‘Nationalism is a disease, and those who have at least had it once will have it again, though in a milder form. And its worst property is being able to darken even the brightest mind…’.
Chairman of the First Government (1918) of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
Opportunism, as a phenomenon of political life, was born during the working class struggle for their rights, in the 19th century, and it was at once used by bourgeois politicians and parties as an effective weapon. Opportunism is uncharacteristic for the bourgeois parties because, regardless of their ‘pre-election programs’ and public statements, their ideological basis is not fundamentally different serving in the end to the same goal, the interests of capital. That is why systematic changes of parties implemented by bourgeois politicians and elected members, depending on the current situation, are so characteristic.
V.Lenin gave a very accurate assessment of this phenomenon, in his work ‘Historic fate of Karl Marx doctrine’: ‘…the theoretical victory of Marxism compels its enemies to disguise themselves as Marxists. Liberalism, rotten within, tries to revive itself in the form of socialist opportunism. The period of preparing the forces for great battles is being construed by them as renunciation of these battles. They explain improving the situation of the slaves fighting against wage slavery in terms of selling for a penny the slaves’ rights to freedom. They cravenly preach ‘social peace’ (meaning peace with slavery), renunciation of the class struggle etc.’
(Lenin. Complete Works, 5th ed., Vol. 23, p. 3)
The Features of Opportunistic Trends of SD Movements of the Western Provinces of Russia. “Birth Trauma” of Nationalism.
In the western provinces of the then Russian Empire, due to the ethnic composition of these areas, opportunist trends of the labor movement had some specific features. Including also typically overestimated, not due to objective conditions, desires for institutional independence and autonomy. While analyzing, in 1933, the circumstances of birth of the Social Democratic movement of the beginning of the century, М. Rudens wrote, in his article ‘II Congress of the RSDLP and Latvian Social Democracy’:
‘The Latvian Social Democratic Labor Party emerged as a completely independent, separate revolutionary organization, which had nor institutional neither other links with the RSDLP. Moreover, the revolutionary movement in Latvia at its beginning was quite inclined towards nationalism (bold by me, the Author). This exactly explains the fact that the Lenin’s principle of unity and centralism of the Russia’s Labor Social Democratic movement was not gaining sympathetic response in Latvia’.
While the revolutionary situation was gaining momentum, the opportunistic trends were overcome in the LSDLP and the Latvian Social Democrats (hereinafter, Bolshevik Communists), played an important role in the October Revolution and in the establishment of the Soviet State. At the same time, the ‘birthmarks’ of the problems of that Social Democracy later manifested repeatedly in the views of certain Communists and in the activities of the Communist Party of Latvia. As a certain inclination towards Trotskyism, in the 20ies and 30ies, and during the time of so-called ‘National Communists’ in the 50ies, already in the Soviet Latvia.
And if the leftist opportunistic craze for Trotskyism was partly due to the defeat of the revolution in Latvia, in the beginning of the twenties, and the retreat of the revolutionary forces to the USSR territory (the Trotsky’s theory of ‘permanent revolution’ was psychologically closer to Latvian Communists who practically found themselves outside of their historical homeland than the building of socialist separately in the USSR), the policy of the leadership of the Communist Party of Latvia, in the 1950s, is rather a manifestation of rightist opportunism.
As N. Мukhitidinov (in 1959, CPSU CC Secretary, Presidium member), who investigated the situation in Latvia as a member of the CPSU CC special Commission, noted in his memoirs, they had statements from local comrades about ‘…somebody of the leadership being on the Bukharin’s way, unwilling to develop heavy industry but tending to focus on light industry and agricultural sector’.
(Latvia on the Verge of Ages. Rigа, Āvots, 1990, p. 126)
The forces of world imperialism could not fail to take advantage of similar situation.
Missed danger: opportunist trends of the CPL/CPSU, in 1953-1991, and the use of those by the foreign nationalistic emigration
The persistent efforts to demonize and distort the history and values of the Great October, the theory and practice of the socialist state originated practically since the moment of accomplishment of this significant event for the whole of humanity and ”feed” a large army of bourgeois ‘researchers’, up to this day.
The foreign critics begun to show particular activity, during the postwar period. Two circumstances helped in the process: the victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War and the achievements of the Soviet Union in science, education, space exploration and the social field. The unfolded ‘Cold War’ led to a sharp increase in Anti-Communism and Anti-Sovietism. The history of the Russian revolutions of 1917 was interpreted by the majority of Sovietological research from the point of view of total rejection of their justice and logic. It was argued that under the Tsarist regime in the late XIX – early XX century, Russia progressed rapidly, and the process would continue successfully, should there be no ‘spontaneous’ February revolution caused by failures made in the First World War and inept policy implemented by the autocratic power. The interim government, which replaced the Tsarism, failed to consolidate the new political regime, and it was used by a small ‘extremist group’ of the Bolsheviks who as a result of a violent coup and a favorable set of circumstances overthrew the ‘democratic’ Interim government and established their dictatorship. In this case, researchers almost completely ignored any social economic factors and existing mass movements of the time.
By promoting this ‘concept’ Sovietologist sought to compromise the October, the Bolshevik party, claiming the October revolution to be in many senses ‘accidental’, thus trying to diminish its role and significance in the destiny of Russia and the entire world. Despite the obvious vulnerability of the argument this ‘concept’ of lack of objective reasons for the revolution and the violent seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in an atmosphere of ‘passivity of the masses’ is being used in the circles of the bourgeois historians, up to this day.
The absolute failure of this ‘concept’, its blatant political bias become only more apparent as time passes. A natural question arises: if the Bolsheviks came to power as a result of an unpredictable game of the political forces, in 1917, in what way they were able to retain this power for decades and, moreover, under their leadership the country made such great achievements in all fields of human activity? Why then other nations went the October way? These and other similar questions seriously undermined the thesis of ‘accidental’ success of the October and forced ‘researchers’ to continue searching for other, more sophisticated ‘concepts’.
Leaders of various levels of the CPSU rendered great service for bourgeois Sovietologists by their illiterate, theoretically erroneous and arbitrary decisions creating a fertile ground for criticism. There is no reason to say that they all were some conscious ‘agents of imperialism’, in the basis of opportunism frequently being a quite sincere desire for ‘improvement of socialism’, ‘more flexible response to the needs of our time’ etc.. The unfortunate consequences occur not only due to selfish interests of these persons but also due to the absence of theoretical literacy and, of course, in the absence of room for criticism of their actions and possibilities of fighting them.
In this context, the situation that took place in the Communist Party of Latvia, in the 50s of the last century, is typical. Taking advantage of a period of organizational turmoil, which begun, in the leadership of the CPSU, after J. Stalin’s death, and relying on the practice of ‘training of local national staff’ started by L. Beria, First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, in the republics of the Union, leaders of the Latvian SSR and the Communist Party of Latvia began to implement policies contrary to the normal operation of the unified planned national economy complex and to the principles of internationalism.
30 years later, already during the years of ‘perestroika’, Vilis Krūmiņš enthusiastically wrote about this period: ‘The Republic got an opportunity to form its economy on a truly rational basis and to manage it independently. Favorable conditions emerged for the development of national relations in the spirit of true internationalism’. (Vilis Krūmiņš, Reminiscences and Reflections. Latvia on the Verge of Ages, Āvots, 1990, p. 94)
In the opinion of the person working as Second Secretary of the LCP CC ‘the spirit of true internationalism’ consisted apparently in establishing linguistic and ethnic criteria not only for propaganda and personnel work but also for employment and choice of residence (!). For example, E. Berklavs, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the LSSR, at the Plenum of the Central Committee of the LCP, July 7-8, 1959, expressed concern about the coming of non-Latvians to the Capital of the Republic: ‘Only in 1958, we registered 28 000 persons in Riga, of whom only 10 500 were Latvians, the rest were 17 500. During the five months of current year we registered 8500 persons in Riga, less than 3000 of them were Latvians’. (Cited in the compendium ‘Policy of the Occupation Authorities in Latvia, 1939-1991’, Nordik, 1999г. p. 395).
It should be noted that under the Soviet planned economy and, in general, planned distribution of labor resources, spontaneous population migration due to personal reasons also took place. Nevertheless, the majority of visitors were workers who arrived in Riga to work at city enterprises. It is also necessary to note that the Republic was not able to provide for these enterprises, which were restored after the war and built anew, with its own skilled workforce – in pre-war bourgeois Latvia, during twenty years, only several thousand persons were able to get a higher education, besides those came as a rule from representatives of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, some of them emigrated from the Republic, in the end of the war, together with the retreating Nazis. A significant share of highly qualified specialists of the bourgeois Latvia who had still received their education in the Tsarist Russia (engineers, doctors, teachers) were ethnic Germans and Jews. The Germans were repatriated into Germany even before the war, the Jews ere almost completely destroyed by the Nazis and their local henchmen, during the occupation of Latvia. The war itself also exacerbated the shortage of personnel due to losses at the fronts. Therefore, the specialists necessary for a normal life and economic development were redistributed in an organized manner from other parts of the Union. In addition, Latvia has historically never been a mono-ethnic territory, being even more multinational the port and transit city of Riga.
During the time that passed after the war, the process of education and training of local professionals was put in place, in the Republic, and as they gained experience it became possible to implement replacement of those who did not meet the required level, in a methodic way based on economic feasibility, business skills and qualifications. Instead, the problem of changes of ethnic composition in the Republic and insufficient number of Latvians in leadership positions was made a priority. The Latvian ‘Internationalist Communists’ in fact demanded ethnic privileges in order to get better positions!
A testimony of the artificiality of the problem of ‘national proportions’ is the report of E. Mukins, Secretary of the LCP Daugavpils City Committee, at the Plenum of the LCP CC of June 1953. Supporting the already begun campaign for a ‘national personnel policy’ he conveyed that ‘a particularly intolerable situation had been created in many regions of Latgale, which are wrongly regarded as Russian. No local people were in positions of responsibility or at all, in many districts there, the local employees were leaving for Riga». (p.407)
They were the same persons whose coming to Riga worried the ‘internationalist’ Berklavs… By the way, the city of Daugavpils historically is the most non-Latvian city of Latvia, in different years, the number of Latvians among its inhabitants being from three to fifteen percent. The border ‘Latgale areas’ also had a significant – up to half – percentage of non-Latvian, mainly Russian and Belarusian population. Аnd if we consider Latgalians an ethnic minority, these areas then were absolutely non-Latvian. So what kind of ‘local people’ worried this Party employee?
Of course, the hidden nationalistic motives were covered by correct thesis about the needs of conducting propaganda and agitation work in the native language of those to whom it is addressed. But this has nothing to do with the ‘Communist’ Berklavs’ desire to make the Capital of Latvia kind of an ‘ethnic reservation’ offering Latvians special rights to occupy leadership positions.
When the interests of a separate nation are beginning to prevail over the class consciousness, when supranational social class interests of the workers are being sacrificed to ethnic stereotypes of compatriot consciousness, the end is quite predictable. Under appropriate foreign and domestic political circumstances it will be outright treason, rabid anti-Communism and aggressive nationalism.
The life of the above-mentioned E. Berklavs perfectly illustrates the true motives of manipulating with the Marxist thesis. When, in the years 80-90, opportunist and nationalist trends openly emerged in the Communist Party of Latvia, and the Soviet power began to collapse, he joined an ultraradical Nationalist Party, which advocated for a forced deportation of the people who came to Latvia in the post-war period, closing of Russian schools and linguistic discrimination. History shows that this is an end typical for many of those who embarked on the slippery slope of opportunism and revisionism.
This position is in stark contrast to the Latvian Communists’ attitude towards the problem, when the Party was practically underground and operated as a part of the Worker-Peasant faction of the bourgeois Parliament. F. Bergs, MP, at the Session of June 28, 1933, criticizing the government’s position on education, said: ‘also minorities have the right to teach their children in their native language. This is required by the most elementary principle of democracy, and it is the only way enabling the popular masses to learn the culture and education. Getting education in the native language is easier and more convenient»
(Transcript of the Saeima of the RL. 4th Session – Rigа, 1933, p. 955)
Latvian Communists of that time actively defended the rights of Latgalians (ethnic minority representing a small ethnic group of the Baltic peoples closely related in language to Latvians), up to an unlimited right to self-determination.
This was just the genuine Leninist internationalism that does not mean a renunciation of ethnicity neither of one’s own ethnic motherland. V. Lenin quite lucidly explained it in his letter to I.Аrmаnd: ‘The worker has no fatherland – it means that а) his economic situation is not national but international; b) his class enemy is international; c) also his liberation conditions; d) the international unity of workers is more important than national’.
(V.Lenin. I. Аrmand – Complete Works, Vol.49, p.324)
V, Lenin’s explanations of labor migration issues having an absolutely understandable relation with the ‘proletariat’s fatherland’ are very topical for modern Latvia. Like a hundred years before, economic crises, unemployment and as a consequence searching for work and means of subsistence overseas are the constant companions of Capitalism. Therefore, wrote V. Lenin in his article ‘Capitalism and Workers’ Immigration’: ‘No doubt, it is only the extreme poverty that forces people to leave their homeland…’. (Compl. Works, Vol.24, p.89.)
Hundreds of thousands of Latvian workers employed now in the economically developed countries of the European Union fully feel the truth of the above.
The above-mentioned manifestations of nationalism among the Communists of the Baltic Republics can not be considered accidental, spontaneous neither a just internal process of the Communist Party. Back in the 60s of the last century, V. Vardys, representative of Lithuanian emigration (it was he who suggested to use at maximum the manifestations of ‘National Communism’ for the benefit of the reactionary emigration, aiming at the bourgeois revenge and the exit of the Baltic Republics out of the USSR), wrote: ‘… this nationalism not only continues to exist but it also finds supporters’. (Vardys V.S. Soviet Nationality Policy since the XXII Party Congress. -- ‘The Russian Review’, 1965, vol. 2 Nr. 4, p. 340. Quoted from ‘Baltic Reactionary Emigration Today’. Rigа, Zinātne, 1979, p. 139)
His was echoed by Bruno Kalniņš, famous personality of the Social Democracy who believed that that young people, particularly university and high school students had nationalist sentiments. He encouraged the use of all means available to emigration for warming up and spreading of these sentiments.
Tellingly, these views and studies of the bourgeois ideologists were no secret for ideological employees of the LCP. For example, the referred book ‘Baltic Reactionary Emigration Today’, which analyzed in detail the views, theories and modes of operation of foreign anti-Soviet centers and copiously quoted émigré press, was published under the editorship of the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the Latvian SSR and similar scientific institutions of Lithuania and Estonia, and was intended particularly for use by Party activists. Meanwhile, the conclusions of its award-winning authors sin superficiality and embellishing the true picture. They estimated the thesis and conclusions of the theoreticians and activists of the foreign emigration as delusions based on a lack of information about the real life in the USSR or as a deliberate falsification and distortion of facts. Meanwhile, the events in Latvia (and in the Baltic Republics in general), showed that the foreign emigration assessed the situation quite adequately to the reality. Exactly the National Communism slogans prevailed quickly and were quite effectively used by the opportunist part of the Communist Party, the youth becoming the most active force of nationalist parties and movements.
In the 50s, the Party had enough strength and ideological resistance to overcome the attempts of a group of national opportunists to push the Communists out of their Marxist positions. In the 80s, during the so called ‘perestroika’, opportunism and voluntarism in fact became the basis for the CPSU CC leadership, which ultimately led to the destruction of the first state of the victorious proletariat of the world.
The Features of the Counter-Revolutionary Coup of 1988-91 in Latvia. From the Slogan of ‘return to Leninist Socialism’ to the Aggressive Anti-Communism, Anti-Sovietism and Nationalism
It is characteristic that the first steps paving the way for a split of the Communist Party and elimination of the gains of the Socialism were made under the slogans of ‘return to the true Leninism’. Here is what was written, in 1988, in the program of the Latvian Popular Front (LPF) – organization, which had in its composition groups having nationalist (sometimes even openly neo-Nazi) views and after a while declared its goal of restoration of the bourgeois statehood and secession from the USSR: «LPF stands for the formation of national relations on the basis of Leninist principles of self-determination and equality of nations united in the union of the soviet states’.
Moreover, the authors of the program state that: ‘the activities of the LPF are based on the principles set out in resolutions of the XIX All-Union Conference, on the basis of proposals made by the Communists and the working people of the Republic…».
(«Latvian Popular Front Program» – Rigа, ‘Āvots’, 1966, p.4)
It is very doubtful that the ‘working people of the Republic’ would have expressed similar demands: ‘… to include, in the legislation of the Soviets and the elections to the Soviets, the principle according to which, in the Soviets of the Republic at any level, it is necessary to ensure a constant and not decreasing majority of mandates that in any demographical situation would be reserved for representatives of Latvian ethnicity’. (Ibid p.9)
And this demonstrative difference in the civil rights is suggested in a country where the law sets out the principle of national equality, where entire regions and larger cities are historically inhabited by persons of non-Latvian ethnicity!
But it is suggested by the LPF – ‘Popular Front’, whose intention to become an ethnic front being opposed to the Soviet power was quite clearly seen since the very moment of its organization. And what about the LCP, its leaders, its political and ideological activists?
A.Gorbunovs, a leader of the Communist Party, in 1989, at the Congress of Soviets swears at the podium in support of a unified Union of the SSR, the authorities of Latvia being responsible before all inhabitants of the Republic ‘regardless of their nationality and the length of stay in it’. But already in 1990, after winning the election LPF, he gladly accepted the offer to head the Supreme Soviet of the Republic, which declared the legal restoration of the bourgeois statehood, the rejection of the fundamental principles of Socialism in the economy and the social sphere. And it was under his leadership of this highest legislative body of the Republic when they promoted the wildest ХХ century law on citizenship, according to which the elected members of the Parliament deprived their (!) 700 thousand voters of their civil rights.
Such actions implemented by ‘Communists’ of the leadership structures of the Communist Party naturally led to a crisis situation, which poured out in the Division between the national opportunists and those who remained on the position of Socialism and Internationalism. In April 1990, the opportunists separated and created ‘an independent Communist Party’, which was soon renamed Democratic Labor Party of Latvia. In 1993, the latter-day ‘Labor Democrats’ took part in the Parliamentary elections obtaining 0,66% votes, and correspondingly were left without representation. Then this group of politicians joined the Latvian Social Democratic Party and practically disappeared from the political life as a valuable acting force.
Alfreds Rubiks became the leader of the Latvian Communist Party, in April 1990, and the Party firmly defended the principles of Socialism and Internationalism. In the Program of Actions approved in December 1990, it was declared about a fundamental demarcation with those who do not recognize the Socialist choice. It stated the need to ‘complete the formation of factions of the Latvian Communist Party, in all Soviets, organizing the work of these factions, and if a Party member rejects participation in the faction activities his membership shall be reconsidered …»
(‘History, Sociology, Policy’, 1991, № 1, 1, Rigа, p. 27)
Subsequently, as we know, the Communist Party of Latvia was banned, after the coup of August 1991, and its leader was imprisoned.
The Lessons of the October. The Struggle against Opportunism as a Necessary Condition for a Successful Struggle and Victory of the Communist Party
The current modest experience of the LSP, under the post-Soviet bourgeois political system, allows us to come to some conclusions about the confrontation to opportunistic trends and the limits of possible tactical compromises, both with political allies and fellow travelers as well as with the bourgeois parties.
As for the struggle against the opportunism, in a relatively short history of the Party, such manifestations have repeatedly happened. Tellingly, the opportunists, both those who left the LSP as well as those who were expelled from the Party for violating its Statutes, have joined the openly bourgeois parties or ceased all their political activity.
The LSP was also obliged to engage in a variety of pre-election coalitions, both as a leading political force as well as a second role party, and even to get its representatives into the Parliament and into local authorities putting them on the lists of other parties. Similar tactics has an inherent risk of loss of awareness of the Party, limiting activities of the elected members, leading to personnel errors, which are being used by bourgeois parties through blackmail and bribery. Nevertheless, it is this tactics that has helped to preserve the Party under rather complicated conditions and even to make an important psychological breakthrough, namely Alfreds Rubiks, leader of the LSP, becoming elected member of the European Parliament.
As necessary prerequisites we can mention the preservation of organizational and ideological independence of the Party under coalition agreements, the subordination of the members elected from the Party to its Statutes, the provision to be made in coalition agreements of the rights of those elected members in order not to vote, within the factions of coalition associations, against the program statements of their Party.
The Latvian Communist Party lost in the exacerbation of the political struggle of 1988-1991 because it was not able to identify in advance and to expel from its ranks the Reformists, the National Opportunists and simply unprincipled careerists. During this period, the Marxist, Internationalist section of the Party had to fight not even on two but on three fronts: against the LPF, which included the whole range of anti-Soviet forces, from the bourgeois liberals to the neo-Nazis, against the treacherous policy of the leadership of the CPSU (Gorbachev, Yakovlev and Cо.) and against the National Opportunists of its own ranks.
Remembering the October of 1917 and the subsequent struggle, V. Lenin wrote: ‘Bolshevism would not have defeated the bourgeoisie, in 1917-1919, had it not learned previously, in 1903-1917, to win and mercilessly expel Mensheviks, Reformists and Social Chauvinists from the Party’. (V.Lenin. Compl. Works Vol.40 p.24)
Political events of the end of the 20 century and of today have fully confirmed the topicality of the ideas expressed by the leader of the proletarian revolution.
First Deputy Chairman of the LSP