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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

In Defense of Leninism: Response to A Criticism from ICOR Chief Monika Gartner-Engel (From NL 109)

--Originally published in ROL, USA Newsletter #109

Defense of Leninism:
Response to A Criticism from ICOR Chief Monika Gartner-Engel

[In late May 2018, the Revolutionary Organization of Labor-USA (ROL-USA), received a brief critical letter addressed to our leader, comrade Ray Light, criticizing his assessment of the ICOR-sponsored October Revolution celebration in Germany in his lengthy article entitled, “Reflections on the Hundredth Anniversary Year of the Great October Socialist Revolution.” (Ray O’ Light Newslatter #105, November-December 2017) The brief letter purports to have been written individually by Monika Gartner-Engel, the Main Coordinator of ICOR. According to the letter, comrade Monika then “placed this letter before the ICC [ICOR’s leading body] and it has been unanimously approved.” The writer asks that the letter be published in Ray O. Light Newsletter, the organ of ROL-USA.

Our small leadership core has decided to publish the ICOR letter along with a response from comrade Ray Light in the interests of advancing proletarian revolutionary clarity on the legacy of the Great October Socialist Revolution as well as clarity on the tasks of the proletarian revolution today.]


ICOR Letter(Monika Gartner-Engel)
April 2018
Dear Comrade Ray,
     I have read the comments that you made about the international seminar to commemorate 100 years of the October Revolution, organised jointly by ICOR and the ILPS. You have attacked me, Com. Stefan (for his “immodesty”), the Presidium (for being hand-picked by Stefan), the leaders of the “most significant organisations” there (for being deficient in their defence of Leninism) the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and Mao Dze Dong and his thought itself. I find myself unable to agree with the premises upon which you base your criticisms.
    Firstly, let me inform you that the seminar was organised in a democratic fashion. The ICC of the ICOR took the decision to give the responsibility to Com. Stefan Engel to design the seminar. Com. Stefan suggested some thematic blocks which were then approved by the ICC democratically. Com. Stefan suggested the procedure for a deadline for applications to hold the introductory contributions for the thematic blocks. All ICOR members were informed of this on time. From these applications (you were not among them) the main speakers for each thematic block were put before the ICC and approved. The composition of the Presidium was also approved by the ICC. It was the Presidium which decided the conduct of the seminar and decided about who should give the opening and closing speeches. But you already know all this since you also took part in some of the most important decisions in this regard in the ICC. You had also orally applied to give the main speech in the last thematic block “the October Revolution lives”, but among the six applicants, Com. Jose Maria Sison was approved for this task. No doubt, there may have been lapses in the proletarian culture of debate, but I am unable to find any such from your writing.
    Far be it from me to try to defend leaders like Com. Jose Maria Sison or Com. Otto Vargas or Com. K. N. or Com. Stefan or others from “significant organisations” whom you find guilty of being deficient in their defence of Leninism. Most of these seem to me like leaders who have spent their whole lives in the defence of Leninism in the face of all forms of revisionism. I am also unable to subscribe to your criticism of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. I think that the point that William Hinton was trying to make is that one of the main dangers to any socialist society is from within – from “capitalist roaders” taking the “capitalist road”. You will agree that this proved true even for Stalin-led Soviet Union which declined after 1950, not due to Mao and his thought but due to revisionism from within the party led by Stalin and Lenin.
    I also looked forward, when reading your article, to being able to profit from your criticisms of my role. However, I find your criticism that I ranked the building of a “maternity clinic” (may I humbly point out that it is not a maternity clinic but a full fledged health centre cum social centre with an operating theatre etc that ICOR has built) above the “magnificent proletarian internationalist deeds of the Bolshevik-led October Revolution, the Stalin-led USSR and the Soviet-led world communist movement from 1917 to 1950” can only be understood as extreme hyperbole.
    Though I am acutely aware that Mao and his thoughts do not need ICOR in their defence, I have to point out that many parties in ICOR do uphold Mao and his thoughts. It would have been better if you had clarified that you consider all who uphold Mao and his thoughts as “opportunists” within ICOR before you had aired these views in a public forum. This is clearly mentioned in the statutes of ICOR that one should not publicly criticise any other member organisation and certainly not disrespectfully. Even otherwise such a course would be the only proper way with fraternal organisations.
    I have placed this letter before the ICC and it has been unanimously approved. I hope that you will also publish this letter in your newsletter with equal prominence in keeping with the true traditions of the proletarian culture of debate.
Your comrade,
Monika, Main Coordinator

ROL-USA Response(Ray Light)

July 1, 2018

Monika Gartner-Engel, Main Coordinator

Dear Comrade Monika,

We appreciate the fact that you have made the effort to answer our criticisms of the ICOR-sponsored October Revolution Celebration held in Germany in late October 2017. These criticisms and the discussion of the ICOR-led celebration are contained in “Reflections on the Hundredth Anniversary Year of the Great October Socialist Revolution” (Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, by Ray O. Light, pp.1-15) and form a small part of this lengthy article written by me. It was the final one in the series that ROL-USA committed to write and publish over the course of the Centennial Year 2017 as our contribution to ICOR’s commemoration. And it appeared as the introduction to the special pamphlet entitled, “Commemorating the 100thAnniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution,” in which the series of articles that had appeared in our 2017 Ray O’ Light Newsletters were collected.


In your very first paragraph you (Monika) state you are “unable to agree with the premises upon which you base your criticisms.” Unfortunately, it turns out you are actually unable to even identify these “premises.”

What then are “the premises upon which we base our criticisms?”

1.   Our first premise is that the “remarkable record of accomplishments of the Great October Socialist Revolution (GOSR) and the USSR to which it gave birth” makes it clear that proletarian socialism “is the social system whose time has come. It is up to us to continue this forward march of history in our own time.” (Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, by Ray O. Light, p.1)

2.   Our second premise is that, with the “historical distance” of one hundred years since 1917, especially given  the defeat and destruction of Leninism in the USSR more than fifty years ago and by the fact that Leninism was “dismissed and abandoned by most of the rest of the world’s revolutionary forces in the same period,” (Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, by Ray O. Light, pp.1-2) most proletarians and oppressed peoples within the USA and around the world in the hundredth anniversary year of the GOSR had barely taken note of the anniversary.

3.   A third premise. The imperialist bourgeoisie, and the U.S. ruling class in particular, has carried out a sinister campaign of lies, slanders and distortions directed against the magnificent accomplishments of the October Revolution and of the Bolshevik Party-led Soviet proletariat and against the victorious Lenin-Stalin leadership and line.

4.   Fourth premise: the immortal leadership of comrade Stalin. Among the greatest fruits of the GOSR was the Stalin and Soviet-led defeat of global fascism and especially its Nazi German spearhead. One of the systemic falsifications of twentieth century history required to bury the accomplishments of Great October has been the promotion of Winston Churchill in place of comrade Joseph Stalin as the leader of the anti-fascist coalition that defeated Hitlerite Germany and the other anti-Comintern Axis powers. Thus, multiple Best Film Actor Awards for 2017 (including the Oscar) went to Gary Oldman for his portrayal of  “the hero,” Winston Churchill, in the film “Darkest Hour.”

5.   Fifth premise: The U.S. petty-bourgeois intelligentsia is an especially philistine class force, in light of seventy years of U.S. imperialist hegemony and at least several decades of a full-fledged U.S. Empire. In my “Reflections,” (Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, by Ray O. Light, pp. 1-15)

I polemicized against a few typical articles published in the left-liberal Nation magazine of 2017: one, exhibiting “left-wing melancholia,” was spreading “gloom and doom” “about any current or future prospect for the proletarian revolutionary overthrow of the bankrupt, moribund system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism, as the Russian working class so successfully and heroically accomplished one hundred years ago”(!); and a second by a professor Gessen, apologizing for his and the Nation’s support for Gorbachev who he admits betrayed the Russian people. But Gessen then rationalizes his own petty bourgeois betrayal by concluding, “a poor and backward country was always going to be a terrible place to test out socialism.” Thus Gessen continues his betrayal of the Soviet Russian people and the world’s peoples in 2017 by covering up the immortal accomplishments of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Finally, even the usually anti-imperialist Counterpunch published an article, “Revisiting October—The Meaning of the Revolution” that underscores the depth of political cowardice of the U.S. petty-bourgeois intelligentsia today. Author John Wight sets a tone and mood throughout that sounds exactly like all his anti-Stalin, anti-communist U.S. colleagues in the “academy.” Yet, in an astonishing turn, Wight grudgingly and ever so reluctantly concludes that “... in the last analysis, the fundamental metric of the October Revolution 1917 is the Battle of  Stalingrad in 1942. And for that, whether it cares to acknowledge it or not, the world will forever be in its debt.” Incredible! How cowardly Wight is! What a betrayal of the masses of humanity! For such “friends” will scare anyone away!

6.   Sixth premise: “The defeat of socialism in the USSR many decades ago means that any recognition of the October Revolution Centennial during 2017 would be more meaningful the more commemorative and less celebratory it is.” (Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, by Ray O. Light, p.6)


These are some of the main premises upon which I based my criticisms of the ICOR-sponsored event in Germany. From these premises we can draw the following conclusion: A fierce and uncompromising struggle against opportunism on the significance of the Victorious October Revolution and the decades of proletarian victories in the USSR and globally that followed is our only chance to break through to link the international working class of today with Leninism, key to our victories. 


While the October ICOR event in Germany was more serious and sober than the ILPS-USA and PRISM-sponsored event in New York City, only a few forces there had what I saw as sufficient respect for an effective commemoration, for “a profound rediscovery of the priceless treasures of the Great October Socialist Revolution.”

In June 2017 the Ecuador-based International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO), with which ROL-USA is not affiliated, issued a 220 page book (Unity and Struggle No. 34) with contributions from seventeen affiliated groups. To me, it is a model for modestly and honestly sharing the experience of the working class movement in all countries under the impact of the GOSR.

Few ICOR organizations (of which ROL-USA is one) seem to have made such a respectful effort. Our one hundred page pamphlet is entitled “Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the GOSR.” In “Reflections” (Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, by Ray O. Light, pp.1-15) I supported one other ICOR organization which did make such an effort for a commemoration rather than a celebration, the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist-Leninist (TKP-ML). The TKP-ML pamphlet is entitled, “On the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the GOSR—The teachings, importance and heritage of the October Revolution as a beginning of a new era in the history of the world.”

As you are well aware, Monika, the TKP-ML is a Maoist organization. And I clearly supported this organization—one indication that you tried in your brief letter to put words in my mouth that I have never put there. You give me the following advice: “It would have been better if you clarified that you consider all who uphold Mao and his thoughts as ‘opportunists’ ...” Yet you surely know that, in my writings over the past twenty-five years, there is no contemporary revolutionary thinker who I have favorably quoted more often than comrade Jose Maria Sison, arguably the pre-eminent Maoist in the world. Indeed, more than half of the conclusion of our first major article on the GOSR Centennial was a lengthy quote I cited from comrade Sison.

Perhaps you are unaware of my history as a defender of the Revolutionary Teachings of Mao Tse-tung. In 1968, on behalf of Youth for Stalin, I wrote “The Role of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the International Marxist-Leninist Movement: The October Revolution vs. the Cultural Revolution.” At that time, despite the fact that the “Mao’s Thought” concept was being used to bury Leninism, and Mao’s persona was being used to cover for what I already saw was the counter revolutionary GPCR, I presented a balanced and supportive assessment of Mao, this great Chinese revolutionary leader, including his ideological contributions to the treasure-house of Marxism-Leninism, as evidenced in the first four volumes of Mao’s “Selected Works.” Indeed, I have continued to favorably quote Mao extensively over the fifty years since.

Going back even further, in the early and mid 1960’s, I had the privilege of being associated with the very small but very effective anti-revisionist group called “Hammer and Steel” (“Molotov and Stalin”). This U.S. group was praised on more than one occasion by both comrade Mao and comrade Hoxha. Perhaps more tellingly, Nikita Khrushchev and his revisionist ilk attacked Hammer and Steel by name in their “Open Letter of the Central Committee of the CPSU to all Party Organizations to All Communists of the Soviet Union.”(July 14, 1963) This was the Russian revisionists’ response to the Communist Party of China’s most comprehensive anti-revisionist polemic, “A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement” (June 14, 1963).

Monika, I guess you could say that I was defending Mao when it cost something to do so, when it counted, at a time when the anti-revisionist struggle led by the CPC and the Albanian Party of Labor represented the strongest attempt to revive the international communist movement in the entire period that has transpired  since the death of Stalin in 1953. So it is no surprise that in our Germany-based ICMLPO, through my role in the JCG leadership and in the International Conference, along with the Greek comrades, we laid the basis for the fine Stephan Engel/MLPD proposal to establish ICOR. I played the pivotal role in defending the positive history of the Third International and in fighting for recognition that a similar international proletarian organization is sorely needed today.

Moreover, you surely remember that, some years ago, when MLPD relations with the Filipino comrades led by comrade Sison were frayed and fragile, Stefan Engel and other MLPD leaders became extremely friendly to me and our little organization (and correctly so) precisely because of our close comradely relations with JMS in particular. When you position yourself as a “defender” of comrade Sison and other revolutionary leaders “against” my alleged “attacks,” this seems to be merely a cynical maneuver.


Just as with previous MLPD-sponsored events I have participated in, this ICOR event had many positive speakers. Since it was held in Germany and was conducted with German as the primary language and with the relatively large number of MLPD members, there were many German and MLPD speakers some of whom, including Rebell youth and industrial workers had very positive comments.

However, there were a disproportionate number of MLPD members who nitpicked early Soviet alleged “mistakes” as the main cause of defeats many decades later in the USSR and around the globe. I particularly recall a German professor who approached the Soviet Union as if it had to pass one of his tests even though it had “passed” the tests of the October Revolution, the Civil War and Imperialist Intervention that followed, the collectivization of agriculture and the massive Nazi invasion and barbaric occupation, with brutally hard-won and glorious victories! Meanwhile, over the decades that most of us have been active, the two-thirds of the world’s peoples living in the socialist camp or in a so-called non-aligned country have been reduced to practically zero! According to Herr Professor, must all this too be laid at the feet of the heroic Soviet peoples!!!

Even more egregious was the German “comrade” who had the audacity to claim that the Soviet communists were wrong about the main threat to Soviet survival being external! This German chauvinist tried to bury the crucial role of German fascism in the defeat of Soviet socialism! In this regard, it’s instructive to remember comrade Molotov’s observation that the vicious renegade Khrushchev “was no fool ... he reflected the spirit of the overwhelming majority. He keenly sensed the disparity [between policy and the state of opinion].” (p. 366, Molotov Remembers) No people, no matter how revolutionary can continue to struggle and sacrifice without rest indefinitely. Khrushchev’s revisionist promotion of peaceful co-existence and peaceful transition to socialism, according to Molotov, was attractive to the war-weary soviet people who had heroically beaten back and defeated the most powerful military invasion in human history, the Nazi German invasion.

Even you, comrade Monika, display German chauvinism in your letter when you assert that the Soviet Union “... declined after 1950, not due to Mao and his thought but due to revisionism from within the party led by Lenin and Stalin.” You attempt to link yourself with William Hinton and the Chinese Cultural Revolution in emphasizing the danger to any socialist society from within—from “capitalist roaders” taking the “capitalist road.” But do you, comrade, really believe that the scars from the monstrous and murderous German fascist military machine in the USSR from 1941 to 1945 with the loss of almost thirty million Soviet people had no impact on Soviet life and communist policy in the 1950’s?!

The primary emphasis on the internal at the expense of the external is a manifestation of bourgeois nationalism and was a hallmark of the so-called Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which immediately in 1966 turned China inward.

Already in 1924, comrade Stalin, upholding Lenin and Leninism with his classic text, Foundations of Leninism, addressed the question of Theory as follows: “Formerly the proletarian revolution was regarded exclusively as the result of the internal development of a given country. Now, this point of view is no longer adequate. Now the proletarian revolution must be regarded primarily as the result of the development of the contradictions within the world system of imperialism, as the result of the breaking of the chain of the world imperialist front in one country or another...The front of capital will be pierced where the chain of imperialism is weakest, for the proletarian revolution is the result of the breaking of the chain of the world imperialist front at its weakest link...” (Foundations of Leninism, Stalin, 1924) The abandonment of the Leninist theory of the revolution has been so costly for the international working class and the oppressed peoples over the past six decades and more.

However, with regard to William Hinton, my point is that his own statement contained in the 1993 book published after the Mao Seminar exposed the bankruptcy contained in the following assertion in the “General Declaration on Mao Zedong Thought,” published at the end of that very book. “This theory [of continuing revolution under proletarian class dictatorship] is of great historic significance for having inaugurated a new and higher stage in the development of the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism. This is the stage of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism.” Admitted Hinton, “it wasn’t until the reform had dismantled one sector after another of the socialist economic base in China ... that I began to understand what Mao meant by ‘capitalist road’ and ‘capitalist roader’ in China. Thus, the unfolding practice of reform since 1979 educated me ...” Mao and Mao’s Thought had not convinced or even enlightened Hinton during the so-called GPCR. Further, Hinton concedes that, “Few people, even among Mao’s strongest supporters, really understood it.” Marx taught: “Our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action.” So how good was this “new and higher theory” if no revolutionaries could understand and act on it?!

What objective role was played by those who raised Mao and Maoism above Leninism in China? Certainly, their “apparent” opposition to Russian Revisionism was actually a coordinated attack on Leninism in combination with those Soviet revisionists who had shamefully betrayed the oppressed peoples and the international working class. The leadership in China, following the Khrushchevite path, put its narrow nationalist interest ahead of the interests of the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples of the world. This resulted in U.S. imperialism, which had been almost isolated globally thanks largely to the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people, becoming once again the hegemonic power on the basis of its rapprochement with both Russia and China.


As I concluded the “Reflections” article: “With Leninism, from 1917 until 1950 or so, despite an objectively unfavorable situation, mostly victories! Without Leninism, from 1957 onward, despite an objectively favorable situation (at least initially), mostly defeats!” (Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, by Ray O. Light, p.15)

Long Live Leninism—Key to Our Victories!

In struggle,

Ray Light

To read the complete text of the “Reflections” article on the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution which is cited in the ROL response letter you can order the following pamphlet which also includes articles on the historic accomplishments of the Russian workng class and peasantry who built socialism under Marxist-Leninist leadership. 

To read the complete text of the “Reflections” article on the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution which is cited in the ROL response letter you can order the following pamphlet which also includes articles on the historic accomplishments of the Russian workng class and peasantry who built socialism under Marxist-Leninist leadership. 

Series of articles on the intense struggle culminating in the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution and on the world historic achievements that it produced under Bolshevik leadership. Orders Welcome! Write to Boxholder, 607 Boylston, St, Lower Level, Box 464, Boston, MA, 02116, USA. $4 for one, or $10 for three (suggested donation).

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