NCPN Central Committee
On 30 December 1922, 2215 delegates from the Russian, Ukrainian, Transcaucasian and Belarusian Soviet republics met in Moscow. There they decided to establish the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
100 years later, in a still predominantly capitalist world, fear among the bourgeoisie and opportunists for the Soviet Union has not weakened. At a time when the gap between rich and poor is widening, when imperialist wars are raging – in other words, at a time when capitalism no longer offers prospects to the vast majority of humanity, the socialism built in the Soviet Union shows people a necessary and real alternative. An alternative to rotten capitalism. A system where people are at the centre, rather than commerce. A system where health and education are free, rather than a commodity. A system where the development of the individual and society are harmonised, as opposed to one where competition, burn-outs and dissatisfaction are the order of the day. A system where friendship between peoples and gender equality are not in question, as opposed to the racism and sexism that characterises capitalism, despite all manner of pious wishes and slogans. Socialism, not capitalism.
Why are the bourgeoisie and opportunists, from pseudo-Marxists to social democrats, from liberals to fascists, so afraid of the Soviet Union? Why is the Soviet Union attacked wherever possible, whether in the bourgeois press, in literature, and in our schools and universities? The fear of the bourgeoisie lies not in the mistakes and errors made in the Soviet Union’s nearly 70-year existence. The fear is in the successes. The realisation of socialism in the Soviet Union showed that we can do without capitalists, without the bosses. Socialism shows that real progress can be achieved by working people, under a system without exploitation of man by man. When an economy is planned for human needs and not for profit this provides a basis for solving problems that capitalism cannot even cover with band-aids. This is the real fear of the bourgeoisie – that it is no longer needed and working people can do without it.
That is why the NCPN defends the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union. Not out of a sense of nostalgia or idealisation, but as an important lesson and example for our struggle for a socialist Netherlands. That is why we stated the following at our 7th Congress:
“The struggle for socialism requires that we as a party learn lessons from the experiences of the past. The NCPN therefore studies and evaluates the history of the construction of socialism in different countries. We draw lessons from weaknesses and mistakes, as well as successes, to understand the causes of problems that occurred in the past and to improve our understanding of the laws of socialist construction […] The party defends socialist construction in the various socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union. The NCPN rejects and fights all anti-Soviet propaganda produced by bourgeois anti-communist historiography, as well as by opportunist currents that variously argue that the Soviet Union was not socialist, but ‘social-imperialist’ or ‘state capitalist’.”
The achievements of socialism in the Soviet Union
What did the creation of the Soviet Union bring to the people of the various Soviet republics? In an area previously called the “prison of nations”, where the language and culture of national minorities were suppressed, the Soviet Union brought equality between all peoples living there. This manifested itself in the creation of several republics and autonomous regions in which their own language and expressions of culture were highly valued.
Previously, brutal exploitation of workers, brutal oppression and poverty of small farmers prevailed. In the Soviet Union, one of the shortest working days in the world was eventually realised, with workers participating in planning and organising production as well as being given opportunities to develop themselves in all areas of society, including culture. Agriculture was taken out of the hands of the rich farmers and large landowners and organised collectively in kolkhozes (collective farms) and sovkhozes (state farms linked to central planning), bringing relief to the small farmers and advancing the building of socialist relations in the countryside. Central planning where production aims to serve people’s needs was at the heart of this.
Oppression of women prevailed in the Tsarist empire, condoned by the church and mosque. Socialism in the Soviet Union brought unprecedented strides in women’s emancipation. Women now participated in production and in all facets of social life. The socialist government provided free childcare in every workplace. More and more women also participated in the party and other administrative bodies. The relationship between husband and wife in the household became increasingly more equal.
Achievements for struggles outside the Soviet Union
The creation of the Soviet Union also gave a huge boost to the struggles of the working class and oppressed peoples outside its own territory. From its early days, it was committed to the struggle against colonialism and imperialism. While the Netherlands continued its brutal exploitation of Indonesia and other colonies, the Soviet Union supported anti-colonial struggles around the world. This to the disgust of the Dutch capitalists, who blamed “the Bolsheviks” for every revolt by the Indonesian people. The Soviet Union’s victory over Nazism gave a huge boost to the fight against imperialism and made an indispensable contribution to the destruction of the colonial system.
For example, the Soviet Union offered political asylum to Semaun, the first chairman of the Communist Party of Indonesia, when he was expelled from his motherland by the Dutch colonials for his political activities. In the Soviet Union, many fighters from colonial countries, including, for example, Ho Chi Minh, gathered to study at the “University of Workers of the East”, which gave them an education and the means to continue the struggle in their own countries against colonialism. The Soviet Union was also committed to fighting against racism in the United States, for example, where segregation still prevailed. It provided a platform for African-American activists like Paul Robeson.
The Soviet Union was an inspiration and a source of support for the other socialist countries that emerged around the world after World War II. Without the internationalist support of the Soviet Union, many socialist countries might have lost out to imperialist aggression, which was bent on destroying socialism at all costs.
The Soviet Union and the Netherlands
Even in the Netherlands, which remained capitalist, the bourgeoisie’s fear of a socialist revolution was great. The existence of the Soviet Union meant that the capitalists had to make major concessions to the working class. It was also sometimes said that “the Soviet Union sits at the table of every collective bargaining agreement”. The so-called “welfare state” was not a product of the philanthropy of the capitalists, but was a result of the struggle of the Dutch working class and the existence of socialism in the Soviet Union.
For Dutch communists, the existence of the Soviet Union was invaluable. Comrades of the CPN like Sebald Rutgers travelled to the Soviet Union in its early days and, together with countless other comrades around the world, contributed to building the first socialist country. Support for the building of socialism in the Soviet Union was, and to a large extent still is, a yardstick for distinguishing opportunists from communists.
The victory of the counter-revolution had very significant consequences for communists around the world, and thus also for the CPN. In the Netherlands, the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union was seized upon by the so-called “innovators” to dissolve the CPN, which was already pursuing an opportunist course, and merge it into GroenLinks (GreenLeft). Comrades who remained steadfast under this betrayal continued the party by founding the NCPN on the initiative of the VCN, which had earlier left the party during this process. However, the communist movement in the Netherlands fell into a deep slump as the demise of the Soviet Union was accompanied by the loss of a relatively powerful and influential party.
The effects of the counter-revolution on the people of the Soviet Union
The slogans of “freedom” and “democracy” notwithstanding, the fall of the Soviet Union brought and is bringing for its former inhabitants nothing but misery, poverty and war. In Russia, the arch-reactionary Putin is at the helm, reinstating the authority of the church, reinstating the oppression of women, and leading the terrible exploitation of the Russian working class by a reborn criminal capitalist clique.
In Ukraine, hateful fascism is rearing its head again. Contrary to what the rhetoric, especially in the West, would sometimes have us believe, the situation here resembles that of capitalist Russia: a group of capitalists who have enriched themselves by looting socialist state property, formerly owned by the working class, promotes fascism and hatred against the organised working class, mainly the communists but also the trade union movement, which is practically banned.
Peoples in other former Soviet republics are also pitted against each other. In Azerbaijan and Armenia, in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, conflicts flared up again wherever capitalism returned to power. In Kazakhstan, too, the revolt of the working class against their bourgeoisie was severely suppressed. The only “solidarity” still accepted is that of the exploiters – it is telling that troops of the CSTO (a military alliance between Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) helped suppress the Kazakh working class demonstrations.
This is the reality of restored capitalism in the various countries that once lived peacefully together as Soviet republics in the Soviet Union.
Mistakes and lessons
What led to the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union? Besides imperialist encirclement and attacks on the Soviet Union, fundamental mistakes were also made by the party, especially after the 20th Congress in 1956. Opportunist views prevailed in the party, and as a result, profit was gradually reintroduced as the criterion for production. Socialist relations of production weakened and eventually led to the development of social strata within socialism that could appropriate a share of the social product. These strata had an interest in reintroducing capitalism. Not surprisingly, these strata eventually took a leading role in the counter-revolution.
Opportunistic views on class composition also gained the upper hand in the Soviet Union. It was said that socialism was permanently established, could not go away, and that the Soviet Union had become a “state of the whole people”. This masked the need for constant class struggle against the remnants of capitalism. When capitalism-imperialism still exists, class struggle within socialism remains necessary. The counter-revolution proves this.
The NCPN draws its conclusions from the temporary victory of the counter-revolution. The Soviet Union shows that it is necessary for the party to maintain its revolutionary character, to constantly strive to fight remaining capitalist elements. This includes the ideological struggle against opportunist theories such as market socialism or other theories that try to present commodity production as socialism.
100 years after the creation of the Soviet Union, the world is a different place. The loss of the Soviet Union has forced many parties, including the NCPN, to almost “start over”. But despite the apparent strength of capitalism, the system is faltering. The potential for the establishment of a better society, socialism-communism, is growing. The NCPN and its youth movement, the CJB, are growing. The NCPN sees it as an important task to draw lessons from the existence of the socialist Soviet Union, an enduring inspiration for the working class around the world.