National pathways to socialism: the path of reforms, not the Revolution

Ideology Section of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Mexico

"To turn socialism into science, it was essential, above all, to place it on the ground of reality" [1]

Friedrich Engels

"Marxist theory established the true task of a revolutionary party: not to compose plans for the restructuring of society or to preach to the capitalists and their acolytes the need to improve the situation of the workers, nor to plot conspiracies, but to organize the struggle class of the proletariat and lead this fight, whose ultimate goal is the conquest of political power by the proletariat and the organization of socialist society” [2]


It is very important that the International Communist Review dedicate this number to the reflection of a classic piece of Marxism-Leninism, the work of Friedrich Engels From utopian socialism to scientific socialism, especially when this year also marks the 200th birth anniversary of this great communist, great teacher of the proletariat, who together with Karl Marx founded the worldview of the working class, the materialist conception of history and scientific socialism.


In the contemporary international communist movement, several communist and workers parties support the thesis of the national pathways to socialism, and above all emphasize the substantial elements of such a proposal, such as the absolutization of democracy, national sovereignty / national liberation, alliances class and politics with the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, the parliamentary road, the peaceful transit, etc.

But was this always the case in the communist movement, was that always a strategic line between the communist parties?

  • The basic theses of the revolution and the revolutionary process appear from the first classic works of Marxism, in the theory and practice of Marx and Engels, and they are enriched with the experience of the communists and revolutionary workers in the period of the boom of the struggle of classes in Europe in 1848, and especially in 1871 with the Paris Commune. The years from 1848 to 1871 were characterized by Lenin as those of the first period in the historical vicissitudes of Marxist doctrine. In this period the essential and general contours of the theory of the socialist revolution are already established:
  • The materialistic conception of history in which the different modes of production are exposed, questioning their immutability, demonstrating that the existing antagonisms lead to antagonism between the old and the new, on the development of material premises, that is, productive forces and production relations, and the inevitability of social revolutions. All this based on the class struggle as the engine of history, a conclusion on which the activity of the communists is based. The objective economic basis of the social revolution is the conflict between the new productive forces and the old relations of production
  • The anatomy of capitalism, the process of exploitation, engenders the working class, as an antagonistic class to the bourgeoisie and with the capacity to be the gravedigger of capitalism, or as F. Engels explains in From Utopian Socialism to Scientific Socialism: “The contradiction between social production and capitalist appropriation takes the form of antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. "
  • In this work, F. Engels specifies some notions and laws to which the revolutionary movement must subject itself regardless of national particularities and specificities:

"(...) there is only one way: that society, openly and bluntly, take possession of those productive forces, which no longer admits any other direction than their own. In doing so, the social character of the means of production and products, which today turns against the producers themselves, periodically breaking the channels of the mode of production and exchange, and which can only be imposed with such destructive force and efficiency as the blind impulse of the natural laws, will be put into effect with full consciousness by the producers and will become, from a constant cause of periodic disturbances and cataclysms, the most powerful lever of production itself. ” (F. Engels, From Utopian…, USSR, p. 154)

Or, in the conclusions From Utopian Socialism to Scientific Socialism:

"III. - Proletarian revolution, solution of contradictions: the proletariat takes political power and, through it, turns into public property the social means of production that are out of the hands of the bourgeoisie. With this act, he redeems the means of production from the status of capital that they had until then and gives his social character full freedom to prevail. From now on, social production is already possible according to a plan outlined in advance. The development of production turns the subsistence of various social classes into an anachronism. As the anarchy of social production disappears, the political authority of the State also languishes. Men, masters at last of their own social existence, become masters of nature, masters of themselves, free men.

“Carrying out this act that will redeem the world is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. And scientific socialism, the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, is the call to investigate the historical conditions and, with it, the very nature of this act, thus infusing the class called to make this revolution, the class now oppressed, awareness of the conditions and nature of your own action. ” (F. Engels, pp. 160-161)

-The revolution, as the locomotive of history, starring the proletariat, has in its contemporary character the objective of socialism and communism, and it is up to the proletariat to carry it out; in contrast with previous revolutions, now it is not a question of replacing an expiring exploiting class with a new exploiting class, but of putting an end to exploitation, consequently it is not enough to take possession of the state machine, but it must be destroyed. Studying the experience of the Paris Commune allows Marxism to conclude the dictatorship of the proletariat; it is not an accessory, optional or expendable, it is a vital element for the working class to carry out its historical objectives. The seizure of power by the working class, once it overthrows capitalist domination, not part of occupying the existing state, must destroy it and build the new state, being that the only and exclusive way in which the proletariat can resolve the question of power, the cardinal issue of any revolution, as Lenin emphasizes.

Nonetheless, from 1872 to 1904 comes a peaceful period, where opportunism and revisionism arose, - in a large part as a political expression that results of transformation of the free concurrence capitalism to monopoly capitalism, it means the imperialism that intervenes in the worker movement with their agents -, which precisely point against the idea of the revolution and its foundations. Attempts are made to place Marxism in the shackles of legality and gradualism. The electoral and union successes of the parties of the Second International prohibit illusions about the reforms as a path to socialism, and this requires attacking Marxism and its theory of revolution. The preparation of the revolutionary process leads the communists to clash with these theories; to defend Marxism from those who, to deform it, call themselves "Marxists"; and to enrich it, develop it, at the rate of capitalist development. Such enrichment of the theory is based on consolidating the essential elements to analyze reality and transform it.

Without that theoretical preparation, without fighting against the current to return Marxism to its revolutionary edge, the new-type party, the party of the revolution, the communist party would not have been forged.


Of course the theoretical battles of Leninism against opportunism, as well as the substantial enrichment of Marxism with the question of imperialism and the State, the theory of the party and the theory of socialist revolution, have been a precondition for the revolutionary advance of the proletariat, and the great test is the victory of the Great Socialist Revolution of October 1917. And under that banner the Third Communist International forges a unified strategy that successfully guides the class struggle in a very complex period of history, because it is unleashed coordinated by the imperialist countries, the counterrevolution that aims to stifle socialist construction.

The III International elaborates its strategy and tactics based on the fact that with the triumph of the October Revolution of 1917 a new era of social revolution opens, of the historical transition from capitalism to socialism, an era that we agree to point out - the communist parties that we give life to the International Communist Review - as of full force. It is within this framework that the essential elements of the strategy and tasks of each section of the Comintern unfold; on which it is necessary to insist, in dialogue and debate, fruitful, deep and meticulous with each Section, as is evidenced in the documentary sources.

In the Communist International the debate on strategy is a constant, whoever wants to define it static is in error, because it adjusts to the rhythm of the class struggle, or as Lenin explained on several occasions, it corresponds to the offensive and the defense, to ebb and flow; However, it is based on communist principles and on the general features of the time, since as stated in the important editorial of the magazine The Communist International in 1933, "For Marxist-Leninist theory":

"On the solid foundation of Marxism and Leninism, and on the basis of all the historical experience of the international revolutionary movement, in general, and on the practice of the Bolsheviks in three Russian revolutions, in particular, the tactic and the strategy of the Third International, as the immediate continuation of Marx's tactic and strategy, as the continuation of the cause of the First International”. [3]

Now, already in the Communist International some tendencies arose that questioned the need for a unified strategy and that placed the accent on the particular and the specific, above the general and the regularities. And we don't want to refer exclusively to Browder, but also to Togliatti and others. This trend was exposed with the turn of the VII Congress

of the Communist International and the alliances with the social democracy and bourgeois forces to confront fascism. With fascism defeated, a joint elaboration was not carried out for a common strategy of the CPs, except in the area of the Cominform, which didn’t cannot to fill out the void that the Third International leaved for the elaboration of an only revolutionary strategy on a period that furthermore the ideological conflicts of the international communist movement intensify.

Browder carried to the last consequences the thesis of the alliance with the parties of capital and social democracy, even considering unnecessary the existence of the PC of the USA, which he tried to dissolve. Its influence was fatal in the CPs of Cuba, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and although it was confronted by the international communist movement, similar ideas were developed in other CPs, especially in Europe.

The fight against this opportunistic trend, however, gave way when the turn that occurs in the CPSU is expressed in the theses of the XX Congress, in that the correlation of existing forces at the international level between the socialist and capitalist fields opens the possibility for the peaceful coexistence of the two systems, point in that the opportunist argumentation established the possibility of a peaceful transition to socialism through parliamentary action and the gradual accumulation of forces, which elaborated it some communist parties like the Italian, French and others; and on this thesis of the national pathways to socialism was elaborated. Drawing a caricature of the Marxist-Leninist theory of the socialist revolution which was presented as a dogmatic, stagnant and dispensable recipe book. This trend was deepened by the platform of the XXII Congress of CPSU and posterior decisions with a big responsibility by many communist parties in the international communist movement. That strategy has painful cost, by example the denominated Chilean pathway to socialism, which was drowned in blood by the 1973 Chilean Coup d’état, and in other cases conclude with the liquidation of many communist parties.

We underline that it is a complete elaboration that has to do with structural modifications not only of the strategy, but also of the role of the Party, the proletarian worldview and even the programmatic objectives.

It is striking that the originality, the own elaboration, the richness of the peculiarities are insisted on. In contrast, when viewed as a whole each national pathway to socialism is so identical to others that there are few differences, which gives a picture of a joint strategy, but limited to opportunistic positions.

Today it might seem that we are evaluating a process that boomed more than half a century ago and that went into crisis quite a few years ago. But in our opinion it is not a matter limited to a balance of the errors of our movement - under those theses the CPM and the communist movement of our country were liquidated, and under them the reorganization began between 1994 and the IV Congress of 2010, until in the latter a self-criticism is made and a turn occurs with verifiable results - but it is at the root of opportunistic theses that are active today.

National routes or national pathways to socialism placed bourgeois democracy as a starting point for socialism. Programmatic issues were in the sphere of "expanding the democratic regime", of widening and defending democracy decontextualized from its class content; what is ideologically a renunciation of the revolutionary positions of analyzing any state as a class dictatorship, and specifically the bourgeois state as a class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. This of course leads to other errors, but the essence is that the overthrow of the bourgeois state is not sought, but rather its improvement. What prolonged for decades led the militancy of those parties to consider reform as the objective and when the time came, for example with the dissolution of the Italian CP, they began to form ranks in a party of order such as the Democratic Party. The revolutionary theory was blurred in this process and, for example, the dictatorship of the proletariat was subjected to a vulgar manipulation to the point that it was considered expendable and accessory; and several CPs, not only the Eurocommunists, but some who formally claimed Leninism, decided to withdraw it from their programs, absolutizing the defense of democracy, that is, the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. What configures on the one hand the renunciation of the seizure of power, and on the other the defense of the power previously established. And of course, if it was an apostasy in the 70s, 80s and 90s, today it is too. At this point, Lenin's idea that his opponents have to dress in "Marxist" clothing is proven.

On the basis of this, Palmiro Togliatti, one of the main theorists of the national routes says:

We find the main elements of what we will call the search and the affirmation of an Italian way towards socialism, in the first speech related to the program, delivered in Naples, on April 11, 1944, in which it is openly stated: Today he presents the Italian workers with the problem of doing what was done in Russia. " In September of the same year, Rinascita states: "The working class knows that its main task today is not to fight for the immediate establishment of a socialist regime." In 1947, on the eve of our VI Congress, we said: "Without a doubt, the Italian people have the task of following this path (that of socialism) using their own method, which must take into account all the particularities, the condition of our country , its international situation, its economic and political structure and its possibilities and needs for progress (...) A general strategic objective is indicated below: the creation of a progressive democracy regime, which carries out a series of reforms to the structure economic and social, while at the same time involving all the organized forces of the working classes in the direction of the country. [4]

Up to a certain point the defense of democratic conquests can be part of the demands of the communists, understanding the class nature of the bourgeois state, but being clear that the objective of the working class is the dictatorship of the proletariat as the foundation of the revolution: that is to say, the displacement of one class by another in the State direction, and that in socialism such a State is totally new, sustaining in the destruction of the previous one. On the other hand, the passing of the years and the experience of the class struggle have shown that the so-called democratic conquests can only be resolved, consolidated and / or expanded with the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist revolution.

It should not be forgotten that absolutizing democracy led several CPs to clash with the principles, because assume the parliamentarism and the bourgeois democracy conducted it to the polemic with the socialist construction in the Soviet Union, questioning scientific laws that rules the revolution and the socialist construction and then renounce the principle of proletarian internationalism. But if the called democratic question is a constituent element of all national pathways to socialism, in Italy as well as in France, Japan or Mexico, the deformation of Marxism-Leninism or the open resignation of it became a kind of competition about who took the most distance from the principles. Thus, for example, on the Mexican pathway to socialism, it is argued that the State is above the classes, that it is an arbitrator who mediates between the existing conflicts since it is placed above them. This misrepresentation led to errors of several years in the fight.

Returning to what Togliatti pointed out, there is nothing but millimeters of distance in the drift of Berlinguer's historical Commitment or the liquidation led by Natta-Ochetto. In other words, there is continuity between one position and another, a link.

Under this concept, to distance themselves from socialist construction, programmatic objectives in economic matters are inscribed in the management of the capitalist economy: policies of tax regulation, of redistribution of wealth, of social subsidy; nationalizations, but with a capitalist state; and of course mixed economy system, with state (capitalist) and private participation, which projected to this day prefigures what several CPs call market socialism.

To materialize this proposal, an alliance policy is designed that includes the social democracy and other parties of the capitalist order. Who went further was the historical Commitment that came to contemplate the Christian Democracy; however the left coalitions between communists, social democrats and other formations do not differ in essence, although the form may be different. These are coalitions to impose austerity, including privatizations, measures to devalue labor, in Europe with support for NATO and even the European Union as an imperialist union. Furthermore, some of these coalitions participated in imperialist aggressions against the peoples. No communist party should participate in government coalitions to manage capitalism, and such a tactical orientation was established by revolutionary Marxism in its criticism of the ministerialism of the Second International. But such coalitions, which per se already presuppose a renunciation of class independence and autonomy of the Communist Party, also contain the possibility that the Party itself may be replaced by the front / coalition with whatever name (democratic, left, plural). , broad) or even merge into a new left party, thus liquidating the communist party.

After several decades, did national pathways bring us closer to socialism? In Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Mexico, England and other countries, where the CPs advocated such a conception, not only did the class struggle not advance, but it receded and the CPs suffered heavy blows, some liquidated and others have mutated to another political form although they retain the name. The processes of reorganization of the communist parties in such countries can only carry out with the criticize and leaving back the intermediate stages strategy and elaborate their programmatic objectives based on classist guideline.

The national pathways in most cases exercised government and the balance is negative. Ideologically it produced a shift of important sectors of the working class to the influence of the Social Democracy. Furthermore, such governments made possible the rise of reactionary forces.

III. Theoretical errors of the national pathways

The reformist and opportunistic political positions that are behind the so-called national routes to socialism, in turn, are founded on theoretical errors that seek to distort reality and the application of dialectical materialism. The core of these theoretical errors is the negation of the general laws of the revolution.

For this, the argument of the concrete analysis of the concrete reality of each country is used. However, for Marx, the concrete as a synthesis of multiple determinations implies that, due to the universal interdependence of phenomena, all aspects of reality must be considered, although the importance of some is greater since there are aspects of an essential and general nature that they are presented as regularities and subordinate to the particular, secondary and contingent aspects.

Thus, each aspect of reality must be justified, considering that general aspects cannot be subordinated to the existence of particularities; that the regularities derive from essential determinations, and the singularities of contingent elements that may or may not appear, but whose existence does not alter the essential aspects. Let's tackle some examples.

Once imperialism develops, a generality is affirmed: all the countries with capitalist development are inserted in the imperialist pyramid. So regardless of the specific capitalist development of each country and the particular place it occupies in the imperialist pyramid, the strategy of the communists worldwide assumes socialism as the immediate task without intermediate stages. This is derived from the fact that capitalism worldwide is already in its parasitic stage and that provides the objective conditions for the transition to socialism.

The national pathways to socialism that preach reformism, a gradual transformation, and the progressive conquest of state institutions, deny the essence of the state as an apparatus for the domination of one class over another. The latter is a regularity that is repeated everywhere and whenever the class struggle exists. There is no national particularity that can deny the essence of the State.

The denial of the class character of the State as a generality leads to another theoretical error: the denial of the need for violence as a midwife in history, which implies denying the revolutionary way to take power. Once socialism implies the seizure of power, other aspects of Marxist-Leninist theory can be denied: the need for democratic centralism and the Communist Party, among others.

By denying the class character of the state they also deny the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. However, the existence of the State in any society where class struggle exists is a generality, and that is also the case of socialism, so the verbiage of some "communists" that "dictatorship, nor that of the proletariat" is just a phraseology lacking in seriousness.

With the development of capitalism in its imperialist phase, the division of society into two social classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, becomes more and more concrete, so that the class struggle is shown in its antagonistic essence of "class against class". Derived from this, there is generally no reason for a collaboration between the working class and some part of the bourgeois class.

Where the fight for democracy has been prioritized as an expression of a national pathways, various communist organizations have abjured the revolutionary objective of the rupture. The consequences of such a choice have been omitted and / or underestimated. Which has repercussions in contributing to sustain the domination of the bourgeoisie and distancing and disarming the attempt to overthrow it. In the dialectical field of reality, to contribute to the establishment of democracy is to reinforce its modernization and diversify its defense against the actions of the organized proletariat as a class. It is not a question, therefore, of clearing or bringing socialism closer, but of burying it by renewed maneuvers for the support and development of capitalism.

On the other hand, where it has been considered that there is an intermediate stage, of national or anti-colonial liberation, the commitment to the establishment of a period of coalition between the social classes has meant the resignation not only of the interests of the future by of the proletariat, but to the solution of its immediate interests. Thus opening a long period of worker and popular agony to establish and stabilize capitalism in its imperialist phase. Progressivists have magnified the empowerment of "their" monopolies and opportunists of all kinds have seized the occasion to suppress the collective revolutionary leaderships or to deviate from them. The bourgeoisie has used the opportunity to which the proletariat has been invited and forced to resign. The anti-dialectical notions of the so-called national pathways have sown the metaphysical conception that revolutionary action is superfluous, that the determined and independent action of the communists is not required for the triumph of socialism-communism. That nonexistent smooth transitions are enough. And with this the historical and contemporary need to immediately transform the triumph of bourgeois democracy, or its very existence, into a proletarian revolution, into a proletarian democracy has been obstructed. The conclusion is incontrovertible: either the leadership of society is bourgeois or proletarian in terms of Marxism-Leninism, above national or continental singularities.

The general laws and principles of the socialist revolution don’t omit nor reject particularities of the process of the struggle class, by example, topics related to the nationalities - which still are in discussion -, the cultural features, or others that requires a creative approach, but in not any way goes to put the particular over the general.


Today it is possible to conclude that national pathways were a path to reform, to the strengthening of capitalist domination and to the mutation of various CPs in capital parties; either as parties of the social democracy or of the new social democracy.

The mutation happened gradually, with ideological operations aimed at hitting the communist identity. Today the renunciation of dialectical materialism; tomorrow the campaign to split Marx from Engels; another day the renunciation of democratic centralism; and the one that follows, the abandonment of proletarian internationalism. Today with attacks on Stalin, tomorrow on Lenin, and in the name of "renewal" the renunciation of Marxism-Leninism.

We insist, there are lessons for the contemporary activity of the international communist movement, in ideological crisis.

If there is a difference, it is that opportunism previously theorized its elaborations, and today inertia follows; sometimes called overcoming "childishness" and "dogmatism", maturity.

Experience indicates that when it comes to substantiating the wrong course, the opportunists turn to Comrade Dimitrov's report at the 7th Congress of the Communist International, but today the conditions are different. What was previously described today has risen to the rank of an immutable strategy, in a dogmatic way.

The debate that places the accent on the particular, the peculiar, the national, polycentrism is reborn. The alliance with social democracy, with the new social democracy or with progressivism is considered “natural”. Participation in government coalitions that approve anti-worker measures and that are connected to periods of capitalist crisis, when it is required to stabilize the system and contain / control the workers' rebellion responses.

With Lula or Bachelet, with Tsipras, Obrador or Sánchez, with anyone, there is no step in favor of the revolutionary process, but rather confusion, class collaboration prevails.

We are clear on the lesson and cannot repeat it.

[1] Engels, Friedrich; From utopian socialism to scientific socialism; Progress Publishing House, Moscow

[2] Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich; Our Program

[3] "For Marxist-Leninist theory"; in The Communist International, year II, number 2 and 3; March 1933

[4] The Theses of the X Congress of the Italian CP