Death of communism?
Mikhail Gorbachev's resignation as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the dissolution of its Central Committee and the nationalisation of the Communist Party's property by Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin, have been hailed in the capitalist media of the West as the "death of communism".
These moves undoubtedly signal the death of the CPSU as an organisation. But as a political movement defending the interests of the workers and committed to achieving goals proclaimed by Marx and Lenin — the creation of a classless society based on popular self-government — the CPSU has been dead for many decades.
Coming to power in November 1917 at the head of massive revolutionary movement by Russia's workers and peasants, the Russian Communist Party was the most democratic party the world had ever seen. Its membership — a quarter million strong — was a fusion of older revolutionary activists, who had survived the repressive barbarism of the semi-feudal tsarist regime, and a new generation of militant workers drawn to the party by its uncompromising struggle to free Russia from poverty and injustice, tyranny and oppression.
The original leaders of the Communist Party did not conceive of the Russian Revolution as an end in itself, but as a first step in a worldwide revolutionary process needed to complete what Soviet Russia had begun.
But the young workers state soon found itself isolated. The major capitalist powers blockaded and invaded Soviet Russia. For three years, from 1918 to 1920, the revolution had to fight for its life. The first socialist state survived the civil war and foreign intervention due to the determination of the workers and peasants to defend the freedoms they had won in the October Revolution.
This victory was achieved at terrible cost. The backward economy of Russia was almost completely ruined in the civil war. Hunger and disease ravished the whole land. On the basis of the hunger and scarcity, the backwardness and isolation, and the demoralisation they bred, the democratic power created by the workers in 1917 was usurped by a self-seeking, privileged bureaucracy, personified by Stalin.
The Stalinist bureaucracy destroyed the soviets as organs of popular power, turning them into powerless fig leaves of a totalitarian regime. They debased the theory that had guided the revolution into a lifeless dogma, a state religion. They murdered almost all of the original leaders of the revolution. They transformed the Communist Party from a voluntary union of selfless revolutionaries into a bureaucratic machine controlling every aspect of Soviet life and protecting the privileges of an administrative elite.
The repression, corruption and cronyism that the party defended under Stalin and his successors have discredited the democratic ideals of socialism among the working people of the Soviet Union and in much of the capitalist world. That party's demise helps clear away an enormous obstacle to the building of a movement that is genuinely committed to the original goals of communism — a world ty, tyranny and injustice.