The So­cial­ist Rev­o­lu­tion

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

The Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion, re­ferred to as the ‘Great Oc­to­ber So­cial­ist Rev­o­lu­tion,’ took place one hun­dred years ago on Novem­ber 7 (Oc­to­ber 25 on the cal­en­dar in force in Rus­sia at the time). Although the rev­o­lu­tion was in­spired by noble ideas and ideals, mainly the elim­i­na­tion of ex­ploita­tion and poverty and the cre­ation of a party to rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests of the work­ing class to do so, it did not sur­vive the 20th cen­tury. China and Viet­nam claim to be building ‘so­cial­ism’ with their own char­ac­ter­is­tics, while es­tab­lish­ing cap­i­tal­ist economies. Once ‘pro­gres­sive’ de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have all been en­snared by glob­al­iza­tion and ne­olib­er­al­ism.

The ideas of colo­nial lib­er­a­tion were given a sub­stan­tial im­pe­tus by the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion. The de­feat of fas­cism in 1945, the In­de­pen­dence of In­dia in 1947 and the lib­er­a­tion of China in 1949 set the stage for the dis­man­tling of the re­main­der of the Bri­tish Em­pire. These were the ma­jor events that in­spired the lead­ers of lib­er­a­tion move­ments all over the world, in­clud­ing Guyana. Along the way many of them ab­sorbed the ideas of Marx, the the­o­rist, and Lenin, the prac­ti­tioner.

The Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion, the Chi­nese Rev­o­lu­tion, the Viet­namese Rev­o­lu­tion, the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion, all added dis­tinct fea­tures to the var­i­ous meth­ods by which colo­nial­ist or im­pe­ri­al­ist op­pres­sion could be over­come. Peace­ful means were also adopted and per­fected in many coun­tries, not only in colonies but in coun­tries where dic­ta­tor­ships had been pre­vi­ously in­stalled. Along the way, means were found by com­mu­nists to col­lab­o­rate with ‘anti-im­pe­ri­al­ist’ rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, called ‘revo­lu­tion­ary democrats,’ who were not fully ‘Marx­ist’ or ‘Marx­ist-Lenin­ist.’ The tech­niques of eco­nomic devel­op­ment for coun­tries with colo­nial or colo­nial-type economies were de­vel­oped, called the ‘non-cap­i­tal­ist’ path of devel­op­ment. This path in­cluded, and even rec­om­mended, se­lected strate­gies of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment. These new ideas pro­lif­er­ated un­der the ban­ner of the ‘na­tional lib­er­a­tion’ rev­o­lu­tion.

Guyana es­caped nei­ther these devel­op­ments nor the Cold War which was launched by the West against the USSR, the ex­ist­ing ‘so­cial­ist’ coun­tries and those threat­en­ing, as per­ceived by the West, that they might go ‘com­mu­nist.’ This pol­icy swept up pa­tri­otic lead­ers, democrats and oth­ers who merely sought to pro­tect and de­fend their peo­ples and economies, such as Mos­sadeq of Iran who was over­thrown by the CIA in 1953 and Ar­benz of Gu­atemala, who was sim­i­larly re­moved in 1954. Just as the ori­gins of the past and present dif­fi­cul­ties in those coun­tries can be traced to those events, so the devel­op­ments in Guyana can be traced to the re­moval of the PPP by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment in 1953, act­ing against a leader who was then much in the mould of Mos­sadeq and Ar­benz, head­ing a broad-based, mass party, the PPP, which had a left but mod­er­ate lead­er­ship with a pa­tri­otic ori­en­ta­tion.

Af­ter the sec­ond over­throw in 1964 Cheddi Ja­gan and the PPP grew in­creas­ingly left. Feel­ing be­trayed by the West, the PPP em­braced the world so­cial­ist move­ment in 1968. Forbes Burn­ham, who ini­tially led a ‘mod­er­ate’ break-up of the PPP in 1955 and formed the PNC, with pro-West­ern help and cre­den­tials, even­tu­ally also led the PNC to the left. The Sophia Dec­la­ra­tion of 1974 and sub­se­quent state­ments left no doubt that Burn­ham and his party had em­braced so­cial­ism and Marx­ism-Lenin­ism.

Like else­where, ‘so­cial­ism’ failed in Guyana. In ad­di­tion to the state of the world econ­omy, the dry­ing up of aid and the rise in oil prices, there were spe­cific Guyanese fac­tors. The suc­cess of so­cial­ist poli­cies re­quires a demo­cratic foun­da­tion, namely, the unity of the work­ing class and their mo­bi­liza­tion be­hind the poli­cies. The fail­ure to in­tro­duce demo­cratic means of eco­nomic ad­min­is­tra­tion and elec­toral democ­racy, even with the pro­tec­tions for the mi­nor­ity of­fered by the PPP un­der the na­tional pa­tri­otic front (where the ma­jor­ity party would con­cede the ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dency to the mi­nor­ity party), en­sured that the ‘so­cial­ist’ ex­per­i­ment would fail. But dur­ing this era, mo­ti­vated by ideals, Guyana or­ches­trated the Caribbean’s recog­ni­tion of Cuba, opened diplo­matic re­la­tions with China and was a Non- Aligned Move­ment leader.

The PPP and PNC have now aban­doned all pre­tence of be­ing in­flu­enced by so­cial­ist ideas and, ex­cept per­haps for a few diehards in the PPP, would not even ut­ter the word. But the en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity of so­cial­ist ideals for which, by the way, there is a resur­gence in the USA and UK, is an ob­sta­cle to its for­mal elim­i­na­tion in stated party poli­cies and in­flu­ence in party struc­tures.

It may well be that the lead­er­ships of to­day have no pa­tience with, and have given short shrift to, that past and its ideals and, hav­ing aban­doned it, would like to bury and for­get about it as quickly as pos­si­ble. An­nual homage to their past lead­ers omit any ref­er­ences to so­cial­ism. And its ab­sence shows. Their so­cial and eco­nomic ob­jec­tives have no grand plan, no over­ar­ch­ing phi­los­o­phy, no in­spi­ra­tional po­lit­i­cal or eco­nomic prin­ci­ples, no peo­ple-cen­tred ob­jec­tives, no plan to elim­i­nate eth­nic dom­i­nance in pol­i­tics. The noble ob­jec­tives of so­cial­ism, elab­o­rated in doc­u­ments such as The New Global Hu­man Or­der and oth­ers, where it is demon­strated how poverty could be elim­i­nated in the world with mod­est re­forms and the will of West­ern coun­tries, are no longer a part of our na­tional dis­course. Only coarse in­sults to the in­tel­li­gence and to the per­son re­main.

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