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Historically, in the Communist lexicon, the term "anti-revisionism" has been used to describe opposition to attempts to revise, modify or abandon the fundamentals of revolutionary theory and practice in a manner that was perceived to represent concessions to Communism's adversaries.
In recent times, however, the term has taken on a more specific meaning. It describes a trend that developed in the pro-Soviet (as opposed to the Trotskyist) Communist movement after World War II. The growth of this anti-revisionist trend was particularly noticeable at several critical moments in the history of the Communist movement – the shift from WW II-era collaboration between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers to the Cold War, and the crisis inaugurated by the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956.
Initially, the anti-revisionists presented a critique of the official Communist Parties "from the left" for having abandoned orthodox Marxism-Leninism (becoming "revisionist"), and for being insufficiently revolutionary. Once the official Communist Parties joined in Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin, the defense of Stalin and his legacy became a hallmark of "anti-revisionism." Later on, the anti-revisionist movement expanded and diversified to encompass those communists who rejected a pro-Soviet orientation for one aligned either with Chinese or Albanian positions.
Anti-revisionism enjoyed its moment of greatest size and influence with numerous "Marxist-Leninist" and "Maoist" parties, groups and publications springing up around the world in the period which began with the Sino-Soviet split of the early 1960s. Its growth was greatly accelerated by international enthusiasm for the Cultural Revolution in China, but it began to decline in response to controversial Chinese foreign policy decisions in the last years of Mao's life, his death and the subsequent defeat of the Gang of Four. While some anti-revisionists soldiered on, adapting to these changes, these later events spurred other elements to argue for a non-Trotskyist "left-wing" communism, independent of allegiance to foreign authorities or models.
Self-proclaimed anti-revisionists firmly oppose the reforms initiated in Communist countries by leaders like Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union and Deng Xiaoping in China. They generally refer to such reforms and states as state capitalist and social-imperialist, even when they themselves could very easily be defined as such. They also reject Trotskyism and its "Permanent Revolution" as "hypocritical" by arguing that Leon Trotsky himself had at one time thought it acceptable that socialism could work in a single country as long as that country was industrialized, but that Trotsky had considered Russia too backward to achieve such industrialization – what it later in fact did achieve, mostly through his archenemy Joseph Stalin's Five Year Plans.
In their own right, anti-revisionists also acknowledge that the Soviet Union contained a "new class" or "'red' bourgeoisie," but they generally place the blame for the formation of that class on Khrushchev and his successors, and not on Stalin. Therefore, in anti-revisionist circles, there is very little talk of class conflict in the Soviet Union before 1956, except when talking about specific contexts such as the Russian Civil War (when some agents of the former feudal ruling class tried to retake state power from the Bolsheviks) and World War II (fought principally between communists and fascists, representing the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie respectively).
During the Sino-Soviet split, the governments of the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong and the People's Republic of Albania under Enver Hoxha proclaimed themselves to be taking an anti-revisionist line and denounced Khrushchev's policies in the Soviet Union. In the United States, those who supported China or Albania at the time were expelled from the United States Communist Party under orders from Moscow, and in 1961 they formed the Progressive Labor Movement and other "new communist movement" communist parties. A short time later, anti-revisionist groups were further divided by the Sino-Albanian split, with those following Albania being loosely described as Hoxhaist.
On the whole, the original 1960s-era anti-revisionists tended to take a careful, selective approach to the Cuban Revolution and the way it soon aligned itself with Soviet ideas and practice, criticizing the latter action, while simultaneously acknowledging some aspects of Cuban self-described socialism as genuinely revolutionary — in particular the writing and thinking of Che Guevara. Anti-revisionists also took a hopeful approach towards the Vietnamese communists, expressing confidence that they too were genuinely revolutionary-communist in their aspirations, and supported their struggle against the United States in the Vietnam War — a side which, ironically, got a lot of support from the Soviet Union, anti-revisionists' "state capitalist" enemy.
Several present-day communist parties worldwide still see themselves as explicitly anti-revisionist, but not every such party adhering to elements of anti-revisionism necessarily adopts the label "anti-revisionist". Many such organizations may call themselves Maoist, Marxist–Leninist or even just simply "revolutionary communist".
The Workers Party of Korea still claims an anti-revisionist political line, but the communist movement as a whole and anti-revisionists from the Maoist and Hoxhaist camps in particular tend to insist North Korea is a revisionist state, however many if not most Hoxhaists and Maoists are critically supportive of North Korea on grounds of Anti-imperialism.
Anti-revisionists aligned with Enver Hoxha and the line of the Albanian party of labor argue that Mao Zedong thought is itself a form of revisionism. Hoxhaists insist that Mao's Three Worlds Theory contradicted Marxism–Leninism and existed only to justify Mao's alliance with the United States that began in the early 1970s and his meeting with Nixon during the Sino-Soviet split that Enver Hoxha and the Hoxhaists opposed. Hoxhaists also argue that the theory of New Democracy and People's War were revisionist and anti-scientific. The Hoxhaist camp came into existence during the Sino-Albanian split.
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- Burkina Faso
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
- United Kingdom
- United States
Historical anti-revisionist groups
- Party of Labour of Albania