(Speech delivered by Com KN Ramachandran at the International Webinar organized by ICOR on the occasion of 150th Anniversary of Paris Commune)
Comrades, first of all on behalf of CPI(ML) Red Star I congratulate ICOR for organizing this webinar on such an important subject, the contributions of the Paris Commune when we are observing it 150th anniversary. We communists observe the anniversary of such epochal movements not as a ritual, but to analyse them and take lessons from them.
The Commune was an antithesis to all forms of capitalist and dependent states that have emerged at various phases of human history till today. First decree of the Commune, was to suppress standing army, and substitute it by the armed people. Similarly bureaucracy was replaced with elected functionaries at all levels, with right to recall them. As far as those elected to various bodies at all levels are concerned, the people who elected them had right to recall them also.
Commune decreed the separation of religion from the state; Gender equality became an accepted principle; Women played an important role in both the initiation and the governance of the Commune, In short, the Commune was visualized as the concentrated form of people’s power. Following Marx’s analysis of the Commune experience in lhe Civil War in France, Lenin also had analyzed its great significance, and in the concrete conditions preceding October Revolution had developed the Soviets with the call “all power to the soviets”.
But in later years, following October revolution, though Lenin declared “all power to the people, to the Soviets”, after the initial leaps forward, the concept of state capitalism started emerging under the cover of NEP. Communist Saturdays like experiments started disappearing. Concepts like state capitalism led by the party also came up. Bureaucratic tendencies were raising their heads in the state, army and slowly in the party. Though the party documents warned against them, explaining how eventually such tendencies shall lead to return to bourgeois state power, and called for fighting against them, party could not put forward any concrete methods of struggling against all ideas and to strengthen socialist values.
What happened to Soviets? Based on Lenin’s concept of “all power to the Soviets” the Soviet Union was constituted as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Soviets were supposed to be elected from village/town level to top most positions in USSR, to the the Supreme Soviet. But as catching up with the imperialist powers like ideas started becoming stronger, with erroneous concepts like Socialism with American efficiency, the theory of productive forces started coming to dominance. Socialist transformation as a basically different, or anti-thesis of capitalism and its institutions was not projected in the way it should have been. The Collectives becoming bureaucratized farms, or farms under bureaucracy. In this situation the concept of Soviets started disappearing except in name. As the danger of Second World War increased, and later the aggression by Nazi Germany became a reality, like NEP in 1920s, the War economy became a cover for further centralization of power and penetration of capitalist ideas and culture.
Instead of developing proletarian democratic models starting with strengthening the Soviets, transcending the limits of bourgeois democracy and advancing to people’s democracy, the danger of Soviet Union becoming a bureaucratic state capitalist dictatorship was a threat in the post-War years. It was in this situation, the revisionists gaining strength day by day, used the opportunity provided by departure of Stalin in 1953 could use the military and usurp power peacefully from within, transforming SU to a social imperialist power by 1960s.
In the 8th Congress of CPC almost same process was started by the capitalist roaders in China also. But under Mao’s leadership the socialist forces retaliated with Socialist rectification movement at all levels, (when the Soviet revisionists stopped all aid to China already economically blockaded by the imperialist powers, and withdrew all engineers working in different projects), challenging it with) Backyard Furnace campaign for a self-reliant people oriented development of technology, and People Communes as the centers of people’s political power, taking up the whole process of democratization, and people’s plan for development As the struggle with the capitalist roaders in power intensified, Mao called on the people to attack their headquarters by developing the theory and practice of Cultural Revolution to intensify class struggle at the realm of super structure to establish socialist thinking among the masses. But, though it succeeded to remove the leading capitalist roaders like Liu Shaochi and Deng Tsiaoping from power, under the camouflage of intensifying these efforts, the CR was hijacked by the petti-bourgeois left adventurist Lin Biao camp, dominating the 9th Congress of the CPC in 1969, with the new era theory, concept like heroes making history replacing the Marxist teaching that it is the masses who create history. In his book, Long Live the Victory of People’s War, it advocated that all Asian, African, Latin American countries are in semi-feudal, semi-colonial condition similar to pre-revolutionary China, and should follow the path People’s War as in China. This line was diametrically opposed to Mao’s teaching that like China rejected the efforts to impose the Soviet Line by a section of the CPC, and successfully followed its own path of revolution, every party should analyze the situation in their country and develop its own path. But, as the Lin Line was propagated as Mao’s line, it influenced all the ML forces emerged in 1960s, causing grievous consequences to them.
As inner party struggle in CPC intensified following the 9th Congress, with the help of centrist forces led by Chou Enlai, the rightist forces went on strengthening, and in spite of Mao’s last struggle removing Deng who was reinstated in 1974, from power in early1976; following Mao’s death, with the help of centrist Hua Kuofeng, who had replaced Chou, the capitalist roaders could suppress the left in a military coup. Deng returned with the Four Modernizations. Understandably, destroying the People’s Communes and calling for ending the CR were the first steps taken by Deng. China also degenerated to capitalist path. Almost same things happened in all former socialist countries in various forms through “peaceful transition” back to capitalist path. Same thing happened to the Communist Parties formed under Comintern’s inspiration also; almost all of them degenerating to social democracy, to apologists of neocolonialism and now to apologists of neo-fascism. The Marxist Leninist Organizations emerged in 1960s splintered, with a section going to the side of social democracy, and the other to “Maoism”, to modern day Mensheviks and Narodniks. As a result, when we are observing the 150th anniversary of Paris Commune which gave rise to the first workers’ state, the international communist movement has not recovered from these grave setbacks yet.
Today the capitalist imperialist system has transformed the whole world in its own image to unprecedented levels under the neo-liberal, corporate policies, with the destruction of the livelihood of the vast masses and ecological destruction almost reaching its peak, threatening even the very existence of human species on this earth, giving rise to climate change and outspread of one pandemic after another;
The challenge today before us is: either throw out the capitalist imperialist system and initiate a sustainable, ecology friendly, egalitarian development paradigm under democratization with all power to people, taking the positive contributions of the Paris Commune, the Soviets and the People’s Communes along with the CR according to present conditionss, or perish!
It means if Paris Commune was a great breakthrough towards the realization of a proletarian state as an lternative to the capitalist system, today what we need is a great leap of this experience to confront the present challenges, learning from the past positive and negative experiences.
For this we have to throw away all reformist, legalist, social democratic garbage and petti-bourgeois opportunist concepts like ‘peaceful transition to socialism’ and intensify class struggle with a comprehensive, all embracing understanding, building a basically different alternative, and unleashing the CR to transform the super structure strengthened by the barbarous imperialist system as part of class struggle.
We have to develop the Leninist daringness to develop theory and practice, to build powerful Bolshevik style parties according to present situation in all countries, develop proletarian internationalism constantly trying to overcome present challenges as a result of imperialist forces and their junior partners globalizing and liberalizing everything through corporate fascist neoliberal policies.
Along with developing revolutionary parties in every country and a Communist International of a new type to advance toward World Proletarian Socialist Revolution; Let us take up thse national and international tasks and make ICOR capable of taking up this challenge learning from the experience of the Paris Commune!
Red Salute to all comrades! Long Live ICOR!