by Phil Hearse and Dave Packer (‘The
way out of a tangle on Stalinism’) which appeared in SO 12
contains a distortion of my position.
I have never asserted that the Chinese, Albanian and
Vietnamese states, regimes, or ruling bureaucracies, are less
authoritarian and manipulative than Khruschev’s, not to say
Gorbachev’s Russia. At
the most I said that in spite of that authoritarianism, they
enjoyed more mass support up to a certain period, because of the
role they played in the revolution in their country (this
applies to China and Vietnam, probably not to Albania).
But that is neither a question of definition nor of
theoretical analysis, but just a question of facts.
accept Hearse and Packer’s position that a stalinist or
neo-stalinist party is one which subordinates the interests of
revolution (i.e. of the working class) in its country, to those
of any state bureaucracy (defined as a hardened bureaucratic
caste exercising state power in a workers state) – whether the
Russian, Chinese, Yugoslav or Vietnamese one.
But such a
definition reveals the contradictions in Hearse and Packer’s
assessments, not mine. To
what ruling state bureaucracy did the Yugoslav Communist Party
subordinate the interests of the Yugoslav revolution in 1942?
Or the Chinese CP in the 1948 Chinese revolution?
Or the Vietnamese CP in the Vietnamese revolution in
1949? To the
Russian bureaucracy? Obviously
not. To the
Yugoslav, Chinese, Vietnamese state bureaucracies?
But these did not exist in the years cited!
correct definition involves a three-phase approach.
The parties were Stalinist when they had an orientation
of refusing to fight for the overthrow of the
bourgeois-oligarchic (in Vietnam, colonial) state following the
Moscow line. Then
they subordinated the interests of the revolution to those of
the Soviet bureaucracy.
with stalinism when they took the conscious decision to change
that strategic line and to fight for the overthrow of the
bourgeois state. To
this end they educated their cadres and mobilized huge masses
(albeit in a manipulative way) for that revolutionary goal.
neo-stalinist parties when, after having destroyed the bourgeois
state through their conquest of power, they started to
subordinate the interests of the working class and the
revolution to those of their own emerging national bureaucratic
This is a
more complex assessment than that of Hearse and Packer.
It might even sound awkward.
But we don’t approach theory from the point of view of
whether it is easily expressed or understood.
We approach it from the point of view of whether it
enables us to understand the moving reality in its totality,
without losing theory’s inner coherence.
This, I believe, is the case with my definition of
stalinism. It is
not fully the case with Hearse and Packer’s definition.