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Anti-revisionism is a position within Marxism–Leninism which emerged in the 1950s in opposition to the reforms of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Where Khrushchev pursued an interpretation of Leninism that differed from his predecessor Joseph Stalin, the anti-revisionists within the international communist movement remained dedicated to Stalin's ideological legacy and criticized the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and his successors as state capitalist and social imperialist due largely to its hopes of achieving peace with the United States. The term "Stalinism" is also used to describe these positions, but it is often not used by its supporters.
Marxism–Leninism is a political ideology based on the theories of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin. It holds that capitalism divides humans into two classes – the bourgeoisie or property-owning class, and the proletariat or labouring class. On top of this, it claims the proletariat is divided into a labour aristocracy of powerful imperialist nations which is granted some economic and political power, and the superexploited colonial or neo-colonial proletariat. Marxist–Leninists advocate the most class conscious members of the proletariat form vanguard parties based around the principle of democratic centralism which will lead revolutionary movements towards the creation of single-party states which will gradually progress to socialism and finally global communism.
Anti-revisionism is a position within Marxism–Leninism based on its interpretation by Joseph Stalin, also called Stalinism. Stalin advocated strict totalitarian rule by vanguard parties, drastic and fast-paced economic transformation in the short-term, and violent confrontation with capitalist powers. The emergence of the Khrushchevist interpretation lead to a reaction from pro-Stalin Marxist–Leninists, who formed the anti-revisionist movement. Anti-revisionists rejected the Soviet Union's leadership of the Marxist–Leninist movement, believing it had become state capitalist and social imperialist. Despite this, the lines between the two camps in Marxism–Leninism were often blurry. The Korean Workers' Party, for instance, was pro-Soviet, but also defended Stalin's legacy and was engaged in violent struggle against the capitalist South Korea and its American backers. Due to this, the global anti-revisionist movement tended to support it and continues to do so to this day despite its ideological departure from Marxism–Leninism. The Cuban Communist Party and Vietnamese Communist Party also received critical support from many anti-revisionists despite being pro-Soviet, due to their violent struggles against the US. The Cuban Communists also provided material support to the American anti-revisionist Black Panther Party.
The Chinese Communist Party is officially anti-revisionist; however, most anti-revisionists followed the example of the Albanian Labour Party in denouncing it as revisionist following the beginning of market-based and pro-American reforms in the 1970s. The term "Dengism" is often used to describe this perceived revisionist tendency in Marxism–Leninism, despite official claims that it is an adaptation of Marxism–Leninism to contemporary Chinese material conditions, rather than a revision.
Despite agreeing that he had a revisionist turn later in his life, most contemporary anti-revisionists hold particular interest in the theories of Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Mao, amongst other things, claimed that socialist movements in the neo-colonial world could temporarily ally with the nationalist movements of the local petite bourgeoisie, and that the implementation of a "mass line" policy will prevent a vanguard from becoming revisionist. Departing from anti-revisionist Marxism–Leninism, many today instead believe in a separate ideology known as Marxism–Leninism–Maoism, which views the early theories of Mao as a higher stage of Leninist ideology, just as Leninism is a higher stage of Marxism. Among both Marxist–Leninist–Maoists and anti-revisionist Marxist–Leninists with a tendency towards Mao's theories exists the Maoist (Third Worldist) tendency which claims the labour aristocracy has no immediate revolutionary potential, and may also claim it experiences no exploitation at all.
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. They also reject Trotskyism and its "Permanent Revolution" as "hypocritical" by arguing that Leon Trotsky 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 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.
- Burkina Faso
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
- United Kingdom
- United States
Historical anti-revisionist groups
- Party of Labour of Albania
- Socialist Unity Party of Germany
- Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Stalin's leadership (see also the Soviet Revolutionary Communists (Bolsheviks))
- Communist Party of China under Mao's leadership