The working class was able to take power in Russia in 1917, because it was led by the Communist Bolshevik party. The activity of the party was guided by dialectical and historical materialism, scientific understanding of laws behind natural and societal change. Basing himself on the foundational scientific work of Marx and Engels, V. I. Lenin developed these ideas further. Marx, Engels and Lenin came to understand these laws governing capitalist society after careful analysis of human societal development. It was understood that the working class can free itself from capitalist exploitation only through determined struggle for state power. The working class struggle could only be successful if it was led by a clear-sighted and disciplined communist party. The bourgeois state had to be replaced by a worker’s state. The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie had to be replaced with the dictatorship of the proletariat. The goal then was to defend the new worker’s rule and begin the work of socialist construction.
The great October socialist revolution demonstrated the strength in the unity of the workers and the peasants. The first time in human history state power was taken in the name of the working class. The bourgeois state was replaced by a worker’s state.
The revolution was successful only because the new soviet government immediately began conducting policies that benefited the working man: Ceasefire was proposed on all fronts and a peace with no annexations and reparations was offered to all sides, the lands of the landlords and the church were transferred to peasant committees, the army was democratized, the means of production were taken under the control of the workers, distribution of food and other necessities was organized, Self determination was granted to all the nations living in the former-Russian Empire. Foreign trade was taken under state control.
The population was encouraged to rally around the soviets and take power into their hands. Lenin said: “No one will help you if you yourselves do not unite and take into your hands all affairs of the state. Your Soviets are from now on the organs of state authority, legislative bodies with full powers.” The period of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat had begun, a period where the power of the workers was consolidated. There was a big influx of new people into the party. The party of cadres became a mass party. Was the party ready for this?
The Soviet government led by V. I. Lenin consistently advocated for the right of nations to self-determination. They also saw the strength in the unity of nations, which led to the creation of the USSR. In the Soviet Union the union republics had the right to secede from the union. In contrast to this in Europe the Victors of the First World War refused to consider the rights of their national minorities. In the Versailles Treaty a buffer zone of countries was created, surrounding the borders of the Soviet state. Capitalist countries attempted to crush the Soviet power by attacking it from all directions and supporting Russian Bourgeois Counter-revolutionaries. The newly independent Finland also served as a base of operations for attacking Soviet Russia between 1918-22.
Socialism made it possible to build a society without exploitation of man by man. The construction of Socialism in the Soviet Union demonstrates that the workers can solve the problems of developing society on a socialist basis. The Soviet Union strived to accelerate the Socialist construction. In the first Five-Year Plan in 1928 broad industrialization was set as the goal. The Collectivization and Mechanization of agriculture allowed for the increased number of industrial workers. One of the objectives was self-sufficiency. Exporting agricultural products was used to partially fund the industrialization.
In a short period of time the Soviet Union was transformed from an agrarian country to a powerful industrial country. In the constitution of 1936 the Soviet Union was declared a socialist state. Because of the industrial base they created the Soviet Union was able to defeat German Fascism.
Meanwhile as the internal contradictions of capitalism were aggravated its development proceeded towards a new war. As a result of the late 1920s economic depression and the strengthening of the working class movement a nationalistic right-wing political current developed in many European capitalist countries and internationally. Fascism and nazism were capitalism’s answer to the righteous demands for social justice by the workers. By their refusal to resist German fascism the capitalist powers wanted to direct it against the Soviet Union.
Thanks to its rapid industrialization the Soviet Union managed to create an armament industry capable of resisting the incoming invasion, counter it, and defeat German fascism. A crucial factor for victory in the war was the self-sacrificing struggle of the people’s of the Union, united behind the socialist state and the communist party. In the war the Soviet Union lost over 20 million of its citizens and the party itself lost millions of its members. They led by example in the anti-fascist war.
After the Second World War new attempts of building socialism began in the liberated countries. The UN was created in an attempt to guarantee peace. The post-war period saw the independence of tens of colonies. These new countries, mainly developing ones, attempted in the 1960s and 70s together with the Soviet Union and the other socialist states to change international law and the economic relations between countries. Unfortunately international capitalism was able to prevent this. The freedom of trade required by trans-national monopolies became an ever increasing influence in shaping both international law and the economic life of capitalism and imperialism. The majority of former colonies were left in the mire of of neo-colonialism, tied to the global capitalist system to service it as a reserve of labour and raw-materials.
The Soviet Union rapidly became an industrial superpower and was able to satisfy the growing needs of its people and raise their educational level. The economy of the Union grew and it was in the forefront of science and technology. The example of the Soviet Union’s successes inspired the communist parties of the world to fight for the creation of a worker’s state in their own respective countries. The successes of the soviet people were an example to the workers of capitalist countries. Everywhere, socialism provided a strong support for the working class struggle and encouraged them to demand and build broad social safety nets and democracy.
The Soviet Union received great prestige as the victor in the Great Patriotic War, particularly among the working class. However the situation changed after the death of Joseph Stalin, as his own party began to criticize and diminish his role, claiming that he had created a cult of personality and abused his power. After the Soviet Communist Party did this, it became very easy for both the bourgeois enemies of socialism and even some other communist to criticize Stalin. This anti-Stalin sentiment continues to be used to this day to attack communist parties that still hold firmly to the teachings of Marxism-Leninism, the theory of revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
After the Stalin era the Soviet Union gradually turned away from the policy of self-reliance and began to fuse itself with the global capitalist economy. By the 1970s the Union was already in debt to European capitalist states. Peaceful co-existence and economic co-operation with the West consisted mainly of the sale of resources and the purchase of Western manufactured goods. At the same time there began a process of internal weakening in the party itself, a new party elite that had its own special rights and privileges was born.
Evaluating the experience of Socialist Construction in the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union was able, in a short period of time, to rectify the economic costs of the war. It reached the frontline of industrial and scientific development. This was demonstrated by the massive factory and powerplant projects, creating of new waterways, electrification of the country, mechanization of agriculture and the conquering of space. In the Soviet Union, the advancement of economy and science were paving way for the transformation towards communism. Everyone had a job, healthcare and education were free of charge for all citizens. The costs of food and housing were low. Likewise public transport was very cheap. However, this development spawned similar environmental problems as industrial development in capitalist countries.
The work of building socialism demonstrates that it is capable of solving problems relating to the fair and equal life of people and their mental development. Without a doubt the environmental problems arising from man’s activity could also have been solved if the construction of socialism had been allowed to continue.
The international conference of Communist and Worker’s Parties held in 1960 stated that the main danger for communist parties and communist ideology at the time was right-wing revisionism, which had to be combated. Unfortunately this evaluation was not taken seriously and at the same time, critical mistakes were made in the work of developing socialism in the Soviet Union. These mistakes did not arise from socialist theory, but from the party leadership deviating from this theory, which later led to the destruction of the socialist society. In 1961 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union erroneously removed the marxist principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and its teachings concerning class struggle from its program. Class struggle does not end with the creation of a socialist society, far from it. It continues in the realm of politics, economy and ideology.
Class contradictions still existed in society and the newly adopted political line served to perpetuate among the people and the party members the illusion of transition towards communism smoothly without antagonisms. This type of development was supported by slogans like ”the state of the whole people”. Capitalist society is the rule and dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. In the same way the period of socialist construction until the final and complete withering away of class contradictions has to be the dictatorship of the proletariat. The rule of the working class is vital for the building of socialism. When in the Soviet Union worker councils no longer had adequate ability to exercise control over the managers of state and economic life, especially the highest officials, it led to a situation where officials were able to grant themselves privileges, rise above the law, become corrupt and separated from the people. People’s trust in the justice of the system began to waver.
The economic reforms accepted in 1965 cemented the path towards restoration of private property and led to stagnation in the growth of the productive forces. The economy of the country was led towards the restoration of capital and labour markets. In reality the CPSU rejected the building of socialism and disguised this policy under the slogan of ”developed socialism”. Genuine power of the worker councils was not restored and the workers, being unorganized and ideologically disarmed were subjected to the attack of the rising petty-bourgeois ideology.
The stagnation of the growth of productive forces led in the 1960s and 70s to the slowing down of the Soviet economy and lagging behind capitalism. Alongside the political and economic crisis there developed an ideological crisis which reached its conclusion in the form of perestroika, which represented the restoration of capitalist form of society.
In its international relations the Soviet Union used the slogan of peaceful co-existence. It was used to describe the relationship between the Soviet Union and the capitalist countries. While keeping peace between different economic systems is acceptable, the slogan gives the impression that capitalist society will exist perpetually and that the Soviet Union will not support change in favor of the working class.
Peaceful co-existence between Finland and the Soviet Union for instance, was useful for Finnish capitalism. Finland had very favorable trade relations with the Soviet Union, buying mainly raw-materials and selling manufactured goods. Economic and cultural relations between the two countries were multiform.
The Soviet communist party adopted bilateral relations with the communist parties of other countries but regular and frequent enough international conferences or meetings of communist parties were not held. The situation gave rise to the further strengthening of the CPSU’s central role in the communist movement. Due to lack of common discussion it also prevented other parties from seeing the anti-socialist tendency that had formed in the CPSU. Communist parties did not have an international organ where these issues could have been solved. Many communist parties followed the CPSU right until 1991 when the Soviet Union and the CPSU were dismantled. They failed to see the anti-socialist nature that developed in the CPSU.
Many of the parties that followed the CPSU changed their names along with their ideological-political line. In Finland the ”old” Finnish Communist Party (SKP) ceased to function and part of its organizations took part in the founding of the Left Alliance Party, the policy of which was noticeably more right-wing. Together in founding the Left Alliance was also a faction expelled from the Finnish Communist Party known as ”Finnish Communist Party (Unity)” (SKPy) which followed the instructions of the CPSU to the bitter end. In this way as a result of the destruction of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe the working class and the working class movement have come to great difficulties everywhere. The temporary pushing back of socialism gave free reign to the capitalist groupings and far-right elements to conduct their policies of exploitation, plunder and war.
Despite its flaws the Soviet Union during its existence was a guaranteer of peace. At that time the capitalist world was more united, against a common enemy: the camp of socialist countries. Since the Soviet Union and many other socialist countries ceased to exist, capitalist alliances and groupings have changed and possibly will continue to change. Dividing up of the world between financial groups and imperialist countries will accelerate once again and the threat of war will increase.
To overthrow capitalism the communist parties need fighting unity and a common strategy for the strenghtening of the working class struggle to achieve victory. The previous experience of socialist construction serves us as a foundation for the creation of a new socialist society, everywhere in the world.