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Sal Santen

On the Problems of the Colonial Revolution

(Spring 1959)

From Fourth International (Amsterdam), No. 6, Spring 1959, pp. 46–48.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

As Approached by China ...

It cannot be doubted that the sympathy and solidarity of the Chinese Communists, leaders included, with the struggle of the colonial masses in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, is sincere and profound. The struggles of the Cuban and Congolese gave rise to nationwide demonstrations in China. Recently a mass rally was held in Peking to demonstrate China’s solidarity with the cause of the Cameroons, etc. Support was given to the people of Oman. There is sincere concern about the fate of Vietnamese and Korean prisoners of war in the hands of the enemy.

Especially since the victory in Cuba of Fidel Castro over the brutal dictatorship of Batista, the Chinese Communists show a lively interest in the fight of the Latin American masses against American imperialism. On February 21 the People’s Daily devoted an article to the Latin American liberation struggle.

It should be said immediately: there is a gulf between China’s practical solidarity with the struggle of the colonial masses and the theoretical approach to the problems of the colonial revolution by the Chinese CP leadership. It is as if their own experience of bitter defeats owing to the policy of class collaboration in 1925–27 has not taught the Chinese Communist leaders at all, in spite of the example of the victory of 1949, possible thanks only to the war to the end against Chiang Kai-Shek.

After analyzing the hatred of the Latin American masses towards American imperialism, the article comes to the conclusion that the formation of a national united front is characteristic of the present anti-United States struggle in Latin America. This front, according to the People’s Daily, is based on the alliance of the national bourgeoisie with the workers, peasants, and petty-bourgeoisie. It says:

Though the national bourgeoisie of Latin America is dependent on United States monopoly capital, so the alliance between them is transient, while the contradictions between them are permanent. In recent years, anti-imperialist, especially anti-United States imperialist, sentiments have grown among the national bourgeoisie, because they have suffered heavy blows from United States imperialism and been influenced by the mounting anti-United States struggle of the mass of the people. Although the national bourgeoisie is fearful of the growing political activity of the workers and peasants, in view of its sharp contradictions with United States imperialism, it is compelled to co-operate with the people. On this basis a national united front is gradually being formed in Latin America. [Our italics.] It is a matter of fact that the national bourgeoisies in Latin America are striving for independence from imperialism. It is a normal tendency, to be observed in the colonial and dependent countries everywhere in the world. To draw from it the conclusion, however that the national bourgeoisie “is compelled to cooperate with the people,” is – to put it mildly – a bit euphemistic. The truth is that the national bourgeoisies have tried, and to a certain extent continue to try, to use the anti-imperialist struggles of the masses as a means to obtain concessions from imperialism, but only in their own national bourgeois interest. At the very moment the struggle of the masses goes beyond the class interests of the national bourgeoisie, i e, begins to become a danger for the national bourgeoisie itself, the latter does not hesitate a single moment to call on imperialism for aid against the struggling masses.

The Latin American masses have a brief but very rich experience in this field. In Argentina, the “cooperation” of Peron, and later on of Frondizi, with the people, ended at the very moment when the masses, through their struggle, began to endanger the bourgeois regime. In Bolivia the MNR, brought to power by the revolutionary struggle of the workers and poor peasants, has become an agency of imperialism in order to prevent the formation of a workers’ and peasants’ government by the masses themselves. In Latin America there are already numerous examples of the same character.

While the Latin American workers and poor peasants have every reason to be in complete solidarity with the Chinese revolution, and to welcome its uninterruped development in China itself, they should be aware at the same time that the policy advocated for them by the Chinese leaders is a mortally dangerous one. The task of the Latin American masses, in order to prepare victory, is to liberate themselves from the national bourgeois leaderships, to find the way to independent class action, as the only means to follow the Chinese example: to take power and to break the imperialist domination.

Though the Chinese approach to the Latin American revolution is Stalinist in essence, it can be said in favor of the Chinese Communist Party that finally – contrary to 1925–27 – it followed in China another, independent path which ensured the victory of the Chinese revolution. Its lack of understanding of the revolutionary problems of Latin America demonstrates its pragmatism and empiricism. It would be false, however, to conclude from it that the Chinese CP attitude flows from the desire to prevent the Latin American masses from taking power, in order to maintain “peaceful coexistence.” It simply repeats the Stalinist wisdoms, without taking any notice of the disastrous consequences such a policy would have for the Latin American masses.

... And Indonesia

The attitude of the PKI (the Indonesian Communist Party) toward the problems of the Indonesian revolution is also Stalinist, Menshevik, to the core. Compared to the Chinese approach to the Latin American revolution, however, it is much more dangerous. China is far away from Latin America. The Latin American workers’ vanguard is not waiting for an article in the People’s Daily, in spite of their solidarity with China, in order to work out an adequate policy.

The policy of the PKI, however, has its direct influence upon the struggle of the Indonesian masses themselves. The leadership of the PKI is a cynical one, which received its “education” entirely in the school of Stalinism, in Moscow itself. Aidit, general secretary of the PKI, is an adept of Stalin. He knows his way in the Moscow hierarchy better than in his own party. If the Indonesian Communist rank and file, is inspired by the Chinese revolution, and this cannot be doubted, the PKI leadership is completely faithful to the Soviet bureaucracy.

In the interest of “peaceful coexistence,” the PKI leadership has at any cost prevented the masses from taking power. Its cooperation with the national bourgeoisie does not even have the appearance of being in the interest of the national revolution. When the workers last year occupied the Dutch factories and enterprises, the PKI ordered them to return them to the Indonesian army, headed by Nasution, an anti-communist.

Thanks to the aid of the PKI leadership, the Indonesian Djuanda government succeeded in “restoring order.” Having obtained this unexpected success, the Indonesian national bourgeoisie is doing everything to concentrate state power in its hands, at the cost of the revolutionary masses.

Under those circumstances, Sukarno’s “principles” about “guided democracy” are a real weapon in the hands of the Indonesian bourgeoisie. They weaken the role of the Indonesian mass movement in political life and strengthen Sukarno’s “independent” position as “arbiter.” While in the past Sukarno’s Bonapartist position was steadily undermined by the strength and combativity of the mass movement on the one hand, the weakness of the national bourgeoisie on the other hand, “guided democracy” intends to lay the foundations for “stable” Bonapartism in Indonesia. It guarantees even the political position of the army as a “functional group” within the state.

A genuine communist party, with a passion for preparing the masses for taking power, would, of course, launch a life-and-death struggle against “guided democracy.” Even from the formal democratic point of view it would have had to warn the masses about the consequences of it, as being directed against themselves.

Not so the PKI. On February 24th it issued a statement saying that it would accept restoration of the 1945 Constitution “only on condition that it were done within the scope of, and to carry out, guided democracy and the concepts of President Sukarno 100%.” It had supported Sukarno’s concepts and the proposal for guided democracy from the very beginning. Guided democracy was the way to carry out fully the President’s concepts. In implementing guided democracy, a democratic and constitutional approach should be provided for Sukarno, so that he could give competent leadership in legislative and executive affairs. The return to the 1945 Constitution meant opening such a way for the President, it pointed out. So far the PKI. It should be stressed that the 1945 Constitution authorizes the President to govern by decrees!

The submission of the Indonesian mass movement to the interests of the national bourgeoisie could not be posed in a clearer way. There is no reason to be surprised about it. If one starts from the need to “cooperate” with the national bourgeoisie, the ruling force in the country, the way to submission is only a gradual one.

The Future of the Colonial Revolution

It is not by chance that we have made this comparison between the Chinese and the Indonesian approach to the problems of the colonial revolution. We repeat: no doubt the Chinese Communist leadership started from other intentions than the PKI leadership. The Chinese CP leadership has no genuine interest in preventing the Latin American masses from taking power, whereas the PKI leadership consciously restrains the Indonesian masses from taking power.

But in politics, as we learned from Marx, good intentions are not enough. Decisive are the effects of the policy one advocates.

And as such there is no difference between the Chinese and the Indonesian approach.

For revolutionary Marxists the conclusion is clear. With the policy of Stalinism it is impossible to secure new, decisive, socialist victories of the colonial revolution. Therefore an independent class policy is needed, which succeeds in uniting the broad masses against both imperialism and the national bourgeoisies.

The preparation of such a policy cannot be left to chance. If the Chinese Communists, after all their experience of defeat and victory, have not succeeded in mastering a clear understanding of the colonial revolution, how could one expect such an understanding from the masses themselves without the conscious political intervention of the revolutionary Marxist vanguard?

The future of the colonial revolution, it cannot be stressed enough, depends more than ever upon its impregnation by revolutionary Marxism, i.e., the Fourth International.

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