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Putin’s Bonapartist regime, capitalist restoration and the struggle for a revolutionary party of the working class

About the program and strategy of the OKP (Communist Workers Party of Russia).

Versión en español

The dissolution of the USSR in 1991 has led to a Bonapartist regime, led by Vladimir Putin for twenty-one years. The replacement of Boris Yeltsin by Putin has come to fulfill the role of preventing the national dissolution through a process of anarchic privatization. Its aim has been to guarantee capitalist restoration in an “orderly” fashion. In that sense, Putin has played and plays the role of Bonaparte, a circumstance that has allowed him to gain authority among the warring factions. His role has been to arbitrate between the mafia fractions that bid to seize state property from the Soviet era. The liberal opposition to Putin acts only to demand greater depth in restorationist policies, in the context of a growing dismantling of technical and industrial infrastructure. The economy of the Russian Federation has been progressively and uninterruptedly weakened. It is essentially based on gas and oil exploitation and exportation, which in the context of the world trade war and U.S. sanctions, its decline has aggravated. Russia grows between 1.5% and 2% annually but needs, to recover, an annual growth of 6%. The coronavirus pandemic has only aggravated the situation from the point of view of a drastic drop in its GDP and the magnitude that it has reached: more than one million cases, which reveals the ineffectiveness of the ruling Bonapartist caste and its despair over the imminent recession, which has meant that it did not take measures to isolate cases in order to keep the companies running, deciding to institute a partial quarantine very late. A 6% drop in gross product is forecast due to the pandemic and the fall in the price of oil, since its sale will fall to 250 billion dollars compared to 419 billion in 2019.

The serious situation described has led the Bonapartist leadership of the Russian State to develop an offensive against the masses by increasing (already before the pandemic) retirement age and attacking democratic freedoms through police persecution, the imprisonment of opponents, the persecution of the homosexuality, including a legislation that outlaws it, and the prohibition of independent candidates, as well as attacks of all kinds of workers’ demands. Strictly speaking, the attack on political freedoms that liberals denounce is a shot by elevation against the working class that has also developed and is developing a course of struggles in various regions of the Russian Federation.

The privatization of state-owned companies is gradual, but it is proceeding steadily, and indicates the trend towards capitalist restoration. In the last five years, some especially important shares such as the railway company R2D, AIROSA (mining), VTB bank, SOVCOMFLOT shipyards, Aeroflot, Rostelcom, and the oil companies Bashneft and Rosneft (20% of the shares) have been auctioned. Also in the last five years there have been growing strikes and mobilizations due to delayed salaries in various unions, among which the Gukovo mining strike, and the great state strike of 2019 carried out by four million workers, two million of which were part of massive mobilizations, stand out. The average monthly salary of workers in the Russian Federation is 245 dollars, but that of of public employees is even lower, reaching a pittance of 125 dollars. The low wage levels have worsened because of the devaluation of the ruble. A common phenomenon, which leads to poor wages, is the bank indebtedness of russian workers, which has led to desperate situations, especially in the months of pandemic in which the payment of mortgage debts is unfeasible.

The Communist Party and its offshoots

The main opposition to Putin is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, whose top leader is Genadi Zyuganov, whose political origin is the Russian National Patriotic Movement. It is the second most important party numerically. Since the Yeltsin government until today, it has had a significant electoral percentage with ups and downs, with triumphs in some regions of the federation. It is a Stalinist party, critical of glasnost and perestroika with Great Russian nationalist positions, which regularly acts as an adviser to the Putin government with whom it frequently has meetings. This has led it to not participate in practically any mobilization against the Bonapartist regime, except those carried out against the pension reform. Recently, its leader, Zyuganov, made statements, after a meeting with Putin, in which he emphasized the fight against international terrorism, placing himself in the camp of imperialism.

As a result of the reactionary social-patriotic orientation of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the objective pressure constituted by the democratic mobilizations of the Russian people, the attacks on the masses and the workers’ strikes, the CP of the Russian Federation has suffered various splits to the left, insofar as they have declared the demand of ending  the bureaucracy’s restorationist regime and to be an expression of the masses in struggle. Among them we can point out the OKP (Communist Party of Russian Workers). They oppose the Bonapartist government and characterize it as a vehicle for capitalist restoration. Another aspect of its program that could be highlighted is its demand for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The IV plenary session of the OKP central committee held on June 29, 2020 has criticized the referendum for the constitutional reform called by Putin as an attempt to preserve presidential absolutism and a massive waste of public property, as well as Putin’s purpose to perpetuate himself in power through reelection as head of state or head of the State’s Council. In the considerations of the political declaration voted by that plenary session, they attack Putin because “in the last thirty years they have dismantled the remnants of the social state, deprived the people of natural resources, free education and medicine and a dignified aging” . The conclusion they have reached is that “the system is exhausted and cannot be reformed.” This analysis, however, has contradictory characteristics: “without a conscious and constant movement of the country towards a true Soviet-style democracy, and the return to the property of the people, one simply cannot speak of any social world, stability and prosperity in Russia.”. They conclude with a program in which they vindicate the Soviet constitution. The program states the following: “no to the prolongation of capitalism in Russia. No to the bourgeois dictatorship. Yes to workers’ democracy. No to the presidential autocracy and the State’s Council. Yes to the workers’ soviets and the Soviet constitution”.

There is a defense of workers’ power. However, this approach comes into conflict with the vindication of the Soviet constitution, which ratifies the program voted by the OKP in its congress two years ago, that does not manage to overcome the ties to the historical past of the former USSR’s bureaucracy, and its strategy – there is no critical reflection on the matter. We must not forget that the Soviet regime, under the Stalinist period, was a denial of workers’ democracy. Although the soviets continued to exist formally in the first stage of the bureaucratic degeneration, they were emptied and were puppet organs of the bureaucratic dictatorship. The Soviet constitution institutionalizes this expropriation of the working class from political power. The 1936 constitution that is defended in the text voted in the second congress of the OKP, was carried out in the middle of the Moscow trials against the old Bolshevik guard and legally sanctioned the liquidation of the Soviets to complete in the formal sphere the destruction of the supremacy of the working class in the decisions of the workers’ state, already abolished before by Thermidorian repression, to give way to secret suffrage, in order to hide the terror of the KGB regime.

Socialism and democracy

The OKP calls for socialism with democracy, but as everyone knows this formula is the one that the bureaucracy itself hoisted under the Gorbachev era as cover for a more open turn towards capitalist restoration in the face of the growing impasse that the Soviet regime faced. Democracy and socialism are antagonistic terms, since democracy is one of the forms that the capitalist state adopts, upholding its entire team of civil servants and armed forces to defend the private property of the means of production.

That the bureaucracy was perfectly clear about its strategic objective is revealed by Gorbachev’s proposal to establish a “socialist state of law.” Prensa Obrera explained then that “law is a regulator of social differences and antagonisms, while socialism is the progressive disappearance of all social antagonism. In fact, when speaking of ‘law’, Gorbachev highlights the tendency of the bureaucracy to assure its social privileges, which it no longer manages to maintain through arbitrariness, on the most solid basis of property … Law is a historical product of commercial production, it is then natural that the bureaucracy takes it into account when dismantling the monopoly of foreign trade and economic planning. The private rights of producers and consumers and the distribution of the product between the first must be established. What has been presented as a step towards political democracy is, in reality, a proposal for the liquidation of the social conquests of the masses of the USSR” (Prensa Obrera n ° 234. 7/20/86).

This conjunction between socialism and democracy was the emblem of Eurocommunism and even of currents of the most radicalized left that adhered to these proposals.

It is a democratizing trend, which embodies a profound adaptation to the world capitalist order. Democracy is presented as the framework of socialism when the process is exactly the opposite: the starting point of the transition towards socialism is the destruction of the capitalist state, even the most democratic one. What is necessary in the former Soviet space is no longer just a political but a social revolution since the bases of the former workers’ state have been increasingly replaced by capitalist social relations. The struggle for the expulsion of the bureaucracy goes hand in hand with the struggle for the expropriation of the oligarchs, the nationalization of the strategic sectors of the economy and workers ‘management, and, on these social bases, the establishment of a revolutionary workers’ state and a soviet republic.

The OKP, on the other hand, ambiguously proposes “popular power on the path to socialist development” as a way out. But it does not stop there because it tries to translate it into a concrete political proposal when it demands “the abolition of the presidency and the transition to a parliamentary form of government.”. The OKP only sees a dilemma between two variants of the prevailing regime, at a time when Putin tries to perpetuate himself with a constitutional reform that gives all power to the State’s Council of which he is a member, as the president. But where did the OKP get the idea that the parliamentary regime would be a progressive step for the working class in its struggle against the ongoing capitalist restoration? Because one thing is to intervene in the bourgeois parliament as a form of class struggle to prepare the workers for the fight for workers’ government, and another is to vindicate parliamentarism. All things considered, this approach is aligned with the sectors of the most restorationist liberal bourgeoisie in the Russian Federation.

They add complementary proposals to this, which have nothing to do with the perspective of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They are just caricatures of a Soviet proposal: “transferring regional management into the hands of representative bodies democratically elected by the subjects (¡¡¡) of the Russian Federation.” It is not part of a struggle because it is not aimed at confronting the State, but at reforming it with organizational patches that would make it less despotic. A democratizing illusion. This has nothing to do with a sovietic approach, insofar as the Soviets are the expression of the struggle of the exploited, organs of dual power whose purpose is to expel the bourgeoisie from power by destroying its state. All the proposals have the same meaning: “control of the real people over the officials.”. This is a formulation that has no content because the people are divided into classes, what social class would exercise power? The working class or the new bourgeoisie? This could be understood as an empirical reaction against the bureaucracy, which seeks to limit its all-embracing power in the Russian state and throughout the Stalinist historical past on which it is essential to draw all the conclusions to tackle the task of building a revolutionary workers’ party. Vital slogans are absent from the point of view of its function of confrontation and fight against the State led by Putin, its restorationist officials and the mafias that are fighting for the loot. These are the opening of companies’ records and workers’ control over them since they push the Russian proletariat to organize with independence from the regime to defeat it. Not to mention the struggle and demand for independent unions when they are fully integrated into the State. They only have a generic proposal that is direct democracy in companies. Something too lax to be a guide for the action of workers who want to organize against the restorationist regime. This can be seen in one of the statements in the second OKP congress’ text when they argue that the workers “have sufficient means of peaceful struggle to guarantee their interests.” This reinforces the parliamentary proposals and the internal transformation of the prevailing regime that characterizes the document presented.

Socialism in one country versus internationalism

The proposal of the OKP is identified with the idea of “socialism in one country”, a policy at odds with Leninism, which ultimately led the USSR to its destruction as a workers’ state and the current process of restoration, an issue that the OKP combats, but on which it has not drawn the corresponding conclusions.

The OKP defends aspects of Putin’s foreign policy, but foreign policy is nothing more than an extension of domestic policy. The ruling elite points to a compromise with imperialism, within the framework of capitalist restoration. The Kremlin’s intervention in the conflicts in the Middle East, Ukraine and even in Venezuela are used as bargaining chips in their pulls and negotiations with the capitalist powers. And it should not surprise us that he ends up letting go of his current allies, such as the Syrian or Venezuelan regime, based on these negotiations.

We, the Partido Obrero, do not place an equal sign between oppressive and oppressed nations. We defend peripheric countries against imperialism and its attacks. In this way, we defend Venezuela against the Yankee escalation and the coup conspiracy and we strive to defeat it but without providing political support to the Maduro government, that has been leading its people to a dead end, subjecting them to unprecedented hardships, to a regimentation of workers’ and popular organizations and a persecution of any independent initiative.

The fate of the former Soviet space and its return to a revolutionary path depends not only on the internal class struggle but, more now than ever, on the international class struggle. The great ally of the Russian workers is the world’s working class and its present and future depends on the victories it gains against the bourgeoisies in each country. In short, the progress of the world proletarian revolution.

The international strategy that prevails in the OKP is not aimed at recreating an international, but rather at closer ties with governments and bourgeois political formations that are classified as “progressive.” It is in this scenario, that the presence of a representative of the Venezuelan PSUV (official government party) in its congress must be understood.

The OKP is tied to the Stalinist past and lacks a balance sheet to overcome it. They correctly vindicate the Soviet patriotic war but omit the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop (Hitler-Stalin) pact, which was not simply a tactic to buy time against the Hitler offensive (similar to the peace of Brest Litovsk), but was done in secret, and calling Hitler the leader of the German masses, ignoring the warnings of the Soviet spy service about the imminence of the invasion of the German imperialist army. They don’t mention the stage of the third period and the popular fronts, which paved Hitler’s rise to power and the defeat of the Spanish revolution, as well as the Yalta pact that led to the handover of power to the bourgeoisie in France and Italy, strangling their revolutions, and the massacre of the Greek revolutionaries at the hands of the British fleet together with the strangulation of the revolutions in the eastern countries, and the division of Germany as part of that same process. All that historical stage that was characterized by the collapse of the revolution in Europe because of the conscious action of Stalinist thermidor.

Also, they don’t denounce the invasions of the Soviet army to crush the political revolutions of the Czech, Polish, Hungarian and East German proletariat, and even less the claim of these uprisings as part of the struggle for world revolution. The OKP vindicates the industrialization of the USSR, which is highlighted, most probably, as a counterpoint to the destruction of the industry in the current restoration period, but its deformed and bureaucratic nature and the Stakhanovism linked to Stalin’s oppression are omitted. Taken as a whole, not critically assimilating this stage is certainly a great stumbling block in the construction of a Bolshevik revolutionary workers party.

What is necessary is not a return to a Stalinist past, on the other hand, buried by history, whose failure and collapse is in sight, but to retake the threads of the October revolution, opening the way to the dictatorship of the proletariat and a revolutionary reconstitution of the soviets. And this makes the struggle to get a revolutionary International back on its feet, the Fourth International, extremely urgent.


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