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What Is Revisionism?

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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 01 Nov 2003, 13:17
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Forum Commissar
Post 05 Feb 2012, 17:43
We often hear amongst the old guard communists of the post war era criticism of those such as Xhruschev, Brezhnev by Mao Zedong and Enver Hoxha. However in what respect were Xhruschev and Brezhnev revisionist? In what sense did they enact free market reforms or dramatically depart from Stalin's policies? To me they seem like moderate Stalins. Under their leadership the Soviet Union operated on a planned economic system and they still pursued Cold War confrontation with the West even if Xhruschev wanted peaceful co-existence.

To me it seems that criticism of their positions and leadership style amongst more 'orthodox' Marxists rests in them being too moderate. Would this be an accurate description?

They were not like Gorbachev who enacted radical reforms such as Perestorika and Glasnost.
Loz
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 05 Feb 2012, 18:57
Revisionism is the fundamental alteration of Marxism,that is,the removal of revolutionary from Marxism.Revisionists seek to "replace" Marxism's revolutionary nature and class struggle for socialism and communism with various "legally defined methods and goals" (in the framework of existing capitalist order).It can also refer to various anti-Marxist and anti-socialist theories and "movements" which sprang up in various (some of them had been genuinely socialist before) countries in the last century.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
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Resident Soviet
Post 05 Feb 2012, 19:02
In my experience Maoist and Hoxhist claims that the post-Stalin USSR had turned revisionist had more to do with politics and personal squabbling than with political ideology.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
Loz
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 05 Feb 2012, 19:05
Quote:
In my experience Maoist and Hoxhist claims that the post-Stalin USSR had turned revisionist had more to do with politics and personal squabbling than with political ideology.

Why do you think so?
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
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Post 05 Feb 2012, 22:14
Well there was the Khrushchev and Mao's personal inability to get along with one another. Both figures had big egos and Mao thought he should be the next leader of the global communist movement, which Khrushchev obviously thought was ridiculous. Khrushchev's temper, narrow-mindedness and big mouth certainly helped to chill relations, as did his slander of Stalin, but then the Brezhnev leadership exemplified none of those qualities and still had problems with China until well after Mao's death. Even Stalin had pretty cool personal relations with Mao, despite the formal friendship and alliance that existed at the time. Secondly, Mao had to confront those proponents of Soviet-style agricultural and industrial development which posed a threat to his personal power base, and this naturally affected his relations with the Soviets. Next, there was the issue of the two powers having conflicting geopolitical interests and approaches to international politics, the USSR seeking to avoid war with the West while expanding its influence in the global south, while China under Mao sought a global confrontation at all levels between capitalist and communist countries. Naturally the 'unfair treaties' between Czarist Russia and Imperial China was also a thorny issue, Mao asking the Soviets to recognize that these were unfair treaties, possibly as a pretext for future territorial demands.

Pretty much all of the above differences stemmed from conflicts of personal, internal political or geopolitical interests. Naturally they needed recriminations of all sorts to justify them, including ideological. Of course the Maoists argued that ideology was the main issue, and who could blame them, given Khrushchev's move to throw Stalin's name in the mud. The reality though was that despite limited 'destalinization', the USSR remained a socialist state by any indicator - or at least no less socialist than it was during Stalin's leadership. I am convinced that the negative use of the term 'revisionism', along with 'social imperialism' and other derogatory terms aimed at the USSR by Mao, were after the fact ideological arguments made to justify a split which had mostly traditional political reasons.

If anyone's interested, here's some work by Sam Marcy and Vince Copeland discussing the subject. I find it to be pretty objective in that it blames both sides to an extent for the Sino-Soviet split:

http://www.workers.org/marcy/cd/samclass/index.htm
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 27 Apr 2007, 18:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Komsomol
Post 06 Feb 2012, 00:05
Revisionism can mean a couple of things; "revisionism" as in a fundamental deviation from marxism, in the sense that e.g. revolution is denied as the only way towards communism (reformists such as Kautsky), therefore, anything that claims to be marxist, but really has no interest in the workers at all (usually they're more bothered with use of violence, petit-bourgeois interests etc.), can be called "revisionist". The term revisionism is pretty much tainted because stalinists/maoists use the term against anything that deviates from Stalin's policies. Which is odd, because Mao even wrote a huge critique of Stalin's economic policies, and deviated quite a bit from them. Revisionism is still a useful term though, not in the dogmatic sense of rejecting everyone who strays from the narrow, self-destructive path of stalinism, but in terms of what is useful to us as the communist movement, and what is not.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 06 Feb 2012, 02:54
I don't know.I got the impression that Mao and the CPC tried to compromise to avoid the split on several occasions.
But Mao was also a revisionist, going rabid especially in the 1970s...
Hoxha on the other hand was the only one stayed on Marxist-Leninist lines.I don't see how his (the Party of Labor of Albania's) anti-revisionism "had more to do with politics and personal squabbling".Albania did not have pretensions on being the "leader" of the communist movement,nor did it have any territorial conflicts with the Soviet Union.
IMO it's important for the antirevisionist movement to further emancipate itself from the Maoists and Co.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Sep 2011, 11:23
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 06 Feb 2012, 04:02
Personaly I don't see how is it possible to state that market economy is to be preserved not only in socialism but also in communism, without being a fraggin revisionist, not simply of marxism-leninism but of communism in general!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhQKmixO8MA
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 16 Feb 2005, 02:51
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Post 06 Feb 2012, 04:58
I would say that the overly liberal use of the term "revisionism", is itself a perversion of Marxism, as it can be, and often is, used as a blanket term by groups and individuals to denounce other schools of thought, creating an "us and them" situation where rival thoughts are regarded as the result of whims of misguided or malicious individuals, instead of the products of very specific historical, social and economical circumstances.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 23 Dec 2011, 01:28
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Post 06 Feb 2012, 22:48
I tend to agree with soviet78 on this, and as well it is true that there is a problem with labelling in the International Communist movement. My problem with revisionism is it succumbs to the same error propagated by the Western bourgeoise press that all socialist countries rigidly followed the line of the Soviet Union, therefore it was possible to make broad statements about all of them. That said, Loz makes a good point about Albania, Hoxha had nothing to gain materially from denouncing both China and the USSR, if we are to use that to vindicate his commitment to socialism. I don't necessarily see Hoxha as attempting to split the Communist movement, and many of the Hoxhaist parties have come around to support Cuban socialism. So its not really set in stone in this sense, as all ideologies evolve over time.

There is a really good speech by Che Guevara where he denounce Khrushchevs shift to spending more on producing arms and shipping that abroad for Third World movements, and in the domestic sphere there was a greater focus on producing more consumer goods to out compete capitalism. Those are the basic arguments I believe, but anti-revisionists would contend that this particular wing of the party always existed and they go back to bukharin or maybe even further, but essentially they view anyone who wanted to keep the NEP past when Lenin did is guilty of revisionism. I think the other comments above have helped to elaborate that such a position is problematic because ideology naturally has to change to suit new circumstances, and Khrushchevs decisions obviously did not destroy the Soviet Union in a fundamental way whereby socialism was extinguished.

Loz, maybe you know the speech I'm referring to? Che was much more a supporter of Stalin and an anti-revisionist to the best of my knowledge...
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
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Politburo
Post 08 Apr 2012, 07:07
James Kennedy wrote:
I would say that the overly liberal use of the term "revisionism", is itself a perversion of Marxism, as it can be, and often is, used as a blanket term by groups and individuals to denounce other schools of thought, creating an "us and them" situation where rival thoughts are regarded as the result of whims of misguided or malicious individuals, instead of the products of very specific historical, social and economical circumstances.


This, and I'd like to add that no ideology which rejects revisionism can legitimately claim to be scientific as Marxism does. It's fine to say that another's theory is wrong and support your argument, but to label it revisionist as if that alone is a good reason to reject it is ridiculous.

We can fairly say that some of the well known revisionists of Marxism were wrong, but none of them were wrong to think that Marxist theory might need adjustment. Remember that Lenin was a revisionist.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 08 Apr 2012, 08:35
Quote:
Remember that Lenin was a revisionist.

No he wasn't.
Again,revisionism isn't about revising.
It's about revising the fundamental basis of revolutionary theory, perverting and adulterating it and taking its teeth out.
Quote:
A fundamental alteration of a theory, essentially usurping (though taking elements of) the former theory and replacing it with a new one. While the attributes of a theory are subject to change in accordance to changing historic circumstances, changing the fundamental basis of that theory is to nullify it in place of a new one.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
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Post 08 Apr 2012, 13:49
Loz wrote:
No he wasn't.
Again,revisionism isn't about revising.
It's about revising the fundamental basis of revolutionary theory, perverting and adulterating it and taking its teeth out.

"A fundamental alteration of a theory, essentially usurping (though taking elements of) the former theory and replacing it with a new one. While the attributes of a theory are subject to change in accordance to changing historic circumstances, changing the fundamental basis of that theory is to nullify it in place of a new one."


Lenin was a revisionist by any dictionary definition of the world. It's even fair to say he was a revisionist by that silly definition.

What if the fundamental basis of revolutionary theory turns out to be wrong? The theory behind the Great Leap Forward in China for example? It can be and often is. Anti-revisionism using that definition is inherently unscientific, not mention making use of very ambiguous terminology. I'd go as far to say that any form of Marxism which claims to be anti-revisionist is unscientific.

Sorry loz, I accidentally edited your post instead of hitting quote. My bad.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
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Post 08 Apr 2012, 13:57
Quote:
Lenin was a revisionist by any dictionary definition of the world. It's even fair to say he was a revisionist by that silly definition.

Revisionism,again, isn't about revising.
The term has a specific meaning in Marxism.

Quote:
What if the fundamental basis of revolutionary theory turns out to be wrong? The theory behind the Great Leap Forward in China for example? It can be and often is.

But the "theory" behind GLF wasn't even the fundamental basis of Mao-Zedong-thought.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
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Post 08 Apr 2012, 14:44
Loz wrote:

Revisionism,again, isn't about revising.
The term has a specific meaning in Marxism.


And that "specific meaning" is too ambiguous to be useful to a scientific ideology. If you're talking about a religion, it would be ok, but Marxism is keen to paint itself as at least attempting to make a scientific analysis of the world. To add to that, no-one in the real world is going to accept it in a debate. They'll go back to an English dictionary and tell you that revisionism is in fact about revising, no matter what the subject of that revision might be.

Let's go into an example from archaeology. Western and Jewish archaeologists from the early 20th century went to digs in the Middle East with a trowel in one hand and a Jewish Bible or copy of the Old Testament in the other. They set out to confirm what the Bible claims about history. Later archaeologists have taken a more sceptical approach and have done some serious revision to earlier understandings of biblical history. Recently discovered evidence is telling us that the Iraelites were never slaves in Egypt who embarked on a large exodus, but were actually Canaanite commoners and serfs who rebelled against the rich elites of their society and later formed a new cultural identity. It also tells that King David's empire never existed in any form as grand as the Bible claims. Hell, it's even suggesting that the Israelites for the most part were polytheistic until long after the Bible claims Monotheism took a hold. The writers of the Bible were simply trying to give monotheism a more ancient pedigree than it really had.

Jews and Christians in particular are very much opposed to this revisionist understanding of history. It and other evidence absolutely destroys the foundation of Monotheistic history as told in the Bible, but it has the weight of physical evidence on its side.

If Marxism rejects revisionism based only on the fact that it is revisionist and goes against the view it wishes to push, it will be little different to a religion.
Loz
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 08 Apr 2012, 14:52
Quote:
And that "specific meaning" is too ambiguous to be useful to a scientific ideology.

Eh? What is the dictatorship of the proletariat for example? You can hear many definitions of that term from various Marxist "currents".
Anti-revisionism is not about proscribing eternal dogmas or whatever, it's about struggle against corruption of Marxism.
For example the revisionism of Bernstein is different from the revisionism of Tito and so on.

Quote:
They'll go back to an English dictionary and tell you that revisionism is in fact about revising, no matter what the subject of that revision might be.

1. Advocacy of the revision of an accepted, usually long-standing view, theory, or doctrine, especially a revision of historical events and movements.
2. A recurrent tendency within the Communist movement to revise Marxist theory in such a way as to provide justification for a retreat from the revolutionary to the reformist position.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/revisionist
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
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Post 08 Apr 2012, 15:06
Quote:
1. Advocacy of the revision of an accepted, usually long-standing view, theory, or doctrine, especially a revision of historical events and movements.


That's the generally accepted definition. Do you understand what the term ambiguous means? I'm not trying to troll you, I realise that you're not from an English speaking country. It's just that every time you reply, you use more ambiguous terminology. Scientific definitions need to be clear and not need interpretation. Defining a "corruption of Marxism" is very ambiguous. It's what has lead to a lot of the splits and confrontations we see between Marxist groups.
Loz
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 08 Apr 2012, 15:13
Yes, dictionaries tend to have several different definitions of terms. Scientific terms such as "leech" can also have different meanings, depending on the context.
I don't see your point here.

Quote:
Defining a "corruption of Marxism" is very ambiguous.

Marxism isn't about dogmas.
There will always be new and new ways of corrupting Marxism.
Lenin for example didn't write about "Socialism with Chinese characteristics".
And so on...
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
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Forum Commissar
Post 08 Apr 2012, 22:19
I haven't read this whole thread yet, but I was just talking about revisionism in another thread. I'll post that here instead, and delete what I had written there:

I think it's kind of falling into semantics, but for clarity's sake, we should try to use "revisionism" only in relation to changing Marxism as a methodology, so as to make it better comply with capitalism.

The first such occurrence is Bernstein and his "ultra-imperialism" theory of capitalist development and seamless transition into socialism. This opportunism, this call to depose arms and get cozy with union or party power, gets revived time and time again. I think that unless we're talking about precise historical contexts, like Albania or whatever, then we should call revisionism only this phenomenon (because that's what it is, there will always be opportunist elements in any Marxist organization, there will always be some thinker who "outgrows" Marx in its revolutionary ambitions and get praised by academia).

Marxism as a critique of existing circumstances, will always be updating. What Lenin did is study his circumstances and APPLY the Marxist method. He always stressed that militants should look around and critically assess what whas going on. This is something we should always do: "feed" our theory, since theory is a reflection on our practical existence, something that helps explain what's we're doing and how to improve it.

Like Lukacs said:

Quote:
Let us assume for the sake of argument that recent research had disproved once and for all every one of Marx’s individual theses. Even if this were to be proved, every serious ‘orthodox’ Marxist would still be able to accept all such modern findings without reservation and hence dismiss all of Marx’s theses in toto – without having to renounce his orthodoxy for a single moment. Orthodox Marxism, therefore, does not imply the uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx’s investigations. It is not the ‘belief’ in this or that thesis, nor the exegesis of a ‘sacred’ book. On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method.


Calling our necessary theoretical movement, theoretical development "revisionism" hopelessly confuses things.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 09 Mar 2012, 02:37
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Pioneer
Post 08 Apr 2012, 23:47
There is a lot of people confusing Lenin with revisionism. I'll give examples of revisionism to be more clear: Eurocommunism, Socialism with Chinese characteristics, Social-democracy, Juche, Maoism,etc. Why there is such a theory called marxism-leninism and not marxism-leninisn-maoism? Because Lenin did not denied any element of the marxist theory but rather complemented it with oriented guidelines for revolutionary action (the main role of the revolutionary party for example), unlike others like Mao for instance who changed major marxist theory elements as the leading revolutionary role of the proletariat. This is adulterating Marxism, this is revisionism. It's not by chance that socialism was successful with Stalin and unsuccessful with Mao. One followed the marxist-leninist mainlines, the other adulterated. I'm just talking about Mao but i could talk about anyone else who adulterated Marxism and the list is too long.
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