Questioning of an Historical Period
May 1991
Tarih Bilinci Publisher

Theory and History series: 4

1st edition: October 2001

2nd edition: June 2005


In the Light of Marxism

Questioning of an Historical Period

Elif Çağlı

May 1991


History is nothing but the acts of human beings to reach their objectives.

Karl Marx

The power of workers’ soviets, which was born as a result of a victorious proletarian revolution, found itself isolated under the circumstances in which the German revolution was defeated and the world revolution retreated. As a result of this isolation the workers’ power failed to survive and were liquidated by the bureaucracy. Establishing its own power in place of the workers’ power the Soviet bureaucracy put its stamp on a period of over 60 years. During this period not the ideas of scientific communism but of the official ideology of Soviet bureaucracy, i.e. Stalinism, and its doctrine of “national socialism” dominated over the world socialist movement. This also determined the fate of the revolutions that took place after the 1917 October Revolution and the states established after the Second World War within the sphere of influence of the Soviet state.

And since the second half of the 1980’s we have been witnessing the successive collapses of these despotic-bureaucratic regimes that are the representatives of this understanding of “national socialism”. The period of cold war, which has been a result of the Second World War, is coming to an end. Stormy events follow each other, in which the old balances were ruined and the pursuit of “restructuring” is in full swing under the heavy influence and direction of the capitalist system.

As in every historical turning point pregnant with colossal turbulence and transformations, we are witnessing, and will be witnessing more, the eruption, with severe crises, of contradictions accumulated and deepened through long years and their world-wide effects. While a historical period is closing a new one is going to open up which will be the stage for a richer, more learned, more conscious, though more painful, action of human beings.

Marxism is still the only scientific and revolutionary world view capable of analysing the historical adventure of mankind in this planet and of explaining the historical conditions of mankind’s real liberation. And there is no doubt that the exploiting ruling class of modern society, i.e. the bourgeoisie, is also pretty well aware of this fact.

They know that as long as the unbearable consequences of capitalism exist and alienation increases together with the division of labour the contradictions emanating from this objective basis will still cause a lot of social convulsions. Thus the rightfulness of Marxism, which demonstrates the inevitability of the abolition of capitalism on a world scale for the emancipation of mankind, will surface again and again.

This is the real reason of the hysterical campaigns of the bourgeoisie, of the noise it has been raising for years. And the fact that bureaucratic dictatorships have entered into a process of collapse offered new opportunities for this anti-communist campaign of international bourgeoisie. Seizing this opportunity the bourgeoisie is trying to convince whole the people that “all predictions of Marxism have proved to be wrong, that it is just a dream to reach a classless society and capitalist market is the most excellent and eternal system that mankind discovered.”

The international bourgeoisie has tried to justify the political disguise of its exploitative system (i.e. bourgeois democracy) by comparing it with the totalitarian nature of bureaucratic regimes that had claimed to be socialist, and succeeded in influencing the working class with this ideological propaganda. Socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat have usually been identified with the regimes in the Soviet Union and the likes in the eyes of a European worker and this has led to a distancing of the workers from the idea of socialism and revolution. When we think of the tremendous destruction the Stalinist practises created on Marxism and the blackening of the socialist ideal then we can say that even the bourgeoisie could not have managed more than that.

The period we are living in now is a period of retreat on a world scale on the front of the fight for socialism, and of decline in the level of political class consciousness among the working class. In other words this means that the ideological hegemony of the bourgeoisie over the masses is consolidated. On the other hand it is quite clear that capitalism could not solve any of its fundamental problems. Contrary to what the bourgeois ideologues and politicians try to picture the world capitalism is entering into a period of continuing instability, increasing potential of wars and actual regional wars, instead of a period of stability and peace.

This has piled a number of theoretical-political problems to be solved in front of the internationalists who defend scientific socialism. Above all the problem of reviving the deleted historical memory of the working class and helping it reach a consciousness of history. For this, the struggle against bourgeois ideology need to be stepped up. To examine the historical experiences from all respects, to convey the theoretical and political lessons drawn from this to the consciousness of the working class and the young generations that turn towards socialism should be the foremost task of the revolutionary Marxists.

It is of vital importance to raise high the flag of revolutionary Marxism in such a conjuncture in which the international bourgeoisie try to darken and eliminate the aspiration of the proletariat for emancipation from capitalist exploitation amid hysterical cries saying “Marxism is dead.” To do justice to this task today requires above all the smashing down of the delusions created by the Stalinist understanding of socialism and exposing the real meaning of the experience of “real socialist” countries which represented the embodiment of this understanding. Unless this is done it will be impossible to blow the dark clouds over the struggle of the proletariat for socialism in general. Therefore the meaning of all that happened should be questioned under the light of revolutionary perspectives of Marxism in order to re-rail the struggle of the proletariat for socialism.

Of course it is clear that this questioning is not a brand new one. As early as in 1924 the Bolshevik-Leninists had already started this against the national narrow-mindedness and anti-Marxist line of Stalinism. However the period we are passing through now does not make the reappraisal of the practices since the October Revolution less important. On the contrary.

It acquired an extreme importance to reach a synthesis by deepening the discussions on the controversial subjects among revolutionary Marxists today. If we consider the historical process and experiences, one should admit that not a single thesis or particular theory on the class nature of the USSR put forward in the past can be excluded from criticism. Yet these particular theories have been for a long time the “trademarks” of some circles within the revolutionary Marxist current and it is still the case now. Moreover we can say that these theories served as though to separate and distance the revolutionary Marxist milieus from each other.

In our opinion, a split on the basis of debates on the “nature of the Soviet state” and particular theories produced thereafter is an irresponsible attitude. Today the internationalist revolutionaries should unite their forces essentially on the basis of the defence of the fundamental premises of Marxism.

In this work we deal with some theoretical problems that the revolutionary Marxists have been discussing –without reaching a clarity or an agreement– for a long time among themselves. In this context we deal with issues like the question of state in general; transition period and the dictatorship of the proletariat; the theory of “degenerated workers’ state” and the theoretical analyses of Trotsky on this subject; the class nature of the Soviet State; the process of bureaucratic counter revolution and the evolution of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union; Mandel’s views on workers’ state and the nature of bureaucracy; glasnost, perestroika and where the Soviet Union is going. Of course we do not claim that we have brought finished answers to the questions at hand. Our point is to deepen the process of questioning and get a sound revolutionary Marxist perspective for the future.

Without doing this, without carrying out a comprehensive discussion and reaching clear conclusions on the basis of these questions it will be impossible to attain the political unity of genuine internationalists and start a new period in the struggle of the world proletariat for socialism.