Writingspress statementsOn the historic mission of the proletariat

On the historic mission of the proletariat

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By Jose Maria Sison
May 1, 2022

On May First, it is important and interesting to review the course that the international proletariat has taken in carrying out its historic mission of defeating capitalism and building socialism, learn lessons from the persistence of the world capitalist system and from the revolutionary experience of the proletariat and foresee how the epochal class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat will further develop.

Since thousands of years ago, upon the advent of civilization with metallurgy, class struggle and literacy, the embryo of capitalism in social relations has been nurtured within slave and feudal societies. But since the 13th century in Italian city states, stimulated by Mediterranean trade, capitalism has steadily developed from the stage of handicrafts,onward to steam powered manufacturing in the 18th century and further on to large-scale machine production powered by electro-mechanical processes in the 19th century.

It was in the social setting of the capitalist Industrial Revolution in England in the 19th century that Marx and Engels started the first comprehensive and profound critique of the internal laws of motion of free competition industrial capitalism and offered the philosophy, political economy and social science by which the industrial proletariat could develop the revolutionary theory and practice to defeat the bourgeoisie and realize the historic mission of building socialism.

From the issuance of the Communist Manifesto in 1848 to the end of the 19th century, the most that could be accomplished by the industrial proletariat was to learn from the teachings of Marx and Engels, seize power briefly in the Paris Commune of 1871 during the First International, learn from the defeat of the Commune and promote Marxism as the main trend of the workers’ movement in the last decade of the 19th century through the Second International.

In the meantime, since 1871 free competition capitalism developed into monopoly capitalism in several countries, including the US, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and Japan. Like England, monopoly capitalism became dominant in their economies, with industrial and commercial bank capital merging to form a finance oligarchy, with surplus capital for direct and indirect investments abroad and with strong impulses to form conflicting blocs against each other and to catch up with the capitalist powers ahead in the game of acquiring colonies, semicolonies and dependent countries.

Emergence of Socialist Societies and Revisionist Betrayal

It was Lenin who first described the world era as one of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution in the 20th century. He observed that by themselves the imperialist powers were driven by the exploitation of the proletariat and the crisis of overproduction and manifested the decadent and moribund character of monopoly capitalism, especially by engaging in wars of aggression. And he pointed out the need to overthrow the bourgeois state and to turn the first inter-imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war.

Under his leadership, the Bolsheviks successfully carried out the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917 and prevailed in the subsequent civil war and war against the foreign interventionists. After the New Economic Policy succeeded in reviving the economy, Stalin carried out a series of five-year economic plans to build a socialist industry and to collectivize and mechanize agriculture, to strengthen the Soviet Union and to proclaim the victory of Leninism as a further development of Marxist theory and practice.

Stalin was able to defeat the Right and “Left” opportunists and counterrevolutionary currents and the anti-Soviet maneuvers of the imperialist powers and the all-out war of aggression spearheaded by Nazi Germany in World War II. As a result of World War II, several socialist countries and national liberation movements arose on an international scale. Stalin was able to industrialize the Soviet Union for the second time, break the US monopoly of nuclear weapons and assist the Chinese and Korean peoples win resounding victories in their wars of national liberation. US imperialism was also defeated in its war of aggression against Vietnam and the whole of Indochina in 1975 and began to be afflicted by the problem of stagflation.

Exactly at the point when one third of humanity was governed and led by communist and workers’ parties, the modern revisionists headed by Khrushchov were able to seize political power with a coup d’etat in the Soviet Union in 1956, totally negate Stalin, decentralize the economy and restore capitalism under the slogans of bourgeois populism (state and party of the “whole” people and bourgeois pacifism (peaceful transition, competition and co-existence).

Brezhnev made his own coup d’etat against the Khrushchov ruling clique. He ruled for a longer period of time than Khrushchov and sought to recentralize the state and the economy for the purpose of engaging the US in superpower rivalry and arms race, accelerating capitalist restoration and carrying out social fascism and social imperialism. The Soviet Union was weakened by economic disintegration and by self-defeating military adventures, especially in Africa and Afghanistan.

By the time Gorbachov, Yeltsin and their likes took over the reins of government, the Soviet Union was ripe for further disintegration in the latter 1980s and total collapse in 1991. The revisionist leaders had their factional rivalries but shared the common illusion that if they took the capitalist road, destroy the Soviet Union and dissolve the Warsaw Pact they could enjoy the life of the capitalist oligarchy in peace and prosperity.

They forgot that World Wars I and II had been inter-imperialist wars arising from the very nature and internal laws of motion of monopoly capitalism and that World War III had been postponed for more than 46 years because of the loss by the US over its monopoly of nuclear weapons, the fear of mutually assured destruction, the rise of several socialist countries and national liberation movements due to World War II and the consensus of the imperialist powers to wage nonnuclear proxy wars among themselves and direct imperialist wars of aggression only against the underdeveloped and impoverished countries.

While the Soviet Union deteriorated in the quagmire of modern revisionism and capitalist restoration from 1956 onwards, the Chinese Communist Party under the leadership of Mao Zedong acted for a while in defense of the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism and carried out a series of revolutionary achievements, such as the anti-Rightist campaign, the Great Leap Forward, the socialist education movement and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR).

The GPCR was started in 1966 and was conducted in accordance with what Mao and the Chinese communists themselves considered as Mao’s highest theoretical and practical achievement in combatting modern revisionism, preventing capitalist restoration and consolidating socialism. The GPCR was optimistically regarded as the guarantee for the worldwide victory of socialism and even for the imminent collapse of imperialism.

But after the Shanghai Commune, factional struggles and allegations against and about the death of Lin Piao surfaced, policy shifts were initiated by a Centrist-Rightist combination veering away from the proletarian class struggle and leading to the Nixon diplomatic visit, the rehabilitation and promotion of Deng Xiaoping, reinterpretations of the GPCR and the three-worlds theory by Deng and the increasing calls for modernization through capitalist reforms and opening up for integration with the US and world capitalist system.

After the death of Chou Enlai in February 1976, Deng was removed from office for promoting big comprador ideology. But after the death of Mao in September 1976, the October coup resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of the so-called Gang of Four by the combination of Hua Guofeng and Deng. After the latter gained the upper hand over the former who resigned, the GPCR was declared a complete catastrophe, Mao no less was castigated for it and millions of CPC cadres and members were expelled. Liu Xiaoqi the No. 1 capitalist-roader was rehabilitated. The communes were dismantled and public assets were privatized in earnest. The sweat shop operations for the US market began.

In the 1980s the revisionist-ruled countries of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China accelerated the restoration of capitalism. By the time that the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the US had become the sole superpower proclaiming a new world order, acting as the patron of neoliberal globalization among the former socialist countries and other countries and applying the neoconservative policy of state terrorism and ceaseless wars of aggression. While the Soviet Union dissolved the Warsaw Pact, the US and its allies did not dissolve the NATO and prepared for NATO expansion.

The reunification of Germany was the first step in the NATO expansion and led to a number of former Warsaw Pact members requesting to join NATO. In 1994, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO. In 1999 the US and the NATO demonstrated their ability to destroy Yugoslavia and create several puppet states from it. Another expansion came with the accession of seven Central and Eastern European countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. In 2022, NATO recognized the following states as having applied for membership: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine. The NATO encirclement of Russia has tightened.

In coordination with the NATO expansion in Central and Eastern Europe and the show of imperialist force in the Balkans, the US imperialists, goaded by the Israeli Zionists, began to launch wars of aggression against such countries as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria that reflected a measure of nonalignment or the balance of power in the previous bipolar world. They also announced the neoconservative policy of ceaseless wars and full-spectrum dominance, especially high tech military power, to make the 21st century a century of Pax Americana.

The US continued to be chieftain of such multilateral agencies as the Group of 7, OECD, IMF, World Bank and the World Trade Organization. Eventually, China and Russia took the lead in forming the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the New Development Bank. They have their respective international development projects, the Belt-Road-Initiative and Eurasian Economic Union. They tended to come together as a bloc of new imperialist powers against the bloc of the traditional imperialist powers.

The “sole superpower moment” of US imperialism did not last long. The financial crash of 2008 exposed the unravelling of the US-instigated neoliberal policy and the untenability of US concessions to China and the extremely unsustainable costs of the ceaseless wars of aggression already running at $ 6 trillion with no significant expansion of economic territory. Under the Obama regime, the US expressed wariness over the economic and military rise of China and began to make countermoves in the East Asia-Pacific region.

Under the Trump regime, the US strategists started to openly refer to China as chief economic competitor and chief political rival of the US and to accuse it of using a two-tier economy, manipulating its currency and market and stealing technology from US subsidiaries in China as well as from the research and developments of private corporations and from institutes in the US.

The US is definitely no longer the sole superpower in the unipolar world of 1991 to 2008. The new imperialist power China is most assertive that there is now a multipolar world. But the US is still the No. 1 imperialist power in terms of GDP and military power even as it continues to suffer strategic decline because of the crisis of overproduction and overaccumulation of capital and runaway costs of the ceaseless wars of aggression. The withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan in 2021 is a clear proof of the failure of the neoconservative policy.

China is still a far No. 2 to the US, especially if we look at its GDP per capita. Thus it often presents itself as shy from entering a world war that prejudices its capitalist advance and ambitions to succeed with its BRI, which would change the focus of the world economy and trade. On its part, the US has decided to disrupt the capitalist advance of China by cutting down its export surplus to the US market through high tariff walls, restricting technology transfer and restraining further development of trade and economic relations. The US expects that by withdrawing its concessions to China in the last 40 years, China would suffer economic and political decline.

China has been reckless in claiming more than 90 per cent of the South China Sea in violation of the UN Convention on Law of Sea and the 2016 judgment of the Permanent Arbitration Commission in favor of the Philippines against China. Thus, the US has put together the Quad Security Dialogue among the US, Australia, Japan and India in order to keep open the Indo-Pacific ocean route and to assure the littoral ASEAN states that China can neither deprive them of their exclusive zones and extended continental shelves nor compel them to abandon such route.

Upon the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war, it has become obvious once more that since the destruction of Yugoslavia, the sequence of the Soviet revisionist betrayal of socialism and sell out to the US and NATO has been the cause for war coming to Europe. The fact is also exposed that Russia has recovered from the debilitation it had suffered from the collapse of the Soviet Union and that China is its most reliable ally and rear in confronting the NATO expansion to its borders.

At the same time, the limits of US imperialist power and NATO are exposed as the Ukrainian fascists are left to fight Russia. Nevertheless, quite a number of those partisan to US imperialism are happy that the NATO expansion is pressing on the borders of Russia and that a new Cold War is on and a third world war is in prospect. For decades to come, we shall witness the rise of inter-imperialist contradictions between the old set and the new set of imperialist powers.

A World of Multiple Crises and the Prospect of Socialist Resurgence

We are living today in a world beset by multiple crises, including gross social inequality, economic depression, high rates of unemployment and mass poverty, state terrorism, fascism, wars of aggression, threats of nuclear war, pandemic, environmental destruction and global heating. All of these are due to the dominance of the extremely exploitative and oppressive monopoly bourgeoisie in the imperialist countries and underdeveloped countries . Ultimately, all these crises can be resolved only by the proletariat recovering from its major setbacks since 1956, taking power and building socialism.

The world capitalist system is now stricken by a prolonged depression due to the crisis of overproduction and over-accumulation of capital. A few hundreds of billionaires now own most of the productive assets of the world and continue to accumulate their private wealth, while billions of people live in poverty. The social and economic crisis is aggravated by the lockdowns and shutdowns as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. Most governments do not know how to solve the crisis except by using neoliberal measures favoring the monopoly capitalists, government deficit spending and foreign borrowing. Almost all governments now suffer from public debt crisis, involving a total of US$281 trillion, which is more than 355 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

There are major supply gluts in steel, grains, crude oil and oil products. There is a temporary shortfall in the production of semiconductors. There is now a race between US and Chinese monopoly capitalists to invest billions of dollars in the production of electronic chips and semiconductors. Under the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act, the Biden government is promoting domestic semiconductor production to grab the biggest share of rising demand. This is connected with state investments in military research and production in both the US and China.

In trying to revive their economies, the advanced capitalist countries are pouring trillions of dollars worth of stimulus packages to monopoly firms. But they are running the risk of economic overheating and generating a debt bubble that could burst in the coming years. Under the Biden administration, the US government has recently approved a US$1.9-trillion economic stimulus package. This will provide subsidies for domestic production and distribute cash to almost every American to promote consumption.

Other major capitalist countries are also planning to spend huge amounts of money to stimulate their own economies, like Japan ($710 billion), Germany (US$250 billion), the United Kingdom ($210 billion) and France (US$120.5 billion). China plans to achieve a 6 percent economic expansion by financing the operations of state-owned corporations.

The billions of the impoverished people in the undeveloped economies will suffer the prolonged effects of the global economic recession because these economies have long been wasted by super-profit taking by foreign monopolies and by unsustainable domestic and foreign public debts. By conservative estimate, the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than US$2 per day) in 2020 has increased by 124 million. This is expected to increase by another 150 million in 2021.

The toiling masses of workers and peasants suffer the worst effects of the economic lockdowns such as insufficient income and inflated prices of basic goods and services. Under the neoliberal policy, the cash-strapped underdeveloped countries will be compelled to borrow more money, further open up their economies to foreign monopolies, liberalization and depression of wages in order to draw in foreign capital and investments.

While the world is laid prostrate by the economic crisis, the Biden administration is set on a policy of military aggressiveness and intensifying inter-imperialist rivalries. Biden declared that he will more vigorously secure US economic and political interests in Asia in the face of growing challenges of imperialist rival China.

The US recently conducted military exercises using two carrier strike groups in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait directly challenging China’s claims over these international waters. It touted building the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the US, Japan, India and Australia in order to press for American military forces and weapons to be forward-deployed to these countries and to put more economic, military and political pressure on China.

In the Middle East, soon after assuming the US presidency, Biden ordered a missile attack in Syria, violating its sovereign territory, against what it claimed was arms transport from Iran. While it extended the New Start agreement with Russia, which sets limits to strategic offensive arms, the US has yet to announce a rollback of development and production of nuclear arms and intermediate-range missiles promoted under the Trump government. These have been overtaken by the US and NATO proxy war against Russia. In the meantime, Biden has not yet reinstated the nuclear deal with Iran nor lifted sanctions against the country despite Iran’s expressed willingness to comply with previous agreements.

China is relentless in aggressively asserting its sovereignty over more than 90 percent of the South China Sea and continues to maintain military presence in the West Philippine Sea. Border conflicts have erupted intermittently between China and India. Russia recently opened a naval base in Sudan in the Red Sea, in conjunction with its air base in Syria and naval base in Yemen, to maintain the capacity to control strategic transit routes in the Middle East and a gateway to Africa.

As the inter-imperialist rivalries for world hegemony intensify, military spending by rival powers continued to rise by 3.9 percent to $1.83 trillion last year, despite the severe world economic crisis. The US is the biggest military spender with US$801 billion, with China running second at $293 billion, an increase of 4.7 percent compared with 2020. China’s military spending has grown for 27 consecutive years. Exports of major weapons remain close to highest levels since the past 30 years, with the US share increasing to 37 percent.

All major contradictions in the world are intensifying: those between capital and labor in the imperialist countries; those between the imperialist powers and the oppressed peoples and nations; those between the imperialist powers and governments assertive of national independence and socialist programs and aspirations; and those between blocs of imperialist powers, such as the bloc of the traditional imperialist powers and the bloc of new imperialist powers, China and Russia.

The worsening crisis of the world capitalist system engenders revolutionary resistance among the proletariat and the rest of the people because of the escalation of class exploitation and oppression. On a global scale, the proletariat must work and fight hard to recover the trade union and other democratic rights undermined or suppressed by neoliberalism and fascism. The ultimate aim is to wage revolution and build socialism. But before the revolutionary resistance wins victory, the ruling big bourgeoisie uses state terrorism or fascism against it. The open rule of terror by fascist regimes is rising in an increasing number of countries.

While conditions of exploitation are escalating, brazen attacks against national and democratic rights are being carried out by the big bourgeoisie in order to preempt, deter or suppress revolutionary resistance. But the escalating conditions of both exploitation and oppression make armed revolution necessary and urgent. History has proven that the proletariat is at its best in leading the revolution when the imperialist powers themselves cannot avoid waging war among themselves directly, as in World War I and II, or by proxy and by wars of aggression by an imperialist power or combine of imperialist powers against an underdeveloped country.

Imperialist war is the worst form of terrorism as proven by World Wars I and II and by the post-World War II situation when US imperialism can at will unleash wars of aggression and kill 25 to 30 million people. Only new democratic and socialist revolutions led by the proletariat can defeat imperialism and solve all the problems that it brings about, such as national and class oppression and exploitation, fascism, war of aggression, threat of nuclear war and human extinction, epidemics and global heating.

In the continuing era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution, the role of the proletariat to turn imperialist wars to revolutionary civil wars and build socialism cannot be underestimated and should be upheld and carried out by the broad masses of the exploited and oppressed peoples. The upsurge of anti-imperialist and democratic mass struggles and the perseverance in people’s wars for national and social liberation are the prelude to the resurgence of the world proletarian-socialist revolution. In this decade and the next decade, the proletariat and its revolutionary forces must work and fight for this resurgence.###

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