Looking back on the counter-revolution that defeated socialism in the USSR
The Party of Labour of Austria looks back at the catastrophe that was the collapse of the USSR and Socialist Bloc in this exceptional statement. (Translated from the German)
Declaration of the Central Committee of the Party of Labour of Austria (PdA), Vienna, 30 December 2021
On 26 December 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR decided to dissolve the Union of 15 Soviet Socialist Republics. Mikhail Gorbachev had already resigned as president the day before, and now the red Soviet flag with five-pointed star, hammer and sickle was also taken down at the Kremlin and replaced by the Russian flag. The end of the USSR became legally effective on 31 December 1991. The Party of Labour of Austria records the following points on the 30th anniversary of these events:
What happened at the end of December 1991 and had been prepared for years before that was a counter-revolution against socialism. The Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 and the founding of the USSR on 30 December 1922 marked the creation of the first socialist state in human history. For almost three quarters of a century, Soviet citizens were screened from capitalist exploitation and oppression. The means of production were transferred to social ownership, thus producing according to plan and removing the ground from capitalist profiteering. The political form of Soviet power represented the revolutionary power of the working class organised as the ruling class and the peasantry allied with it. Socialism in the USSR was able to demonstrate great successes - in the social sphere, education, health and equality, and not least in economic development and in science and technology. Despite difficult conditions, despite imperialist intervention and civil war, despite the fascist invasion and the constant threat of Western imperialism, the USSR under the leadership of the CPSU proved the superiority of socialism over capitalism for decades.
Despite this - and especially in view of the previous successes - the world communist movement suffered a heavy defeat with the counterrevolution and the dissolution of the USSR. There were internal and external reasons for this defeat. It must be noted that socialism, especially in only one part of the world, is accompanied by fierce class struggles. It goes without saying that the bourgeois states of the world, led by the most aggressive imperialist powers, will fight the socialist state power of the working class with all means. In the case of the USSR, devastating wars were forced upon it, economic pressure was built up and a lavish arms race was conducted which was not conducive to socialist construction. There were all kinds of open and secret efforts by the imperialist states to sabotage, blockade and undermine the USSR, and to strengthen counter-revolutionary forces. Inside the USSR and the CPSU, in the wake of the 20th Party Congress, modern revisionism unfolded its harmful effects, leading to wrong decisions, not least in the economic field. In this way, the USSR lost its most important trump cards in the struggle against imperialism and counterrevolution, namely the unswerving application of Marxism-Leninism and ultimately also the confidence of the working class in the workers’ state. Nevertheless, in 1991, a large majority of Soviet citizens spoke out in favour of continuing along the socialist path and preserving the union, which was ignored by the already prevailing anti-socialist policies: Gorbachev's fraudulent "perestroika", in unison with nationalist separatism, was the tool for destroying the USSR from within and helping the counterrevolution to victory.
For the people in the bourgeois-capitalist successor states of the USSR, this had devastating consequences. Social ownership was transformed into private and state capitalist property by a new oligarchy, which in many places also came from the party. The achievements of socialism were dismantled, exploitation, poverty, unemployment and social degradation returned. The Yeltsin and Putin regimes have ensured the complete restoration of capitalism in Russia, in other former republics of the USSR it went the same way, in some even the submission to EU imperialism and NATO followed. This also drew these countries back into the processes of imperialist competition and the redivision of the world, with today's Russian Federation itself being an imperialist actor in conflict with the US, the EU and NATO. This has also increased the danger of conflict and war in Europe.
For the world communist movement, the victory of counterrevolution in the USSR (and Eastern Europe) had considerable consequences. In the former Soviet and socialist states, communist organisations were subjected to massive repression, which continues to this day. But also among the Western European communist parties, the disappearance of the reference points USSR and CPSU caused confusion, with some building on revisionist "Eurocommunism" and destructive "perestroika". Many former communist parties with an honourable history have discarded Marxism-Leninism and transformed themselves into social-democratic or leftist structures that at best still profess inner-capitalist reformism, but by no means the goal of socialist revolution. The Marxist-Leninist forces have been decimated and weakened and are on the defensive or in the process of reconstruction in many countries. But they are making progress at the national and international level, which is indispensable for the next great attempt towards socialism - and this attempt will undoubtedly come.
The end of the USSR by no means marked the "end of history", according to which the bourgeois-democratic state and the capitalist "market economy" would have prevailed forever - on the contrary. The dangerous shortcomings of capitalism are visible everywhere, including exploitation and oppression, crises and wars, racism and discrimination. It is clear to see that capitalism cannot and will not grant a secure existence to the working class, nor imperialism to the dependent countries. And it can be seen that the counter-revolutionary machinations against the remaining socialist bastions, such as Cuba, are continuing. The capitalist rulers know as well as the communists that the world class struggle is not over and that the next socialist revolutions will come. What we have to take note of, however, is the need to think in larger historical terms: capitalism, and even more so political bourgeois rule, needed centuries to prevail. The hope that, starting from the Great October Socialist Revolution, a straight and continuous road would lead to the socialist liberation of the whole planet has not been realised. We will probably have to classify the USSR one day as a pioneering early socialism, even if it did not last. Nevertheless, we are in the epoch of mankind’s transition from capitalism to socialism - only this epoch is probably longer than desirable and obviously associated with considerable setbacks. However, this is no reason to become fainthearted or even to capitulate; rather, it requires that we take up the struggle anew and continue it consistently. Mankind will have a future if it lies beyond capitalism.
The USSR was the greatest achievement of the revolutionary working class to date. It has liberated hundreds of millions of people from capitalist exploitation and oppression and has been the impetus for further revolutions around the world. In this sense, it is the task of communists to uphold the legacy of the USSR and defend it vigorously against bourgeois falsifications of history, lies and defamation. But this does not absolve us from a critical analysis of the years 1917 to 1991. The USSR was not perfect, and this would also be an absurd claim. Socialism, as the first phase on the path to communism, is full of difficulties and contradictions and not a sudden paradise. And certainly mistakes were also made in the USSR and undesirable developments were allowed. In no case, however, is this a reason to question the correctness and the necessity of the path of socialist development in the USSR. Even the "worst socialism" would still be better than the "best capitalism" - and the Soviet Union was by no means a bad socialism, even if not least social democrats, alleged leftists and even people calling themselves communists claim this. They seek and find here only their justification for anti-communism, anti-socialism and counter-revolutionary apology of capitalism. The shameful slander and falsification of the USSR and its history must be resolutely opposed.
The Marxist-Leninist movement of the present takes into itself the tremendous positive results of the USSR. These include the certainty that the revolution can win, the general experience of socialist construction and, of course, the development of Marxism-Leninism. At the same time, we draw our lessons and conclusions from negative developments: This concerns, for example, the necessity of continued class struggle as well as the consistent struggle against all revisionism and opportunism.
We pay homage to the peoples of the Soviet Union who defied capitalism, imperialism and fascism for more than seven decades, to the Red Army which defended the country against invaders and counter-revolutionaries and defeated the Nazi criminals, and to the Bolsheviks led by Lenin who showed the way to the liberation of humanity. To follow this path, to continue on this path, is the best tribute to the USSR and its achievements, which will forever represent the epoch-making early socialism of humanity.