Communism Will Make Life Better: Learning from the 20th Century's Socialist Revolutions

17 January 2024 411 hits

Sometimes you hear people say, "Communism sounds like a good idea, but it can never work. After all, didn't they already try it?" In the final years of the millennium, that seems to be the conventional wisdom: they tried communism,* but it didn't work. Well, it may be conventional, but it has nothing to do with wisdom.

You don't try on a new social system like you try on a new jacket. The revolutions in Russia and China took place over a span of three or four generations and involved over a billion people, one out of every three humans on the planet. These were social transformations which were larger and more important than anything else mankind has undertaken in several thousand years of recorded history. These revolutions represented the first attempts to take entire nations and continents to a social order free of exploitation. The complexity and richness of this historical experience is such that no person can comprehend it. However, a large collective of people, with consistent study and practical experience, can come to understand the most important themes and experiences from this period. Developing and applying this understanding is the role of a revolutionary party such as PLP.

Every worker who has ever felt like seeing her boss strung up, every worker who has ever dreamed of being his own boss, every person who sees the corruption and despair of capitalist society needs to know something about revolutionary history. These revolutions provide us with a glimpse of what is possible. In the U.S., the very heart of the imperialist beast and one of the richest nations on earth, millions are homeless and hundreds die of cold exposure each winter, huddled over grates and in doorways in the major northern cities. Over 30,000 people commit suicide each year in the U.S. -- some years more, some less, depending on the unemployment rate. To deny working people the history of our class, of the revolutions carried out by others like us in other times and places, is to deny us vision and hope. In many cases, it is to deny life itself.

This little pamphlet can't fill in all the information blacked out by the capitalist filter over all the years of your life. It will try to point you toward some of the most useful sources and relate a few accounts so you will at least see these revolutions were not just a little glitch in history. Rather they were the first breakthroughs into a new world. For the moment the passage seems to have collapsed and all is darkness. But there is a way through. The first step toward finding it is to know there is another side.

1. Based on successes of earlier revolutions, how would we organize society if we had power today?

Communism is about organizing society to meet human needs rather than organizing society to produce goods for individual profit. Communist revolutions in the past have begun by trusting ordinary people to identify their greatest needs. For example, early in the Chinese revolution, the most "urgent demand" of the peasantry in communist controlled areas was for the redistribution of land so that every person could earn a decent living from the land which she or he tilled. As a result, land was confiscated from landlords and rich peasants, leaving them only as much as they themselves could farm. The poorest farmers, tenants and farm laborers were all provided with enough land to provide a livelihood for their families. It became illegal to make a living off the labor of others, by just owning land for example. Everyone was expected to work to eat, but everyone was guaranteed a share of land, tools and animals so they could work.

The Chinese revolution was a great experiment in a new form of social organization that underwent many changes as people tried to learn how to most effectively meet their own needs. The organizational changes reflected an evolving sense of what was possible through cooperation and a reliance on the abilities of ordinary members of society to accomplish great things.

Following land redistribution in China, the cooperative movement emerged as an example of a socialist society. Agricultural cooperatives were formed by pooling the resources (land, farm equipment, labor power, etc) of individual farmers. Membership in a collective farm was voluntary. Guidance in formation and governance was given by experienced leaders to ensure success. Individuals, such as widows or orphans, who had no land to contribute were given membership in the cooperative. This was done as "a form of social insurance or social security, doing for friends and neighbors what one hopes they would do for you under the same circumstances." (Shenfan, p118) Members' rights and duties were clearly outlined. Cooperative members were paid according to their work - that is, more work, more pay. Successful production depended on the ability to work together cooperatively. Overall, agricultural output increased with this collective effort.

Because of the success of the cooperative farms, the Chinese Communist Party tried to move to a more advanced form of social organization. Cooperatives merged to form communes. This pooling of land, resources and labor power on a large scale made projects that had been impossible suddenly become practical (Shenfan, p206). Communes were as large as towns and counties and took on the function of government. During the years in which communes operated successfully, China's social and economic development rapidly moved forward. Most communes provided their members with the seven basic requirements of life: food, clothing, childbirth expenses, education, medical care, marriage and funeral expenses. These things were provided to all members of the commune based on need, the so-called "supply system." Some of the more successful communes additionally provided housing, fuel for winter heating, provision of baths and haircuts as well as plays and films. The communist principle of "from each according to commitment, to each according to need" was actually practiced.

A description of the "supply system" of food distribution in one northern Chinese village is provided by William Hinton in his book, Shenfan:

The community dining room, set up at the same time as the nursery [1958], lasted much longer, through July, 1962. At first each of the six teams in Long Bow [Village] opened a dining room but later they paired off, two teams sharing one. Thus three public kitchens operated throughout most of the period. At the start, in spite of mobilization meetings to explain the advantages of collective dining, only a minority of the peasants ate there. Any family that could spare a member to do the cooking at home did so. But later, as the food and the service improved in the dining rooms, almost everyone came. (p. 230)

What made the dining rooms so popular, once they got on their feet, was, first, convenience and, second, free supply. ... Obviously this was not free food in any ordinary sense. Long Bow people ate no grain stocks produced by other people's labor. They consumed no foods that were not paid for with money they themselves had earned. The more food and money they allocated to the dining rooms, the less food and money was distributed as family shares. What free supply meant in this context was that the food was supplied, in part or in whole, equally to all on a per capita basis without regard to work points earned, that is, in part or in whole, on the basis of need and not on the basis of work performed. In regard to food then, the community jumped ... to the Communist principle of distribution according to need. (p. 231)

Obviously the dining rooms set up in 1958 answered a real need. Many social innovations created during the Great Leap collapsed long before the public dining rooms did [under 1962 instructions from central authorities to return to more capitalist methods]. ... They lasted longer in Long Bow than in many other brigades. In at least one other brigade under the Changchih administration they never collapsed at all. (p. 232)

Our party's outlook is that communism offers the best possibility for a good life for the majority of people on earth. What would such a society look like in an industrialized country today? The primary difference between what we have now and the society we envision is that communism would bring true equality. There would be no difference in social standing or getting what we need because of race, job title, gender or type of education. Equal access to opportunities and the basic requirements of daily life for all would be the goal. Many would agree that this is the ideal society, so why shouldn't it be possible? Millions of Chinese collective farmers before us have showed that, in fact, it is possible -- they lived and produced for years under a system of communist economic relations. With dedication and hard work we can build on their accomplishments.

What would it look like? It is hard to say exactly, but a communist revolution would profoundly change how we produce things as well as how we divide up the products. Let's indulge in a little fantasy. Imagine organizing clothing production in the garment shops of Los Angeles after the working class has seized power. We have already eliminated wages and money. Food distribution has been converted to the "supply system" -- groceries are being distributed according to family size. Now stocks of clothing are running low and people must have clothing. So the Party clubs in the garment industry have been asked to reopen as many factories as possible and reestablish production, which was shut down during the past months of civil war. Our comrades there are in touch with hundreds of close supporters. We call a series of meetings, beginning with the people we know who have shown themselves capable of giving leadership. We begin developing a plan for collective management of the shops. We explain the situation of clothing supply around the liberated areas, where the needs are most acute, where stocks remain. Together with comrades and friends from the factories, the Party leadership puts forward a plan for what the collective of garment workers might be able to contribute to the clothing needs of the people. We discuss problems. How many hours should we work? Who else can we recruit to help? How desperate is the need? How should the work be reorganized to make it more interesting and safer?

Workers immediately take on the organizational tasks that used to be reserved for "skilled managers" under capitalism. So the old shop bosses are gone, but what about the clothing designers? Some do have useful skills. Will they come back to the re-opened factories, even though they will get nothing special for working, just their share of food, etc., like everyone else who shows up at the food distribution site, regardless of work. As in earlier revolutions, a small percentage of the skilled work force (people like designers, engineers, architects, doctors and computer programmers) will join the revolution early on to help any way they can. Others will join more reluctantly or try to demand special treatment because they have certain skills.

The workers on the garment factory steering committee put out a leaflet to all who had a role in actually producing clothes before the revolution, even the designers, inviting them back to the factory, now re-opened "under new (workers') management." They welcome those who want to serve the working class and struggle against the elitist ideas of others. First and foremost we put our confidence in ordinary workers, not specialists. The working class has the most to gain from revolution and is always the driving force behind social change that benefits the mass of the population. Among those tens of thousands of garment workers who will eventually come under our lead, there will be many who now become designers-- those who have not been allowed to develop their skills and potentials as designers under capitalism.

The response is slow at first. Only the Party comrades and our immediate base of a few dozen show up on the designated day to start production. But we make some pants. After a day or two workers see what it's like to work in a shop which they organize themselves, and they see that the clothes they sew are being used by other workers who need them, not to make somebody rich. The word starts to get around and others come to check it out. Within a month we have seven shops up and running with close 500 workers and a handful of designers, machine repair people and office staff. Workers who are interested are encouraged to work with the specialists, learning to repair or build machinery, design the patterns or do other work requiring special skills. The schedules, output plans and the choice of clothing to be produced are all discussed at lively meeting of the workers. Party members among them try to keep people thinking about how this particular shop fits into the overall revolutionary effort in the garment district, in L.A., and in the world.

This little fantasy could be something like what will happen one day in Los Angeles, or it could be way off. The degree of upheaval, the incredible release of energy, the nearly super-human efforts and accomplishments of regular people in a revolutionary situation make it hard for a person growing up under dying capitalism to imagine just what it will be like. But we understand certain principles from the way earlier revolutions have unfolded and the way our Party works. "From each according to commitment" does work. Commitment comes from understanding what is necessary and what is possible. Communists lead by example: the first to volunteer, the last to eat, the most dependable when the group is faced with a difficult or dangerous job. Many details of the communist world we can only guess at for now, but we know which direction we are headed.

2. What are some examples of people working without personal gain?

During the Great Leap Forward in China, "people went out by the millions from quiet villages and carefully tended fields to build dams in the wilderness, dig canals that changed the course of rivers, open mines wherever ore or coal could be found, and smelt iron and steel on the spot. With full stomachs, high hopes and infectious zeal, they challenged nature. Never had China's future seemed so bright." (Shenfan, p208) Chao T'ung-min, the first member of a Chinese village to join the iron smelting effort said, "Every time I recall those days I am filled with happiness". (Shenfan p218).

Millions of Chinese participated in the historic changes of that era with enthusiasm and determination. They did it because they had a goal and a belief that their efforts were important in achieving that goal. They did it for the same reasons that parents care for their children, for the same reasons that people volunteer for the PTA, or that church members deliver meals to invalids. All share a sense of commitment and responsibility, a belief that what they are doing is not only right, but necessary.

Earlier it was said that communism is about organizing society to meet human needs. Not all human needs are material. Humans need to believe that who they are and what they do matters. This need, when tapped, unleashes enormous energy. Think about your workplace. If the employees were free to organize the work in such a way that they knew that their input made a difference in the way the job was done, or that they, or people like them, directly benefited from the goods they were producing, how much more enthusiasm and dedication they would have for their work. In a sense, this is personal gain. It's got nothing to do with money. It's a meaningful existence.

An example from the Soviet Union during World War II brings this idea to life. It is taken from a book by Alexander Werth, a British correspondent who was in the USSR during the war. He described the amazing feats performed by Soviet workers when their socialist country, which they had built with their own hands over the past 24 years, was being invaded by the Nazi army in 1941. In order to prevent the Nazis from capturing factories needed to supply the front, workers packed up entire plants, put them on railroad cars, and moved them to safe locations a thousand miles behind the front lines.

Altogether between July and November 1941 no fewer than 1,523 industrial enterprises, including 1,360 large war plants had been moved to the east ... a total of one and a half million railway wagon-loads. (Russia at War, p. 216)

During the war, I had the opportunity of talking to many workers, both men and women, who had been evacuated to the Urals or Siberia during the grim autumn or early winter months of 1941. The story of how whole industries and millions of people had been moved to the east, of how industries were set up in a minimum of time, in appallingly difficult conditions, and of how these industries managed to increase production to an enormous extent during 1942, was, above all, a story of incredible endurance. ... People worked because they knew that it was absolutely necessary--they worked twelve, thirteen, sometimes fourteen or fifteen hours a day; they "lived on their nerves"; they knew that never was their work more urgently needed than now. ... while the soldiers were suffering and risking so much [fighting against the Nazis] it was not for the civilians to shirk even the most crippling, most heartbreaking work.

[He goes on to quote a local newspaper account from Sverdlovsk, a city in the Ural mountains:]

Winter had already come when Sverdlovsk received Comrade Stalin's order to erect two buildings for the plant evacuated from the south. The trains packed with machinery and people were on the way. The war factory had to start production in its new home--and it had to do so in not more than a fortnight. Fourteen days, and not an hour more! It was then that the people of the Urals came to this spot with shovels, bars and pickaxes: students, typists, accountants, shop assistants, housewives, artists, teachers. The earth was like stone, frozen hard by our fierce Siberian frost. Axes and pickaxes could not break the stony soil. In the light of arc-lamps people hacked at the earth all night. They blew up the stones and the frozen earth, and they laid the foundations. ... Their feet and hands were swollen with frostbite, but they did not leave work. Over the charts and blueprints laid out on packing cases, the blizzard was raging. Hundreds of trucks kept rolling up with the building materials... On the twelfth day, into the new buildings with their glass roofs, the machinery, covered with hoar-frost, began to arrive. Braziers were kept alight to unfreeze the machines. ...And two days later, the war factory began production. (p. 219)

Capitalists boast about how much work they can get out of their employees with strict supervisors and "modern, scientific" management techniques. But only believing in what you are doing can really unlock people's creative energy.

3. When workers took power, how did they do at running things?

Capitalists would like us to believe that without their organizational skill and their technical experts, workers would just run around bumping into each other, never accomplishing anything. During the decades that workers controlled the governments of Russia and China, this lie was disproved on a grand scale. The communist parties in these countries drew most of their members from the ranks of factory workers, peasants and those intellectuals (teachers, engineers, etc.) who identified with the cause of the masses. In 1933, 89% of the members of the Soviet Communist Party were workers or peasants. During the decade of the 30s, this party organized and led the most rapid and thoroughgoing industrialization of any country in history, with annual industrial growth rates of around 15%. (U.S. industrial output was actually shrinking during the depression of the 30s, and during "recoveries" U.S. economic growth rarely exceeds 2-3% per year.) Workers under the leadership of this worker and peasant party built the factories - steel, petroleum, machinery - that would equip and mechanize the Red Army for its amazing defeat of the "invincible" Nazi army a few years later. Rather than bumping into each other, it turned out that Russian workers performed much better than their counterparts in capitalist factories in the US and Europe. It turned out that workers worked better where they were led by the most advanced and committed from their own ranks, by other workers. They worked best when they knew they were building their own society, for the good of themselves and their children, rather than to make some boss rich.

The same sort of thing went even further in China during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. Edoarda Masi, an Italian writer who lived in China for many years, described Chinese factories in her 1981 book, China Winter:

The freedom enjoyed by the workers was incredible-- scandalous for those managers accustomed to our factory system. The workplace seemed to be a continuation of the personal world of the workers. In Luoyang, in the famous tractor factory, a worker's family came and went during work hours without the slightest inhibition. On the assembly line, workers would shift and switch duties by mutual consent without awaiting directions from on high. ... in Peking, in the automobile factory, I remembered the Italian diplomat who was stupefied to see coming out of such a madhouse cars produced perfectly down to the last bolt. (p. 292)

Throughout this city [Shanghai] and in many places elsewhere in China, for ten years factories functioned without even the routine rules... there were no controls, people could stop work to carry out some cultural activity, groups took time out of the working day to study; there was a true rejection of supervisory authority. For the first time, workers were for ten years without bosses in the factories. ... [Growth in production] was certainly not slowed down in absolute terms, for starting with the Cultural Revolution there was, on the whole and everywhere, a notable increase in production. (p.295)

This doesn't mean that they did not use the specialized skills of engineers and others we would call "white collar" workers. But it means the factory dictatorship by a small group of owners, managers and their privileged experts could be abolished and perfect tractors kept rolling off the lines in increasing numbers. Engineers added their know-how as equal partners, not as mini-bosses. Scheduling and organizing production was done by the workers themselves. We can do the same.

4. How does revolution tap the unused talents of workers?


- diagnosis of the ox's hernia ('Away with all pests')

- human relations in the hospital (Pests)

5. Why does our Party believe communism is "human nature"?

We often hear that communism is impossible because it is against "human nature." According to this point of view, human nature, supposedly a permanent quality of all people, is identical to the behavior of capitalists in the marketplace. In other words, human nature is selfish. While most people have their selfish side, saying that people are "naturally selfish" is the opposite of the truth.

On the contrary, history and pre-history show human beings are social creatures. The period of "primitive communism" actually represents most of our time on earth as a species, beginning with the first humans around 250,000 years ago. The long early epoch of human life characterized by hunter-gather society was not a time of solitary cave men, each defending his private territory. Rather, humans lived in groups where the work of food acquisition (gathering edible plants and hunting) was done cooperatively. Sharing was the norm, which is how this early system got the name primitive communism. With the development of agriculture 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, more and more humans began to live concentrated together in larger communities. Hunter-gatherer societies faded, but a few survived into this century, permitting us to learn from them.

It is important to realize that humans have lived over 90% of our existence as a species in communistic hunter-gatherer tribes. Sharing is clearly central to our nature. But can these communal instincts survive in a complex society? Or are people inevitably transformed into more selfish creatures as the community grows beyond the size of a hunter-gatherer tribe?

Several of the examples you have read in the earlier sections of this pamphlet make it clear that size alone does not necessarily lead to increased selfishness: ordinary citizens pouring out of the shops and offices to construct a war factory in the middle of the Siberian winter, tens of millions of collective farmers forgoing private grain payments in favor of public food for all, not to mention the countless selfless acts, small and large, that go into the monumental task of building a country. Groups of people can and have shared and cooperated on a mass scale spanning decades and continents. In fact, the societies based on exploitation which arose in the last few thousand years represent a recent invention, a deviation, not our underlying biological nature as a species. The construction of a society based on sharing and cooperation to satisfy human needs is a return to our true nature.

6. If communism has so much to offer, why did capitalism return to Russia and China?

This is the most important question facing humankind at the close of the 20th century. Progressive Labor Party has an answer. We believe that earlier revolutions didn't go far enough. Socialism, although a vast improvement over capitalism, does not develop into communism, the desired society of complete equality. Is that because most people don't want equality, because most don't want to share with others?

That is the Big Lie the capitalists put forward. The capitalists say workers hate communism and love capitalism. This is not only incorrect, it's downright silly when you think about it. As we pointed out earlier, the communist-led revolutions of the past 75 years established socialist, not communist, systems in the various countries. Under socialism everyone was guaranteed a job. Private ownership of factories was outlawed, but there was still money and some workers got higher wages than others. Still, all the value produced in a factory went to the workers -- either as wages or as investment in other things that would benefit the working class (schools, hospitals, new factories, roads, etc.) Under socialism there was much less inequality than under capitalism. It took a generation or two for the small bit of capitalism (differences in private wages) carried forward into the new socialist society to grow into a new exploiting class. Was it the greater equality, the workers' control of government, in short, was it the revolutionary aspects of socialism that workers rejected? Of course not. The rejection would have happened at the time of the revolutions not a generation or two later had that been the case. Those who actually lived through the revolutions, those who helped build the new socialist societies, were willing to defend them--with their lives if necessary.

As the Nazi troops closed in on Moscow, threatening the heart of the first socialist country the world had seen, the determination of the rank-and-file Russians was remarkable:

There were countless stories of regular soldiers and even opolchentsy [civilian volunteers] attacking German tanks with hand grenades and with "petrol bottles", and other "last ditch" exploits. The morale of the fighting forces certainly did not crack.... Secondly, there was the Moscow working-class; most of them were ready to put in long hours of overtime in factories producing armaments and ammunition; to build defenses; to fight the Germans inside Moscow should they break through, or, if all failed, to "follow the Red Army to the east". [Russia at War, p. 234]

And the Nazis were stopped. They were turned back from the gates of Moscow that year (1941) and the main force of their army was broken a year later at Stalingrad. The Russian working class defeated Nazi fascism at great cost. Fifteen years later capitalism in a new, more insidious form had defeated the Russian revolution.

The process of re-growth of capitalism out of socialism (it's called "state capitalism") was full-blown in the Soviet Union by the late 1950s and in China by the mid 1970s. This transformation came from the very center of the revolutions themselves, from the very communist parties which had lead the building of socialism earlier. But these transformations were also not without struggle. The Cultural Revolution in China was the biggest and longest such battle. The PLP came into existence in the US as the embodiment of the struggle against capitalist ideas inside the old communist movement in this country.

For 40 years in the USSR and 25 years in China, several hundred million people lived under governments controlled by the working class. Nearly a billion working people experienced socialism over a period of decades, but they never tried communism, much less rejected it. As for loving capitalism, the popular anti-government movements in the USSR and Eastern Europe beginning in the late 1980s brought about a change in the form of capitalism from a state monopoly capitalism to "free market" capitalism. It is crucial to understand, however, that the essence of capitalism, exploitation of the working class by a privileged elite (capitalists), had returned to these countries with the development of state capitalism in the 1950s. There had been no socialist society in Eastern Europe for at least a generation by the time the Berlin wall fell in 1991.

Many skilled workers and professionals in Eastern Europe saw the conversion from state capitalism to a more open market capitalism beginning in the late 80s as an opportunity to break the monopoly on power and profits held by Breshnev-era technocrats--a group who have nothing to do with socialism, much less communism. After all, does anyone maintain that these guys believed in the principle of communism stated by Karl Marx: "from each according to ability, to each according to need?" Of course not. They wore the mantle of socialism as long as it could keep them in limousines and caviar, then they became "democrats" faster than you could sell bad stock! And those who led the popular uprisings which overthrew these cynical crooks are every bit as cynical and crooked, as workers throughout the formerly socialist countries are learning.

So what would happen if workers tried actual communism? Where workers came closest to a system of real economic and political equality (egalitarian communism) they liked it and resisted changing back to more capitalistic forms. These struggles are, of course, not well publicized in the West, but they have been recorded by reliable observers. The dismantling of a "higher level socialist cooperative farm" in Shansi province in northern China (similar to the communes discussed under question No. 1) was described by another section of Hinton's Shenfan:

[T]he Changchih City Party Committee did mobilize Veteran Wang, working in the rural affairs department of the city, to dissolve coops that he himself had set up. He recalled this, in 1971, as a bitter experience.

"When asked to organize coops we were determined to get them running well. We all worked hard and did good work. When higher-ups suddenly ordered us to do the opposite, to go out and dissolve coops, we went out with a heavy heart." (p. 161)

The P'ingshun County Committee put great pressure on labor hero Li Hsun-ta's West Gully coop ... to break into smaller units. ... but the people of West Gully refused to abandon what they had already built. "We joined together of our own free will," they said. "If we split that must also be voluntary. Nobody can force us to separate." ...

The struggle at the Central Committee level over the pace and scale of the cooperative movement in the countryside was in reality only one facet of a more fundamental struggle concerning the whole course of the revolution. ... (p. 162)

The same sort of thing happened in the cities. In China Winter Masi describes the "sullen" and dejected attitude among workers in the factories where workers' rule (described under No.3) was dismantled and replaced by Western-style labor discipline. Such discipline was the price that had to be paid to make Chinese factories attractive to Western capital.

As mentioned in the excerpt from Hinton's book, there was a struggle throughout the Chinese Communist Party between the left, who wanted to push on towards communism and the right, who believed that developing technology and industrial might was most important. This was really the issue underlying the Cultural Revolution. A glance at China today makes it clear who won.

Our Party has drawn conclusions from these earlier attempts to build communism. These are presented in earlier PLP writings, the most important being Road to Revolution III (1971)and Road to Revolution IV: A Communist Manifesto (1981). A few of the points developed in these works are:

1. Socialism does not lead to communism; socialism retains the seeds of class society (different wages for different work) which grow into a new class of exploiters over a generation or two.

2. Nationalism is a reactionary ideology; "national liberation struggles" promote capitalism, not communism.

3. Workers under PLP's leadership need to institute communist economic relations when we seize power; we will organize according to the principle, "from each according to commitment, to each according to needs."

4. The only way to keep from moving backward toward capitalism is to move forward toward communism.

7. How does PLP know it can lead a successful revolution?

The short answer to this question is because others have done it before us.

A myth of invincibility is maintained by the wealthy 1% of U.S. society who run the government, control the media and supervise education. That myth is maintained by making sure that certain parts of the world's history are hidden from most people. When is the last time you saw a feature movie about the Chinese revolution? In 1992 the 75th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution came and went with no big TV specials. When the mass media do mention these earth shaking events, easily the most important history of the 20th century, they do so in a negative light. In other words, capitalists use the apparatus of mass communication to keep working people in the dark about what workers before them accomplished.

So that doesn't answer the question. In fact, it enlarges the question: add "without control of the mass media." But still our Party is confident that we will make revolution here and around the world. That's because we do have the two key things that the Russian and Chinese working people had. We have numbers and we have the truth. Working class people outnumber the wealthy class of parasites who employ us by about 100 to 1. It is true that most workers have never even heard of PLP at this point and, if asked, would not immediately identify communism as the way forward. However, the objective fact is that capitalism cannot work for the vast majority of people inhabiting the earth, and sooner or later (this part depends on us) they will understand that overthrowing capitalism is necessary for the survival of our class.

Truth is a stubborn thing. No matter how many commercials you watch or how much distorted information the mass media spews out in front of you, you also have the experience of your life. And life under capitalism is simply not what the bosses' media says it is. The reality for the vast majority is unemployment or the threat of it, a falling standard of living, an uncertain future for our kids and worsening racism. We experience repression by brutal police in our neighborhoods and constantly fear that our young people will be sent to die in some foreign war for profits. They don't tell it like that on TV, but that's the way it is. People see it.

The truth is, the communists in Russia, who numbered only a few thousand in the years leading up to the revolution, organized tens of thousands of workers and soldiers around a political program which offered people what they needed. In opposition to the rulers of their day (who, by the way, controlled the printing presses, the universities, and so forth), this small and poor party changed the thinking of masses of people. Sailors in the Baltic fleet, Russian soldiers at the front (this was during World War I), employees at the armaments factories in Petrograd and thousands more united around a program of ending the imperialist war, land to the tiller and political power to the workers' councils (elected factory committees, also known by their Russian name, 'soviets'), all under the open leadership of the communists, known at the time as 'Bolsheviks.' At a critical point, the Russian government got to the point where most of its armed forces were either unreliable or openly under Bolshevik leadership and unwilling to obey their officers. At this moment, the communists mobilized their forces to seize the key centers of power.

The determination of the masses under communist leadership was captured in an exchange between a sophisticated crowd supporting the old regime and an uneducated but determined working class soldier.

A tall young man with a supercilious expression, dressed in the uniform of a student, was leading the attack.

"You realize, I presume," he said insolently, "that by taking up arms against your brothers you are making yourselves the tools of murderers and traitors?"

"Now brother," answered the soldier earnestly, "you don't understand. There are two classes, don't you see, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. We--"

"Oh, I know that silly talk!" broke in the student rudely. "A bunch of ignorant peasants like you hear somebody bawling a few catch-words. You don't understand what they mean. You just echo them like a lot of parrots." The crowd laughed. "I am a Marxian student. And I tell you that this isn't Socialism you are fighting for. It's just plain pro-German anarchy!"

"Oh, yes, I know," answered the soldier, with sweat dripping from his brow. "You are an educated man, that is easy to see. But it seems to me--"

"I suppose," interrupted the other contemptuously, "that you believe Lenin is a real friend of the proletariat?"

"Yes, I do," answered the soldier, suffering.

"Well, my friend, do you know that Lenin was sent through Germany in a closed car? Do you know that Lenin took money from the Germans?"

"Well, I don't know much about that," answered the soldier stubbornly, "but it seems to me that what he says is what I want to hear, and all the simple men like me. Now there are two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat--"

"You are a fool! Why, my friend, I spent two years in Schlüsselburg [prison] for revolutionary activity, when you were still shooting down revolutionists and singing `God Save the Czar!' My name is Vasili Georgevitch Panyin. Didn't you ever hear of me?"

`I'm sorry to say I never did," answered the soldier with humility. "But then, I am not an educated man. You are probably a great hero."

"I am," said the student with conviction. "And I am opposed to the Bolsheviki, who are destroying our Russia, our free revolution. Now how do you account for that?"

The soldier scratched his head. "I can't account for it all," he said grimacing with the pain of his intellectual processes. "To me it seems perfectly simple--but then I'm not well educated. It seems like there are only two classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie----"

"There you go again with your silly formula!" cried the student.

"----only two classes," went on the soldier, doggedly." And whoever isn't on one side is on the other ..."

This pamphlet is only a short introduction to a new world.

As we dig around in the reports of the many eyewitnesses to the revolutions in Russia and China we get more of a feel for how huge and important these transformations were. Workers throughout the world owe a debt to those who went before us, not whining, "nobody's done this before," but instead stating simply, "This must be done." We must not belittle their sacrifice by failing to study the lessons they learned through experience--sometimes thrilling, sometimes bitter. We must repay them in the only way possible, by taking the revolutionary struggle to the next level.

Several useful books are listed below. They provide a fascinating glimpse of the future, as seen through the window of the past. When we pull our noses out of the numbing day-to-day experience of life under a dying system we can begin to see the big picture: "...a better world's in birth."

Useful Reading

John Reed: Ten Days That Shook the World.
John Reed, a writer and journalist from Seattle, described the first successful insurrection by the working class in this classic book. It has the energy and immediacy of a first hand account.

Alexander Werth: Russia At War: 1939-45.
Werth was a teenager when his family fled the Russian revolution and moved the family from St. Petersburg to England. When he returned to the Soviet Union as a correspondent for the BBC during World War II, he had the advantage of speaking Russian, Polish and Ukranian so he was able to talk with ordinary citizens and soldiers and give a ground-up view of the huge human drama unfolding on the Eastern Front.

Edoarda Masi: China Winter: Workers, Mandarins, and the Purge of the Gang of Four. E.P.Dutton, New York, 1981.
Masi, an Italian writer and translator, lived in China as a student in the 1950s, then returned 18 years later, at the time of Mao's death, as a visiting lecturer. Her book describes what she called "the end of a great revolution" in somber terms.

Strong: Communes

Red Star Over China

William Hinton: Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village.
Hinton was working for an international agricultural releif organization in pre-revolutionary China when the Eighth Route (Red) Army swept through the province seizing the estates of rich landlords and redistributing the land to poor peasants. He requested permission from the new communist authorities to remain in the area and write a detailed history of the events in one village. He makes the process of transformation of people and society real by his careful and detailed account.

Also by Hinton: Shenfan

Twenty years after he left Long Bow Village in northern Shansi Province, Hinton was able to return to see how the village had fared under communist leadership. He describes the history of those turbulent and exhilarating times through the eyes of his old friends, the farmers and organizers of Long Bow.

Away With All Pests

Joshua Horn, a British orthopedist, emmigrated to China in the early 1950s and worked in one of the teaching hospitals in Shanghai. He wrote this book during the height of the Cultural Revolution and it reflects some of the most profound themes of that period. In his introduction he reveals his dislike for the arrogance of senior physicians in the hospitals where he trained in Britain. In socialist China the relations between experts and the masses have been transformed. Patients and orderlies accompany the doctors on rounds and the physicians learn from and serve the people. A remarkable account.

* Words and phrases which may need some explanation are listed in a glossary at the end of the pamphlet. Each of these terms is underlined the first time it appears in the pamphlet. There is also a list of books and articles for the interested reader, including sources quoted in the text.


Some words used in definitions will themselves need defining. These terms are underlined and have their own glossary entries.

base - The political use of this word refers to the group of political friends and supporters around an organizer or a party unit

Berlin wall - A wall built in 1961 between the Soviet controlled sector of Berlin and the section controlled by western capitalist powers. Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, had been conquered by the Soviet Red Army in the closing months of World War II (May, 1945). The city was divided in two, and half of it was placed under the control of the US, Britain and France (the major capitalist powers at that time). The wall came to symbolize the "cold war" between the Soviet Union and the US. It was torn down in 1991 after state capitalism was relaced by market capitalism in Eastern Europe and the two sectors of Germany, East and West, were reunited economically and politically.

Bolsheviks, Bolshevik revolution - The original name for the communist party in Russia, established in the early 1900s, which overthrew the old government of the czar in 1917. After the revolution the party was renamed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union or CPSU . The Russian revolution they led, sometimes called the "Bolshevik revolution" established a socialist political-economic system and the first worker-controlled nation in the history of the world (see Soviet Union). Important early leaders included V. I. Lenin and Josef Stalin.

bourgeoisie - Another word for the capitalist class (French). Adjective form: bourgeois.

Breshnev - Leader of the CPSU (see Bolsheviks) from 19 to 19 , during the hayday of state capitalism in the formerly socialist USSR. He lived like a typical capitalist politician with luxurious mansions, many automobiles, etc., while the workers made do with second-rate and overcrowded accomodations.

capital - Money or property used to produce other goods. E.g., a shop with sewing machines. See also industrialization. Note that most of what we think about as private property is not capital, e.g., a home, our clothing, a TV set. A capitlist is not distinguished so much by how much property he or she owns as by the type of property: capitalists own property which, by the application of labor, can generate more property.

capitalism - A political-economic system in which a small class of people owns or controls the vast majority of capital. The two major forms of capitalism seen in the 20th century are market capitalism (also called free market capitalism) and state capitalism (or state monopoly capitalism). The two forms differ in how openly different groups of capitalists fight for control of the government and how completely the dominant group of capitalists can eliminate the competition. The forms can be mixed (government appointed capitalists have the monopoly on electricity, railroads or banks, say, while a tiny number of billionaires not directly appointed by the government compete in automobile production). The key feature of all forms of capitalism: the working class has no political power and controls no capital.

capitalist - A person who owns capital; a boss, a member of the capitalist class. Capitalists make their money by exploiting the labor of others (workers). (See class). The word capitalist is also used as an adjective to describe the political-economic system run by and for wealthy capitalists. (Synonyms: bourgeois [adj.], bourgeoisie [n.])

Central Committee - The leading group in a party organized along the lines of the Bolsheviks. This group consults with the broader membership of the party, develops the political strategy and overall plan for the party and leads it in putting this plan into practice.

China - The most populous country in the world, located in eastern Asia. It has an area slightly larger than the US and three to four times the population of the US. The old capitalist regime in China (backed by the US) was overthrown by a peasant and worker revolution led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949, and socialism was established. The left within the CCP tried to push on toward communism through various struggles (see Cultural Revolution) up through the early 1970s, but the pro-capitalist elements within the Party won out and the country had a system of state capitalism from the early 70s until the move toward market capitalism beginning in the late 1980s.

class - A social group within the population the members of which share a common way of earning a living, in a general sense. People who earn a living working for wages (who can only make money by working) are working class (or workers). Those who earn money by owning capital are capitalists. A third group in capitalist society, neither working class nor capitalists, is called petit bourguisie or middle class (see also intellectuals).Most people are born into a class and remain in that class all their life, as do their children. In the US and similar industrialized capitalist countries, the capitalists make up about 1% of the population, the working class about 80% and the petit bourgeoisie (professionals plus managers) the remaining 19%.

collective - Something held in common by many people (e.g., a collective farm). Also a group of people who work together on a common project, making decisions by discussion and consensus.

commune - See People's Communes.

communism - The political-economic system in which people share whatever they produce, with distribution according to need. Under communism each person contributes according to their commitment to the common good. Under communism there would be no wages. No fully communist country has been established up to this time.

communist - Related to communism or the beliefs espoused by Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, V.I. Lenin. Sometimes "Marxist" is used as a synonym. Also, a person who believes in communism. The term is often used loosely. For example, political parties which advocate socialism rather than communism, or which oppose revolution sometimes call themselves "communist." Bosses often call anyone who fights against them a communist.

coop - or cooperative - An enterprise in which the means of producing something (e.g., a factory, a store) is jointly held by a group of people who make decisions functioning as a collective.

cooperative farm - The form of farm organized in Chinese villages in the early 1950s. The early coop farms involved families pooling their land, draft animals and tools and farming all the land together in work teams, instead of each family farming their own tiny plot. The coops were more efficient and produced more than the sum of the individual plots.

Cultural Revolution - A massive political upheaval in China lasting from 1965 to the early 70s. The conflict underlying this outbreak of political strife was based on two competing theories inside the Chinese Communist Party about how to build socialism, and eventually communism. One theory held that the technical level of society and its ability to produce things people needed had to reach a fairly high level before people could be expected to share with each other, and that too much emphasis on sharing early on would take away people's incentive to produce and to innovate. Their slogan was "Technique is primary." Others disagreed with this view and called the believers in technique "right wingers." These leftist opponents said the other side was "taking the capitalist road." The leftists pointed to the collective organization of farming and other enterprises as proof that even very poor peasant farmers could be won to communist principles of sharing. Their slogan was "Politics is primary" and they emphasized political control by the masses and downplaying of technical experts.

czar - (also spelled tsar) The Russian king

democracy - One of the political forms used by capitalists to organize the government they use to rule over the workers (see class). This form features elections in which non-capitalists (the other 99% of us) get to cast votes for individuals running for office. Different groups of capitalists may back particular candidates, or, more often, most big capitalists back all candidates. All elected officials end up owing their jobs to people with big money. Important issues are often talked about in campaigns, but no big decisions are made by workers' votes.

democrat - Democrat with a small "d" is someone who espouses democracy.

depression - An economic crisis in a capitalist economy in which unemployment rises and personal income and production fall. Depressions (also called "contractions" or "recessions") occur at various intervals, usually about every 5 to 15 years, in all capitalist economies. In particularly deep and long-lasting depressions recovery may be incomplete before the next downturn develops. Thus in the Great Depression (1929-1940) official unemployment remained over 10% until World War II began (1940). In the current depression in the US (1974-present) there have been official "recoveries" but the number of real jobs has continued to decrease relative to the population.

Eastern Europe - That part of Europe which was allied with or controlled by the Soviet Union from the end of World War II in 1945, until the collapse of state monopoly capitalism in 1991. Important countries in this area, not counting the European portion of the USSR, are Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria and Albania.

economic relations - The relations between people which determine how they divide wealth produced by the group to which they belong. Capitalist economic relations are built on private ownership and exploitation of the majority by a minority which owns capital. Communist economic relations are collective or group ownership, sharing of resources and working for the common good. The economic relations are a component of the social system or political-economic system.

egalitarian - Based on complete equality of access to resources, independent of one's position in society; communistic.

exploitation - The process of taking advantage of someone for personal gain. This usually refers to economic gain (e.g., getting rich off of someone else's work) but can also apply to interpersonal matters, such as taking public credit for the efforts of others or pretending to like someone just to get them to do something for you. Capitalist social and economic relations are based on exploitation (that's what working for someone is all about), while communist relations must be based on mutual trust, collective effort and collective reward.

fascist - Related to the political system of fascism in which capitalists rule a country using tactics of extreme police repression and enforced "cooperation" between workers and their employers. It is false cooperation because the workers do the work, fight and die in the wars and take orders while the capitalists make decisions and profit. Fascist ideology uses extreme racism and nationalism to fool workers into participating. (See also Nazi.)

Five Year Plans - The economic plans used by socialist (planned) economies to coordinate the development of projects and to allocate resources.

foreign war for profits - See imperialism.

free market capitalism - See capitalism.

Great Leap Forward - The political-economic campaign in China in the late 1950s during which the left wing of the Central Committee held sway. They tried to develop more communist economic relations in agriculture (see also People's Communes) and pooled the volunteer labor of millions to increase the amount of land under cultivation, carry out flood control projects and build infrastructure (roads, electric production, communication facilities, etc.) There was a thrust to teach everyone basics of an industrial society and to break down the mystique of industrial technology by such campaigns as the back-yard iron smelters and home made ball-bearing production.

history - See recorded history

hunter-gatherer society - A form of primitive human society in which a social group (generally an extended family group of fewer than 200) lives by gathering plants that grow naturally and hunting for game. The group moves about, following the food supply. Decision making can take many forms, but group consensus and acknowledgment of age and experience are common themes in many of the societies studied. Food production and distribution are done collectively, although there is often division of labor based on age or sex. Sometimes referred to as "primitive communism".

ideology - A set of beliefs dealing with basic issues such as how people should treat each other or how the world works; a philosophy.

imperialism - A political-economic system based on the domination of one nation or community of people by another so that the dominant group can exploit or take advantage of the oppressed group; the system of an empire and its colonies or conquered lands. Ancient empires included Rome and Byzantium. In the era of capitalism, imperialism often means economic and political domination without formal colony status, such as the relationship of the US to much of Latin America; Japan to much of Pacific Asia; or Russia to the former Soviet Republics.

intellectuals - Class societies have generally separated "mental" from "manual" work, although obviously no physical labor is without a mental component. The term intellectual refers to people who make their living performing mostly or entirely mental labor. Examples include architects, teachers and writers. Under capitalism, most of these people belong to one of two economic classes. Some, who can only make a living working for wages (most teachers, for example) are working class. Others, can be self-employed (e.g., doctors) and are in a different class (called the petit bourgeoisie).

industrial growth rates - The percent increase in the industrial portion of an economy over a specified period of time. The industrial portion is that part of an economy which deals with manufacturing, mining, power generation, transportation and related fields, that is, the entire economy minus agriculture and services.

industrialization - The process of building up the "means of production," that is, the factories, mines, railroads, electricity production and so forth, all the capital assets needed to produce finished products.

labor discipline - Rules and regulations applied to workers in the workplace. This usually implies regulation by, or at least in the interests of, someone besides the workers themselves, i.e., bosses.

`land to the tiller' - This slogan was used by the Bolsheviks to describe their program of land reform in the Russian revolution. Large estates were seized from the gentry and the land was distributed to the landless or land-poor peasants (farmers). These poor farmers had been working the land before the revolution but they had to turn over most of what they produced in rent or taxes prior to the land reform.

left - When used as a political term, left refers to the more egalitarian, pro-communist or anti-capitalist position in a controversy. Related terms are leftist and left-wing.

market capitalism - See under capitalism.

masses - The most numerous class or classes in a society, making up the bulk of the population. In the US this would mean the working class. In China in 1949 this meant the peasants (probably over 80% of the people) and the urban working class (maybe 10%).

middle class - A loosely applied term with a variety of meanings. Used in a Marxist or communist analysis of classes it refers to the group, making up about 15-20% of the population which is neither capitalist nor worker. These people may be managers who organize the exploitation of workers on behalf of some capitalist, or they may function independently, owning and operating their own means of production. Examples include a shop owner who works in the shop waiting on customers, a farmer who owns and works his own land, or a person who "owns" certain skills, like an architect. Used in the capitalist press, "middle class" is anybody in between an unemployeed homeless person and a multi-millionaire. In other words, in capitalist popular sociology, there is no such thing as a the working class and the scientific meaning of class is eliminated by calling everyone "middle class".

nationalism - The political ideology which says the "nation" is the most important thing. This outlook says that class membership is unimportant (or doesn't exist), so that a person should be on the same side as you if they are your nationality, even though that person may be your boss and exploit you every day. According to nationalism, workers of different national or ethnic groups are natural enemies.

Nazi - The fascist political party which ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945. Nazi is short for the German name of the party (Nazional Sozialistiche Deutche Arbeiters Partei, NSDAP). The leader of the party was Adolf Hitler. The party's ideology was extreme nationalism, blaming all problems of the German masses on other ethnic and national groups, notably Jews and Slavs (Russians, Poles, etc.) The Nazi army defeated French, British, Czech, Polish and other armies before they invaded the Soviet Union in World War II. They were turned back and eventually crushed by the Soviet Red Army, which took Berlin, the Nazi capital, in May, 1945.

party or Party - A political grouping generally representing the interests of one class in society which organizes members of that class (and others if it can) to pursue goals which are in that class's interest. When written with a capital "P" it refers to a particular party. When we write about a party leading class struggle on behalf of the working class today, we often write "the Party," meaning Progressive Labor Party.

peasant - A subsistence farmer, that is, a person who farms a small plot of land by hand or with draft animals and lives on the food he or she produces. Most peasant farmers must pay part of their crop to others, such as landlords, tax collectors, banks, etc. The term peasant implies a system of farming in which most of the land farmed is in small plots which are farmed by a family. This is different from most farming in the world today, which involves large tracts of land worked by farm laborers who own little or no land or farm implements of their own and who must therefore sell their labor to wealthy land owners to survive. That part of society made up of peasants is called the peasantry.

People's Commune - The name of the large cooperative farms organized out of smaller coops in rural China in the late 1950s. A typical commune was made up of several villages (tens of thousands of people) who farmed on a large scale using a system of work points to assign a share of the crop to each family. Communes also ran small industries (e.g., brick kilns, cement factories, electric generating plants), organized education, housing, health care, etc.

petit bougeoisie - The class of people who own a small amount of capital and make their living working that capital themselves. E.g., owner of a print shop who owns the equipment and runs the machines personally. As a class the petit bourgeoisie fall between the capitalists (also known as bourgeoisie) who own capital but hire others to work it for their profit, and the working class, who own no capital and must sell their labor to capitalists in order to survive.

Petrograd - The 1914-1924 name for a city in northwestern Russia, also known by its English name, St. Petersburg. It was the capital of the Russian empire from 1712-1917. It was the center of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and was renamed Leningrad after the Bolshevik party's leader from 1924 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

PLP - Progressive Labor Party, the revolutionary party organized in New York in 1965 by communists, many of whom had constituted the left within the old Communist Party of the United States of America, CPUSA. After the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its US affiliate, the CPUSA, abandoned the cause of revolution, PLP was formed to pick up the fight for workers' power.

pre-history - See recorded history

primitive communism - The name sometimes used to describe simple hunter gatherer societies in which the economic life of the group (collecting and hunting food) was done in a collective fashion.

reactionary - One who favors returning to older political or social forms; an extreme conservative. The term implies return to a more exploitative, hierarchical system.

recorded history - Human history since the development of written language (the past 5,000 years or so). Most of human history (sometimes called "pre-history" or "prehistoric times") was not recorded, since it occurred between the time human beings evolved as a species (around 250,000 years ago) and when writing was first developed, about 3,000 BC.

Red Army - A communist army, under the leadership of a communist party. The Soviet Red Army is given credit for destroying at least 80% of Hitler's Nazi army, even by capitalist historians. The other major communist army was the Chinese People's Army (or Red Army) which drove the Japanese fascists out of China and defeated the Chinese Nationalist Army in the mid- to late-1940s.

revolutionary party - A political party which advocates violent overthrow of the government to place a different class in power.

revolution - The complete, generally violent, overthrow of a government.

right - When this word is used to mean one side in a political struggle or controversy, it indicates the more conservative, hierarchical, exploitative, anti-communist or pro-capitalist position. See also reactionary. Related terms are right-wing, rightist.

Russia - A large country spanning eastern Europe and all of nothern Asia with a population roughly equal to the United States. From the 1700s until 1917 it was an empire ruled by a king (called the Czar). In 1917, after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, the Russian empire was converted into the first socialist country, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR (see Soviet Union). The largest of the 15 constituent republics of the USSR, with three quarters of the land and over half the population, was the Russian Republic. After the transition from state capitalism to market capitalism in the USSR in the late 1980s followed by the official dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian Republic renamed itself Russia again.

Russian revolution - Another name for the Bolskevik revolution of 1917, in which the working class took power in Russia and set up a socialist society.

Shanghai - Large port city on the eastern coast of China. It has been a leading industrial and trade center for over a century. Many of the most radical changes seen in any Chinese city during the Cultural Revolution occurred in Shanghai.

socialism - A political-economic system in which the working class holds political power through its party and all are guaranteed jobs. The pay for different jobs varies, based on how socially useful that particular work is. This was the system established after the revolutions in Russia (1917) and China (1949).

soviet - The Russian word for the workers' councils established in every factory and army unit in Russia leading up the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. Representatives of the soviets met in congresses. The socialist government set up in Russia was based on these soviets, with the highest policy-making organ being the Supreme Soviet, a body of several hundred representatives of geographic areas. The word "soviet" is also used as an adjective to describe anything related to the USSR (Soviet Union).

Soviet Union - The commonly used name for the country created by the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, properly, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR. The country was formally dissolved into component republics in 1991. The political-economic system of the USSR was socialist from 1917 until the mid-1950s; from then until its dissolution in 1991, a system of state capitalism prevailed until the 1980s when forms of market capitalism began to be introduced. (See also Russia.)

Stalingrad - The name given to an industrial city on the Volga river in south central Russia during the 1930s and 40s (now Volgagrad). The Battle of Stalingrad in World War II was one of the turning points of the war. The Nazi army fought their way into the city but could never take more than half of Stalingrad. The Nazis's final offensive was stopped in mid-October, 1942, and a counter-offensive by the Red Army the next month resulted in the capture and killing of over half a million Nazi soldiers and a dozen of their generals. The Nazis were in retreat from the Red Army for the next two and a half years, right up until the capture of the German capital, Berlin, in 1945.

state capitalism - See capitalism.

state monopoly capitalism - See capitalism

supply system - The system for distribution of goods and services used in the height of the People's Commune movement in China by which members of a commune received food, medical care, and other things they required according to need, without regard to money or money equivalents (work points). How much and what parts of a commune's economy came under the supply system depended on the decision of the commune members. In some, as much as 85% of the commune's economy was under the supply system. This system approaches communist economic relations.

technocrat - A derogatory term derived from "technician" plus "bureaucrat." It means a technical specialist of some sort who exerts control over other people to advance his or her own position socially or economically. The theory of socialist economic development which places a primary emphasis on technological refinement (as more important than workers' control over social decisions) leads to placing more power in the hands of technical experts and managers who are no longer accountable to the masses, i.e., technocrats. (See also Cultural Revolution.)

USSR - Abbreviation for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. See Soviet Union.

work points - Cooperative farms and other collective production units in China often used work points in place of money to assign a portion of the total output of the group (e.g., the fall grain harvest) to a worker or a family of workers.

worker - When used politically, this word means a member of the working class, whether or not employed at the moment. It does not refer to the self-employed (actually or potentially). See under class.

working class - The political-economic class of people who survive by selling their work for wages. This class makes up the vast majority of the population of the world.

workers' councils - See soviet.

World War I - The first worldwide war between the various imperialist powers, running from 1914 to 1918. The underlying conflict had to do with competition for control of economic spheres of influence.

World War II - The second war involving most of the largest countries of the world, running from 1939 until 1945. The Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan), all fascist countries, fought against "the Allies," principally the Soviet Union, Britain and the US. About 35-60 million people died as a result of this war, the largest losses being in the Soviet Union where 18-20 million people were killed, half of them civilians. The capitalist Allies (US and Britain) let their socialist ally, the USSR, bear the brunt of Hitler's army, as reflected by the loss of life. US and Britain together lost about 655,000 people, mostly soldiers, a two-country total amounting to only one thirtieth of the soviet losses. After the war, US influence as an imperialist power was greatly enhanced, since it suffered no battles on its shores and US loss of life was relatively light.

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