not lived long enough to see the full horror of what would happen in his name. The first Soviet leader had rejected Stalin by 1923, but was too sick to put up a fight. Lenin wanted Stalin replaced as leader of the communist party, in this position he become too powerful. His brutality in dealing with those who disagreed made Lenin uncomfortable. After Stalin insulted Nadezhda Krupskaya (Lenin’s wife), he had enough of the crude General Secretary (Stalin’s position since 1922). Still Krupskaya supported Stalin against Trotsky and voted to expel the critics of the growing bureaucracy. Lenin himself was unable to see these developments, because by January 1924 he had died after a final stroke!

Today in the year 2016, social democracy and stalinism as still seen as leftist ideologies. Capitalist news channels still call governments run by social democrats to be ”socialist”. Although there are no true socialist governments at the present moment. There are nations governed by socialist parties, but none have replaced the capitalist market with a democratic planned economy. This is mainly because social democrats do not wish to replace capitalism and stalinists seemed to agree with this. Communist parties have been part of ruling coalitions, who never broke with capitalism. Stalin ordered the two stage theory, which calls for ”progressive capitalism” to be build before socialism. This is why most communist parties joined capitalist governments after 1945 and keep doing!

Classic stalinism was replaced by moderate stalinism after Nikita Khrushchev became party boss of the Communist Party of the Soviet-Union in 1953. A loyal Stalinist and supporters of the bloody purges in the 1930’s, Khrushchev worked his way up and by the late 1940’s, he was an important member of the party politbureau. Selected for his personal loyalism to Stalin (as all other politbureau members were) Khrushchev knew that many state and party bureaucrats hated the old dictator and wanted him gone. In March 1953 it happend and with Stalin’s death, Khrushchev and his supporters purged the leadership of all classic stalinists!

Still it would take another three years, before Nikita Khrushchev could go public against the myth of Joseph Stalin. This happend on 25 February 1956 at the closing session of the CPSU congress. The ”Secret Speech” of Khrushchev lasted over four hours in which the once loyal Stalinist, attacked his icon for abuse of power and mass-murder. Since 1927, it had been forbidden and taboo to critize Joseph Stalin. The Left Opposition was the last major opposition force inside the USSR, before the stalinists expelled them from the party. The delegates were shocked as they had worshiped Stalin as a semi-god. Although the murder of loyal party members was criticized, Khrushchev did not rehabilitate the revolutionary socialists of the Left Opposition. Trotsky and Bukharin’s supporters were still called ”enemies of socialism”!

Khrushchev claimed he would return to Leninism. In reality this was not the case. Lenin had been in the background since World War Two. Now Khrushchev  wanted him back as icon of the USSR. Joseph Stalin was slowly removed from the streets. Cities and towns named after the Red Czar were all renamed in the early 1960’s. His mummified corpse was removed from Lenin’s Mausoleum and buried next to the Kremlin Wall. The capitalist media marked this process the end of stalinism, however the system itself stayed. Only Stalin’s face and name was removed. The bureaucracy he installed (now headed by Khrushchev) would not abandon its privileges and control over Soviet society!

But mass terror was no longer the way of the communist party. They would use the newly created Committee for State Security, to spy and remove dissidents. The KGB would move swiftly and arrest individuals instead of sending millions to concentration-camps. By the late 1960’s the Gulag camps were closed. Still the ”Secret Speech” had huge effects on Stalinist controlled nations. Polish and Hungarian workers rebelled against the top-down system and Khrushchev had to use brutal force!

His puppets of the Hungarian Working People’s Party and the Polish United Workers Party had to stay in power. Soviet tanks were used to crush the brave workers, who had united themselves in revolutionary councils to fight for independence and freedom. Polish workers would never agree to stalinism and although betrayed by their own leaders, those who rebelled against the Stalinist system never called for capitalism or the rule of greed. In fact capitalism was never the issue as most workers wanted true socialism based on democracy and free speech!

Although the name Stalin was gone, his legacy lived on. In the hearts of those who were brainwashed by him, the periode 1924-1953 is seen as a golden age by elderly Russians. Because after Leonid Brezhnev stagnated the economy, the Stalin era became a myth. Old people started to think that life under Stalin was great and that Khrushchev destroyed their mighty nation. This was reinforced after the collapse of the Soviet-Union and the massive austerity waves that Boris Yeltsin enforced. The rulers in the Kremlin today noted this fact. So after the dawn of the 21 century, Russia started to idolize Stalin again as part of a massive propaganda act. Vladimir Putin plays on the pride of many Russians and he knows that by calling Stalin a ”great leader” he wins the support of nationalists, stalinists and elderly!

Social democracy made so much compromises with the capitalist class, that by the late 1980’s it was no longer a socialist ideology. Most members of the Socialist International no longer call themselves true socialist. Although the Labour Party in Britian, claims to be a democratic socialist party, this is not the case. Since the rise of the Tony Blair, the party is now fully capitalist. Although Jeremy Corbyn is now leader of the Labour Party, it remains to be seen if he has the will and the strength, to remove those right-wing social democrats from the party!

Most communist parties play a marginal role in today’s world politics. Most remain loyal to Marxism-Leninism (Stalinism) and stick to the idea that the USSR was a ”socialist” society, despite all the facts that it was not. The idea that revolutionary socialists were right and they were wrong is still unacceptable for these elderly stalinists. This is why the average membership age in the communist parties is now 65 to 70 years. Few young people join these communist parties and many leave, after they find the Stalinist atmosphere top-down and undemocratic!

Communist parties who have reformed are unfortunately turning reformist and participate in capitalist coalitions. Like the Communist Party of Bulgaria, part of the ruling coalition around the Bulgarian Socialist Party (ex-stalinist itself). The Communist Party of Chile participates in the Nueva Mayoría coalition around the pro-capitalist: Socialist Party of Chile. In South Africa, the South African Communist Party has supported the capitalist reign of the African National Congress since 1994 and the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova, has ruled the former Soviet republic of Moldova under capitalism. The ruling communist parties in China and Vietnam have turned so much to the right, that they are no longer revolutionary. Even the Communist Party of Cuba now embraces the market system and has allowed Americans (”the capitalist enemy”) to build and own a tractor factory. Showing that foreign ownership of Cuba’s means of production is returning!

How would Marx and Lenin think if they knew how deep the social democratic and stalinist  parties betrayed their ideals? That the parties of the working class have turned against socialism and that communist parties participate in governments that remain capitalist to the core. This is the reality of the 21 century which Marx and Lenin did not foreseen. Both men lived in a different time, when workers still had parties that followed revolutionary socialism. Today it seems that neither the social democrats nor stalinists are willing to fight for a socialist transformation of the world. This is why new workers parties are needed to overthrow the capitalist system and build a world under control of the working class!


Leaders of the communist parties of China and Vietnam toost to the profits made at the expense of their workers!

Leaders of the communist parties of China and Vietnam, toost to the profits made at the expense of their workers!