A Communist should have largeness of mind and he should be staunch and active, looking upon the interests of the revolution as his very life and subordinating his personal interests to those of the revolution; always and everywhere he should adhere to principle and wage a tireless struggle against all incorrect ideas and actions, so as to consolidate the collective life of the Party and strengthen the ties between the Party and the masses; he should be more concerned about the Party and the masses than about any private person, and more concerned about others than about himself. Only thus can he be considered a Communist.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on the various Communist nations which have existed and still exist and their leaders? I saw your Mao quote and thought 'thats all well and good, but hes responsible for the deaths of 40 - 70 million people'. I end up thinking a long the same lines when people glorify Stalin too. The whole thing is confusing to me, and unless I'm missing something pretty damn significant, I don't see how these people can be respected.
I think it can be hard for those of us educated in the Western capitalist powers to overcome the “great man theory of history” that dominates in schools and the media.
Not only are the socialist countries demonized by the ruling class and its mouthpieces; not only are their mistakes and problems greatly exaggerated for propaganda purposes; but further confusion is created by the assumption that every tragedy that happens there must be assigned blame to a single person (just as every “triumph” of imperialism is).
To bring up another quote from Mao: “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”
A revolution is a tremendous historical upheaval. Classes battle and social relations change because they MUST change; the status quo can no longer be maintained. People take sides. People die — on one side, to make things better; and on the other, to hold onto their class privileges. Sometimes people who refuse to take sides die as well. And a revolution is not a one-off act – it continues even after the seizure of power by the new class.
Marxism teaches us to understand social development in this way. Mao emerged as a leader of the Chinese workers’ and peasants’ revolution. Had he died in battle or of food poisoning in the 1920s, someone else would have taken his place, and things might have turned out somewhat differently, but the revolution would have continued.
As a Marxist-Leninist, who has chosen the side of the working-class and oppressed in the global class struggle, I see Mao (not as a superman, but as a representative of the revolutionary Chinese workers) as responsible for establishing China’s self-determination and national independence after long decades of colonial rule. I see him as a representative of the class that ended foot-binding and created the “iron rice bowl” to end starvation; that supported Vietnam’s revolutionary struggle against U.S. imperialism; that carried out the struggle for socialism by engaging the masses in revolutionary action during the Cultural Revolution.
Even though China has slid backward gravely with capitalist reforms since Mao’s death, the very fact that it is today an economic super-power could not have happened without the liberatory struggle that he played a key role in. Had that revolution not taken place, China would still be a neocolonial playground of the West and Japan.
Stalin’s role is a bit different, but the same principles apply. He came to the fore in the Soviet Union because of the struggle of class forces inside the country after the failure of the Western European proletariat to take power in the post-World War I era. He straddled the interests of the workers and poor peasants on one hand, and the more capitalist-inclined peasants, intellectuals and former czarist functionaries on the other.
Stalin’s “crimes” depend entirely on what class perspective you are coming from. For the Western imperialists, Stalin’s crime was to maintain the independence and socialist development of the USSR (however deformed in some respects). From the point of view of the working class, his crimes were the persecution of revolutionary communists, the suppression of Soviet democracy and his zig-zagging and inconsistent politics that undermined the international communist movement. All of these problems were the result of his role in juggling opposing class interests. While I personally believe that Lenin or Trotsky would have done a better job of it, the underlying problems would have remained even if Stalin never existed.