Kim Jong Il wrote that “introducing individualism into socialism, which is based on collectivism, is tantamount to taking poison.” For this reason, he concluded that “Libertarianism is like an invisible moth gnawing away at the people’s political integrity,” meaning libertarianism is the source of the corruption of socialist ideology which he warned against: “The degeneration of socialism begins with the degeneration of socialist ideology, and the disintegration of the ideological front leads to the disintegration of all fronts of socialism, and in the end to the total collapse of socialism.”
All the statements Kim made about how communists must operate, readable within the compilation book Kim Jong Il’s Aphorisms, are like one big response to the mistakes which led to the demise of the Soviet Union. Whether or not they were all intended to be read in this way, communists can use them as a guide for what to do to avoid repeating that great failure. His warning that “Betrayal and surrender on the road of revolution is death, and hoping for pardon from the enemy is miscalculation,” particularly sounds like a repudiation of the revisionist position that Khrushchev stood for. Khrushchev, using a fabricated list of Stalin’s supposed crimes to support his argument, claimed that socialism can peacefully coexist with capitalism. He appeased the imperialists, opening up the USSR’s ruling party to bourgeois influence and therefore weakening the integrity of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Kim assessed the consequences of this internal attack against workers democracy:
In recent years socialism collapsed in several countries, mainly because they neglected class education and abandoned the class struggle. After assuming state power, Khrushchev weakened the function of the dictatorship of the state as a weapon of the class struggle. As a result, socialism could not be defended in the Soviet Union. Since socialism collapsed there and the Soviet Union itself was broken up, those who schemed against Soviet power in the past and their descendants have become parvenus, and those who fought in defense of Soviet power and their descendants have become beggars and unemployed. Historical lessons show that for a working-class party to neglect class education and abandon class principles amounts to digging its own grave.
This embrace of historical nihilism that Khrushchev introduced, as Xi Jinping has called it, where the theory of Lenin and Stalin were repudiated in favor of some idealistic vision for “coexisting” with socialism’s class enemies, set the global class struggle back by decades. And when Gorbachev, a product of this lack of revolutionary education, took Khrushchev’s ideas to their logical conclusion by dismantling the USSR with the hope of ending U.S.-Russia nuclear tensions, his hope was proven ridiculous. The imperialists resumed their cold war provocations towards Russia as soon as Russia began rejecting U.S. neo-colonial control, and now hostilities between the two countries are more severe than ever. Imperialism and bourgeois reaction will never stop waging war against you, not until they’ve fully taken away your autonomy and bent you to their will. Such is the lesson that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has been urging Putin to heed on in regards to Ukraine. And that Russia is now thankfully taking seriously by intervening to demilitarize the belligerent U.S. puppet Kiev regime.
Libertarianism and individualism are largely the root cause of history’s failures to properly combat capitalism and imperialism. Khrushchev’s scheme to frame Stalin for atrocities so that he could publicly justify enabling the bourgeoisie was motivated by opportunism, a symptom of individualism’s insidious influence. Bourgeois ideology more broadly is based in liberalism, which places individual freedom—or rather a bourgeois definition of “freedom”—above the interests of the collective. Ideological degeneration reinforces other types of ideological degeneration, and snowballs into catastrophes like the one the Soviet bloc underwent after its working class gains were lost.
The bourgeois definition of freedom claims that it means the right to own property which can be used to exploit workers, and that it means free speech absolutism (with the caveat that voices the bourgeoisie don’t like are often suppressed). The proletarian, anti-colonial definition of freedom uses it to mean national self-determination from imperialist encroachment, and the ability of workers to keep the wealth they create through their own labor. Bourgeois ideology demonizes the dictatorship of the proletariat, because its goal is not to enable the exploitation and reactionary propaganda that the bourgeoisie depend on to continue their mode of production. Its goal is to wage war, by any means necessary, against bourgeois power so that the bourgeoisie as a class can ultimately be made extinct. And so that class as a concept can ultimately be made extinct as well, making the state’s role as a weapon for class struggle no longer necessary and letting the state wither away.
These two definitions of liberty are irreconcilable. If you try to operate using both of them at once, as Khrushchev did, you’ll only harm the class struggle. Mao as much as stated this when he concluded that you can’t have both your Marxism and your liberalism at the same time, and that to be an effective Marxist, you must abandon your liberalism.
The need for this ideological consistency is apparent in the “libertarian socialists” who oppose existing socialist states for supposedly being too “authoritarian.” Libertarianism produces paranoia towards the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, leading to false perceptions like “a state will never willingly weaken its own grip.” In reality, the DPRK, the most advanced among the socialist states in developing towards communism, has been demonstrating this principle of a socialist state withering away after the bourgeoisie gets vanquished. The DPRK has been delegating increasing shares of power among its governmental officials during the last several decades, facilitating a growth in the participation of the masses within the country’s popular democracy. These are the first stages of the withering away of the state which Marx and Engels anticipated would occur during the progression towards communism. And they show how communism is ultimately less in favor of authority than capitalism is; the state is an instrument for one class to exercise domination over another, meaning the capitalists and their ideological backers want to keep the state forever. Communists don’t want to keep the state forever, we only want to keep it for as long as it’s necessary to wage war against the bourgeoisie.
Opportunists like Trotsky and Khrushchev, who both cooked up lies about Stalin to advance their opportunistic counterrevolutionary ideas, are products of how Ho Chi Minh described the bourgeois mentality can impact those who claim to be communists: “individualism [is] the petty-bourgeois mentality which still lurks in each of us. It is waiting for an opportunity – either failure or success – to rear its head.” The task of a communist, as both Kim Jong Il and Ho Chi Minh essentially state, is to not waver in one’s vigilance towards threats to the revolution, or in one’s commitment to the class struggle. Therefore, any communist party that’s worth trusting will always work to combat the poisonous ideas from both external bourgeois antagonists, and internal opportunists.
In an organizing setting, this requires enforcing democratic centralism, and not keeping quiet when you see someone harming the interests of the masses or harming the integrity of the party. In a post-revolutionary setting, this means measures by the state to suppress reactionary or opportunistic ideas, as China and the DPRK carry out through their filters against online U.S. propaganda. The libertarian mindset views these uses of authority as wrong, because libertarianism views any kind of encroachment upon liberties as wrong. But would you view using authority to hold someone accountable for a violent crime as wrong? The counterrevolutionary activities of the imperialists, the bourgeoisie, and the opportunists are crimes against the people. Therefore from a revolutionary perspective, they should be actively combated, and punished if they rise to the level of terrorism. We must reject the liberal mindset which fixates on “freedom,” and instead commit to class struggle.—————————————————————————
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