Michael Parenti: How counter-revolution pushes socialist countries to authoritarianism

Michael Parenti: How counter-revolution pushes socialist countries to authoritarianism


Mercenary armies, destruction of
the productive facilities of the society, more invasion, more sabotage,
economic boycott, economic embargo, monetary embargo,
technological embargo. These have distorting
effects upon a society. In May of 1921, Lenin got up before the
Bolshevik Party convention and said, “We’ve had enough of
the workers’ opposition. Let’s get rid of them.” Now the workers’ opposition
were loyal Bolsheviks. They were communists. They were in
the Bolshevik Party. They were in the
Communist Party. When the Kronstadt
Rebellion came, the workers’ opposition did not
side with the Kronstadt sailors. They sided with the party. In the civil war, they
were with the party. Throughout all the struggles, the workers’ opposition
was with the party, but they had formed
a self-conscious caucus that had decided
that it would represent the particular interests
of the industrial proletariat against the party
itself at times, and after all this
invasion, all this destruction, all this terrible death and
struggle when Lenin once said, “Soviet Russia is like
a man with a death fever just hanging on by
an inch of his life.” After all that, Lenin
turned and said, “We’ve had enough opposition.” The feeling very much was that that
opposition was a wedge, an opening. It invited enemies,
our mortal enemies, to come in and attack
us and divide us, and the party convention uproariously
supported him and said, “No more workers’ opposition. No more factions
within the party.” So right there began that
emphasis on a monolithic party. And by the way,
that same month, or the month
before, in April, Lenin called for a strengthening
of the trade unions and for more
worker representation on the Central Committee
of the Communist Party, so it wasn’t that he was
becoming anti-worker. It was that he was
moving against opposition. So right there you see
the seeds of a system that could not develop
naturally with an opposition, with checks, with internal
debate and argument. It was a system that began
to strain for uniformity, for siege, for
lockstep cooperation, emphasis on organizing,
getting the thing done. Stop asking too
many questions because everything was
a life-and-death issue. When the Sandinistas came to
power in Nicaragua ten years ago, filled with ideals and hopes
for their nation and their people, they discovered a
very awful thing, and it wasn’t
about themselves, even though they had
to do it to themselves. It was about that
capitalist encirclement. They discovered that
they needed a secret police. They discovered that they
needed a security police because all around them, coming in from two borders
and within their own society, were acts of sabotage,
espionage, attack, mercenary invasion
and the like, and they understood that if the
revolution was going to survive, it would have to build up
instruments of state power, instruments of
coercion even, and these instruments,
by the way, can make mistakes, and these instruments can
not only make mistakes. They can commit some
serious crimes, although in Nicaragua
the impressive record is how few crimes
there were, given the utterly dire
conditions they were under. So that kind of
capitalist encirclement which goes
on unrelentingly, attacking any existing
socialist, communist… By the way, if some of you don’t want to
call those societies socialists, don’t call them socialist. Call them window
shades, or camels— whatever you want to call them, as long as you
know what I mean. I mean the public ownership
of the means of production, using capital in
a different way, not for capital accumulation
per se as an end in itself: A strong social wage, free education, free medical care,
and subsidized housing, subsidized food,
subsidized bread, all those things that
the Hungarians and Poles are now complaining
about losing. That’s what I mean
by socialism, so if you don’t want
to call that socialism, or you say that’s not
what real socialism is, or real socialism is
going to exist someday when the world and people
are better and different, and it’s going to come down
and be in a much better form than those things were, that’s fine. But in this world, I believe
socialism is not that real beautiful goal in that society that will have
participation, harmony, this and that. I believe that socialism is a process
of struggle to achieve that thing, so just go along
with my vocabulary, even if you have
trouble with it. Those socialist or communist societies
suffered terrible distorting effects. If there had
been no invasion, if there had been
no espionage, if there had
been no attack, if there’d been no White Guard
armies burning villages, there wouldn’t have been
a Red Army of that size. There wouldn’t have
been a Stalin. There wouldn’t
have been a KGB. If there hadn’t been a CIA,
there wouldn’t have been a KGB. If there hadn’t been
a NATO encirclement, there wouldn’t have
been a Warsaw Pact. And to lose sight
of that fact is to lose sight of an essential
force of what was going on over those seventy years,
or ten years. And if you want to know what the Soviet
Union went through in its early years, just look at what Nicaragua
went through in these ten years, and then multiply
that by ten. Every single one of those
countries was targeted. They were targeted
by missiles. They were targeted by
acts of espionage. They were targeted by,
as I say, economic embargo, and all sorts of other
forms of aggression. They were targeted by incredible
propaganda barrages and the like, unrelenting,
unremitting. The most targeted socialist
country in the world, as of a couple
years ago, and actually
still today, was not Nicaragua,
not even Cuba. It was the
Soviet Union. All those missiles were
pointing to the USSR. They still are, and they’re
still building those missiles, and they’re refusing to
negotiate those missiles, the sea-based missiles, which is where the US has 75
percent of its first-strike force. They’ve announced that they will not negotiate
that 75 percent of the first-strike force, only their 25 percent
which is land-based, and for the Soviets,
of course, 75 percent of their
force is land-based and only 25 percent
is sea-based, and none of it working very well because
they’ve got just a few choke points, and they don’t have that
much access to the sea, and they don’t have all the
fueling stations and harbors and whatever else that
the US has around the world. So that kind of encirclement is still there, and that kind of thing is still going on, and so if you want to
understand something about it… That’s why Gorbachev is trying
to normalize international relations, even at the risk of giving
away the whole store.

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