The International Communist Movement and the Struggle for Socialism


11-29-07, 10:02 am

Editor's Note: John Bachtell attended the international meeting of the Communist and Workers' Parties held in Minsk, Belarus in early November. Bachtell is a contributing writer for Political Affairs, a member of the national board of the Communist Party USA, and the organizer of the CPUSA in Illinois.

PA: What, basically, is an International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties? What is the purpose?

John Bachtell: These meetings were initiated 9 years ago by the Communist Party of Greece. For a number of years they were held in Athens, but beginning last year they began branching out. The meeting last year was held in Lisbon, and this year the meeting was held in Minsk, Belarus. The whole idea is to bring together Communist and Workers Parties from around the world to exchange experiences, discuss various thematic questions, and talk about the different problems facing the parties. This is the second meeting I have been to. At the one I attended 3 years ago, the main topic was globalization. At the meeting in Minsk, since it was held during the 90th anniversary of the Great October Revolution, the theme under discussion was “The Relevance of the Great October Revolution to Today’s Struggles.” Everyone made a contribution directed at that theme, taking into account their own, specific situations. It was an opportunity for parties to really get together and exchange experiences, but it also provided an opportunity to work out joint, fraternal relations and develop a common political estimate about what is happening throughout the world.

PA: What is your sense of the various parties’ views of the Russian Revolution?

JB: From the speeches that I heard, the consensus was that the Great October Revolution was certainly the most important event of the 20th Century as far as human history is concerned, and maybe the most important event, historically speaking, because it inaugurated the era of transition from capitalism to socialism on a global scale. Therefore even though there have been some setbacks to Socialism in 1991 in the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries, that doesn’t change the content of that epoch. The transition to socialism is moving forward, even though we have been through a difficult period. There are many signs that the period of setbacks is coming to an end and once again the working class, and especially the socialist movements throughout the world, are on the advance again.

PA: How do you relate the Great October Socialist Revolution to the situation in the United States today?

JB: In my presentation, what I mainly tried to do was draw the lessons to be learned from from the Great October Revolution, particularly the ideas that emerged from the Revolution and during the build-up to the Revolution, which are embodied in the writings of Lenin and other Marxist theoreticians at that time, and discuss how they are applicable to our own situation here. I also talked about the general experience of the Communist movement for the past 90 years, about the lessons we have drawn not only from the Revolution itself and the Soviet process of transformation, but also from the building of socialism, both the positives and negatives, the achievements as well as the mistakes that were made, including the mistakes that led to the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

For example, one of the lessons our Party has drawn is that there are no models for socialism, that socialism is different in every country, and that the model the Russian working class developed and called socialism was applicable to that country. Conditions here, however, are different, and socialism will look very different here. The CPUSA has the concept of Bill of Rights Socialism, which takes into account the whole history of the struggle for democracy in the US, which is very central to our history. And similarly the path to socialism is different here. We have had to creatively develop our whole concept of the path to socialism in the United States. We see the path to socialism in the US as progressing through a broad movement for democracy, and going through many stages, including the present stage of defeating the extreme right wing, which, as we know, will be a big struggle in the elections next year.

Once the extreme right wing is defeated, then we can move on to a whole new stage, which is the stage of directly taking on the monopoly capitalist class. At each stage the struggle for democracy deepens, and eventually the vast majority of people will see the need for a socialist transformation. Those were some of the ideas I developed in my remarks.

PA: Were there any surprises at the meeting?

JB: There were two things, which I felt made this meeting different and reflected a new phase in the consolidation and regrouping process of the international communist movement. One was that the Communist Party of Belarus and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation hosted the meeting, and that it was held in a country that was formerly a Republic of the Soviet Union. What was also significant was that Belarus, which is a country of about 9 million people, has remained on a path of socialist development. The economy there is about 80% still publicly owned, and the Communist Party is in a governing coalition with Alexander Lukashenko and the forces around him. Lukashenko emerged during the struggle against the privatization of the economy, the efforts to loot it and turn it capitalist; he became a very popular figure, and the Communist Party formed a coalition with him. So in Belarus you have a Party that is part of the governing coalition, and which hosted this meeting and played an important role in the meeting itself.

The second major factor, I thought, was the participation of the Communist Party of China. The Communist Party of China has 73 million members, a huge party, the biggest in the world. And in all the previous international meetings they have only been observers. They have generally sat in the back of the meeting and not mixed in much. At this meeting, however, they played a very active role in the meeting itself. They spoke right up front. The Chinese representative reported on the 17th Party Congress in China, about the problems they are confronting in building socialism and what they are trying to do about them. The representative also spoke later on in Moscow, where there was a big celebration that we all went to marking the 90th Anniversary. In his remarks there, he said that the revolution in China had its roots in the Great October Revolution, and that the Great October Revolution introduced Marxism to China. You got this feeling of tremendous unity in the world Communist movement because of their participation. As we know, there have been some divisions in the past, but the Chinese delegation was fully a part of this meeting and fully a part of the whole process, which I think is a really important sign of the vitality of the international communist movement.

PA: In addition to the Communist Party of China, what other parties from outside Europe were able to participate?

JB: First of all, it is important to note, as Gennady Zyuganov, the General Secretary of the Russian Federation said, that if you take a look globally, 40% of the world’s people live in countries where the Communist Party is either the governing party or part of a governing coalition. That includes China, Vietnam, Cuba, Laos, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and also a whole number of governing coalitions, including several in Latin America. Of the parties that were represented, there were at least 8 parties from Asia, 6 parties from Central and South America, and 2 parties from Africa. The participation of parties from the developing countries, particularly from Latin America, Asia and Africa is restricted a lot by finances. because of this, there has been a solidarity fund set up to try to make it possible for parties from these continents to attend. The next meeting is going to be held in Brazil, and I think that the participation from Central and South America and the Caribbean will be enhanced.

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