The Communist Party of Sweden (formerly KPMLr) held its 15th congress from 3-5 January in Gothenburg.
In his report on behalf of the central committee, Comrade Anders Carlsson outlined the difficulties faced by the party in a reactionary period such as the present, when a disorganised working class confronted an organised and aggressive ruling class.
In Sweden, he said, there had been a decided turn to the right. In the end, however, the present downturn in the working-class movement must make way for an upturn – an upturn for which the party must make the necessary preparations. Only a Marxist-Leninist party with a communist programme can lead the way forward.
During the course of three days, the delegates discussed and debated, in a serious and businesslike manner, a whole host of issues, ranging from industrial struggles, the youth and student movement, and the emancipation of women, to questions of party publications, propaganda and work on the cultural front.
The most heated, yet comradely debate centred round the questions of immigration and the role of Joseph Stalin. On the former question, some delegates came down in favour of a restricted intake of refugees and immigrants, arguing that a large influx of foreigners depressed Swedish workers’ wages, created a shortage of housing, contributed to increased crime and aroused racial tensions. This view was the minority view and was argued against by the majority.
On the question of Stalin, some comrades argued that Soviet history be studied objectively; that while applauding the great achievements of the USSR under his leadership, Stalin’s negative role, in particular the repressive actions of the Soviet state during his leadership, had to be acknowledged as well. Again, this was the minority viewpoint, and the motion on this question was withdrawn by the proposer in view of the overwhelming and well-argued opposition to it.
Several fraternal delegates, both Swedish and foreign, attended the congress and delivered messages of solidarity. Cuba, Vietnam and the DPRK were represented by their respective ambassadors. In addition, the representatives of the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB), Communist Party of El Salvador, Socialist Party of Latvia, the Norwegian and Danish Communists, and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) were also represented. The CPGB-ML was represented by Comrade Harpal Brar, who delivered a message of solidarity, the gist (though not the exact wording) of which is as follows:
CPGB-ML’s fraternal message
Having greeted the congress and thanked it for the warm and generous hospitality accorded to the fraternal delegates, Comrade Harpal started by reminding the delegates of the triumphalism with which the imperialist bourgeoisie and its ideologues greeted the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the eastern and central European socialist states, and the demise of the once-mighty USSR. History was at an end, declared the reactionary bourgeois professors. No more class struggles, no more communism, they asserted, adding that capitalism was the final destiny of humanity.
How foolish these assertions were can be seen in the light of the heroic resistance of the Iraqi, Afghan, Palestinian and Lebanese people to the predatory wars waged against them by Anglo-American imperialism and its surrogates, as well as from the turbulence in the financial markets that is threatening to explode and plunge the entire capitalist world into a depression of far greater magnitude than the world crisis of 1929.
From these developments, it is clear that capitalism has no future, that it has no answers to the problems faced by the masses all over the world. It cannot provide them with bread, liberty and peace – only communism holds a bright future for humanity.
Lessons to be learnt
However, before the next wave of working-class struggles succeeds in establishing proletarian regimes, the working class, especially its vanguard parties, must learn from the experiences, both positive and negative, of the erstwhile socialist countries.
It is shameful indeed to have to admit that, 18 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and 16 years after the disappearance of the USSR, those who claim to be the world communist movement have still not been able to give an answer to the question as to why the socialist countries collapsed so ignominiously and without firing a shot. All we get are such evasions to the question as, for instance, that the socialist countries collapsed because of ‘mistakes in the implementation of socialism’ – a truly enlightening explanation!
What is the point in several dozen parties meeting each year under the banner of the ‘Communist International’ for nearly two decades and yet not being able to locate these ‘mistakes’ precisely and name the culprits responsible for them?
The hallmark of any serious communist party is that it learns from its mistakes, and identifies how these mistakes came about and the measures required to rectify them.
We in our party are firmly of the view that the socialist countries collapsed because of the ravages of Khrushchevite revisionism in the field of ideology, class struggle and political economy in the aftermath of the 20th Party Congress of the CPSU(B). This congress brought to power a gang of revisionists, headed by Khrushchev, which set itself the task of restoring capitalism in the USSR and other socialist countries. To this end, the revisionists took systematic steps – economic, political and ideological – to undermine and then to dismantle socialism, finally culminating in the liquidation of the socialist countries. Begun under Khrushchev, this nefarious enterprise was completed under Gorbachev.
Therefore, the chief lesson from the history of the socialist countries is the need to wage a ruthless struggle against opportunism – revisionism and its variants, namely, social democracy and Trotskyism.
Second, we need to make a deep study of the science of revolution – of Marxism Leninism. Hegel once remarked: “Everybody allows that to know any other science you must have first studied it, and that you can only claim to express a judgement upon it in virtue of such knowledge. Everybody allows that to make a shoe you must have learnt and practised the craft of the shoemaker … For philosophy alone, it seems to be imagined, such study, care, and application are not in the least requisite.” (Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences)
Hegel’s profound observation, directed against the charlatans of his day, who knew next to nothing about philosophy, a subject on which they claimed to be able to pronounce judgements, applies equally to the present, when those who know nothing about Marxism claim to be able to pass judgment on it. We must not follow in this shameful tradition. We must study and grasp the significance of theoretical study, for, in the words of Lenin, “without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement”. (What is To Be Done?)
In the words of Engels, it is the duty of the leaders of the proletariat “to gain an ever clearer insight into all theoretical questions … and constantly to keep in mind that socialism, since it has become a science, demands that it be pursued as a science, that is, that it be studied”. (Preface, The Peasant War in Germany)
And yet there are those in our movement who want to downgrade the theoretical tasks of the movement in favour of practical work, forgetting that Engels’ conception of the struggle of the proletariat was three-sided, that is “the theoretical, the political and the economico-practical (resistance to capitalists) – in harmony and in its interconnections, and in a systematic way”. And it was “precisely in this, as it were concentric, attack that the strength and invincibility” of the German workers’ movement lay in the 1870s. (Ibid)
Our movement must never forget the above teachings of Engels. We must never unleash on the working class cadres who are ignorant of the science of Marxism Leninism. This work is not easy; it requires patience, determination, organisation and audacity.
On the question of study, one young delegate at your congress demanded that the history of the USSR be studied objectively. By all means; this must be done, but not under the influence and pressure of the bourgeoisie.
According to the latter, communism has contributed nothing other than misery and the use of brute force. The truth is just the opposite. It is capitalism which thrusts poverty, destitution, misery and degradation on the masses of the proletarians and oppressed peoples. It is capitalism which is guilty of slavery, gigantic successful experiments in genocide, predatory wars against oppressed peoples, and the global slaughters of the two world wars.
Taking the history of the past 100 years, imperialism during the two world wars alone claimed the lives of 100 million people, just to decide which group of the two coalitions of imperialist robbers was to have what share of the global booty. In its predatory wars, US imperialism slaughtered 4 million Koreans, 4 million Indo-Chinese, 2.5 million Iraqis; it was complicit in the slaughter of over 1 million Indonesians and 5 million Congolese.
Anglo-American imperialism’s war against the Iraqi and Afghan people continues to claim several thousand lives each week. Instead of being ensnared by imperialism to debate and denounce the imaginary crimes of Stalinism, we should, relying on solid historical evidence, be denouncing the slaughter by German imperialism of 27 million Soviet people during the second world war.
Comrades, we have nothing to be ashamed of in our history. Our record in every sphere is a proud record of service in the cause of the liberation of humanity. In the 160 years since the publication of The Communist Manifesto, the working-class movement has made achievements far surpassing those of any previous movement in world history. Let us study our history, and let us cherish and defend it.
Fight imperialism and racism
Third, living in the centres of imperialism, we must, on the one hand, support the struggles of the oppressed peoples against imperialism and, on the other hand, fight against racism at home. “The revolutionary movement in the advanced countries”, said Lenin at the second congress of the Communist International in 1920, “would certainly be a sheer fraud if, in their struggle against capital, the workers of Europe and America were not closely and completely united with the hundreds upon hundreds of millions of ‘colonial’ slaves who are oppressed by capital”.
It is the duty of the proletariat in the imperialist countries to give its full support to the rebellion and resistance of the oppressed people, such as those of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon, against imperialism, so that “tomorrow, or simultaneously with the rebellion, it may attack the bourgeoisie of the ‘Great’ Power which is weakened by that rebellion”. (‘Discussion on Self-Determination summed up’, July 1916)
It is equally important for us living in the imperialist countries to fight against racism, which divides and weakens the working-class movement. Nearly 140 years ago, Marx had the occasion to remark on the destructive effects of racial and national discrimination against Irish immigrant workers on the English proletarian movement.
In his letter of 9 April 1870 to Meyer and Vogt, he wrote: “Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class [u]divided[/u] into [u]hostile[/u] camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he feels himself a member of the ruling nation and so turns himself into a tool of the aristocrats and capitalists of his own country [u]against Ireland[/u], thus strengthening their domination [u]over himself[/u]. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the ‘poor whites’ to the ‘niggers’ in the former slave states of the USA. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker at once the accomplice and stupid tool of [u]English rule in Ireland[/u].
“This antagonism”, continued Marx, “is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And that class is fully aware of it.” (Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1971)
It would be senseless and suicidal for the present-day working-class movement to ignore the above penetrating observations of Marx, which have been fully confirmed by history.
Immigrants from the oppressed nations come to Europe and North America. What drives them thither? Certainly not the climate, nor the cuisines, nor the ‘warm’ welcome that awaits them. Driven by hunger and imperialist wars and imperialist-inspired civil strife, they migrate to the centres of imperialism to eke out an existence doing the lowliest and worst paid jobs.
More than that, by designating many of these victims of imperialism as ‘illegal’, the ruling class is able to exploit them further still, for, having no legal existence, such workers dare not join a trade union or a proletarian party, and must instead work for a pittance. In order to prevent them from being used as cheap labour to depress the wages of other workers, it is the duty of the proletariat to campaign for equal rights for foreign workers, to enlist them into the trade unions, and recruit the most advanced among them into the parties of the proletariat.
Any other course will be a betrayal of the clarion call of The Communist Manifesto, namely, “Workers of all countries, unite!”
Prepare for future storms
Yes, comrades, we are passing through a most reactionary period in history. Instead of being disheartened, instead of giving up, we should use this period of relative calm, at least in the imperialist countries, to prepare for the future tumultuous events which, given the nature of the inherent contradictions of imperialism, cannot be too far ahead.
Marx justly remarked that there are developments of a momentous nature which take place over decades. One must view these developments dialectically, for “in developments of such magnitude twenty years are no more than a day – though later on there may come days in which twenty years are embodied”. (‘Letter to Engels’, 9 April 1863)
The tactics of the proletariat must reckon with these “objectively inevitable dialectics of human history, on the one hand, utilising the periods of political stagnation or of sluggish, so-called ‘peaceful’ development in order to develop the class-consciousness, strength and militancy of the advanced class, and, on the other hand, directing all the work of this utilisation towards the ‘ultimate aim’ of that class’s advance, towards creating in it the ability to find practical solutions for great tasks in the great days, in which ‘twenty years are embodied’”. (‘Karl Marx’ by V I Lenin, 1914, Collected Works Vol 21)
We fully understand the conditions that have brought about the present-day stagnation in the working-class movement of all the imperialist countries. They are the same conditions that produced a long period of sluggish development of the proletarian movement in Britain following the defeat of Chartism in the mid-nineteenth century, namely, the monopoly position of the British bourgeoisie in the world market and in the sphere of the colonies.
This privileged position allowed the British bourgeoisie to “buy the proletariat” in order to divert it from the class struggle, resulting in the demoralisation of the workers and the “bourgeoisification” of vast layers of the proletariat. (‘Letter to Marx’ by F Engels, 5 February 1851)
“This most bourgeois of all nations”, wrote Engels, with burning hatred of this development, “is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable”, adding that the “only thing that would help here would be a few thoroughly bad years”. (‘Letter to Marx’, 7 October 1858)
What was true of Britain then is now true of a tiny handful of imperialist countries. However, the crisis of imperialism is sure to come, though we cannot foretell the precise moment of its inevitable arrival, bringing in its train many “thoroughly bad years”, with all the resultant misery, torments of hunger, trade wars and predatory wars against the oppressed peoples, as well as inter-imperialist armed conflicts, and is bound to put an end to the present, seemingly-peaceful conditions and the sluggish growth of class struggle.
The tactics of the proletarian parties must be directed to utilising the existing peaceful conditions to prepare for the stormy conditions of the coming period. If we keep our nerve, persevere steadfastly, and keep our gaze firmly fixed on our ultimate goal, our movement shall be victorious. Of this I have no doubt whatsoever.
With these remarks, comrades, I conclude my fraternal greetings to your 15th congress and thank you for listening to me.