Dr. Herbert Aptheker's Comments XXV Convention, CPUSA, December 7,1991, Cleveland, Ohio The crisis in the world-wide revolutionary movement is most profound. One comrade-- Sarah Jones of New York -- has written that: "It was not socialism, but human error and imperialist sabotage, that caused crisis in the USSR." (People's Weekly World, 11/23/91). This was in response to an earlier letter from Benjamin DeLeon: "Since Marxism-Leninism views human error as governed by natural -- that is scientific law - the argument of human error is basically inapplicable." (People's Weekly World, 11/9/91). Both views are one-sided. Marxism holds that circumstances make human beings and human beings make circumstances. Each of the above quotations omits the dialectics involved. It is not a matter of human error (of course, humans are fallible); the point is that history is the record of human activity and that human activity is ensconced in "circumstances" i.e. past history. So human activity is history, but such activity is not independent of the circumstances in which it is conducted. Certainly there was human error and certainly there was imperialist sabotage and most assuredly Comrade Jones is correct that the cause of the crisis is not socialism. To speak of a systemic source of the crisis and collapse in the USSR - and in Romania, Bulgaria, Czecho-Slovakia, Poland and Hungary - is to insist that the nature of the governing parties in all these cases was the basic source of the crisis. And what was that nature -- it was authoritarian, domineering, brutal and guilty of colossal crimes -- not only suppression but also massive human extermination. It is possible to understand -- not excuse -- these distortions and aberrations: backward societies, fearful suffering, the assaults of imperialism from Woodrow Wilson to Adolph Hitler to John Foster Dulles, the terrible burden of the arms race, the magnificent shouldering of assistance to national liberation movements, etc. -- but the fact remains of the terrible repression, domination, and slaughter. These are not to be called "mistakes" as comrade Sam Webb did recently and the revelations of some of their reality thirty-five years ago by Khruschev are not to be call "revelations" -- with quotation marks -- as by Comrade John Tallmadge in a recent Op-Ed piece in the People's Weekly World, 11/23/91. No quotation marks are needed for those revelations. And what did they reveal? -- Monstrous crimes which had been engaged in for years, involving mass murder; and these revelations also showed that comrades of other countries had been systematically deceived. And -- for many and weighty reasons -- many of us were easily deceived; we were credulous because we felt we had to be. Hence the revelations were stunning; and while some change occurred this change was partial. And clearly the monstrous reality had induced profound popular hostility among large masses in all of the nations named above. Hence this mass hostility could not be withstood. And for those of us in the movement but outside the effected countries the blow was two-fold -- first the stunning reality and this compounded by the fact that we had consistently denied that reality. Hence our credibility -- our honesty is decisively questioned; for a revolutionary nothing replaces honesty. Without integrity revolutionary commitment is impossible. All this produces in some comrades the phenomenon of denial; the reality is so painful that only denial makes sense. But denying reality may appease one momentarily -- but only momentarily and in any case reality exists. Certainly in the lands of the East there has been wholesale abandoning of revolutionary commitment and philosophy. This is manifest not only in the writings of renegades filling the pages of Russian, Polish, German, and Hungarian newspapers. It reached especially denial of the reality of class struggle as in the concept of universal human values which clearly omits reference to the different values of the oppressor and the oppressed, of the slave and the master, of the peon and the baron, of the Kluxer and his victim, of the tortured and the torturer, of a Reagan and a Castro. Gorbachev himself announced these universal human values and that is an abandonment of Marxism as I said years ago but when he said "We should have admitted a long time ago that the era when popular masses had no other method of improving their conditions but that of storming the Bastille or Winter Palace is gone," when he said that -- and Comrade Hall quoted it in his Report to the National Committee, on November 16, 1991, as an example of what he then called "opportunism", he is in error. Gorbachev in the quoted sentence is reiterating the Marxism-Leninism of the present era. In my Nature of Democracy, Freedom & Revolution (International, 1967) I wrote: "Today, when the fullest implementation, in every aspect, of popular sovereignty is on the historical agenda, the democratic and anti-conspiratorial character of the revolutionary process is especially clear. This is why Engels back in March, 1895...was able to write: 'The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities, at the head of unconscious masses is past.'" This is why Lenin in April, 1917, denounced "any playing at 'seizure of power' by a workers government...any kind of Blanquist adventurism." In that same month Lenin insisted -- in italics -- "there must be compliance with the will of the majority of the population." (pages 98, 107 of cited work) Comrade Hall is correct when in the same report he insisted that: "You cannot blame Stalin's crimes on Socialism. You cannot blame Gorbachev's 'privatization' on socialism. You cannot blame socialism for the smashing of the Communist Party and the anti- Communist hysteria in the Soviet Union." Yes, but what can one blame; denouncing opportunism will not do. The main source of the collapse that Comrade Hall describes -- not only in the USSR but in every party of Eastern Europe -- lies not in socialism, but rather in the distortions and vitiation of the essential nature of the Party as conceived by Marx and Engels and Lenin into an organization eaten up by bureaucracy, tyranny, authoritarianism, repression and finally human annihilation. The colossal victories of the Soviet Union, its historical contributions -- magnificently summarized by Castro in his splendid report to the 4th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in October, 1991 (in Political Affairs, December, 1991) -- were due to socialism but the collapse, the present crisis in the world of socialism rests fundamentally upon the Stalinization of Lenin's party. It is that authoritarianism, anti-democratic, and eventually anti-humanistic, distortion that must be combatted, our Party must learn these lessons, must give up denial, must transform its character so that it becomes the democratic, energetic coming together of men and women differing in many characteristics but united in irrevocable commitment to equality, to peace, to freedom, to an end to racism, male chauvinism, anti-semitism, to an end to unemployment, slums and impoverishment, to socialism. Never has such commitment been more urgently needed than now, here, in the United States, faced as it is with the most profound societal crisis in its history. Such commitment for such a cause by a dedicated membership in a Party of Socialism as democratic and invigorating and staunch as that in the dreams of Foster and Flynn, of Neruda and La Passionaria, of DuBois and of Lenin will be irresistible, will be a true vanguard of the masses in the United States. This is the main direction of the changes now needed in our Party; this should be the main work of the XXV Convention.