There was a third road between totalitarian stalinism and capitalist social democracy. But the third road was small and only few socialists were genuine anti-Stalinist and anti-capitalist at the same time. Most socialists/communists were either supportive of the USSR or against the USSR. Those who supported the reformist social democrats were called ''traitors'' by the communists, while the social democrats would call the communists ''totalitarian and dangerous''. As Stalin took command of the USSR after Lenin's death, he forced the Communist International to expel all who opposed his rule. Social democrats were called ''red fascists'' and from 1928 until 1933, the communist parties were told that social democracy was a form of ''red fascism''.
Social democrats abandoned most of their socialist principals by working in capitalist governments. They hoped they would improve the living-standards of workers, which they indeed did. But the price for this was huge, the workers parties were forced to accept capitalist barbarism and imperialist exploitation, all in the name of compromises with the parties of capitalism. After World War Two, most social democrats became very anticommunist and joined the western crusade to destroy communist parties. Social democrats supported undemocratic laws to attack communists and to limit their freedom of speech!
But the generation born after 1945 was not pure anticommunist. Many young people searched for ways to rebel against their conservative societies. The Stalinist communist parties were able to use their revolutionary idealism, for their own propaganda. After 1968 many young boys and girls joined revolutionary parties who based themselves on the teachings of Mao Zedong. This Chinese Stalinist leader became popular in the 70's. He promoted revolution and rebellion, many youth in the western world felt seduced by this!
The right-wing lost the ideological battleground in the 70's, but was able to use the totalitarian ways of stalinism and maoism to attack socialism and communism. This happened in the 1980's under Ronald Reagan. This US president attacked the Stalinist world and soon became loved by most members of the ruling class. Reagan was not the only puppy of the right-wing. British prime minister; Margaret Thatcher was also a conservative anti-socialist. She and her American ally were able to reconquer the lost battlegrounds. Because the left-wing was not able to stand up to their dogmatic anti-leftism, the fight was soon won by the ruling class. It all started in November 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down.
With the collapse of one Stalinist regime after another, the capitalist media portrayed it as the end for socialism. Social democrats and stalinists were not able to stand up to this lie. Most stalinists were shocked when almost all ''socialist'' nations collapsed in only two years. Social democracy ( while never supported stalinism ) accepted the right-wing lie, that the state must not regulate the economy. When social democrats capitulated to this, neoliberalism was born. The ideal of no regulations and full market rule!
What is neoliberalism?
The main points of neoliberalism include:
THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating "free" enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers' rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say "an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone." It's like Reagan's "supply-side" and "trickle-down" economics -- but somehow the wealth didn't trickle down very much.
CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply -- again in the name of reducing government's role. Of course, they don't oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, rail-roads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF "THE PUBLIC GOOD" or "COMMUNITY" and replacing it with "individual responsibility." Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves -- then blaming them, if they fail, as "lazy."
Few Americans have ever heard of it. This is because in the USA, liberalism is called a leftist ideology. Only because its supports individuals freedoms over conservative traditions. Liberals in the USA are not anti-capitalist, but are called leftist and sometimes socialist ( by conservatives ) because of their support to issues like gay marriage and woman rights. But in Europe, liberalism has always been a right-wing ideology. Because when it comes to the economy, liberals oppose regulations of businesses. Social democrats used to support strong state regulations and state ownership over some sectors of the economy. But this died after 1990, when almost all social democratic parties accept the market economy and the rule of capitalism!
Many leftists choose to abandon their struggle for socialism. Some embraced the power of the dark side and became supporters of capitalism. Others remained silent, only to be attacked and forced to confess that ''socialism failed''. Those who supported the Stalinist; German Democratic Republic are still attacked by the German capitalist media. Members of Die Linke are still called ''supporters of communist totalitarianism'' by the Christian Democratic Union, the ruling conservative party in Germany. The right-wing conservatives call Die Linke ''undemocratic'' although their party took on many ex-Nazi's after 1945. Supporters of socialism in Germany still get the German Democratic Republic pushed in their faces by the capitalist media!
As social democracy and stalinism betrayed the working class, the right-wing was able to rule almost unopposed. Capitalists enjoyed more freedoms as state regulations were lifted. In 1992 the European Union was founded, a single European market zone was created. This allowed the capitalists easy access to all European nations. When Eastern Europe joined the EU after 2004, many western enterprises choose to move their production to Poland. Because Polish workers are cheap and work very good. The minimum-wage in Poland is close to 300 euro's a month. This is why many Polish workers went to western Europe to work. In the Netherlands, the minimum-wage is 1400 euro ( before taxes ), for many Polish workers this is big money. While Polish workers would work for Dutch minimum-wages, many Dutch workers feel anger. They lost their jobs, because the capitalists use cheaper workers from Eastern Europa. This anger led to the rise of right-wing populism, who blame immigrants and foreign workers. Although the main enemy remains the capitalist system!
After the collapse of stalinism, new leftist forces emerged. Some of these leftists stood in the shadows of social democracy and stalinism. But since those ideologies betrayed their socialist principals, the new leftists could not fill the vacuum. The new left-wing parties are a mixture of former maoists, leftist social-democrats and democratic socialists. One party who rose after 1990 is the Dutch; Socialist Party. Founded in 1972 as a dogmatic Maoist party, it abandoned Mao's teachings and Marxist socialism after 1990. In the 1990's it was a protest party, very active in protests against the liberal-social democratic government in the Netherlands. The SP was led by Jan Marijnissen, a reformer who ended Stalinist dogmatism in the SP. Marijnissen became an icon of the Dutch left-wing. He stood up to neoliberalism and challenged the establishment. Yet the SP started to lose support after he retired. Their propaganda grew more moderate and more social democratic, in a desperate move to turn the now neoliberal; Party of Labour back into the leftist camp!
In Germany, the Party of Democratic Socialism was created after the Stalinist; Socialist Unity Party of Germany gave up their constitutional right to rule the GDR. The SED changed its name to PDS and abandoned stalinism. Although now a democratic socialist party, the PDS was never able to win the leftists votes in West-Germany, who still saw the old Stalinist SED in the PDS. The party fused with a West-Germany leftist social democratic group and became Die Linke in 2007. Today Die Linke is the biggest leftist opposition party in Germany!
Communist parties lost many members after 1990. Blinded by years of dogmatic loyalty to a state that betrayed socialism since 1924, most communist parties entered a deep crisis. There were those who wanted a social democratic ideology. This we see in the Communist Party of the Netherlands. In 1982 the CPN was among the first communist parties who abandoned dogmatic stalinism. But instead of returning to genuine leninism, the CPN became reformist. The old Stalinist wing of the party tried to move back marxism-leninism ( stalinism ). But they failed as the new leadership of the CPN was no longer dogmatic. A downside of this change was that the CPN moved also away from Marxist socialism and more towards social democracy. By 1989, the Communist Party of the Netherlands was down to 6.500 members, three year later only 3.500 remained in the party!
In Africa the national liberation parties all betrayed socialism. Between 1975 and 1990, many African nations were govern by national liberation movements who declared loyal to Marxist socialism. But their regimes were based on single party states and dictatorial rule. Workers who criticized this were called ''counter-revolutionaries'' and arrested. Many African nations also fought against anticommunist groups supported by the USA and western imperialism. In both Angola and Mozambique, the civil war between the national liberation party and the anticommunist opposition led to the death of many!
The collapse of the USSR turned many national liberation parties away from Marxist socialism. In South Africa, the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela choose not to follow its socialist ideals. Because both the Chinese and Vietnamese communist parties had told Mandela in 1992, to embrace the market economy and capitalism. This is why the ANC choose to keep South Africa capitalist. Poverty remains as black workers remain exploited and poor, thanks to the betrayl of the ANC leaders including Nelson Mandela himself!
Neoliberalism led to the economic crisis in 2008. Suddenly the governments of the world, started to nationalize banks and enterprises in order to save them with public money. Revolutionary socialists opposed this kind of nationalizations. We support socialist nationalizations in which the workers take control and govern through democratic elected workers councils. This did not happen, the capitalist managers kept their jobs. The tax payers were paying for the failures of the speculators and big capitalists. Workers were again on the losing side, as always. While the capitalists enriched themselves and their executives, many working class families struggled to meet ends!
Revolutionary socialists are positive about the growth of new leftist movement. However we also realize that many of them remain limited to a leftist social democratic platform. More regulation of the markets is what many want. Take the SP in the Netherlands for example. Jan Marijnissen never called for a socialist state ( after his SP abandoned Marxist socialism after 1990 ). He and his party are supportive of the monarchy, NATO and don't oppose the capitalist system in general. They only oppose the neoliberal model which is ultra-capitalistic. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez ruled on a mixture of leftist nationalism, classic social democracy and few elements of Stalinist dogmatism. Chavez died in March 2013 and his successor is struggling against a growing right-wing opposition!
Today there are few genuine workers parties with a socialist program. This is because the left is still dived. Social democracy has turned its back on the working class. The old workers parties have now fully embraced the dark side of politics ( neoliberalism ). New leftist movements are stuck in old social democratic demands, like more state regulation and less markets. But we revolutionary socialists say that this will not solve the problem. A social democratic system will not survive for long as capitalists will do anything to move politicians to the right-wing. They pay them good money for pro-capitalist politics. In the USA this is common, as most politicians are on the payroll of the ruling class. Both the Republican Party and Democratic Party are nothing more but parties of the establishment!
We revolutionary socialists call for mass parties of the working class. In South Africa the mine workers and revolutionary socialists have created the Workers and Socialist Party ( WASP ). This party now challenge the rule of the ANC. After the massacre at Marikana in which 44 strikers were murdered, those who survived realized that a new workers party was needed to fight those who ordered the police to murder their comrades. The WASP has a good chance of winning votes, because many workers feel betrayed by Jacob Zuma the president of South Africa!
But in order to build workers parties, the left must stop thinking like social democrats and stalinists. Social democracy has betrayed the working class and stalinism is death. But many leftists are still limited by social democratic ideals and Stalinist misinformation. Many communist parties have joined capitalist governments and are responsible for supporting the politics of the bourgeoisie. Communist parties in the former USSR have a pro-Russian position and support the Kremlin in conflicts against the western world, although the rulers of Russia are not socialist or internationalist. Both the Communist Party of the Russian Federation as the Communist Party of Ukraine have a pro-Russian agenda. Not only is this totally anticommunist, it also alienates workers who oppose Russian imperialism. The stalinists in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are not able to win support among the working class. Their supporters come from Soviet war veterans, old bureaucrats and elderly people who are nostalgic about the Stalinist system!
Nationalism is part of stalinism. After 1928, Stalin forced his ''socialism in one nation'' down on all members of the Communist International. This resulted in turning the communist parties into national parties who stood for the working class of their own nation. Some call it ''national-communism'' although this is alien to both Marx and Lenin, who were internationalists. Stalinism is a nationalist ideology as it focus on the creation of socialism in one nation. Stalin could not change the colours of the Soviet flag back to the colours of czarism. But other Stalinist states used flags of previous bourgeois regimes. The government of East Germany first wanted to use the flag of the German Empire. In the end they choose the flag of the bourgeois 1848 revolution, for their German Democratic Republic. Other Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe kept the banner of their nation in order to boost patriotism. In Romania, the communist party boosted nationalism and favoured the Romanian people. Again this stands in complete opposition to the internationalist ideals of communism!
Because of Stalinist betrayal and the anticommunist propaganda, we revolutionary socialists do not call ourselves communists. This is because we don't want to be associated with the regimes that ruled between 1945 and 1990 in Eastern Europe. Also we believe that the USSR was never socialist, but a degenerated state that served the needs of the party bureaucracy instead of the Soviet working class. As long as the remnants of the old communist parties remain loyal to this lie, that the USSR was ''socialist'' the ruling class will always be able to use this against us!