Questions to Prof. Joma Sison
May 2, 2021
Revisionism is the systematic revision of and deviation from Marxism, the basic revolutionary principles of the proletariat laid down by Marx and Engels and further developed by the series of thinkers and leaders in socialist revolution and construction. The revisionists call themselves Marxists, even claim to make an updated and creative application of it but they do so essentially to sugarcoat the bourgeois anti-proletarian and anti-Marxist ideas that they propagate.
The classical revisionists who dominated the Second International in 1912 were in social-democratic parties that acted as tails to bourgeois regimes and supported the war budgets of the capitalist countries in Europe. They denied the revolutionary essence of Marxism and the necessity of proletarian dictatorship, engaged in bourgeois reformism and social pacifism and supported colonialism and modern imperialism. Lenin stood firmly against the classical revisionists, defended Marxism and led the Bolsheviks in establishing the first socialist state in 1917.
The modern revisionists were in the ruling communist parties in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. They systematically revised the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism by denying the continuing existence of exploiting classes and class struggle and the proletarian character of the party and the state in socialist society. And they proceeded to destroy the proletarian party and the socialist state from within. They masqueraded as communists even as they gave up Marxist-Leninist principles. They attacked Stalin in order to replace the principles of Lenin with the discredited fallacies of his social democratic opponents and claimed to make a “creative application” of Marxism-Leninism.
The total collapse of the revisionist ruling parties and regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, has made it so much easier than before for Marxist-Leninists to sum up the emergence and development of socialism and the peaceful evolution of socialism into capitalism through modern revisionism. It is necessary to trace the entire historical trajectory and draw the correct lessons in the face of the ceaseless efforts of the detractors of Marxism-Leninism to sow ideological and political confusion within the ranks of the revolutionary movement.
In the Philippines, the political group that is most embarrassed, discredited and orphaned by the collapse of the revisionist ruling parties and regimes is that of the Lavas and their successors. It is certainly not the Communist Party of the Philippines, reestablished in 1968. But the imperialists, the bourgeois mass media and certain other quarters wish to confuse the situation and try to mock at and shame the Party for the disintegration of the revisionist ruling parties and regimes. They are barking at the wrong tree.
1a. A lot will argue that Marxism or any theory for that matter must be progressive — open to changes and interpretation otherwise it is passé. Thus, can you discuss to what extent the interpretation and practice of Marxism borders revisionism? What is modern revisionism and how is it different from the classical revisionism?
JMS: An individual, group or entire party ceases to be communist and becomes revisionist the moment it starts to deviate from and violate the fundamental principles of the universal revolutionary theory of the proletariat and systematically passes off bourgeois ideas as proletarian.
Bernstein of the Second International violated Marxism and became revisionist by claiming that socialism is achieved through peaceful evolution. And Kautsky and others became revisionist by espousing social chauvinism, social pacifism and social imperialism by supporting and tailing after the ruling bourgeoisie in going to war and in engaging in colonialism and imperialism.
The difference between the classical revisionists of the Second International from the modern revisionists is that the latter were in power in socialist society and in the leadership of the communist party, like Khrushchov who espoused bourgeois populism (party and state of the “whole people”); and bourgeois pacifism (peaceful road, peaceful competition and peaceful coexistence as strategic line of the international communist movement).
1b– Do we then restrict the flow of different theories and ideas for the people to explore? How can we then distinguish then theories and ideas that are genuinely for the people from the one’s that can be damaging?
JMS: Communists do not restrict the flow of ideas but know how to distinguish bourgeois ideology from the proletarian. They critique the ideology of the enemy and they are for the development of the proletarian revolutionary theory in accordance with the situation and concrete revolutionary practice. They always welcome new ideas that advance the revolutionary theory and practice of the proletariat. And they criticize and rectify their own errors and shortcomings within the framework of Marxism-Leninism and the proletarian revolution.
Revisionists are not welcome in a genuine communist party just as communists are not welcome as members among the ranks of the bourgeoisie and atheists are not welcome as members in a religious organization. It is not progressive but retrogressive for a communist party to welcome as members those who take the bourgeois stand, viewpoint and method; and oppose its fundamental principles as a proletarian revolutionary party.
2. How did modern revisionism arise in the Soviet Union and how has it been used to undermine and cause the collapse of the Soviet Union?
JMS: Khrushchov and his ruling clique took advantage of the false notion that classes and class struggle had ceased to exist in the Soviet Union since the promulgation of the 1936 Soviet Constitution and that the point was to build the material and cultural foundation of communism, with his “creative” capitalist-oriented economic reforms and his bourgeois populism and bourgeois pacifism.
In fact in Soviet socialist society, there were still the vestiges of the bourgeoisie, the emergence of a new bourgeoisie in the party and state bureaucracy and the influence and active intrusions of the international bourgeoisie, especially imperialism.
Khrushchov’s complete negation of Stalin, the propagation of modern revisionism, the abandonment of the proletarian line, the further spread of bourgeois ideas and imperialist influence, the recentralization and wastage of resources in the arms race and in the practice of social-imperialism by Brezhnev and the swing back to Khrushchovite policies under Gorbachov undermined and caused the collapse of the Soviet Union.
3a. Did revisionism from Soviet and Eastern Europe affect the line of the Old Communist Party in the Philippines? In what way? Where did it go wrong?
JMS: The Lavaite revisionists in the old Communist Party established relations with the revisionist Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in the 1960s and followed the Soviet revisionist line by espousing the line of indefinite legal struggle and endless avoidance of armed revolution in the Philippines. This was in contradiction with the Marxist-Leninist line of the reestablished CPP that it was possible and necessary to start people’s war along the line of the national democratic revolution because of the chronic crisis of the semifeudal and semicolonial Philippine society.
3b. Why is it so important to uphold the Marxist-Leninist line? How can we distinguish the systematic changes in line from revisionism? How can we even uphold the Marxist-Leninist line?
JMS: It is important to follow the Marxist-Leninist line because it spells the advance of the proletarian revolution. Look at how the CPP advanced since its reestablishment by upholding and being guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. And look at how the old CPP has degenerated and has become inconsequential in the Philippines as a result of adhering to revisionism and capitulating to the Marcos fascist regime.
4. What was the basis of the old Communist Party to release and popularize the policy paper, “The Present World Situation and the CPP’s General International line and Policies”? What was the effect of this error on the international work of the CPP? Are these errors still visible or felt up to today?
I presume that you are referring to the active role of the old CP in blocking the attempt of some of the leaders of the CPP to establish relations with the CPSU and the Soviet-bloc parties supposedly to seek military assistance from them in the 1980s. Indeed, the old CP stood guard against the effort of the aforesaid CPP leaders to establish relations with the CPSU in the 1980s.
Before and during the Second Great Rectification Movement (SGRM) , which was launched in 1992, the CPP vigorously criticized the error and failed attempt to establish relations with the CPSU, reconsider its revisionist character and seek Soviet military assistance. The error did not cause grave damage to the CPP international work. The international relations of the CPP have flourished.
The error could not go far because the old CP prevented CPP relations with the CPSU. Both the CPSU as ruling party in power and the Soviet Union started to disintegrate in the late 1980s and they collapsed in 1981. And the CPP and its SGRM thoroughly criticized and repudiated the error.
5. The NDF as the political arm of the CPP can seek relations with other anti-imperialist and national liberation formations. Why is it then wrong for the CPP itself to establish fraternal relations with these formations? Why not also with the CPSU? Is there a difference?
JMS: One should not speak of the NDFP as the political arm of the CPP as if the CPP is not itself a political party. The CPP can have fraternal or comradely relations with genuine communist and workers’ parties as well as friendly relations with anti-imperialist and national liberation movements.
At the time that some CPP leaders in the early 1980s wished to have relations with the CPSU, the latter wanted the CPP to change its previous position that the CPSU was revisionist and that the Soviet Union was social imperialist. Friendly or comradely relations were impossible. The CPSU also wanted the CPP to collaborate with the the revisionist old CP and its line of supporting the Marcos fascist regime. It was futile to expect military assistance for revolution from the Soviet Union which was deeply into collaboration with the Marcos regime.
6a. Why do we say that building proletarian dictatorship is a prerequisite to building socialism?
JMS: Proletarian class dictatorship simply means the socialist state, like the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie means the capitalist or bourgeois state. The socialist state of the proletariat is a prerequisite to building socialism. Socialism is impossible without the socialist state being established first.
6b. Stalin is perhaps one of the most vilified historical personality, in some cases he even exceeds Mao’s vilification. In Europe, he is known as a great commander who defeated the fascism of Hitler. But he is also known to be a ‘dictator’ whose evil is equal to Hitler. Before we jump to the next question, can you quickly introduce Stalin to our viewers and listeners.
JMS: Any proletarian revolutionary thinker and leader with great achievements, like Stalin or Mao, is treated as personification of socialism by anti-communist powers and propagandists and is vilified as a shortcut to vilify the entire socialist system. The achievements of Stalin in socialist revolution and socialist construction and defeating fascism are undeniable and should be put forward. The lies of the anti-communists against Stalin and Mao try to deny the great advance of democracy through the liberation and empowerment of the toiling masses and the great advances in economic constrcution.
7. Upon the death of Vladimir Lenin, Stalin took the leadership and managed to continue policies and the line that Lenin started. However, in the new constitution he declared in 1936, he states that there were no more class struggle and exploiting classes in the Soviet Union. Why is this claim wrong in the first place and how significant was his error?
JMS: Stalin and the CPSU were so happy with the victories of the socialist revolution and construction in 1936 that they thought hat classes and struggle had disappeared in the Soviet Union. As I have earlier pointed out, the wrong presumption that there were no longer classes and class struggle in the Soviet Union would open the way for the revisionists to further cover up the persistence and influence of the bourgeoisie and misrepresent bourgeois ideas and policies as socialist. Proletarian revolutionary education would be undermined and derailed.
8. It took Stalin 20 years to build a Socialist country but it took longer for the revisionists to restore the capitalist society. What does it say about socialism?
JMS: The socialism that Stalin built was durable despite the Nazi invasion and occupation of the Soviet Union and the devastation wrought on the Soviet economy during World War II. Stalin practically industrialized the Soviet Union twice, from 1927 onward; and again from 1945 onward. Indeed the revisionists took a long time to undermine and destroy the Soviet Union.
9. How did then this modern revisionism overthrow the proletarian dictatorship and convert it to monopoly bureaucrat capitalism? For the benefit of our audience can you also please give context to what monopoly bureaucrat capitalism is?
JMS: As early as 1956, the revisionist ruling clique of Khrushchov overthrew the proletariat by completely negating Stalin and implementing anti-socialist policies . At every level of the Soviet state and economy, the bureaucrats became bourgeois and corrupt, seeking not only perks and privileges within the confines of their offices but stretching their hands to take cuts from private enterprises and transactions. The highest of these bureaucrats became the monopoly bureaucrat capitalists.
10a. In what way did Khrushchov undo the works of Lenin and Stalin in building socialism?
JMS: Khrushchov put forward and spread his ideas of bourgeois populism and bourgeois fascism and dismantled the socialist economy by decentralizing and autonomizing state enterprises and collectives and making them responsible for their cost and profit accounting. Managers were given hire and fire power over the workers. Kulaks reemerged in the collectives and the bureaucrat capitalists enriched themselves at every level of the Soviet state and economy.
You can review the article “Stand for Socialism against Modern Revisionism” to know more about how Khrushchov dismantled socialism in the Soviet Union.
10b. Can we then assume that bureaucratism and intelligentsia in the Party can lead to revisionism as seen by the likes of Krushchov?
JMS: Of course, bureaucratism and the intelligentsia within the Party can lead to bourgeoisification if not checked by Marxist-Leninist education and practice. Bureaucrats and the intelligentsia can become divorced from the masses and revolution, preoccupy themselves with perks and privileges and resurrect the bourgeoisie among themselves.
11. How did Khrushchov ‘s successor Brezhnev, maximise revisionism in restoring capitalism? How did they entice the people to join the capitalist restoration?
JMS: By decentralizing the Soviet economy, Khrushchov put it into shambles the Soviet economy and was subsequently ousted by Brezhnev in 1964. Brezhnev recentralized the economy in order to have more funds for the center of the empire to engage in the arms race with the US, to carry out social-imperialist adventures from Czechoslovakia to Afghanistan and to feed the corruption of the central bureaucrats and their collaboration with a Mafia-type criminal bourgeoisie which was expert at stealing from the Soviet factories, collectives and state banks.
11b.-can you talk more about Brezhnev?
JMS: It was during the time of Brezhnev from 1964 onward that the Soviet Union wasted tremendous amounts of public resources in bureaucratic corruption and military overspending in the arms race and in a war of aggression as in Afghanistan. His revisionist clique made the Soviet economy bleed and decline. This set the ground for Gorbachov to put forward his brazen anti-socialist bourgeois “new thinking” and perestroika from 1985 onward.
12a. Gorbachev completed the fall of Soviet Union and his regime has been more influenced by the Western ideas. In what way did his regime push the full restoration of the capitalist society in now Russia?
JMS: Gorbachov made use of Brezhnev’s bungling of the Soviet economy and the costliness of social-imperialism to swing back to the Khrushchov line. He was able to make the Soviet Union deteriorate further and formally go into a collapse by tolerating the corrupt bureaucrats and the criminal syndicates that had grown large during the Brezhnev regime, and secretly promoted separatist currents among the Soviet republics in collaboration with Yeltsin showing the way how Russia no less could break away from the Soviet Union.
12b. Did the restorations to capitalism start the Russian oligarchs?
JMS: Of course, modern revisionism and capitalist restoration brought about the rise of the Russian oligarchs who are monopoly bureaucrat capitalists and the mafia lords of private business who stole their assets from the state. From Khrushchov through Brezhnev to Gorbachov, the state and private monopoly capitalists as well as the criminal syndicates grew. The growth of private enterprises provided cover for criminal appropriation of the social wealth created by the working people and for systematic theft of the flow of products from the factories and farms.
13. What lessons does the CPP get from this historical event of the rise and fall of the Soviet? By the looks of it, lack of ideological struggle and consolidation gave rise to modern revisionism, what can you say about this?
JMS: There is a wide range of lessons for the CPP to learn from the rise, degeneration and collapse of the Soviet Union. The most important lesson is to adhere to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, to always promote the proletarian revolutionary education and to apply the proletarian revolutionary stand, viewpoint and method in the class struggle against the bourgeoisie.
14. How can the revolutionaries deliver the people from the evil that is revisionism?
JMS: We have observed how modern revisionism went on in the Soviet Union until its collapse and how it was confronted by Mao and the Communist Party of China through ideological debate with the CPSU from 1956 onward and through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) from 1966 onward.
We have learned a lot of principles and methods in combating revisionism in the GPCR but because this was defeated eventually in 1976, we have to study further and learn further in dealing with this problem. We deal with this problem in connection with new conditions.
15. How can the socialist construction and wealth distribution assure that it will not give rise to modern revisionism, should another socialist state be establish again?
JMS: The problem of modern revisionism will always have the potential of reemerging to counter socialism. There is no alternative but to fight and defeat it. Otherwise capitalism cannot be defeated. It is a problem that arises within socialism and it must be solved so as to consolidate and advance socialism toward communism.
16. Before we proceed to the second part of our program, any thing to add on this topic?
JMS: I prefer to give more time to our listeners to raise their questions.