Dr. Herbert Aptheker's comments at the 25th convention of the CPUSA, Dec. 7, 199>
Dr. Herbert Aptheker's Comments
XXV Convention, CPUSA, December 7,1991, Cleveland, Ohio

     The crisis in the world-wide revolutionary movement is most

     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

     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,

     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

     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

     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.