Internet Statement 2002-20


Group Neue Einheit


A Proposal for Further Common Study of the 20th Party Congress of 1956

10th of May, 2002        

There are few questions which have had such effects upon the communist movement as the debate about the 20th party congress of the CPSU and the debate with modern revisionism. For many of the very diverse communist groupings, the position towards the development of the Soviet Union, and just towards the 20th party congress, is something like the core of the views they are propagating. Therefore we deem it necessary that this question is once again thoroughly examined. In discussions during the past two years one could see that there is little knowledge about the actual position of the parties involved; which position did, for example, take the CP of China, and which development did this position of the CPC undergo in the course of the twenty following years? Furthermore there is also lack of knowledge about the details how the development in the Soviet Union, finally its complete dissolution between 1989 and 1991 and the complete weakening already since 1983 (1) under Gorbachev, originated. We think that there is still a lot of work necessary, and that it is even possible, via the common work, to depose of much of the existing quarrel, and that very many communists, who support different views in these questions, nevertheless agree in the essential main questions and must therefore arrive at a common organising. Therefore we want to renew the discussion about the 20th party congress and the subsequent lines of the most important communist parties, their work, their achievements and their failings and in doing so include also all the diverse, contradictory views.

Thus it is also quite natural for us that also the former exposed opponents, as for example the leaders of the 20th  party congress, get a chance to speak from their documents, or those who still today are of the opinion that the 20th  party congress was an essential step forward. They, too, shall take part in the debate and explain their views. Anyway things are not such that the subject is dominated only by a single side. Rather, things have to be explained in their development, as the dialectician says: in their mutual penetration.

When the Soviet Union together with its Western allies had won the Second World War, itself having shouldered the main burden of the military defeat of Nazi Germany, it was confronted with the tasks of the reconstruction after the war, which again required all of its forces. In this it has to be considered that even before the outbreak of the war, even before 1939, there had been serious conflicts in the Soviet Union. In several trials, previously leading representatives of the Soviet Union had been sentenced, very often to death, because of participation in conspiracies in connection with the Trotskyites. Over and above that, a host of people - and this can today be said with certainty as almost anybody in Russia can tell about it - had been persecuted in a mostly ominous and unknown way and not seldom had even perished. Large parts of the officer corps had perished as well, in connection with the struggle against the attempted usurpation of the Soviet military leadership by extremely reactionary forces, leaving deep gaps in the ranks of the Soviet officers. The Soviet Union was faced with a whole host of questions which in reality had to be solved, and one could not content oneself with the fact that for example in a certain speech by Stalin or by other Soviet leaders there was talk of ‘transgressions’ or ‘overstepping the mark’, but these questions had also to be debated as to their sources. Besides that, already in the beginning of the Fifties it turned out, as mentioned in the report to the 19th  party congress, that indeed petty-bourgeois and bureaucratic-exploitative social phenomena spread in the Soviet Union. This was in the beginning of the Fifties already a precursor of the theory which later on was decidedly advocated in China, that socialism means continuation of the class struggle in the socialist period extending over several epochs and several great struggles. But a series of questions, which moreover concerned not only the CPSU but also the whole communist movement, weighed upon the history of the communist parties.

In China the CPC under the leadership of Mao Zedong had carried out a successful revolution, indeed maintaining an independent struggle and applying its own fighting method and strategy. This revolution leaned on mass forces of its own, even if Mao Zedong  correctly stressed that the Soviet Union as the force in the rear played, of course, a necessary role in the victory of this revolution.
During the years between 1953 and 1956 Nikita Sergeievich Khrushchev succeeded in gaining an ever-increasing influence within the CPSU. In 1955, Grigorij Malenkov, who still in 1952 had given the report of the CPSU, resigned from the office of prime minister. For the party congress which had been convened for February, 1956, the Khrushchev people did in fact plan a kind of a coup. On the one hand they delivered a report for the congress which in a very short form contains some generally correct wording about the rejection of the personality cult, but beyond that does not go into the social problems of the Soviet Union and deals with the whole policy more or less as a question of how the productive forces are organised. But then, on the last day of the congress, when the agenda of the congress had been finished, Khrushchev held a speech which apparently had been prepared thoroughly, suddenly producing it from his pockets, by which the delegates of the 20th  party congress were surprised. This report was neither immediately nor even only once for the next 33 years published within the Soviet Union and went round there as well as abroad, if at all, as a shady black document. It is a completely unhistorical invective about the 30 years long epoch of Stalin’s time, which by making use of this or that little anecdote, be it true or not, attempted to spit at the whole historical activity of the CPSU and the Soviet people under Stalin and to run it down. Correctly this action was qualified by other representatives of the CPSU as completely one-sided and unhistorical. (2) Its intended function was to make a breach by which bourgeois people in the Soviet Union were increasingly able to gain influence, to achieve a sort of denunciation of the revolutionary activity and the revolutionary identity which anyway was connected to the previous policy.
A correct approach would have been to analyse certain mistakes and wrong methods, taking the difficulties of the past 30 years as the base,  in order to then achieve an improvement in the CPSU. Against such a kind of criticism nobody would have been able to object, but this kind of spitting at the policy was its direct opposite. Nevertheless we have to deal with the phenomenon that not a few communists, especially in the beginning, approved the 20th  party congress as well as the later 22nd  party congress (1961) and this action, and sometimes also refer to certain facts as grounds for their approval. We cannot simply push these points aside and say that they don’t exist. It is necessary to analyse the things in their all-sidedness.

Some months after this party congress 1956 the CPC published two articles titled “About the Historical Experiences of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, which just in this way attempted to generally explain which difficulties were existing and how one should attempt to analyse these complex questions, and once they even put it like that, that it perhaps would not at all be possible in the 20th century to grasp that in its all-sidedness, but that it was necessary to work in the direction proposed. This was a completely different, unity-intending effort also with regard to its method.

There were several efforts exactly during the time of the 20th party congress which are worth to be called correct. For example, one endeavoured to study the labour movement, which had undergone a development full of changes, much more in detail and also with the authentic documents at hand. In the German Democratic Republic the works by Ernst Thaelmann, at least in two volumes up to 1930, the Selected Works by Clara Zetkin, the Selected Works by Georgi Dimitrov were published during this time, by which one was able by himself to get an idea of the struggles during the Twenties and early Thirties.
The postulate to study the questions again in the concrete matters, in their many-sidedness and with the original documents at hand was justified in the face of the partly one-sided theoretical methodology to orientate oneself by already existing guiding sentences and to regard the concrete analysis too little as the basic thing. This was indeed a justified renewal, and many people felt this to be a liberation.

But in this one thing has, of course, to be observed: if then simultaneously revolutionary principles are thrown overboard, as the fundamental teaching about the dictatorship of the proletariat, if the irreconcilability  of the struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat is stressed only verbally and occasionally but disappears in essential sectors, then all the many-sidedness and correct analysis is of little value, then inevitably revisionism eats more and more through the socialist society. Consistently apply the historical experiences, the irreconcilability of  the contradictions in the struggle with the bourgeois (and pre-bourgeois) society, and at the same time always analyse the matters in their many-sidedness – this is the correct method. The revolutionary irreconcilable policy (3), as well as the striving for the maximum unity of the forces which are to be joined together are essential, both being only two sides of one thing. Both components must absolutely be present.
This one should once again track in detail and study thoroughly. Also the questions of dialectics would experience a new renaissance in dealing with this. In many matters one would take up again what Lenin had dealt with in his fundamental notes "On the Question of Dialectics" (4) and what especially Mao Zedong had taken up in his article "On Contradiction", following Lenin, and was just at that time (1957) again formulating in detail in such writings as "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People". As one started out from that the so-called peaceful line of the 20th  party congress was not yet necessarily an incorrigible relinquishing of the essence of the communist movement, the fundamental direction of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and many communists continued to start out from the fundaments of communism and also strove to apply this in practice, it was indeed justified to work towards a correction of the questions which had mistakenly been dealt with, and not to put at stake the unity of the tremendous communist movement which was ruling a third of the globe.

It is even possible to say that the movement during 1957-1959, although the development in the Soviet Union assumed questionable forms, underwent a renewal in some points. This was shown also by the scientific life in the German Democratic Republic, where it was in fact managed now to publish a lot of comprehensive works which made use of various sources. These books have, by the way, later on considerably served the ML-movement in Western Germany and West  Berlin to understand the modern times after the Second World War. The Soviet Union had eminent scientific and technological achievements to show during that time,  which gave rise to admiration for communism all around the globe and contributed to reducing the most primitive slandering to absurdity. (5)

In the German Democratic Republic the socialist construction was continued, and the attempts from the West to wreck it were countered. But in that time there also were already serious symptoms. In 1959, Nikita S. Khrushchev met the American president Eisenhower in Camp David. This meeting, however, was not only a state visit, but the way how the talk with the supreme leaders of capital was conducted, virtually on a common level, could not but misgive the communists. This was called "the spirit of Camp David". Simultaneously capital massively worked on the suppression of quite a few nations which were liberating themselves from colonialism, only one year later it came to the crimes in Congo. A policy of a dangerous community was in the air.

In 1960 one worked once again on the unity of the communist movement. In October, 1961, however, came the 22nd  party congress of the CPSU, in which all the more the elements of slandering and of the completely one-sided way of looking at things were made the fundament.  One started out from the view that there were no more essential class contradictions in the USSR. This line of the 22nd party congress is, in our view, the final prelude to revisionism, and it did lead then to the debate between the parties in public, after N. S. Khrushchev had publicly attacked the Party of Labour of Albania.

In various press articles by communist parties of the whole world attacks were published which amounted to the assertion that the People’s Republic of China was acting irresponsibly in the atomic age, and operated by the subliminal thesis that the existence of the atomic bomb had done away with the laws of class struggle, and the like. Thereupon began, in 1962, the direct debate in the so-called Small and Great Polemics. (6) This led to the great and fundamental debate which finally undoubtedly contributed to the downfall of Nikita S. Khrushchev in 1964, who had discredited himself. Especially here a lot of things have to be examined.
It was about questions of how to assess social democracy, how to assess Titoism, above all, however, about the question of war and peace in today’s times, and about the reproduction resp non-reproduction of capitalist relations under the conditions of the socialist state, by the still existing petty-bourgeois conditions and by the well-worn ways of thinking and habits in the people’s heads. The downfall of N.S. Khrushchev temporarily ended the debate, but the questions had not really disappeared. In fact, little changed in the Soviet Union, no, but the fundamental elements of the line were continued, and more intensively continued.

In the People’s Republic of China there was an argument in 1965 whether one should form an alliance with the Soviet Union in spite of the revisionism which must be criticized. But the consideration that the social sources of revisionism, which in the view of the People's Republic of China could not but lead to the destruction of the Soviet Union, had to be fundamentally fought, led to the resolve to declare war against these social sources within the PRC itself. This then led to the Cultural Revolution in China. This revolution, for its part, shows a whole host of facets, it amounted to an overthrow in many sectors of China itself, and has itself to be dealt with extensively. Its core point was the insisting on the continuation of class struggle in the socialist period.

Of course, the US and all the other big capitalist states followed up these events, and in doing so pursued a strategy on their part which aimed at the purposeful intensification of the rifts,  which were objectively existing, and at making use of them for themselves. The breakdown of formerly socialist states has indeed demonstrated how far this subversion was going.

In order to be able to understand the things in their complexity it is necessary that we deal again with the period from the beginning of the Fifties until late into the Seventies, as already there the foundations for the later, openly appearing catastrophes were laid. Communists are strong only where weak sides are ruthlessly uncovered.
Our group wants to take the initiative especially in this regard, and to work together with other groups at the understanding especially of this central question.

In short, our initiative is directed at a common working on this question and documenting it in several seminaries and finally congresses, at listening to each other, and in this way at arriving at principles and programmatic proposals of the communist movement. This process offers the chance of growing together or at least of furthering it. The chance of unity is not offered by leaving or ignoring questions but by grasping the contradictions, grasping the things which have been pushed aside so far.

This question leads with certainty also to further essential subjects, under discussion for a long time, which are connected to it, and certainly these questions will also lead to fundamental questions of the communist movement in general, that is for example to a closer and better assessment of the Twenties, of the Russian or the Chinese communist movement and of possible historical limitations of the Marxist teachings. But this is only useful, this leads us onwards. Certainly we have our views. Others will contradict us. But this does no harm to the possibility of a commonly going into the questions.

This proposal I want to present in my own name and in the name of the Group Neue Einheit represented by me, which has been working on these questions for thirty years.  We address our proposal to all communist organisations and groups in our country, to the subdivisions  as well as to interested single persons or institutions, and over and above that, of course, to the communists in the whole world.

Hartmut Dicke

Gruppe Neue Einheit,


(The author publishes also under his longtime pen-name Klaus Sender)



(Translation from the German original by wgr.)


(1) Michail Gorbachev became secretary-general of the CPSU in March, 1985, but already from 1983 on came clearly to the fore in the public and was favorite with the Western media since then.

(2) This is also very clearly to be seen from the records by Kurt Gossweiler, published recently.

(3) which is very well expressed in Stalin’s general sentence: “in order not to be mistaken in politics one must be a revolutionary, not a reformist”.

(4) See Lenin, Works, 4th edition, vol. 38. In these explanations Lenin summarizes the substance of dialectics. Furthermore there are many conspectuses in this volume, which contain very important commentaries about the dialectic and materialistic approach.

(5) Among them the successes in space travel, the Sputnik, the first artificial satellite around the earth, and some time later the first manned space travel by Gagarin

(6) "Small and Great Polemics": this are the extensive series of articles, on one the hand "Proletarians of All Countries and Oppressed Peoples and Nations, Unite Against the Common Enemy!". This is a collective title of a series of articles which discussed the views of several communist parties from Western Europe and the USA (Dec. 1962 – March 1963).
On the other hand  "A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement" of June, 14, 1963, and going  with it nine commentaries, which examine the core questions once again in detail, as well as some answering letters by the CPSU.
These are documents very worth reading up to today.