Contemporary Communism and the Relation of the Party to Political Power

Prakash Rao

We are living at a time when the greatest offensive is being carried out by imperialism and the reactionary bourgeoisie against the theory and practice of communism. The degeneration of the Bolshevik Party and the social system in the Soviet Union created the spectacle of a caricature of communism. In particular, it led to the conversion of the dictatorship of the proletariat into the dictatorship of the party of the new bourgeoisie. Imperialism and the international bourgeoisie screamed against this ‘one party dictatorship’ as they organised the final destruction of the shell of socialism and ushered in classical capitalism and the multi-party dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

From the negative experience in the Soviet Union, the bourgeoisie and its ideologues draw the self-serving conclusion that: socialism is equal to ‘one party dictatorship’, which is the negation of democracy. They conclude that there is no better alternative to the multi-party representative democracy that exists in India, the United States, Britain and other capitalist countries.

The real problem with Soviet democracy was that the role played by the working class and cooperative peasants in the exercise of political power ceased to develop, after the initial stage of socialism. The communist party started concentrating all decision-making power in its own hands, instead of playing its role as the advanced consciousness and enabler of the working class to exercise power. The Communist Party of Soviet Union (Bolshevik) succumbed to the imperialist pressure and embraced modern revisionism. It failed to play the leading role as an abler of the toiling masses to rule themselves, consistent with their capacity and consciousness at the stage of socialism that existed in the Soviet Union after the end of the Second World War. It degenerated from a party of revolution into a tool of the new elite.

When the party ceased to play its role as the vanguard of the working class, the nature of political power began to change. The dictatorship of the proletariat degenerated into the dictatorship of the party of the new elite. The socialist state was converted into a social-imperialist superpower. Discontent spread among the masses of people, which was used by imperialism and the emerging Russian bourgeoisie to wipe out the Soviet Union itself, along with all traces of socialism.

The lesson to draw from this experience is that the communist party, as the leader of the working class, must be the organised conscious factor at every stage of the revolution. Once the economic base of socialism had been established in the Soviet Union, the communist party had to further develop its leading role. The 1936 Constitution of the Soviet Union recognised the necessity to empower the mass organisations of workers, cooperative peasants and other working people to exercise their right to select and elect deputies to the decision-making bodies, and to recall them at any time. No political party was permitted by law to select candidates. However, this enactment was not taken to its logical conclusion. The World War interrupted the course of development. Once the war ended and the reconstruction efforts were over, the party began to concentrate decision-making power in its own hands, in direct contrast to the direction envisaged in the 1936 Constitution of the USSR.

The degeneration and ultimate disintegration of the world’s first proletarian democratic state gave a new lease of life to the crisis-ridden capitalist democracy. It ushered in this period when the retrogressive forces are on the offensive, and have escalated their disinformation campaign against the theory and practice of communism. It is a period when multi-party representative democracy has become a tool for the negation of rights, and an instrument of rule by decree.

In insisting that there can be no system of democracy other than the multi-party representative system, the Anglo-American imperialists and their allies are negating the fundamental right of every people to the political theory and system of their choice. They want to deny that the working class had given birth to a new system of proletarian democracy in the 20th century, far superior to the system of bourgeois democracy. They want to deny that the peoples of the world who fought for liberation from Nazi-fascist rule, colonialism and imperialism during and after the Second World War were profoundly influenced and inspired by the Soviet Union and its model of democracy, rather than the Anglo-American models. They want the people to forget history and accept the fashionable prejudice of the day, that red is dead and there can be nothing better than bourgeois democracy. They want the peoples to reconcile themselves to live with the mere illusion of power, as the best that they can hope for at all times.

The pressure of imperialist bourgeois ideology and the illusion of power created by the parliamentary system will not be such big problems if the communists and other progressive forces draw the appropriate lessons from the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Far from drawing the lessons and modernising the theory of proletarian democracy, there are parties within the communist movement that are conciliating with the system and political process of capitalist democracy. Such class conciliation within the communist movement is the main roadblock to the strengthening of united struggle of the working class and all the oppressed in this period.

The most important lesson from the rise and fall of proletarian democracy in the 20th century is that a communist party cannot and must not strive to bring itself to power, or keep itself in power. A proletarian party, by definition, seeks power for its class and not for itself. In order to achieve this goal, it must build the united political front of all the oppressed, and imbue the working class with the consciousness to lead the oppressed masses in the struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish proletarian democracy.

The classics of our doctrine teach us that the communist party is the vanguard party of the working class in which the advanced sections of the class militate. The communist party cannot substitute itself for the class. It must refresh and develop its role as the vanguard of the class at each stage of the revolution and socialism. A communist party that fights for power for itself, at any stage, will become transformed into a bourgeois party.

There are some who, in the name of opposing the parliamentary path to socialism, advocate ‘seizure of political power through the barrel of the gun’. Left in the shade is the question: seizure of political power by whom? By the workers and peasants or by a party claiming to represent them? A party that fights for power in its own hands, whether through the parliament or through the barrel of the gun, objectively works against the establishment of the rule of the working class and peasantry.

If the workers, peasants and broad masses of people have to become the rulers of this country, the Communist Party must be built and strengthened as the vanguard of the working class, and the United Front of workers, peasants and other oppressed must be built and strengthened as their instrument for seizing and exercising political power. These tasks have to be taken up for solution on an urgent basis. This is the most important challenge facing contemporary communist theory and practice.

Presentation on behalf of the C.C. of Communist Ghadar Party of India at the public meeting held on 5th March 2005 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the publication of the first issue of ‘Revolutionary Democracy’.

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