Class struggle in Finland in 2022-23 – government outlaws nurse strikes


In 2022 and 2023 the living standard of the Finnish population has fallen. The social-democrat government has continued cuts to social programs and healthcare, has increased military spending, and has used repressive measures against workers.
Finland is a country suffering in the late stage of capitalism, imperialism. In the imperialist stage, mass unemployment has become a permanent phenomena.

The Finnish government has attempted to decrease unemployment numbers essentially by manipulation of statistics. According to the government statistical office “an employed person is someone who has worked at least one hour during the week in question” (see

With such low criteria for “employment”, they can surely eliminate mass unemployment? It is completely obvious that a person working for only 1 or few hours per week, cannot earn enough to survive, and cannot be considered employed.

The government also changed the way they report employment numbers. Employment figures are now calculated based on the employment of persons between 20 and 64, which eliminates 18 and 19 year olds from the statistic. By doing this, the government has achieved a 6% higher employment rate, although according to the statistical office there are “somewhat more unemployed than last year” (see

While billions have been systematically cut from healthcare, the Finnish government has spent a billion euros to arm Ukraine and has planned to spend approximately four billion during the course of 2022 and 2023 to support Ukraine further.
(Sources: Finland’s additional support to Ukraine and TKS #3/2023, Ktp tuomitsee Suomen Nato-jäsenyyden ja tukee työtätekevien palkkataistelua)

Finnish military spending was increased by 2 billion last year, on top of the new fighter jets which cost tens of billions, the new war ships which cost 2 billion and the provocative “wall” which Finland is building on its Russian border. (See and

While the people suffer from social problems such as mass unemployment, lack of healthcare and falling real wages, the government is stubbornly putting the people’s money into imperialist war-mongering and armaments on the instructions of Nato generals. They keep saying we as a society cannot afford healthcare, we cannot afford public services, we cannot afford retirement, we cannot afford care for the elderly, we cannot afford free university education and we certainly cannot afford better wages or working conditions: yet somehow we can afford all these imperialist weapons! The truth is, the government’s warlike imperialist policy is devastating the country.

Real wages have decreased by more than 4%. Largely as a result of the sanctions against Russia inflation has reached 10% and food prices have increased by 20%. The reformist social-democrat leadership of the Finnish industrial union accepted a wage increase of 5.5% over two years, which does not cover the losses suffered by the workers. Living standards and real wages will continue to fall. For context, “For example the wages in the technology and industrial field in Germany will rise by 8.5 percent in two years…” (TKS #2/2023 “The industrial union accepted a discount in real wages – wage struggle continues in other trade unions” [Teollisuusliitto hyväksyi reaalipalkkojen alen – palkkataistelu jatkuu muissa ammattiliitoissa])

Despite the capitulation of the Industrial Union, whose reactionary leadership also voiced support for the governments decision to join NATO, other unions have launched strikes. Practically the bureaucratic reformist social-democrat leadership has only accepted to do so, under heavy pressure from activists and ordinary members.



In 2020 the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals newspaper wrote:

“The situation is worsening even more in the social and healthcare field. Well-being at work has decreased somewhat further in the last 6 months, people are scared at work and nearly 90% are considering changing their profession. The covid pandemic period has been hard for the staff. Coercive measures have been used, but they have not been compensated… a number of coercive measures have been applied to health and safety professionals… 34% have had their annual holidays postponed, canceled or their duration changed, 23% have been transferred to another workplace or tasks and 16% say that the notice period [the time before you are allowed to quit your job~MLT] has been extended.

Respondents were also asked how the employer has compensated for the consequences of coercive measures. Almost all (97%) state that nothing deviating from the normal working conditions has been compensated for…

Almost half (48%) are actively planning a change of field, and a total of 88% have considered it. Only 23% of nurses believe that they will be able to cope with tasks in the health and social care sector until the end of their working career. There are big problems with the attractiveness of the field, and 64% would not go into the field if they were starting their studies now.” (Tehy: Broad survey: nothing about the pandemic has been compensated, an increasing amount are interested in choosing a different profession [Tehyn laaja kysely: Koronasta ei ole korvattu mitään, alan vaihto kiinnostaa yhä enemmän])


The situation had become intolerable in April 2022 when the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals (Tehy) and Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (SuPer) went on strike for 2 weeks. The strike included “approximately 25 000 nurses in 6 hospital districts”. They also started demonstrations in the cities of “Helsinki… Turku, Oulu, Tampere, Kuopio and Jyväskylä” (Tehy: Demonstrations by Tehy members started [Tehyläisten mielenilmaukset alkoivat])

The nurses complained of bad working conditions, exhaustion, shortage of workers etc. but mainly demanded higher pay. The employers did not accept the demand and instead used demagogic attacks against the nurses, as always happens. The nurses were attacked as “selfish” and “endangering patients”, although according to the nurses themselves, the patients are endangered every day by the lack of resources and exhaustion of the workforce, and the government and other employers have never cared about that.

“Tehy and SuPer confirmed the starting date of a second wave of strikes… 35 000 nurses in 13 hospital districts are planned to go on strike.” (Tehy: The first strike ends this friday – the second begins on April 20th [Ensimmäinen lakko päättyy perjantaina – toinen alkaa 20. huhtikuuta])


To crush the justified strike action of the nurses, the government quickly began preparing an emergency law to outlaw the strikes. The nurse unions responded in their declaration on April 4th:

“According to the nurse unions, the government’s proposal for a law on ensuring patient safety during the health care labor strike is a mockery of legislative work. The organizations state in their statement that the government’s proposal is based only on incorrect and unidentified information from the other side of the labor dispute about the inadequacy of the protection work [protection work means necessary measures that healthcare workers must take in order to protect patient’s during strikes~MLT]. The strike is legal, where sufficient protection for the patients is provided and the need for it is constantly negotiated. The country’s government is actually enacting a forced labor law against women [most Finnish nurses are women~MLT].

According to Tehy and SuPer, the patient safety law, which significantly interferes with the basic rights of employees, i.e. the right to strike action and personal freedom, and in practice leads to the breaking of the strike, should not be enacted…

– The only purpose of the Forced Labor Act is to break the legal labor struggle of nurses. This is the last straw for nurses. I have received a huge number of messages from members over the last night. Their main content is the statement that this is the last straw, why work in a profession that the policy makers in Finland hate so much, says Millariikka Rytkönen, chairman of Tehy

The organizations state in their declaration that several healthcare units such as intensive care units, operating rooms, etc. have had a very significant shortage of nursing staff for several years. Several shifts have been regularly run understaffed. The same situation has existed not only in specialized medical care but also in primary health care and services for the elderly. Under normal circumstances, the employer has not considered the shortage of nurses to be a factor endangering patient safety.

– Both political decision-makers and employers are aware of the level of patient safety during normal times. In everyday life, nurses are left to survive on their own, but when we try to improve the working conditions and pay in the industry by legal means, forced labor is the result, says SuPer’s chairman Silja Paavola…

Nursing organizations also criticize the process of drafting the law in harsh terms.
– Today, April 4, 2022, at 11:00 a.m., we were heard at an event where the legislator proposed forcing nurses to work. The invitation to the hearing arrived on Sunday, April 3, 2022 at 4:39 p.m. On Sunday, April 3, 2022, we only received the board’s draft presentation at 18:43 [the union had significantly less than a day to draft a response~MLT]. It is clear that with this schedule it is impossible to respond thoroughly and sufficiently comprehensively to such a large and important legislative project that affects basic rights, state Tehy’s executive director Else-Mai Kirvesniemi and SuPer’s advocacy director Anne Sainila-Vaarno… the representatives of the nurses whose basic rights are severely restricted are not even given adequate time to prepare an answer and be heard in the case.
– In a state governed by the rule of law, the law would not be enacted in this way, they say.” (Tehy and SuPer: Forced labor law should not be passed, the proposal includes several large problems [Tehy ja SuPer: Pakkotyölakia ei tule säätää, lakiesityksessä lukuisia isoja ongelmia])

“Tehy and SuPer announce that they are withdrawing their notice of strike action, which was issued on March 17, 2022. According to the announcement, the strike was supposed to start on April 1, 2022. Minister Tuula Haatainen postponed the start of the strike… by two weeks, so that there would be more time for mediation. Tehy and SuPer have voluntarily postponed the start of the strike after Easter, so that there would be enough time for mediation.

Despite Minister Haatainen’s transfer decision and Tehy’s and SuPer’s voluntary transfer, mediation activities have not resulted in more than one settlement proposal in more than six weeks. The settlement proposal of the national mediator would not have brought any kind of improvement to the salaries and working conditions of the nursing staff. In our opinion, the settlement proposal was of an even lower standard than the previous agreements…

During the mediation – even before the start of the first strike – a patient safety law has been prepared under the leadership of Minister Lindén… Minister Lindén has succeeded in making the nurses’ strike ineffective with their legislative actions. Because of this, the employer also has no desire to promote reconciliation.

We do not consider it expedient to start a strike, which the Minister of the Government has already rendered ineffective in advance.” (The announcement by Millariikka Rytkönen of Tehy and Silja Paavola of SuPer to the employers and the mediation board about the cancellation of the second phase of the strike [Tehyn Millariikka Rytkösen ja SuPerin Silja Paavolan ilmoitus työnantajalle ja sovittelulautakunnalle lakon toisen vaiheen perumisesta])

In August of 2022 the nurses again said they would strike in a more limited capacity in intensive and other specialized healthcare units the next month in the Turku University Hospital, Southern Helsinki homecare unit, Intensive care unit of Oulu University Hospital and the Oulu homecare unit. Approximately 20 nurses planned to strike in the region of Tavastia Proper and 200 in Southwest Finland.

The minister of labor Tuula Haatainen ordered the strike to be post-poned by two weeks. Apparently the minister of labor is allowed to do that. Practically every strike of the nurses, including the ones in April, was always post-poned by two weeks.

The hospital districts of Tavastia Proper, Southwest Finland, Northern Ostrobothnia demanded that the Helsinki district court prevent the strikes. As a result the court actually ruled against the nurses and on September 14th the unions were banned from starting the strikes in the cities of Hämeenlinna, Oulu and Turku. The court stated that if the ban was violated, the unions would have to pay a fine of one million euros per hospital district each.

The Finnish state media reported that:

“The District Court of Helsinki has accepted the demands of three hospital districts for a temporary security measure, which forbids the nurse unions Tehy and Super from starting a strike in the intensive care units of the hospital districts next week and the following week.” (The Helsinki district court prevented all the strikes of intensive care nurses in the coming weeks – the threatened penalty fines are six million euros [Helsingin käräjäoikeus kielsi kaikki tuleviksi viikoiksi kaavaillut tehohoitajien lakot – uhkasakkoja yhteensä kuuden miljoonan euron edestä])


After this fascistic measure one strike still took place in Oulu. The newspaper of the Communist Workers’ Party reported:

“The forced labor laws proposed by Marin’s five-party government and approved by the parliament have not discouraged the nurses’ unions Tehy and SuPer. Neither have the strike bans of the judiciary
which threatened fines made the nurses give up their demands for a salary increase, the salary program and the improvement of working conditions. Tehy and SuPer started the nurses’ strike on Tuesday, September 27 in home care unit of Kontinkankaa-Myllyoja at the Kontinkankaa welfare center in Oulu. The strike continued for four days and ended on Saturday 1.10. The District Court of Helsinki has previously banned strikes by Tehy and SuPer in three hospital districts and home care in Helsinki

with the threat of fines of millions of euros.” (TKS #11/22, The nurses don’t surrender, labor struggle continues [Hoitajat eivät luovuta, työtaistelu jatkuu])


“Nurse unions Tehy and Super organized a demonstration in Helsinki against the government’s proposed patient safety law on Friday.

Members of the unions marched from Citizen square to the parliament building, on the steps of which there was an emotional speech led by Tehy’s Millariikka Rytkönen and Super’s Silja Paavola.

A strange situation was seen in front of the parliament building when a Social-Democrat member of parliament Jukka Gustafsson arrived to speak to the nurses who demonstrated in the rainy weather.

Gustafsson, who introduced himself as a long-term union activist [sic], tried to gain the sympathy of the nurses.

-I actually came here because I want to listen and experience the feelings you have, Gustafsson said.

Judging by everything, the nurses standing in the rain did not warm to the sympathies of the Social-Democrat, but started shouting loudly demanding “higher pay”.

Gustafsson lost his temper and raised his hands as if to fight back the screams.

-Shut up! Gustafsson shouted into his microphone.

…The demonstrating nurses did not shut up, but shouted even more loudly.” (SDP parliament member Jukka Gustafsson lost his temper and demonstrating nurses: “Shut up!” [SDP:n kansanedustaja Jukka Gustafsson hermostui mieltään osoittaneille hoitajille: ”Hiljaa!”])


After strikes had been outlawed, the nurses still kept fighting. The nurses decided they would start quitting their jobs en masse as a form of pressure on the capitalists and the government.

“The board of representatives of the social and healthcare trade union Tehy reached a decision about new labor struggle measures last night. The board decided to implement mass resignations of nurses in special and intensive care” (Tehy: Mass resignation proceeds… [Tehy: Joukkoirtisanoutuminen etenee, koko kunta-alalle julistetaan tilapäisen siirron kielto])

One nurse who signed the declaration to resign from their job said:

“I see no other option at this point than to put my name on paper and thereby try to speed up this difficult situation”

Another nurse said:

“the position and benefits of our nurses will not improve if radical decisions are not made. So I’m happy to be part of this” (Tehy’s busses travel around Finland – nurse Tuija Turunen agreed to resign: “I don’t see any other option” [Tehyn matkailuautot kiertävät nyt eri puolilla Suomea – irtisanoutumiseen sitoutunut sairaanhoitaja Tuija Turunen: “En näe muuta vaihtoehtoa”])


An agreement was finally reached in October 2022. The nurses are supposed to receive a wage increase of around 17%* in the course of five years: 2.5% for 2022, 4.6% for 2023, 5.4% in 2024, 2.8% in 2025, 0.8% in 2026 and 1.2% in 2027.

(*HS, Agreement was reached in the wage struggle of the nurses [Hoitajien palkkakiistassa syntyi sopu])


The newspaper of the Communist Workers’ Party reports:

“The service industry union PAM and retail workers were on a two-day strike from 9–11. February [2023]. The strike included 16,000 workers in 160 stores.

The trade union says that it became aware of several cases where the employer had acted improperly and prevented employees from exercising their right to strike, even though the strike is a constitutional right. According to the union, communication about the strike had also been disrupted and striking workers had been threatened with sanctions.

A new two-day strike would begin on Monday morning, February 13, if no agreement is reached in the labor dispute on Sunday, February 12. There would be 47 distribution centers and wholesale warehouses within the scope of the strike, through which supplies are delivered to the stores of Kesko, S Group, Lidl and other stores. About 4,000 employees would go on strike.

An even wider strike would be coming from the 16th to the 18th of February. 26,000 workers and 415 shops would then be on strike…

The goal of the workers in the retail sector and the trade union is a one-year collective agreement and a salary increase of 200 euros for everyone.” (Teollisuusliitto hyväksyi reaalipalkkojen alen – palkkataistelu jatkuu muissa ammattiliitoissa, TKS #2/2023)


“The Automotive and Transport Workers’ Union AKT will start strikes lasting at least six days on Wednesday, February 15th [2023], if an agreement acceptable to the employees in the working conditions and salary dispute is not reached before then. The strikes concern several contract areas of the union.

The strikes include the stevedoring sector… the trucking sector… the tanker and oil product sector… and the shipping and warehouse terminal operations sector from February 15th to 22nd.

In Finland, the purchasing power of employees only continues to weaken, as real earnings already fell by more than 4 percent last year. The smallest wage increases in Europe are now coming to Finland.” (TKS #2/2023 Ibid.)

The post and logistics workers went on a sympathy strike to support the transport workers. The logistics trade union PAU announced on February 16th that “PAU supports AKT – the sympathy strike begins


According to the Finnish state railway corporation (VR) the “railway workers’ trade union (RAU) is threatening to stop all railway traffic starting next monday (March 30th) until further notice.” (A strike of the railway sector will possibly stop railway traffic on monday [Rautatiealan lakko pysäyttää mahdollisesti junaliikenteen maanantaina])

According to the state media the railway workers mainly demand the ability to rest properly between shifts. To me this sounds like the employer wants them to do “double shifts” i.e. work two shifts back to back or almost back to back. (Solution to the labor dispute of railway men is sought over the weekend… [Veturimiesten työriitaan etsitään ratkaisua viikonlopun aikana…])


Despite the bureaucratic reformist social-democrat leadership of various unions, which don’t want to go against the capitalists or the social-democrat government, there is significant pressure from workers themselves which explodes into strikes. The living standard of the workers will continue to fall and the government will continue its anti-people policy, thus creating more resistance. These processes are part of the general crisis of imperialist capitalism. We must give our support to the workers, organize and educate ourselves.

Capitalism has no future, the future belongs to the workers!


All the Finnish texts translated by MLT (Marxist-Leninist Theory blog).,Teollisuusliitto%20hyv%C3%A4ksyi%20reaalipalkkojen%20alen%20%E2%80%93%20palkkataistelu%20jatkuu%20muissa%20ammattiliitoissa,palkkaratkaisu%20alentaa%20reaalipalkkoja%20useilla%20prosenteilla

The nurses don’t surrender, labor struggle continues [Hoitajat eivät luovuta, työtaistelu jatkuu], Työkansan Sanomat #11/2022

History of the Hungarian People’s Republic (PART 9: The Co-operative farm movement)

“In August 1948 Rákosi announced that mass collectivisation would proceed over the next four years… By 1953 there were… 5,224 cooperative farms… representing a quarter of the arable land.” (Stone, Hungary: A Short History, p. 417)

“State farms… hold 14 percent of farmland.” (Zoltan Halasz, Unkari: kuvitettu tietoteos, p. 156, based on numbers from 1960)

In total, the socialist farming sector was more than a third of all agriculture.

Around election time in 1949, Burchett visited an election meeting at one of the most conservative regions of Hungary, Celldomolk near the Austrian border:

“After the meeting was over, the taverns were full of excited peasants discussing Rakosi, whom most of them had seen for the first time. All they knew of him, was what they had heard from their priests – that Rakosi was a synonym for anti-Christ… “But he talks good sense,” one glum old peasant told his neighbour, “he talked about seeds and fertiliser and machinery as if he knew all about it. About crops and prices. I was told he’d talk only about kolchozes and the church.” “Kolchozes” was a famous bogey-word at the time in some of the more backward villages where the priests spread the word that the “kolchoz” was a sinful, Soviet invention… Many of the peasants had no idea even that the word meant communal farm. They only knew from the priests that the “kolchoz” was an evil thing and must be avoided.” (Burchett, The people’s democracies)

“Hungary will certainly not remain a country of tiny landholders. The development of the machine-tractor station and the co-operative farm have started the second revolution in five years in the Hungarian villages. Hungarian peasants, because millions of them have had the status of serfs for generations, are backward and fearful of change… and the government is wise in introducing the new co-operative farms very gradually.

The principle is to demonstrate to the peasants that the co-operative farms give the best results, the best crops and give more free time to the farmer. There is no pressure on people to join. Unwilling farmers will not plant crops and the government does not want any interruption in its food supplies. Reactionary priests in all parts of the country warn farmers to have nothing to do with this new evil.”

“our first and foremost task is to strengthen the already existing co-operatives and to make provisions so that these co-operatives attract the working peasantry through their good example and good results…

Owing to the initial difficulties, some of our co-operatives are not sufficiently attractive, and it happens that some of the co-operative members who come from the poorest village class go over to industrial construction or go into the towns which offer sure and permanent wages. If, as in such cases, the maize field of the producer cooperative is covered with weed, or the yield is smaller than that of the individually working peasants of the village, then the enemy, the kulak, grasps the opportunity, exaggerates the situation and spreads the rumour throughout the whole district.

Therefore, we must support with all our strength the work of the producer co-operatives; we must help them to eliminate the difficulties. The help should be led by the Party, the Federation of Working Youth, the State, the councils, the State machine stations, and State farms…

It is important that where development is not sufficient, the highest or the third type of cooperative should not be suggested; but we should be satisfied with the simplest, or first, type, which has the advantage of giving an opportunity to the individual farmer and the still hesitating peasants to try out the good side of co-operation at a time when they still are afraid of a more advanced, higher form, which is too collective for them. We should not be afraid of the first type of co-operation. The superiority of cooperative production will show itself at this simple stage in that, as the experience of the past years has proved, in the majority of cases the members of the first-class co-operative will move towards a higher co-operative grading” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)

“All those who want to join, perhaps fifteen or twenty families, will meet together and elect a committee, a governing board of the co-operative. If their farms are not adjoining, the committee will have to do some negotiating with their neighbours, exchanging perhaps some pieces of land so that the co-operative farm will lie in one block of land. The members will have to decide what sort of farm they want to have and there are two main types.

(1) One in which the land is completely pooled… the peasants lose all claim to any land if they withdraw, payment will be made on the same basis to all according to the number of working days he or she has worked.

(2) The land is pooled only for working purposes… if the peasant wants to withdraw he can take his land out with him, payment is based partly on rent paid for his land and partly on the working-day system.” (Burchett)

“Old-established co-operatives have already built their own cinemas, and in some cases small theatres to which troupes from Budapest come and play.” (Burchett)

“The policy of our Government of not tolerating any kind of compulsion or pressure in forming the co-operatives, but strictly adhering to the principle of voluntariness, has been vindicated.” (Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953)

Indeed, after they had seen the efficiency of the co-operatives, the poor peasants gladly joined them:

”the poorest strata, the agricultural population, who received… small plots in the land reform program… the introduction of cooperatives held no terror for them” (Ernst Helmreich, Hungary, p. 115)

“The machine station is an important adjunct to the co-operative farm and a valuable bridge between the city worker and the peasants. Hungary’s small farmers are not wealthy enough to own tractors… The government set up machine stations all over the country, each with a few tractors, harvesting machines and other essentials. They were manned by young men and women from the city, politically educated as well as being first-class mechanics. All of them volunteered for the work. They are the city workers’ ambassadors to the peasantry. At first they were regarded with deep distrust… In some cases they were attacked, their sheds burned. They are there primarily to serve the co-operatives, but any farmer who wants his ploughing done can call up the machine co-operatives and the ploughing will be done at a very modest charge. In some cases the machine stations have been absorbed by the co-operatives and, of course, the latter has priority over private farmers’ work. The private farmer must pay slightly more than the co-operatives.” (Burchett)

“In the old days a villager turned to the priest as the supreme authority on all matters, now they turn to the mechanics. Instead of being completely isolated as they were at first, the technicians from the machine stations are now the centre of the village life. They are good propagandists for socialism by their very skills… “Work hard, develop your co-operatives and you and your-children can enjoy the same sort of life as we have in Budapest,” they tell the peasants. They open up entirely new horizons, give a picture of a life where one need only work eight hours a day, six days a week, have paid holidays… Why should farmers always work from dawn to dusk and live in misery? The co-operative farm and the tractor will alter all that.” (Burchett)

“The government, of course, favours the co-operative farms, by selling them the best seeds and fertilisers, giving them the benefit of any new developments in treating diseases of crops or cattle… By communal effort they lay on an irrigation system, they take the advice of the government and try the deep ploughing and rotation of crops. Specialists survey their soil for them and tell them what is best to plant where. Usually by the second season, there is a demonstrable improvement in their crops and in the financial situation of the members. More farmers want to join and in a neighbouring village a new group starts up and that’s the way the government wants to have it. The co-operatives should grow naturally by the example of successes firmly demonstrated. In 1949 the government had to put a temporary halt to the formation of new co-operatives. They were beginning to grow too fast, faster even than Hungarian industry was able to keep pace with tractors and machinery. But the movement is now on a firm basis with over 1,500 co-operatives farming half a million acres, and 220 machine stations operating 3,800 tractors, by the end of 1949, the last year of the Three-Year Plan.” (Burchett)

Life has become better

“The slow development of individual peasant households is due to the fact that over 80 per cent of them farm small plots. In such cases it is extremely difficult, and often impossible, to use modern agricultural machinery and the latest production methods…

Our Party wants every working peasant to use modern means of production – machines. We want him to have everything that the town is capable of supplying. We want him to have electricity and water supply, doctors, hospitals, maternity homes, cinemas and sports grounds. We want him to have a radio set in his home, we want his sons and daughters to enjoy all the amenities of the town. We want him and his family to benefit from social insurance, old age pensions and all the State assistance which the city worker receives.” (Rakosi, Strengthening the People’s Democratic Order)

“The biggest change has occurred in the lives of the hundred thousand families formerly employed on yearly contracts as farm hands on the great manorial estates… theirs had been the lowest social status in the rural hierarchy… lived in miserable barracks in the manorial courtyard, and worked under the supervision of bailiffs for practically unlimited hours.” (I. P. and E. W., Land Reform in Hungary, in The World Today, London, Jan. 1949, V, p. 22).

The kulak, a rural capitalist.

In capitalist times:

“Milk, sugar and fruit were luxuries in the Hungarian villages. In many places the adults could obtain no work, and the children were compelled to stay home from school for lack of proper clothing. It was stated in parliament: ‘There are families… where four-year-old children do not know what shoes are because they have never worn them.’ Half the village dwellings were mud and adobe huts with earthen floor in which tuberculosis killed off 10,000-12,000 people annually.” (A History of Hungary by Ervin Pamlényi, p. 504)

Under capitalism:

“Millions of peasants had still to struggle along with little or no land while huge tracts belonged to a few magnates. The plight of the landless farm worker was particularly sad. One of their spokesmen, Sandor Csizmadia, presented this gloomy picture at the turn of the century: “I have watched the life of the peasants on the estates, three or four families, sometimes as many as twenty to twenty-five persons living in the single room of a hut. I have seen men collapsing of famine on the richest soil of the country, and I have also seen men being virtually drowned in their fat. Families of the puszta are working for fifteen krajcars (a dime) from three in the morning till ten at night.

The working day of the factory hand was very long, too, and he earned not much more than the farm worker. When the labor unions began to agitate for an eight-hour day, they met violent opposition.

Hunger typhus was endemic in parts of the country, and tuberculosis was called the Hungarian malady. Pellagra and other vitamin-deficiency diseases sapped the people’s health. In some areas, half the infants died before the age of five. Iniquitous tax assessments favored the rich; the richer the taxpayer, the less his share of the burden.” (Emil Lengyel, The land and people of Hungary, pp. 82-83)

But life began to change during socialist construction:

“Many country people lived in straw-thatched mud huts, which had to be replaced by more durable houses covered with tile… The government introduced fertilizers, improved seed, new farm machinery, and farm products; it undertook large-scale irrigation, drainage, and marketing.” (Emil Lengyel, The land and people of Hungary, p. 97)

In People’s Democracy: “The tone of life in Hungary is changed. The peasant has lost his demeanor of chronic servility” (Howard K. Smith, The State of Europe, p. 217)

“Nothing had been done for the Hungarian peasants or villagers for hundreds of years until 1945. Even villages on the outskirts of Budapest had no electric light until the Three-Year Plan brought it to them. Nearly 400 have been linked up with the electricity network during the Three-Year Plan, and by the end of the Five-Year Plan there will not be a village without electric light.” (Burchett)

“The horrible poverty which strangled the village in Horthy’s time has disappeared. The village has become wealthy and consumes more agricultural produce.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)

“Collectivisation of land… released an abundant supply of men and women for work in mines and factories; the single-minded Communist emphasis upon investment in heavy goods production… ensured unprecedented increases in output… In terms of gross production figures the growth rates in the first generation of industrialization were impressive” (Judt, Postwar, p. 170)

“Experience of the past has taught [the peasant] to fear the state as their enemy. Today the propaganda of the Church against collectivisation as the instrument of the devil reinforces that fear.” (Warriner, p. 149)

“kulak… bandits brutally murdered Imre Kish, a peasant in the village of Lendelka-polna, the secretary of the local organization of the Hungarian Working People’s Party.” (K. M. Frolov, The Struggle of the Working Class for the Victory of Socialism in the People’s Democracies)

“the Catholic Church, and the adherents of the old regime in the village, former estate bailiffs, and the remaining gentry. All these have made energetic propaganda against the land reform, first saying that those who claimed land would be punished when the rightful owners returned with the Americans and British, and then, when this did not happen, that the reds would drive the peasants into the dreaded golhaz, with collective meals and collective wives…

The first object of communist policy therefore was to dispel these fears, to avoid the word, and to prove that producers co-operatives were better than individual farming. This has certainly been done. The groups started in 1948-49 have been given every kind of help, in the form of credits, fertilisers at

cheap rates, tractor service from the Machine Tractor Stations at special rates, livestock for fattening on credit, expert advice; and they have shown good results” (Warriner, p. 156)

“The following figures show the higher grain yields on co-operative farms, compared with the average on individual farms in the same village… Naturally these results are impressive to the Hungarian peasants, who know what good farming means.” (Warriner, p. 156)

In 1951 Rakosi stated:

“The average wheat and rye yield was 9.2 per cent, higher last year than in the ten years of peace preceding the war. This fact is the more noticeable because production carried on in the large estates before the war, gave 15 to 25 per cent, higher yields than on the peasant farms. Due to this fact, our enemies calculated after the land reform, that it would take much longer to reach the peace-time standard in agriculture.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)

And this was in spite of the fact that there had been extremely bad weather:

“We must take into consideration the fact that, there has been a drought every year since the Liberation, which was especially severe last year. In the light of these facts, it can be stated that our working peasantry has, by and large, fulfilled the hopes placed on them.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)

According to New York Times Hungary “suffered from a severe summer drought and spring frost in 1952” (NY Times, Dec. 27, HUNGARY CONCEDES BIG DROUGHT LOSS; Says She Averted Famine by Importing Food – Progress in Industry Is Seen)

According to a scientific paper by I. Pálfai from 1990 presented at the 14th International Congress on Irrigation and Drainage in Brazil “the most significant droughts occurred in the period 1947-1952.” (Pálfai, Description and forecasting of droughts in Hungary)

“The damage caused by the bad weather would have meant a catastrophe in capitalist times, as they spelled catastrophe in neighbouring Yugoslavia, where now a veritable famine is raging and hundreds of thousands of peasants are becoming impoverished.” (Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly)

“Yugoslavia is threatened with a grave food crisis” (“Yugoslav threat of famine”, The Courier-mail, sep. 19, 1950, p. 4)

To fight against the terrible droughts, massive irrigation works were built:

“During the first five year plan the Tiszalök dam was built in Tisza. A 100 kilometer channel was dug from it, which is used to regularly irrigate the area. Thus it has been possible to improve the grazing fields and begin rice cultivation on a huge area, and to plant forests.” (Halasz, pp. 20-21)

“Irrigated area has increased tremendously. Before liberation irrigation was practiced only on 14 000 hectares, but by 1958 it was already practiced on 72 000 hectares.” (Halasz, p. 160)

Rakosi enjoyed immense popularity during socialist construction

“One of the men who led the Communist government following World War I is today deputy premier of Hungary and secretary-general of the Communist Party. He is Matyas Rakosi, easily the most important political figure in his country.” (Martin Ebon, World Communism Today, p. 78)

According to Ebon, Rakosi’s policies were popular, not only among the far left, but also more broadly:

“Rakosi… pressed actions that were favored by genuinely liberal Hungarians.” (Ebon, p. 79)

Ordinary people sent letters to Rakosi asking for his help:

“On one occasion, a small girl, Ida Csombor from Jászjákóhalma, asked “Uncle Rákosi” to provide her with school textbooks, because her family was poor: “I turn to you because I know that you help every child of the proletariat.” Rákosi allocated 100 forints to the girl’s family to purchase the necessary books… the parish priest of Tápiószentmárton asked for the leader’s help in replacing the lost bell of the local church. “We have heard that Mr. Vice-Prime Minister has retrieved the bells of so many villages before. Ours has gone missing too.” “The bell will be recovered,” promised Rákosi.” (Apor, The invisible shining, p. 57)

“letters expressed the people’s gratitude to Rákosi for a new textbook, a renovated school, or the “unity of workers,” as in the case of the workers of the Goldberger factory, who wrote their letter to “the leader of the working people,” “in the happy hours of [the] unification” of the two Marxist parties. Letters of gratitude were written by sportsmen and sportswomen as well. A group of Hungarian athletes at the London Olympics, for example, thanked Rákosi in a letter for providing the opportunity to take part in the event, where they had the chance to demonstrate the “ardent fighting spirit” of the “Hungarian democratic youth.” (Apor, pp. 65-66) Hungary achieved extremely good success in the Olympics due to government’s efforts in helping sports and health.

As told by teacher Gyula Kékesdi, when Rakosi toured the countryside:
“People rushed Rákosi with presents. One of the peasant women brought him bread, the other a cloth, the third a knitted coat… An old woman standing next to me also seemed to want to give something too. [handing over a basket] she pushed into the crowd and said, “Comrade Rákosi, I cooked this, but I could barely save it from my husband, because he loves it too, but you’ll receive it from us with love””
(Pünkösti Árpád, Rákosi a csúcson 1948-1953)

“”[Rakosi] received a lot of presents in Kecskemét,” said the driver Károly Szirmai…

“I remember a truck brought the presents from the rally; the garden was full of them” – said Lajos G.” (Pünkösti, Ibid.)

The peasants gave animals and food as presents:

“there were geese and five sheep. We kept them in the yard for days, then they were taken to the zoo. The edible gifts went to the children’s home and dormitories” (Pünkösti, Ibid.)

Rakosi frequently visited ordinary people to learn about their problems and listen to their opinions: “he would take a walk around the given location (village, factory, etc.), chat with the people about their problems, and sometimes even share their meal with them. His visits, especially those in the countryside, often lasted until sunset.” (Apor, p. 59)

Socialism was being successfully constructed both in industry and agriculture, people’s lives were improving tremendously, and they looked to the future with hopeful optimism.


Stone, Hungary: A Short History

Zoltan Halasz, Unkari: kuvitettu tietoteos

Burchett, The people’s democracies

Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party

Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953

Ernst Helmreich, Hungary

Rakosi, Strengthening the People’s Democratic Order

I. P. and E. W., Land Reform in Hungary, in The World Today, London, Jan. 1949, V.

Ervin Pamlényi, A History of Hungary
[Quite a good book otherwise, but the criticism of Rakosi and Stalin and the attempt to defend Titoism and Rajk in Chapter X section 2 and the attempt to justify Kadarism in Chapter X section 3 are totally erroneous.]

Emil Lengyel, The land and people of Hungary

Howard K. Smith, The State of Europe

Judt, Postwar

Doreen Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe

K. M. Frolov, The Struggle of the Working Class for the Victory of Socialism in the People’s Democracies


Pálfai, Description and forecasting of droughts in Hungary

“Yugoslav threat of famine”, The Courier-Mail, sep. 19, 1950

Martin Ebon, World Communism Today

Apor, The invisible shining

Pünkösti Árpád, Rákosi a csúcson 1948-1953

Scientific life in the Hungarian People’s Republic

Excerpt taken from Zoltan Halasz, Unkari: kuvitettu tietoteos [Hungary: an illustrated factbook], (1960), pp. 195-199. Translated by ML-theory.

This text by Halasz obviously only scratches the surfaces and leaves out such scientists as agrobiologist Dr. Sándor Rajki and geologist Elemér Vadász, and many others. However, it gives some information. When I have the time and some more resources I’ll try to create a page dedicated to the science of the Hungarian People’s Republic, similar to the one I’ve made about the USSR.



Hungarian scientific life has developed many world-renowned researchers, inventors and scientists. Examples of internationally famous scientists include Sándor Körösi Csoma, who wrote the first tibetan dictionary and grammar, skilled orientalists Armin Vámbéry and Aurél Stein, as well as Gábor Szarvas and Mór Ballagi, and other linguists who have researched related languages. The eradicator of puerperal fever, Ignác Semmelweiss is known in history as “the savior of mothers”, discoveries of Loránd Eötvös, developed further by his students, are used all over the world to measure gravity and for finding useful minable resources. Donát Bánki, who was one of the most significant engineers of his day, invented in 1892 together with János Csonka a carbonator. By using the turbine developed by him it was possible to utilize water power better than before. Károly Zipernovszky, Miksa Déri and Ottó Titusz Bláthy developed principles of energy transmission in transformers, and the first transformer station was put into operation by them. The electronic locomotive of Kálmán Kandón as well as the cylinder mill and first steam-powered earth cultivator of András Mechwart have became internationally renowned. Hungarian Oszkár Asbóth designed the first functioning helicopter.

Despite great successes, in the past the work of Hungarian scientists was hampered by countless factors and under capitalist conditions many valuable initiatives were ignored. The reform of Hungarian scientific life began only after the liberation of the country. In the opinion of the people’s democratic government, the economic development of the country and the tasks of the cultural revolution definitely required the reorganization of scientific life. For that reason, not without significant material sacrifices, material conditions for scientific research work were created, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which had a glorious history but had largely lost its importance between the two world wars, was again made the leading institution of scientific life by entirely reorganizing its activities. Nowadays in the academy’s departments, in its institutes, as well as in the scientific research institutes of the ministries – in 119 research institutes in total – planned theoretical and practical research work is carried out, which succesfully continues and develops the work of Hungarian scientists of previous centuries.

Within the academy there operates a linguistic and literary section, and under its leadership the institute of literary history researches, first of all, questions of the history and development of Hungarian literature. The institute of linguistics is preparing a ten volume Hungarian dictionary.

The institute of economics, which belongs to the section of social-historical sciences, is studying in great detail the questions of socialist planned economy. Along with preparing textbooks for the highest academic levels, the institute of history researches the history of Hungary and the neighboring nations.

The section of mathematics and physics studies the most current questions of theoretical research and has often achieved internationally recognized results.

The recently deceased Frigyes Ries and Lipot Fejér as well as György Alexits and Alfréd Rényi and others, are internationally known in scientific circles because of their mathematical researches.

The head of the central institute of physics, academician Lajos Jánossy, has achieved results in researching the twofold nature of light, which have sparked great interest internationally. With the help of the Soviet academy of sciences, Hungary’s first nuclear reactor has been built into the same institute. Hungarian nuclear physicists are now attempting to independently build nuclear reactors and even nuclear power plants.

In the field of nuclear research Hungarian scientists and researchers can present a respectable list of achievements. At the second atomic energy conference in Geneva, ten proposals of Hungarian scientists were accepted, four of which dealt with the biological, one with agricultural, and four with measurement uses of radioactive isotopes, while one dealt with professor Lajos Imre’s patented new method of producing isotopes. Hungarian atomic energy committee’s special committee on applications of isotopes organized a meeting in the fall of 1958, where 33 lectures were given on the achievements of peaceful uses of nuclear energy in industrial, agricultural, biological and other research as well as in medicine.

The academy’s section on agricultural sciences deals in detail with problems of developing the Hungarian agriculture. Hungarian corn breeders have achieved beautiful results in creating new hybrids. In the field of veterinary science books written by Hungarian scientists are used as textbooks in universities and institutes of higher learning both in Hungary and abroad.

The biological and medical section as well as the biological group successfully research new methods of examination and treatment. Very noteworthy is the research in the effect of radiation on the organism as well as curing cancer tumors.

The section of chemical sciences also carry out theoretical and practical research. The work of the section has been significantly improved by a new central chemistry research institute. Simultaneously Hungarian researchers have achieved ever better results in creating synthetic substances, studying their properties and in the scope of their field of application.

From the members of the section on technical sciences professor László Heller has already twice with world-renowned inventions improved power plant technology. He has together with engineer László Forgó designed the so-called “dry cooling tower”, which solves the issue of water maintenance of heating and nuclear plants in water scarce regions. Previously his system for solving the active cooling of electric generators and improving their efficiency, has attracted worldwide attention. Professor Ottó Benedikt has designed a new type of diesel locomotive with an asynchronous motor, and academician Elemér Szádeczky-Kardoss has achieved significant results in his research on the ionization system of ore formation.

Internationally significant occasions of Hungarian scientific and technical life are the events organized by the more than thirty member organizations of the Union of societies of technical and natural sciences. In 1958 over forty foreign scientists and engineers participated in the Hungarian machine industry week, organized by the Scientific society of machine industry, during which lectures were given on the achievements and plans of Hungarian advanced machine industry, and noted foreign experts also gave presentations. More than a hundred foreigners took part in the 50th anniversary congress of Hungarian chemists, and there the best chemists of Europe met each other and discussed questions of chemistry of both “traditional” and synthetic substances. Hungarian precision mechanical industry and research are internationally highly regarded, so the international body for precision mechanics IMEKO has its headquarters in Budapest, and at its meeting in 1958 in Budapest nearly 800 scientists, researchers and engineers from different parts of the world were present. Along with the Hungarian academy of sciences the other center of Hungarian scientific life is the House of technique, which is the center of the Societies for technical and natural sciences. Inside its halls, in the meetings of specialty fields of the societies and at club evenings, scientists, researchers, practical engineers and advanced professional workers meet each other, and their joint work livens Hungarian scientific life and develops the industry and national economy of Hungary.

“Veikko Pöysti, a fighter, a communist” by Artturi Rönnqvist

Source: SKP – taistelujen tiellä III (1947). Translated by ML-theory blog.

It is doubtful if the life of any Finnish communist, with the exception of the life of Toivo Antikainen, has become so legendary in the minds of a large part of our nation as that of Veikko Pöysti, a fighter and communist, who died at the age of 33 in a ferocious battle against Finnish fascists in December 1942.

Veikko Henrik Pöysti was born on June 26th, 1909 in Hamina. His parents were actively involved in the workers’ movement. His father was part of the red guard in the revolutionary civil war of 1918, has been imprisoned twice due to his political activities and even now is an active member of our party. From his mother Veikko got a great warm heartedness towards the cause of the oppressed, and from his father a strict clear intellect and fighting spirit. Already since his childhood in his home Veikko experienced poverty and hunger, persecution and white terror, which served to turn him into a determined and strong fighter, who after becoming conscious of his mission, joined the struggle of the oppressed masses with all the enthusiasm of his energetic mind. At age 17 he joined a Timber workers’ union [puutyöväen liitto] chapter in Käkisalmi, even working as the chairman of the chapter and beginning his involvement in the athletic societies at the same time. But soon Veikko Pöysti took a more decisive step. His enthusiastic nature, full of fighting will, led him to the illegal communist movement in 1927 and he was a loyal party member since then.

That led Pöysti, like so many others, to the jails and prisons of the Okhrana [secret police]. He sat in prison for more than 10 years, but that didn’t defeat him. His time in prison he spent in determined study, and there too, fought against oppression and tyranny, developing into a principled fighter.

Veikko Pöysti got out of prison on the eve of war, May 25th, 1941. After he fell sick with pneumonia his comrades delivered him to a hospital, but learning that the Okhrana was coming to arrest him, Veikko fled and thus avoided being sent right back into prison. But he didn’t run from his pursuers out of fear of prison. He wanted to retain his freedom, to fight, to organize and to lead our people in the struggle against the criminal war. When the war began in 1941 there was widespread disgust towards the war among the workers. The time after the winter war had opened the eyes of many to see in the Soviet Union a friend of our country, and a joint war alongside Hitler’s Germany was loathsome.

But even with those who were unhappy, the resistance was often mere passivity. Although, there were many soldiers who didn’t follow orders to be drafted, masses of men escaped into the forests to avoid being drafted in the war, the forest guards were born, but even many of them didn’t know what to do. Those conditions required principled determination. It was necessary to understand that the only solution was merciless battle against fascism, the savage and ruthless enemy. And conclusions had to be drawn with uncompromising clarity. In many cases solving this question was influenced by the person’s own life being on the line. In that context the admirable clarity and great heroism of the actions of Veikko Pöysti become even more striking. The author of this text had a chance in those days to talk to Veikko. I remember well, how brilliantly he explained a solution to the problem that was difficult even for many class conscious workers. The only solution was to join the active resistance against the war, he said. And Veikko Pöysti had personal bravery and most of all, the practical intelligence to apply this conclusion to real life. “War must be answered with war” was his slogan. But Veikko didn’t embark on his fight as an individual. As a member of our party leadership, he began organizing the forest guards to activity, to build organization among them, made contacts, inspired people to fight and explained why it was necessary. Our party saw as the main objective, to paralyze the fascist war machine, and Veikko Pöysti acted accordingly. The enemy knew the significance of Veikko’s work. It began a frenzied search for him. When the resources of the okhrana [communist slang for Finnish secret police] were not enough to find him, regular police and military were ordered to join in, and they ceaselessly combed the forests and carried out surprise raids on houses. A quick ability to assess the situation, courage and cool-headedness saved Veikko many times from difficult situations.

During those times Veikko Pöysti didn’t allow himself to ever rest idly, and all those who ended up within his circle were seized by enthusiasm for work. When someone was about to become too tired or become apathetic, Veikko Pöysti found the words to inspire them with new enthusiasm for work and to be ashamed of their weakness. He was helped in that by his clear sightedness and understanding of people. Veikko Pöysti, if anyone, was a man of the people. He was always ready to discuss, advise, made jokes even in the most difficult situations. After long journeys and difficult battles, when the men were tired, Veikko remained tireless and always ready to help others. Those who lived in the same dugouts as him, reminisced how he helped exhausted comrades, prepared food for them and slept in worse places to allow others to rest better. Veikko was also physically surprisingly strong and tenacious. Once he escaped encirclement while still fighting and carrying a wounded comrade on his shoulder.

Indeed, strength and determination was required in that difficult fight Veikko Pöysti and his forest guards were waging. Persecutors didn’t give even a second’s respite. On his travels Veikko often had to stop by peasant’s houses to get food or help. Soon he made friends, good and courageous friends, who were ready to help in difficulties and provide shelter, though by doing so they exposed themselves to danger.

Veikko Pöysti was a loyal fighter of our communist party, fulfilling the party’s assignments surely and reliably. But he also had initiative and even when communications were severed he didn’t remain inactive, but carried out his work and managed to reestablish communications.

Until December 1942 Veikko succeeded in avoiding the traps of his persecutors. The day before Christmas in 1942 he fought his final heroic battle. That battle was fought in Hiekkaharju in Tikkurila, in a two storey building where Veikko had hidden to be closer to the rest of the party leadership and to instruct comrades under his responsibility. The photographs which Veikko Pöysti’s father has given to our use, tell effectively about this battle. In this last battle the balance of forces was extremely uneven. On one side was Veikko Pöysti alone, while on the other there were the police forces, reinforced with machine guns and other weaponry. Even so, the fire fight lasted for many hours. For two hours train traffic on the nearby railway was halted. After the leader of the persecutors fell in the battle, and ammo was starting to run out, they called for reinforcements from Helsinki. Veikko also ran out of bullets, but instead of surrendering, attempted to escape through the police encirclement, which is when he was hit by a burst of machine gun fire. Veikko Pöysti died as heroically as he had lived.

In his death our party and the people lost a brave fighter and a tireless defender of the oppressed. But the memory of heroes like Veikko Pöysti will never die, for the cause for which he gave his strength and his life, the cause of peace, democracy, and socialism, is a cause which never dies.

History of the Hungarian People’s Republic (PART 8: The 1949 elections and first Five Year Plan)


1948 was considered the year of the “turning point”. The left had decisively gained the upper hand, the workers’ parties had merged and become the biggest party, the Three Year Plan was going better then expected and being fulfilled ahead of schedule, the largest industries and banks had been nationalized. Socialist construction was clearly on the agenda.

For the elections of 1949, the goal was to further improve the co-operation of the left bloc. This close unity was possible, now that the reactionaries had been expelled from the coalition parties. As a result, the Hungarian Working People’s Party, the National Peasant Party and the Smallholders created a united election organization, “The Hungarian Independent People’s Front”. Two smaller opposition parties (the Independent Hungarian Democratic Party and the Radical Party) also decided that they now wanted to join and work together with the coalition.

“Instead of the “more or less loose coalition” which existed until then, it took a stand for establishing the “political mass organization of the people’s unity”. It stated that the system of loose coalition

between competing parties “was favourable to the anti-popular forces, which took advantage of party rivalry for infiltrating the democratic parties and thereby hindered democratic co-operation and construction”.

What was actually in mind was the further development of the alliance of the socialist and democratic forces, and primarily the consolidation of the alliance of the working class with the individually working peasants… The alliance of the working class and intellectuals was also to progress within the framework of the new people’s front, winning over for the socialist goals an ever larger part of the intellectuals.

The programme stated that the new people’s front should be a mass organization headed by the Hungarian Working People’s Party. The allied parties, the trade unions, co-operatives and the organizations of women and youth would take part in the people’s front… The aim was clear: to end the party rivalry which resulted in a considerable waste of energy, and create close co-operation among the people’s democratic forces.” (Nemes, pp. 190-191)

“The people’s front declaration of the coalition parties and of the leading mass organizations that supported the country-building aims of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, was published on 1 February 1949. This considered the task of co-operation to “further guarantee the peaceful legal process of socialist social transformation with the inclusion of all the creative forces of the country”. The statement also announced that the political and social organizations comprising the people’s front

would “submit in everything to the decisions of the National Council and would carry them out”. The National Council of the People’s Front was established. Its members included 27 representatives of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, 9 of the Smallholders Party and 6 of the Peasant Party together with the delegates of the mass organizations. The two bourgeois parties which were outside the coalition, the Balogh party and the Radical Party, also announced their adherence to the People’s Front.

Parliamentary elections were held in May 1949. The parties making up the People’s Front decided, on the recommendation of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, to participate in the elections with a joint programme and joint list…” (Nemes, pp. 214-215)

Anti-communist historian Kovrig writes that anti-communists, and in particular the church, encouraged people to vote against the People’s Front, and this “in some districts accounted for over one-quarter of the vote” but “Of the eligible voters, 94 percent… marched to the polls, and 95.5 percent endorsed the [People’s Front] list” (Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary: from Kun to Kādār, p. 252)

The election was a landslide victory for the People’s Front. This election was a turning point, because the neo-fascist parties had been banned, the petit-bourgeois parties and even the bourgeois radical party had united with the People’s Front, under communist leadership.

Bourgeois historian Hoensch writes that already previously “the National Peasants’ Party drifted more and more into the Communist camp and began to advocate ‘the development of a people’s democracy’, the nationalisation of industry and agricultural collectivisation” (Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary, p. 168)

And that in 1949 the National Peasants’ Party dissolved itself to be incorporated solely into the People’s Front. (Hoensch, p. 168)

Rakosi could proudly state:

“At these elections only sons of the working people stood as candidates. Counts, big landlords, bankers and other enemies of the people were not included.” (Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953)

Rakosi also stated that in 1949 parties of the People’s Front nominated candidates, but further democratic progress should be made and “a special place must be reserved for the big social organisations—the trade unions, cooperatives and the organisations catering for women and youth.” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)

Four years later, in 1953, Rakosi was happy to announce that instead of separate parties nominating candidates “the candidates have been chosen directly by hundreds of thousands of workers in the factories, the producer co-operatives and machine stations, in the universities and other institutions from among their own best workers.” (Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953)

Rakosi described the results of the 1949 elections as follows:

“The composition of the House of Representatives elected at that time, shows how the People’s Front looks in practice and, within it, the alliance of workers and peasants. From the 402 deputies, 176 are workers, 115 peasants, and 92 progressive intellectuals. Amongst these are 72 working and peasant women, which is a measure of the equal rights of women.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)

“This election was followed eighteen months later by the election of the Local Councils when our working people elected 220,000 council members and supplementary members. This election, through which the working people took control of the local organs of the democratic State, has shown even more strongly the deepening of the worker-peasant alliance. To the 3,217 local councils, 23,016 industrial workers, 103,638 working peasants, 11,116 progressive intellectuals, and thousands of craftsmen, retail traders and others were elected as ordinary members. The inclusion of the working people into State administration has put the finish on the democratisation of our administration and put the entire State apparatus into the hands of the working people…

As a result of the battles fought by the united working people, under the leadership of the Party, the people’s democratic State was created, the State, with the help of which, and as a result of the victory of the Soviet Union, and supported by the Soviet Union, the working people, led by the working class, progressed from capitalism towards socialism. With regard to its functions the People’s Democracy is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)

The bourgeois local organs were dissolved and instead councils were created:

“Since 1950, the local organs of executive power and administration are the county, city, district, and village councils.” (Péter Gál & Gyula Németh, Hungary: A Comprehensive Guide)

What exactly People’s Democracy was, had been debated throughout the mid-late 1940s. Was it a political system between capitalism and socialism? By 1949 the Communists had come to the understanding that People’s Democracy was a united front of progressive forces, which would either move towards a dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism, or be defeated. By 1949 the dictatorship of the proletariat had come to power in Hungary. The capitalists, fascists and reactionaries were ousted from politics. Their organizations were no longer recognized, and served no productive purpose. Instead, people would vote for peasant, intellectual, worker or petit-bourgeois candidates, who were members of the people’s front.

5 YEAR PLAN (1950-1954)

The great Hungarian writer Zsigmond Móricz had written in one of his novels in 1934:

“…how to find work for the thirty thousand unemployed in the County? Thirty thousand men, agricultural workers, marvelous material. The country could be built with these thirty thousand. Roads, houses, schools, museums. All it needed was somebody to set the thirty thousand to work. A will, a power aiming at a goal. The whole country could be re-organised with just these thirty thousand.” (protagonist in Zsigmond Móricz’s novel “Relations” pp. 120-121)

Móricz did not live to see it, having died in 1942, but with the Five Year Plan, jobs would be found for all the unemployed and the country would indeed be transformed!

Bourgeois historian Jörg Hoensch writes that:

“By 31 December 1949… important sectors had even managed to exceed the [three year] plan’s quotas, with the result that on 10 December the National Assembly was able to launch the first Five Year Plan as from 1 January 1950.” (Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary, p. 204)

“Industrial development during the five years of the Plan will make as much headway as it did in all the fifty years up to World War Two. The result will be that our country will be transformed… into an industrial country with a developed agriculture. New industrial towns and districts will spring up.” (Rakosi, Strengthening the People’s Democratic Order)

New plants, more hospitals, schools, libraries and apartments – entire new cities were built.

“The Socialist cities established in Hungary at the beginning of the 1950s were Sztálinváros (today called Dunaújváros), Kazincbarcika, Komló, and Tatabánya.” (Zsuzsanna Borvendég & Mária Palasik in “In the Name of the Great Work: Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and its Impact in Eastern Europe” ed. Doubravka Olšáková, p. 135)*

*The original site for Sztalinvaros was to be Mohacs. The location had many benefits, but after construction had already started it was discovered the area was threatened by earthquakes, and making an earthquake proof city would increase costs massively. The location was also very close to the Yugoslav border, and when Tito’s treachery was discovered, and Hungary was threatened by Yugoslav invasion, the location of the all important industrial city simply had to be changed. This caused unforeseen additional costs. Dunapentele was chosen as the new location. Unfortunately Dunapentele also had bad unstable land, which was prone to landslides, and this created construction challenges.

“Between 1949 and 1951, the number of workers in construction grew by 125,000… In 1952, an additional 49,000 workers were engaged in construction, bringing the total to 244,000.” (Zinner, p. 121)

“The Plan took effect on 1 January 1950. Investment was already high (60,000 million forints) but was increased (to 80,000 million). Heavy industry had priority” (Stone, p. 415)

Hungary had been a small poor country, ruled by the feudal nobility and the church. Their industrialization and modernization was full of challenges. They needed help from Soviet and Czechoslovakian engineers, raw material had to be imported from the Soviet Union because Hungary’s own mining industry was not developed enough to meet the demand. Norman Stone mocks the idea that Hungary, a small and traditionally agrarian country could become a developed industrial power: “It was, of course, preposterous for a country such as Hungary to be attempting heavy industry, and to apply the Soviet planning system.” (Stone, p. 472)

However, he admits that “On paper [sic] the Plan did succeed, metallurgical products doubling, or, in the case of aluminum, trebling. The industrial workforce grew by 500,000.” (Stone, p. 416)

“As a result of the Three and the Five Year Plans industrial production trebled over the pre-war figure.“ (Nemes, p. 187)

“The results of the first year exceeded expectations, particularly in industry. Instead of the planned 21.4 per cent industrial output was 27 per cent higher than in the previous year. State industry expanded by 37 per cent, while the production of private industry decreased by 26 per cent… In 1950, the output of agriculture was by 5 to 6 per cent more than the previous year’s figure. In the meantime, the arable land of the state farms and the co-operatives both doubled in area, and by the end of 1950 the two together formed 13 per cent of the total arable land of the country.” (Nemes, p. 222)

According to Lazlo Borhi the economy during the First Five Year Plan had “phenomenal growth” (László Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: between the United States and the Soviet Union, p. 214)

“The regime could claim a dramatic expansion of the industrial sector, an apparently favorable rate of growth in national income, and a state of full employment.” (Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary: from Kun to Kādār, p. 256)

Ernst Helmreich says about Hungary’s industrial development that “the increase is staggering” (Ernst Helmreich, Hungary, p. 306)

“the economy grew – by a staggering 13.8 percent per annum in the first half of the fifties.” (Shawcross, p. 136)

“…In Hungary, output of sugar in 1950 was 15 per cent above the previous year, cotton textiles eight per cent, footwear 50 per cent.” (Klugmann)

“Freight traffic, electric power generation, steel production, shoe manufacture, textile production, have already passed 1938 levels… that there has been any improvement at all is remarkable. Consider once again the unbelievably heavy losses Hungary suffered by the war.” (Behind the curtain, p. 182)

“Advance was made in the building of the Tisza dams; 150,000 new homes, several hundred schools and the People’s Stadium in Budapest were completed… Other achievements of the Five Year Plan included better health protection. The number of hospital beds had increased by more than 11,000 and exceeded 61,000.” (Nemes, pp. 224-229)

“In 1952 the natural birth rate increase per 1000 people was 47 per cent higher than in 1938… The number of marriages per 1,000 inhabitants is 20 per cent higher than it was in 1938. The infant mortality rate is down in 1952 to nearly half the 1938 figure. Tuberculosis which was called the “Hungarian disease” in the past is being gradually repelled and in 1952 fifty-seven per cent fewer people died of this disease than in 1938. In Hungary today more hospital beds are available per 10,000 people than in France or Belgium. As a result of public health activity, the death rate is lower in Hungary than in England or Austria.” (Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly)

Because of improvements made in nutrition and healthcare by the socialist government, life expectancy increased from 50 in 1930 to above 60 in 1950. (Source: Hungarian Central Statistical Office, 1993)

“Between 1949 and 1953 the urban population increased by 605,000 while the rural population [decreased by] 218,000” (Kovrig, p. 53)

Initially Hungary began importing trolley buses from the USSR “but since 1952 Hungary has been making its own” (Helmreich, p. 329)

Construction of a new express metro also began: “The first line, which was to be completed during the Five-Year Plan, was to run a distance of eight kilometers (five miles) from the People’s Stadium to Szell Kalman Square, crossing the Danube at Kossuth Square. The design was very ornate, in the style of the Moscow subway.” (Helmreich, p. 329)

“industrialisation, it was recognised long before 1945, was the chief thing that eastern Europe needed… and what it lacked was capital and the impetus to develop. The plans now provide both the impetus and the capital for transforming the agrarian half of Europe into an industrial economy. They are the framework for the industrial revolution.” (Warriner, p. 79)

At this time the United States imposed economic sanctions against Hungary and banned Americans from traveling there.

“The object of American policy in enforcing the embargo on trade… is to build up western Europe for strategic reasons, and to check the spread of communism. The use of the economic weapon against eastern Europe is a consequence of the revolution, and its purpose is to cripple the plans.” (Warriner, p. 164)

“From the east European standpoint, the economic weapon certainly does harm, in that it makes the plans harder to realise and slows down the rise in the standard of living. But it does not neutralise the really vital change, the fact that the people of eastern Europe have an economic future. To reverse that direction, to return to the stagnation of the past, would now be impossible. Looked at in terms of material resources the plans are what the region essentially needed. Looked at in terms of human life they are what the region needed too – they mobilise untouched resources of human energy and enthusiasm. They have brought material benefits to the mass of the impoverished peasants and workers; and not only material benefits; they have released an immense social potential…” (Warriner, pp. 170-171)

The table below gives an idea of the extent of the growth in construction (employees in thousands).

Source: Borsányi & Kende

Hungarian economy in 1930 according to Kovrig (p. 29):

Agriculture, forestry, fisheries 51.8%
Extractive industries 1.3
Industry 21.7
Commerce and finance 5.4
Communications 3.9
Public services and professions 5.0
Other 10.9

Hungary’s own mining industry was not developed enough yet, so Soviet help was invaluable. At the same time, the Hungarians were able to sell their new industrial products to the USSR:

“The fact that Hungary belonged to the socialist world system became one of the essential conditions of her economic prosperity. In spite of the fact that Hungary is poor in raw materials, she managed to establish a fairly advanced industry founded upon the Soviet Union’s raw material basis. Related figures can help illustrate the point. In 1955, the share of the Soviet Union in Hungary’s annual import was 28.2 per cent, the corresponding figure for exports to that country was 32.2 per cent. The overwhelming majority of Soviet deliveries were raw materials. Of the raw materials used in Hungary in 1955, 71 per cent of the iron ore, 80 per cent of the pig iron, 30 per cent of foundry lead, 81 per cent of sulphur, 81 per cent of raw phosphate, 77 per cent of native soda, 30 per cent of synthetic rubber, 80 per cent pine timber and 55 per cent of raw cotton were imported from the Soviet Union. At the same time, machines and engineering products accounted for over 50 per cent of Hungarian deliveries to the Soviet Union, a figure corresponding to almost 20 per cent of the annual output of Hungary’s engineering industry.” (Janos Berecz, 1956 Counter-Revolution in Hungary)

Nationalists, Titoists and other reactionaries always claimed that the Soviet Union was oppressing and exploiting Eastern European countries but economist Warriner states categorically that even though Hungary paid war reparations to the Soviet Union “…certainly Russia is putting more into eastern Europe than it is taking out.” (Warriner, p. 166)

“Hungarian leaders actually requested Soviet advisors, rather than having them imposed by Moscow.” (László Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: between the United States and the Soviet Union, p. 201)

“figures for road traffic since the war show enormous development, but it must be remembered that growth started from a very low level. Passengers carried in 1937 amounted to 44 million… In 1949, the total was 99 million, and it increased 192 per cent during the Five Year Plan to 290 million in 1953… volume of freight carried in 1953 was approximately ten times as great as in 1937, and nearly four times that in 1950… Streetcars carried 902 million passengers in 1953, almost two and a half times as many as in 1937. City bus lines carried 199 million passengers in 1953, an increase of more than 500 percent since 1937.” (Helmreich, p. 328-329)

Anti-Communist author Hugh Seton-Watson admits that: “industrial output doubled during this period… and labor productivity increased by 63 per cent” (Imre Nagy On Communism, p. xv)

Even highly anti-communist historian Helmreich admits that as a result of the Five Year Plan:

“Hungarian industry nearly tripled” (Helmreich, p. 395)

In the typical fashion, Pryce-Jones criticizes the plans for industrialization as too fast, but admits that “Industrialisation in itself was necessary and impressive” (p. 38)

“We must get down to the job of preparing a Five Year Plan of economic development, and a Ten Year Plan embracing electrification and irrigation. We shall reduce and, as far as possible, abolish income derived from exploitation” (Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary)

In 1951 Rakosi said:

“the production of our factory industry has increased to nearly twice that of 1938… to-day a number of industrial goods are manufactured which were not produced in Hungary before the Liberation. The production of our Socialist industry was 35 per cent, higher last year than in 1949. It has developed more in one year than during twenty years of capitalism.

At our first Congress, I mentioned as a considerable success the fact that the living standard of the workers and employees had reached 97 per cent, of the 1938 level. Now, I can record that the workers’ and employees’ wage fund has increased by more than three milliard forints during 1950 and that the average wage of workers in December, 1950, was fifty-nine forints higher than a year ago. National income last year, the first year of the Five-Year Plan, has increased by 20 per cent., which is more than during two decades of the Horthy era.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)

“The Three Year Plan was fulfilled ahead of schedule… and the targets of the first year of the Five Year Plan (1950) were overfulfilled.” (Henrik Vass, Studies on the History of the Hungarian Working-Class Movement (1867-1966), pp. 327-328)


“The Hungarian Five-Year Plan (1950-54) was planned to bring about an 86 per cent increase in industrial production over that of 1949 and an increase of heavy industrial production of 204 per cent during the same period. In five years the production of means of production was planned to increase 17 times. Hungarian industry, aided by the Soviet Union, will produce for the first time diesel engines, complex machine-tools and technically-developed mining equipment. But, once again, history has run ahead of even the boldest of perspectives. The first year of the Five-Year Plan exceeded all prevision and in the first months of 1951 the plan was radically revised – upwards.” (Klugmann, From Trotsky to Tito)

“During the Five-Year Plan we wished to double our output of steel, coal and electric power. We have realised these objectives not in five, but in three years. We have also realised our goal of transforming our country from an agrarian country with a developing industry, into an industrial country with an advanced agriculture. By the end of last year the output of our manufacturing industry was triple that of the last pre-war year… Our objective to increase the number of industrial workers by 300,000 in five years was attained in three years. Thereby, unemployment, the gravest threat to the working people, has been done away with… During the past four years the number of social insurance beneficiaries has risen by 1,650,000 and, at present, nearly 60 per cent of our population are covered by social insurance. We enacted a law on mother and child care. Family allowances for large families have trebled in three years. We have abolished the rationing system, a survival of war-time economy. In the first three years of the Five-Year Plan we built thousands of cultural centres, cinemas and public libraries in the villages and in the factories. Last but not least, we have built up our People’s Army, the guardian of our peace and socialist future.

I believe, Comrades, that the Hungarian working people have a right to be proud of these achievements.” (Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953)

“Now we are just about to complete the third year of our Five-Year Plan. On the basis of the present results it can be said that we have fulfilled the targets of our augmented Five-Year Plan, and in fact we have overfulfilled it in the case of coal.” (Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly)

“The rate of development of our coal production is rapid when compared with that of the capitalist countries. In Hungary per capita coal production has doubled as compared to 1938, but in Britain, whose mines were not at all damaged by the war, it has not yet reached the 1938 level. In Western Germany it is less than 75 per cent of the level of the last year of peace. This year per capita coal production in Hungary is 40 per cent higher than in France.” (Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly)


“The Stakhanovite movement, a system organized by the Russian shockworker Stakhanov who exceeded his norms in record-breaking fashion, is widely used in Hungary. In fact, from only 5,000 Hungarian Stakhanovites in 1949, the number jumped to 63,000 in February 1953.

Among the several Hungarian movements are the Gazda movement (named for a Hungarian shockworker), aimed at saving raw materials by reducing the number of rejects; the Nazarova movement, a contractual system, aimed at making workers responsible for their tools and machines; and the Koznietzov movement, similar to the Nazarova.

There are movements: for improving methods of production (Innovation movement) and increasing production (Loy movement). The Roder movement, similar to the Soviet “experience exchange,” encourages shockworkers and Stakhanovites to take over less efficient workers and show them the methods by which they can increase production and decrease rejects. Two movements concern the voluntary extension of working hours: under the Ten-Minute movement, the workers pledge to arrive ten minutes early to set up their tools and machines; and under the Five-Minute movement, the workers stay five minutes later cleaning the workshops…

In bigger plants, Stakhanovite Schools press for “outstanding” results in production. There are Schools of Reciprocal Training, Schools of Outstanding Quality Production, Raw Material and Material Saving Schools, Schools of Quick-Processing Methods, Schools of Increasing Profitableness, and so on.” (Ernst Helmreich, Hungary, p. 279)

However, there were reactionary conservative elements too:

“Budapest Stakhanovite, Jozsef Kiszlinger… a skilled worker in the highly unionised heavy-engineering sector, had ‘endless problems with the older [workers]’ when he tried to improve his own work performance.” (From the vanguard to the margins: workers in Hungary, 1939 to the present: selected essays by Mark Pittaway, p. 65)

At the second congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, Rakosi said:

“The Soviet Union helps us in the building of our most modern factories, give us its best machines, most up-to-date manufacturing processes and, what is no less important, puts its best scientists and ace workers at our disposal. The best engineers and technicians of the Soviet Union, led by Academician Bardin, the world-famous foundry expert, have visited us, people whose advice and guidance means a service to us which cannot be overestimated.

Comrade Bikov was here and passed on his experience in the field of fast cutting. Comrade Zuravlyov taught our foundrymen the method of quick smelting. Comrade Petrov, the chief foundry-man of the Stalin Automobile Factory, passed on his experience in the fields of casting and foundry work. Comrade Dubyaga helped us to transfer to the multi-machine system in the textile industry. Comrade Annanyeva taught our spinning workers how to decrease scrap to the minimum in the spinning mills. Comrade Shavlugyin taught our bricklayers the fast bricklaying method. Comrades Maximenko, Koba and Zuyev developed a whole team of Stakhanovites among our building workers. Comrade Panin taught the Hungarian engine drivers to increase the average speed of our railways. Filimonov, Padgarov and Logvinyenko gave help to our miners in acquiring methods of handling mining machinery, and so on…

It is well known that the Hungarian Stakhanovite movement increased tremendously, following the passing on of work methods by the Soviet Stakhanovites. Their pupils are Imre Muszka, turner, who passes on his methods of work in the Matyas Rakosi Works; Ignacz Pioker, carpenter in the Egyesult Izzo Works; Lajos Kugler, rolling-mill worker in Diosgyor, whose brigade is the best in the country; Sandor Szoczei, the locksmith, who received the Kossuth prize; Mrs. Arpad Ormai, the weaver, who received the Kossuth prize; Mrs. Janos Makar, who works on sixteen weaving machines in the Hungarian Cotton Works; Erzsabet Piszkei, who works on twenty-two automatic machines in Gyor; Barnabas Varga, Tata-banya miner, who received the Kossuth award for his outstanding work; Jozsef Dietrich, Stakhanovite miner; Andras Tajkov, the best miner in Tatabanya; Zoltan Pozsonyi, the building worker, who received the Kossuth award; Jozsef Lengyel, the best engine driver; and hundreds and thousands of those Stakhanovites who form the vanguard of Hungarian Socialist industry…

The transplantation of the highly developed Soviet Socialist methods of production to Hungary is being speeded by visits of our engineers, workers and specialists to the Soviet Union, and by students studying at the universities of that country…

It must be mentioned that in the field of the exchange of experience and mutual aid, a similar relationship is being formed with the countries of the friendly Peoples’ Democracies. Experience acquired by the Peoples’ Democracies and its exchange is also important for the reason that the conditions of development in these countries are, by and large, similar to ours and, therefore, these useful experiences can easily be transplanted to our country.

The Council for Mutual Economic Aid [comecon] and the fact that an increasingly larger part of our foreign trade is carried on with the Soviet Union and the friendly countries having a planned economy, have greatly contributed to our peaceful development.” (Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party)


“Nationally, the state planned to recruit seventy-six thousand women into industry over the course of the first five-year plan. This drive to recruit women was combined with a campaign to subvert older gender hierarchies by breaking the male monopoly over certain skilled trades. A policy of affirmative action was introduced to ensure that a minimum of thirty to fifty percent of training enrolments for skilled work were filled by young women… [There was] furious resistance of male skilled workers rooted in gendered notions of hierarchy…“ (From the vanguard to the margins: workers in Hungary, 1939 to the present: selected essays by Mark Pittaway, p. 84)

Communists came out with slogans such as “women into university, technology, Parliament” (Árpád Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért)


Even according to anti-communists Aczel and Meray:

“the overwhelming majority of the new generation fully identified itself with that Party.”
(Aczel & Meray, p. 39)

“they went out on “house-to-house agitation,” did “cultural work,” lectured on Marxism-Leninism, delivered election speeches, and sacrificed all their spare time for the Party. Those who think that this was mere careerism… clearly ignore the feverish emotions burning in a young Communist.” (Aczel & Meray, p. 43)

“In this war-torn country, life returned to normal within a miraculously short time. The ruins, instead of depressing the people, seemed to serve as a challenge. Within a few brief months, the whole country hummed like a busy beehive” (Aczel & Meray, p. 40)

“The Communists’ popularity grew, and this was due to a large extent to the fact that, consciously and purposefully, they always presented programs that served the interests of the poorest strata but, at the same time, benefited the entire nation…” (Aczel & Meray, p. 41)

“The smiling faces and the overcrowded shops were arguments in favor of those who had now seized power and who were managing the country’s affairs…. The ecstasy of rapid and somewhat unexpected success was present everywhere. A kind of dizzy exaltation swelled the heart and numbed the brain.” (Aczel & Meray, p. 71)

“Opportunities abounded, particularly at the lower rungs of the ladder and in government employ: there were jobs to be had, apartments to be occupied at subsidized rents, places in schools reserved for the children of workers” (Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, p. 176)

“It is important… to keep in mind (much as you may dislike to hear it) that… non-Communists of the highest talent and experience play along freely with the Communists, and take part in their administrations.” (Behind the curtain, p. 40)

“Budapest is a totally different thing from Belgrade… The people on the streets are better dressed… My wife kept saying that she hardly dared go out, because she felt shabby in comparison to the enormously pretty young Hungarian women. The cafés are animated, and almost everybody makes jokes… Goods of excellent quality are available in the shops” (Behind the curtain, p. 165)

“We strolled up Vaci Utca… and Andrassy Boulevard… The shop windows are full of handsomely designed leather goods, women’s shoes and sandals, silk haberdashery, furs, perfumes. Antique shops had Florentine candlesticks and massive Hungarian hand-painted furniture… at a bookstore… The place of honor in the window was held by a translation of a new novel by Ludwig Bemelmans. And in addition to the inevitable Upton Sinclairs and Theodore Dreisers, we saw books by Pearl Buck, Somerset Maugham, Louis Bromfield, Evenly Waugh. The kiosks told us that a play by J. B. Priestley was a hit, and that you could see both Shaw and Shakespeare.” (Behind the curtain, p. 168)

“we visited a factory, the Manfred Weiss works on Czepel… The factory is completely nationalized… The average wage… was 700 forints a month ($60.00) for unskilled labor, and 800 up for skilled. Also a modified Stakhanoff system is in operation, with bonuses for piecework. If a worker becomes ill, he is on full wages for the first six weeks; then he gets 65 percent of his wages for a year” there are “twenty-five days of vacation at full pay, and eight holidays… The workers get free milk, and pay only a token fee for lunch; they get clothes and so on at sharply reduced prices. The plant has, on the Russian mode, a theater, free schools, a nursery, clinics for pregnant women, a college for adult education, various clubs and culture “corners”, and a large playground and athletic field. We watched two football teams scrambling together, and some tennis matches. Always, visiting a new city behind the Curtain, we would try to keep one question foremost in mind: “Is this regime really doing something for the people?” Visiting this factory anyway we felt that the answer was a fairly clear Yes.” (Behind the Curtain, p. 171)

Gunther spoke to a man named “Dr. Y.” who was briefly in jail for Nazi sympathies: “He was treated well enough in jail, and then released… He said that there was no “hot” terror, no violent excesses” but instead “No one will hire him since he is suspect”. “Several Hungarians we talked to gave us the same impression. Nonpolitical people go about quite freely without surveillance; there was little thought of a rap on the door at midnight, and the Gestapo bursting in. A professional man told me, “With my own eyes I saw women and children shot by the Germans as they ran down the streets in terror, and their bodies… hurled into the river!” Nothing remotely like this, he went on, goes on today.” (Behind the curtain, pp. 172-173)

“Jozsef Révai was not far from the truth when, speaking to an American journalist who inquired about the “terror” in Hungary, he said that such a contention was at variance with facts. “If as a seasoned reporter,” he said, “you walk the streets of our capital for only an hour, you find the answer yourself. No guards patrol the streets, traffic policemen are unarmed, you are not asked to identify yourself, not even if you travel from one end of the country to the other. Hungarian democracy employs 28,000 policemen and 12,000 soldiers. No other country in Europe has fewer. Our strength lies in our democratic workers and peasants.”” (Eric Roman, Hungary and the victor powers, 1945-1950, p. 198)

Journalist “Demaree Bess.. had no difficulty entering Hungary, “found very little mystery about what is going on,” and talked to everyone he wanted to meet” (Edgar Snow, Stalin Must Have Peace, p. 98)

“There were after all important empirical signs of improvement. The government could abolish the rationing of most of the foodstuff, the reconstruction of the destroyed cities was well on its way, people’s colleges were organized, the tertiary educational system was opened for all… cultural life was thriving.” (Agnes Heller, Legitimation Deficit and Legitimation Crisis in East European Societies)

In contrast “food rationing in Britain only ended in 1954… ‘It was queues for everything, you know, even if you didn’t know what you were queuing for… you joined it because you knew there was something at the end of it'” (Judt, p. 163)

Economist Warriner also wrote that in “Hungary… consumer goods are conspicuously plentiful and cheap.” (p. 116)


Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962*

Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary: from Kun to Kādār

Jörg K. Hoensch, A history of modern Hungary

Rakosi, Speech Delivered at the Election Rally of the Hungarian People’s Independence Front in Budapest on May 10, 1953

Rakosi, Unity congress of the Workers’ Party of Hungary

Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party

Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly

Rakosi, Strengthening the People’s Democratic Order

Péter Gál & Gyula Németh, Hungary: A Comprehensive Guide

Zsigmond Móricz, Relations

Zsuzsanna Borvendég & Mária Palasik in “In the Name of the Great Work: Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and its Impact in Eastern Europe” ed. Doubravka Olšáková

Zinner, Revolution in Hungary

Stone, Hungary: A short history

László Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: between the United States and the Soviet Union

Ernst Helmreich, Hungary

Shawcross, Crime and compromise: Janos Kadar and the politics of Hungary since revolution

Klugmann, From Trotsky to Tito

Gunther, Behind the curtain

Hungarian Central Statistical Office, 1993

Warriner, Revolution In Eastern Europe

Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary*

Janos Berecz, 1956 Counter-Revolution in Hungary*

Hugh Seton-Watson, introduction to Imre Nagy On Communism

Henrik Vass, Studies on the History of the Hungarian Working-Class Movement (1867-1966)*

From the vanguard to the margins: workers in Hungary, 1939 to the present: selected essays by Mark Pittaway

Árpád Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért

Aczel & Meray, Revolt of the mind

Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

Eric Roman, Hungary and the victor powers, 1945-1950

Edgar Snow, Stalin Must Have Peace

Agnes Heller, Legitimation Deficit and Legitimation Crisis in East European Societies

See also Erno Gero’s discussion of theoretical aspects of Stakhanovism in Hungary: “About the Stakhanovite Movement in the People’s Democracies”

*Nemes, Borsanyi & Kende, Berecz and Vass are kadarist revisionist authors. They correctly describe the successes of the first 3 years of the Five Year Plan but falsely accuse the increased plan targets of being ultra-leftist and causing problems. This topic will be covered when we start discussing the rise of Hungarian revisionism.

“Toivo Antikainen – fearless fighter, talented human being” by Mirjam Tiilikainen

Source: SKP – Taistelujen tiellä (1945). Translated by ML-theory blog.

When we speak about the Finnish communist party’s path of struggle, we cannot neglect speaking about Toivo Antikainen, an exemplary revolutionary, fearless fighter and honest comrade. There were no peaceful idle days, no rest, no carefree times in the life of Toivo Antikainen, Toiska, instead there was work and struggle, heroic deeds of bravery and devotion to our dear cause, the struggle for the welfare and happiness of our people. It is exactly because of his determination in struggle, never wavering, and because of his burning devotion, that Toivo Antikainen has meant so much for our party and is so liked, not only in Finland, but also beyond our borders.

It is futile to even attempt in a short article, to fully describe the life and work of Toivo Antikainen. It has been too rich in experience and too complicated. He was born in Helsinki in 1898 to an upholsterer [furniture textile maker] family. Already at the age of 7, Toivo had to take part in providing for the family by selling newspapers. At a very young age he joined “ihanneliitto” [social-democratic children’s organization] and social-democratic youth league where he soon became a frontline fighter due to his burning energy and motivation. Toiska participated in the 1918 revolution with all the energy of his youth, by organizing red guard divisions, inspiring the youth with his fiery speeches to rise to battle and to be resilient in it, and by taking part in a variety of different activities.

After our revolution suffered defeat, Antikainen moved to Soviet-Russia, where he immediately joined the military of the new socialist state – the Red Army – to continue fighting for freedom and workers’ rights. He understood that the young soviet state was the friend and support of the workers in our country, and that’s why he took part in defending it with his full enthusiasm. Antikainen participates in the defense of Petrograd against Yudenich, repels invasions by Finnish white guards in Aunus in 1919, goes after plunderer invaders in the North with the Finnish VI regiment etc.

Antikainen is the first student in the Finnish red officer courses, where he graduated in 1919 as a commander. He gets additional education in the International military school as head of a machine gun command committee, is steeled and earns experience on the front against Yudenich, in Aunus, Karelia and again in Aunus. His troops fought bravely and fearlessly, and those who were with Toiska in battle never forget his courage, initiative and sense of humor, which was present even during the worst attacks. Toiska managed to cheer up his own troops, to make the enemy ridiculous. There probably aren’t as many stories and jokes about any other Finnish fighter then Toiska. Old revolutionaries, partisans and military school students still tell them to each other, smiling.

– – –

Winter 1921-22. Again the Finnish white guards attack Soviet-Karelia, conquering by surprise large areas. The leadership of the Red army makes a bold plan, which the commander of the Karelian military region, A. Sedjakin, gives to a ski company, formed from the students of the International military school and lead by Toiska, to carry out.

According to the plan, the ski troops of Antikainen were to enter enemy territory, and once there, destroy enemy units that came in their way, discover the locations of the enemy command and destroy them, capture Repola and from there advance to Kiimasjärvi without delay. There was no information regarding the enemy’s strength in Repola or Kiimasjärvi. Only one who knows the nearly impenetrable Karelian forests, tall ridges and harsh winter can understand all that this mission involved. Nobody expected the Red army to embark on such an impossible mission, and thus it came as a total surprise to the white guards. The forces of Antikainen travelled 1000 km on skis on unmarked paths, fought a dozen battles, destroyed the enemy command and supplies, and thus caused their resistance to break. Crossing Kiimasvaara was the most dangerous part of the mission. Carrying their skis, wading in the deep snow, in the darkness of night and snowstorm, becoming more exhausted every minute, the forces heroically advanced forward. Toiska inspired and encouraged his troops, helped carry burdens of the most tired and organized support for them. They advanced from stone to stone, every step ahead was a victory. Some went missing during that bleak, dark winter night, but most made it. In the greyness of dawn the peak of Kiimasvaara was conquered. The village of Kiimasjärvi, where the white guards, completely oblivious, were carrying out their morning routines, was visible. The ski company rested for a while, until Toiska’s command was heard: on your skis, towards the enemy. At that moment these excellent skiers and brave fighters flew down the slope of Kiimasjärvi like a snow fall, and the white guards were completely taken by surprise. The village was taken, one of the most beautiful stories of heroism, and legendary missions of the Soviet civil war, ended victoriously. Toivo Antikainen and the 26 other participants of the mission were awarded with the highest honor of the time – the Red Flag medal. Many songs have been made in honor of that mission. Gennady Fisch wrote a novel about it [Падение Кимасозера / The fall of Kiimasjärvi / Kiimasjärven valtaus, 1933] and Lenfilm made the movie “For the soviet motherland” [За Советскую Родину (1937)].

– – –

The military career of Toivo Antikainen steeled him into a fearless fighter. At the same time he immersed himself to Lenin’s theory, he became a communist. The success and development of the Finnish workers’ movement was always on his mind. Toiska loved our country in his own unselfish way. When fighting in the ranks of the Red Army on different fronts, he was inspired by the thought that while fighting against white guards of different countries, especially Finnish, he is fighting against the enemies of the Finnish working class, who are bringing our nation to disaster with their adventurist and warlike policies. But Toivo Antikainen knew that the Finnish working class had to create the basis of their happiness and well-being through their own struggle. He took part in founding the Finnish Communist Party and organizing the revolutionary youth movement in Finland. It’s understandable that youth organizing was especially close to him. Toivo Antikainen also enthusiastically takes part in the work of the Comintern and receives recognition and responsibilities. The Comintern Executive Committee recommends him to leading party work and in 1923 Toivo Antikainen is elected into the C.C. of the Finnish Communist Party, and he has consistently, as much as circumstances have permitted, been participating in the party’s leadership. Toiska’s untiring work ethic, initiative and energy have been an antidote of the best kind against all stagnation. His sharp political intellect, theoretical clarity as well as his revolutionary fighting will and activeness made him the closest comrade in leadership to Kuusinen and Sirola. It was a joy seeing Toiska fighting for the party’s line against distorters and opportunists. His clever points and sense of humor quickly convinced even the most wavering to side with the party’s line. When needed, Toiska didn’t hesitate to step into the most dangerous position – leadership of the immediate work of the party.

6th of November 1934, the State Police managed to capture Toivo Antikainen. We remember the stages of the court case, lying accusations, pressuring (even murder – Rask) of witnesses, lying under oath, the campaign of slander by the newspapers, and the other methods by which they tried to make a murderer out of Antikainen, and thus weaken the trust of the working class and the people in him and the party. But Toivo Antikainen didn’t surrender. Proudly rang his words:

“Who am I, what do I aim for? I am a bolshevik, a responsible worker in a party belonging to the Communist International. I have kept as the principles of my work, the teachings and instructions of Marx and Engels, of their most devoted students, further developers of their thought, builders of socialism and leaders of the world proletariat – Lenin and Stalin, program and decisions of the Comintern, instructions and decisions of the Finnish Communist Party.”

Because of the brave presentation of Antikainen, which was so much above that of his lowly accusers, and due to the trust he had earlier won by working among the working masses, the case garnered a lot of attention both in our country and abroad. Here, in Sweden, America, France, Norway and Denmark there was a large campaign for his release. However, Toiska was given a life sentence.

Six years he had to be separated from his comrades, among criminals or in a lonely cell. Even in prison he won the trust and admiration of his fellows because of his honest and down to earth conduct. Toiska’s health suffered much during these years, but when in 1940 he was released at the demands of the Soviet government – and due to the ceasefire agreement he was able to move to the Soviet Union – he once again began taking an active part in the work, his enthusiasm and energy were the same.

The people of Karelia, who had not forgotten their heroic liberator, showed him their confidence by electing him to the Supreme Soviet of the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Republic. When German-Finnish troops attacked the Soviet land, Antikainen again embarked on the familiar path of struggle. During the war that has now ended, he worked as a liaison officer on the Karelian front, and taught new cadres with all his enthusiasm. The words of the famous Danish author Martin Andersen Nexø from the time of the Antikainen court case fit him most excellently:

“He is one of those extraordinary people who inspires souls wherever he is. Over the whole Karelia he worked like a beacon light, wherever he plunged to visibility. . . Stories were told about him, he became a creature of legend, which he deserves. Good fortune in battle and ingenuity in battle came to life in him. An awesome volcano, fearless fighter, and exceptionally talented human being.”

Some thoughts on the sources of khrushchevite revisionism

I’m going to further develop the ideas expressed in this article and write about this topic in greater detail with more sources, once I have more time to research.


Among self-described anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists, one often hears two basic explanations: one view is that Khrushchev came to power in a plot. Another view is that there were serious mistakes in Soviet policy, which gave rise to Khrushchevite revisionism.

While admitting that Khrushchev came to power in an undemocratic coup, some characterize the “plot theory” as naïve and superficial. They say that it is wrong to believe “everything was fine” in the USSR until Stalin died, and ‘evil revisionists’ simply ‘suddenly came to power’. As marxists, they seek the answer in material conditions of society (and the ideological conditions arising therefrom). However, in my opinion they go too far in one extreme, they over analyze every ideological position in the Stalin era USSR (especially in its later period) to try to find the roots of Khrushchevism.

Some of them blame the Soviet Union for being too patriotic, such as this particularly bad ultra-leftist article:

“During the war there was, understandably, an upsurge of national feeling against the Nazi aggressors, but Stalin encouraged this far beyond a point compatible with the proletarian internationalist principles on which the Soviet state was based… Although the process of degeneration was not completed in the Soviet Union until sometime after the war, it was already well advanced in 1939.” (“The Origin and Development of Revisionism in the Soviet Union” by M. F.)

The article also claims that “thousands of innocents” were killed on Stalin’s orders, because he was “isolated from the masses”, “had no mass line” and that the trials of titoists in Eastern Europe were “frame-ups”. The article makes countless other false statements.

Others, such as the Russian Communist Workers’ Party (which recently adopted a position, uniting with blatant Russian revisionists and defending Russia in the inter-imperialist war), have claimed that the Stalin Constitution of 1936 was one of the reasons for the rise of Khrushchevite revisionism. They write that the election rules of the Stalin Constitution

“were prerequisites for a parliamentary system divorced from labor collectives… contributed to… bureaucratization of the whole system of state power.” (100 years since the Great October Socialist Revolution and the lessons for contemporary сommunists – REPORT OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE RUSSIAN COMMUNIST WORKERS’ PARTY (RCWP-CPSU))

Was everything fine in the USSR under Lenin and Stalin? Things are never “absolutely” correct or “absolutely” fine. But the party and state generally followed a correct policy. I do not accept the suggestion that the line of Stalin was so seriously flawed that it “gave rise to revisionism”. Some people seem to believe it is necessary to blame Khrushchev on Stalin era mistakes, or else we don’t have a materialist explanation for Soviet revisionism. That is false.

It is fundamentally wrong to attribute revisionism to Stalin, as it would mean attributing revisionism to the opponents of revisionism, equating revisionism and anti-revisionism. In reality there were two opposing tendencies: the correct line of Stalin, and the revisionist line of Khrushchev. Those who blame Stalin, accuse him of falling into right-deviationism, which gave rise to Khrushchev, but that’s wrong. In reality, Malenkov and his supporters (possibly also Beria) were the ones who represented right-deviation. Khrushchev also supported Malenkov’s foreign policy and even Molotov and Kaganovich went along with it. But Malenkov’s position of lessening tensions and lessening ideological struggle, was totally the opposite of Stalin. In reality it seems that Malenkov was the one who paved way for Khrushchev.

We can find certain elements in Stalin era (and Lenin era) policy which were later distorted, re-interpreted and re-used by Khrushchevite revisionism, but that doesn’t mean the roots of Khrushchevite theories are actually in Lenin or Stalin era policies. All revisionism is distortion of marxism, and as a result it always takes certain elements from marxism and twists them.

People often claim “Stalin must have been wrong, because he failed to prevent revisionism”. In a sense that is true, but as long as capitalism exists, it will always create revisionism. There was nothing Stalin could’ve done to prevent revisionism from ever appearing. Stalin’s only failure was that revisionists actually captured state power after Stalin had already died. Stalin was not able to predict and create a theory about Modern Revisionism, Soviet Revisionism, but that is not a mistake in any typical sense. We wouldn’t say Marx was wrong and made “rightist mistakes”, or whatever, because he didn’t have a theory of Imperialism.

It is well known that Stalin predicted capitalist restoration would only succeed if there was a foreign invasion of the USSR. Obviously that did not happen, largely because Stalin was able to prevent any such invasion by strengthening the defensive capacity of the USSR. However, Stalin actually predicted that revisionists would try to come to power through a trotskyite-bukharinite plot. He did not fully foresee Modern Revisionism, but he closely predicted certain aspects of it.

People look for the roots of Khrushchevism in the Soviet economic base and structure of the state. But in my opinion, they will not find Khrushchevism there. The truth is that Khrushchevism can be seemingly “discovered” within the Soviet economy and superstructure only because socialism still suffers from remnants of capitalism both in “bourgeois right” and “in the minds of the people”. Khrushchevite revisionism is not a product of Stalin’s mistakes, Khrushchevite revisionism is a product of capitalist influence, capitalist remnants.

So how should we understand the Khrushchevite coup? It is not entirely naïve or superficial to claim Khrushchevites primarily came to power in a conspiracy and not as a result of any slow degeneration or rightward deviation. The Trotsky-Bukharin group tried to come to power through a conspiracy. The roots of trotskyism and bukharinism do not lay in “Stalin’s flaws” or “Lenin’s flaws” but in capitalist remnants and capitalist influences which are inevitable until socialism achieves final and complete victory.

Similarly, the group of Khrushchev and Mikoyan came to power in basically a conspiracy, and there are many similarities between them and the Trotsky-Bukharin group. Khrushchev advocated a rightist line basically akin to Bukharin (which was supported by the entire Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites). Khrushchev’s accusations against Stalin are basically fundamentally trotskyist, and it is quite possible Khrushchev would have even rehabilitated Trotsky if it hadn’t been prevented by other members of the Central Committee (mainly Molotov and Kaganovich). As a result of resistance by genuine marxists, Khrushchev was able to only condemn the criminal prosecution of bukharinists and trotskyists, but not their ideological annihilation by Stalin.

Based on their actions, it is entirely possible (and even likely) that Khrushchev and Mikoyan belonged to the Right Opposition or the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites in the 1930s (in fact, sources have claimed as much). In the 1930s Khrushchev and Mikoyan tried to hypocritically give completely boundless praise to Stalin and to foster a cult around Stalin, which was actually a common bukharinist-trotskyist tactic practiced e.g. by Bukharin and Radek.

“The links between Trotsky and Khrushchev were not merely political, theoretical and ideological. The memoirs of Kaganovich reveal that in 1923 and 1924, Khrushchev had been a member of the Trotskyist opposition. At the end of 1924 he ‘realised’ his error and admitted it. He requested Kaganovich to shift his area of work so that he could make a break from his earlier political links. After consulting Stalin, Kaganovich had transferred him to new areas of work. Khrushchev, argues Kaganovich, later conducted good work against the deviation of the right opposition. He was later promoted as the secretary of the Moscow Committee… Commenting on the activities of Khrushchev in his years of power based on his experiences, and after reading the memoirs of the former Soviet leader, Kaganovich argued that: it turned out that Khrushchev did not prove to be a simple chameleon, but a ‘recidivist’ of Trotskyism.” (Vijay Singh, Some Reflections on ‘Khrushchev Lied’ by Grover Furr)

We can see from history that the bourgeoisie will use spies and traitors against socialism. We have seen this not only from the case of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites, the case of the All-Union Menshevik Bureau, and from the Rajk, Slansky, Kostov and Xoxe cases. We also have the example of Yugoslavia, where a gang of capitalist agents actually successfully took power already in the Stalin era. Why should we approach Khrushchev fundamentally differently from Rajk and Tito? Of course there are differences, but not fundamental ones. Tito came to power in a state which was not a leading super power. As a result Yugoslavia became a US puppet against the Socialist Camp. However, Khrushchev came to power in a world super power, and as a result the USSR developed to an independent imperialist state.

There is nothing inherently naive or superficial in the view that Khrushchev was basically a secret member of the Trotsky-gang, who succeeded in the criminal plot attempted by Trotsky.

What would Trotsky have done if his plot had succeeded? He would’ve killed Stalin, and would’ve claimed he saved Soviet democracy “from bureaucracy”. Possibly the assassination of Stalin would’ve been hidden or obscured somehow. Khrushchev also claimed he saved the USSR from Stalinist “despotism” and characterized Stalin as an anti-democratic bureaucrat. Khrushchev was required to mask his revisionism better than anyone else had done up to that point, and that is a special feature of Soviet Revisionism. However, the other revisionist traitors (Trotsky, Bukharin, Tito) rationalized and justified their policies by claiming that they represented genuine Leninism, and perhaps only special conditions resulted in them not covering up their views even better. What special conditions?

The Trotsky-Bukharin opposition had an established tradition, established views and supporters. They adopted those views openly which supported their political goals. Those views were noticeably different from the line of the Bolshevik party, which made their revisionism easily recognizable, but that is because they were competing with the party line. Tito based himself on chauvinism and also competed against the Bolshevik line. Khrushchev achieved power inside the Bolshevik party, and did not lead a movement outside it. He also worked at a time when the opposition movements were already long dead. As a result, he had definite reasons to choose the tactic he did, i.e. posing as an “orthodox” Marxist-Leninist, only making “corrections”.

That being said, were there any particular ideological or economic factors which actually contributed to the rise of Khrushchev? Of course there were. After WWII there was a noticeable rightist danger. Dimitrov stated at the 7th comintern congress that popular front tactics are correct, but lead to an increased rightist danger (“We must increase our vigilance…bearing in mind that the danger of Right opportunism will increase in proportion as the wide united front develops more and more”.). The same goes for People’s Democracy which was being built in Eastern Europe, and similar tactics which were being used by western communist parties, as well as the broad Peace Movement which was a key focus of the USSR. It would be wrong to conclude that any of these tactics (People’s Democracy, Popular & United Front, Peace Movement) were mistaken or false, but they obviously contained risks, just like every tactic.

The coalition between the USSR and the Western Allies during WWII also led to deviations, which are best exemplified by Browderism. Khrushchev and Malenkov adopted certain similar positions with Browder related to “Peaceful Coexistence”. There was also a spontaneous and legitimately harmful tendency towards right-deviation caused by the objective economic and ideological conditions in the post-WWII period in the USSR. There had been a coalition with the West, an increased influence of Western culture, emphasis on anti-fascist unity, national unity and a lessening of struggle between certain sections of the Soviet intelligentsia etc. This was combated already in the Stalin era in the increased vigilance campaigns in art, science and culture starting in 1947, in the campaigns against “servility towards the West” (cosmopolitanism). Stalin and his comrades understood the problem and acted correctly. These policies were reversed by Malenkov and Khrushchev and were never restored, though Brezhnevites adopted a relatively more anti-Western position from the standpoint of Russian chauvinism.

In my opinion there was a spontaneous tendency towards the Right in the post-war environment because people were exhausted by war. They wanted consumer goods, relaxation and entertainment. However, there was also the opposite tendency, which was by no means bound to fail. This opposite tendency was the class conscious socialist tendency, which understood the necessity for increased industrialization, increased vigilance, re-equipping of the defense forces, and was enthusiastic for the post-war reconstruction and the march towards construction of Communism. The difference is that the Rightist tendency was spontaneous while the correct tendency was conscious. When the leadership of the party was decapitated, by the death of Stalin, but also of Zhdanov and others, the new leaders did not continue providing class conscious leadership but instead introduced muddled and confused views that fed spontaneity and were fed by spontaneity.

Malenkov, Beria and Khrushchev all had similarly muddled views, which (apparently) Molotov and Kaganovich also were fooled into tolerating. I am talking about individual leaders here, and marxists often times think individuals don’t matter at all, and that only economic factors and classes have influence. But actually the position of Marxism-Leninism is that individual political leaders represent classes. It is not meaningless who is the leader. It was never meaningless whether Trotsky or Lenin became leader, or whether Trotsky or Stalin became leader. It was a very important question. In the exact same way, it was not an insignificant fact that the most powerful post-Stalin figures were muddleheaded and made rightist mistakes (e.g. Malenkov), or were outright traitors (Khrushchev in particular).

Someone might ask, how did Malenkov end up making such mistakes, or how did he end up holding so much power if his grasp on theory was so poor. The fact is, as Lenin says in “Marxism and Revisionism”, new conditions always create new possibilities for revisionism and mistakes. Bukharin was not an idiot either, far from it, and yet he was completely misguided and wrong, which turned him into an enemy of the working class. Everyone makes mistakes, but as Lenin says in “Left-wing communism, it only matters how quickly one realizes and corrects those mistakes. The only way to remain on the correct path is to have a firm basis in Marxism-Leninism, and the most important principle of Marxism-Leninism is class struggle. Malenkov clearly forgot that principle and Khrushchev hired his “theoreticians” to try to theoretically justify abandoning it.

Molotov and Kaganovich were not stupid either, nor were they disloyal to Marxism-Leninism. And yet they did not fully understand the shift towards the Right, nor the nature of Khrushchevite revisionism. It is clear from Molotov’s memoirs he did not understand it clearly. Other brave and honest fighters, very intelligent and even ingenious people such as M. Rakosi also did not fully understand it. He considered Khrushchevite revisionism in Hungary (Kadarism) to be a social-democratic restoration, and did not clearly see it as a qualitatively new kind of revisionism, Modern Revisionism. Stalin was only a person, but still an exceptional person, whose theoretical leadership allowed the party to follow the correct path. It is not an exaggeration to say that many smart people fell into mistakes when they no longer had Stalin to instruct them.

However, Marxist-Leninists, such as Molotov, Rakosi, Revai, Bierut, Chervenkov and many others (not to mention Zhdanov, Dimitrov, Gottwald etc., had they been still alive*) understood that Malenkov was a Right-deviationist who was forgetting class struggle, and that something similar was true of Khrushchev. Their class instinct warned them about Khrushchev, even though they did not have a theory of Modern Revisionism yet. I do not want to characterize them as hopelessly inadequate to understand the situation. They were only temporarily shaken and fooled, which cost them everything.

*I wonder if it is a coincidence that Stalin, Zhdanov, Scherbakov and Dimitrov died under suspicious conditions while in the USSR. Vyshinsky died mysteriously in New York in 1954. Gottwald died at Stalin’s funeral while Bierut died at the 20th congress of the CPSU. Despite probably not even being marxist-leninists, but only his rivals, even Abakumov and Beria were executed secretly by Khrushchev.

Why did they lose the struggle? They did not have the special theoretical genius needed in a situation like that. None of them was Lenin. None of them was Stalin. Of course they also had many other problems. Molotov, Kaganovich and Rakosi were forced to maneuver under revisionist pressure. They were also caught off guard. The escalating world situation scared many people into accepting Malenkovist appeasement of the West. There were many factors, but the simple generalization is that every new situation creates new possibilities for mistakes. There were both objective necessary conditions, as well as accidental conditions which helped Khrushchev. They coincided with the death of Stalin and Zhdanov, which weakened the party’s theoretical level severely. This was not something inevitable, nor was it rooted in mistakes.

However, Khrushchevite revisionism necessarily was a qualitatively new kind of revisionism, much more refined, much more dangerous than any previous revisionism. As Lenin said in “Marxism and Revisionism” the struggle between revisionism and genuine Marxism only increases as the revolutionary process proceeds. Trotskyite revisionism was a new and more dangerous vanguard of world reaction. That role was later taken up by Tito. But conditions to defeat those existed, and Marxism-Leninism triumphed. Khrushchevite revisionism was a new and even more dangerous, higher form of anti-marxism posing as Marxism. It would’ve taken exceptional skill (subjective factor) and certain conditions (objective factor) to prevent it. Those were lacking, and Marxist-Leninists were defeated.

In the future the same will not be repeated, because we now understand what Modern Revisionism is. We now understand revisionism much better then ever before. Mistakes are still inevitable, but every time Marxism and the revolutionary process advances further. The victory of Marxism is actually inevitable, although it requires intense sacrifice, devotion and hard work.

HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY IN THE USSR: Debate on Menshevising Idealism (1930-31)

This article is a continuation to a previous article “HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY IN THE USSR: Mechanism VS Dialectics (1920s)”.

Less than a year after the condemnation of mechanism by the dialectical school headed by Deborin, the Deborin school itself came under severe criticism. They were accused of ‘menshevising idealism’ or idealistic mistakes and slipping towards menshevik positions:

“In point of fact, it was before the first controversy had ended, while Deborin and his followers, during its closing years, were definitely gaining the upper hand, that a feeling arose among a large group of thinkers that neither of the contending schools was working out the kind of philosophic program and structure that were really needed. The feeling was that Deborin, and those who thought with him, had performed a necessary and valuable service in contending against the mechanists and exposing their errors, but that their own philosophical outlook suffered from… grave defects… they had lost touch with the very rapidly, and, indeed, momentously developing social and economic situation of the whole Soviet experiment, particularly, the problems centering round the introduction of the first Five Year Plan, and the building up of the collective farm movement. This area of problems found little reflection in the work of Deborin and his group (any more than in the work of the mechanists); hence arose the charge of the divorcement of theory from practice.

It was the intention to accuse Deborin not so much of outright, full fledged adherence to “menshevism”… but of a tendency, inclination or movement in that direction. It was as much as to say, if he is not a menshevik, he is at least talking like a menshevik; he is menshevising, and if we do not stop him, he will become, once again, a complete menshevik… before the revolution, he had been in fact a genuine menshevik. Philosophically, this meant an adherence to the views of Plekhanov, the intellectual leader of the menshevik faction, rather than to those of Lenin, the leader of the bolsheviks. It meant the belief that Plekhanov was the guiding philosopher of the movement rather than Lenin.” (Somerville, Soviet Philosophy: A Study Of Theory And Practice, pp. 221-223)


“The character of the group which rose up in opposition to Deborin… emphasized… the social and political contribution which they felt the philosophy ought to make to the currently developing reality. They were rather strict Leninists, and inclined to show little leniency towards the shortcomings of Plekhanov. Among their leading figures were Mitin and Yudin…

It was… Deborin’s lack of a sharp orientation in the social and political sense that made Mitin accuse him of idealistic tendencies, that is, tendencies to deal with ideas apart from their connections with things.

We noted at the outset that one of the principal objections made to the work of Deborin and his followers was that they allowed theory to become divorced from practice. To understand this charge, we must go back to the event which had originally set the ball of controversy rolling. This event was the now famous speech delivered by Stalin at the Conference of Agrarian Marxists. This conference took place in December, 1929, in the midst of the titanic struggles to collectivize the land… In the course of his talk, which was mainly devoted to theoretical questions, or rather to the relation between certain theories and certain matters of practice, Stalin took occasion to make the remark which became so well known, and played such a large part in the philosophical discussion.” (Somerville, pp. 224-225)

Stalin said:

“But if we have reason to be proud of our practical successes in the field of socialist construction,” he said, “it is quite impossible to say the same about our theoretical work in the field of economics in general, and in rural economy in particular. More than that: it is necessary to recognize that our theoretical work is not keeping up with our practical successes, that there is a gap between practical achievements and the development of theory. Meanwhile, what is necessary is that theoretical work should not only keep pace with the practical, but should move in advance of it, arming the practitioners in their struggle for the victory of socialism.” (Stalin, Concerning Questions of Agrarian Policy in the U.S.S.R., Speech Delivered at a Conference of Marxist Students of Agrarian Questions, December 27, 1929)

“What this meant in reality was the relation of philosophical work to the great practical problems.” (Somerville, p. 226)

“In this speech Stalin was severely critical of a number of theories at that time current in Soviet cultural life, for instance the mechanist theories of ‘equilibrium’ and ‘samotek’ [or automatism]… “ (Gustav Wetter, Dialectical Materialism, pp. 132)

The theory of equilibrium was Bukharin’s mechanist distortion of dialectics, which he took from the revisionist Bogdanov. The theory of samotek was another mechanistic theory which implied that history progresses inevitably and automatically regardless of consciousness. That is a one sided theory as it doesn’t understand that although history progresses due to material conditions, those conditions are expressed in ideas. For the proletariat, and in socialist society, this is even more the case. As Marx said:

“theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.” (The Introduction to Contribution To The Critique Of Hegel’s Philosophy Of Right)

“It was the opinion of Mitin and his group that… neither the Deborinites nor the mechanists understood the gravity of the social situation; both were insensitive to their philosophic obligations in the face of it. They were not doing their part… “to find the laws of the transitional period,” i.e., the transition from NEP to socialism. It was that situation around which, as Mitin felt, the philosophic work should mainly revolve, whereas the Deborinites were principally preoccupied with problems of interpreting the history of philosophy. Meanwhile, in regard to sociological matters, it was Bukharin’s theories which, by default, as one might say, were left to stand in the field… It was such conditions that gave rise to Mitin’s charge of divorcement of theory from practice, and “scholasticism” on the part of the Deborin group.

The issues were discussed at length in a philosophical conference which met for three days in October, 1930. Everyone concerned presented his views. Among the leading speakers on one side were Mitin and Yudin, and on the other, Deborin, Karev and Sten. The closing stages of the discussion were marked by Deborin’s admission that his leadership had been faulty, and that he had not carried out his philosophic obligations in the face of the very serious social problems confronting the people. The consensus of opinion was that philosophic work should proceed along the lines indicated by Mitin’s group.” (Somerville, p. 227)

“On 25th January, 1931, in its resolution concerning the journal Pod znamenem marxizma [Under the banner of Marxism], the Central Committee of the Party condemned both mechanism and Deborinism, and demanded of the new philosophical leadership a war on two fronts in philosophy also:

‘In the field of philosophy the journal must wage a relentless struggle on two fronts: against the mechanist revision of Marxism, as the chief danger at the present time, and also against the idealist distortion of Marxism on the part of comrades Deborin, Karev, Sten and others.’

The Deborinists were accused, above all, of having separated philosophy from politics, theory from practice. They were rebuked for not having understood that Leninism represents a new epoch in philosophy, a reproach directed at their high opinion of Plekhanov. All the same it is noteworthy that it was mechanism which was described as the ‘chief danger’ at the present time.” (Wetter, p. 135)

“Lenin… had prescribed a critical attitude towards the Hegelian dialectic, and called for it to be reformed on materialist lines and applied to the concrete reality of the proletarian struggle for existence. Deborin, however, had done neither the one nor the other. In the first place the Deborinists had taken over the Hegelian dialectic as it stood, without transforming it into a materialist dialectic. They had supposed that in Hegel’s philosophy it was only the system that was idealistic, the method itself being a materialistic one…

In addition to their unmodified acceptance of the Hegelian dialectic, the Deborinists had committed a further error in taking an entirely abstract view of the dialectic, without applying it to the concrete problems of Soviet reality. Their whole activity had been occupied almost exclusively with Hegel’s Science of Logic, without taking any account of the questions of the day, the problems of politics and economics, the dictatorship of the proletariat and its struggle for the establishment of socialism. For them it was only the dialectic of logic that counted, not the dialectic of reality and the social struggle…

But it was not only in this Hegelian conception of dialectic that the idealism of the Deborinists presented itself… Their conception of matter is almost equally erroneous. They banish from it, indeed, everything which constitutes, in the Leninist view, the essential nature of matter, namely its character as an objective reality independent of our consciousness which gives rise to our sensations. The nature of matter in this sense is misrepresented in the definition given by Deborin, whose book Lenin the Thinker begins by framing the concept of matter correctly enough, but then goes on: ‘In the broader sense matter is the whole infinite concrete totality of “mediations”, i.e., ties and relationships’.” (Wetter, pp. 155-156)

“under [Deborin’s] direction the Hegelianizing of Marxism had reached such a point that for three or four years the whole work of the philosophical section of the Institute of Red Professors had been devoted to Hegel’s logic, and the last three or four courses had given no opportunity even for making acquaintance with the work of Feuerbach, let alone that of Marx and Engels.” (Wetter, p. 135)


The Deboring group was seriously criticized for their view on Lenin and Plekhanov. They held the widespread position among ex-mensheviks, that Plekhanov had been the real theoretician while Lenin had only been a practical leader. They did not understand that Leninism was a higher stage of Marxism. They also did not see any flaws in Plekhanov’s theory and did not see any meaningful disagreement between Lenin and Plekhanov. In reality, Plekhanov was a great theoretician, but he also made many serious mistakes.

It should be stated that after the controversy Deborin did his best to correct his mistakes and made a thorough self-criticism. There were a lot of criticisms, but they were fruitful in the end. Deborin said in 1937:

“To speak concretely, let me cite my earlier views on the relation of Lenm and Plekhanov. A number of years ago, I used to be of the opinion, as my published writings show, that Lenin was our great political leader while Plekhanov was our great philosophic leader. I now see that this whole view of the situation sprang out of a false conception of the relation of theory and practice. I now see that Lenin was not only our political leader, but our theoretical leader as well — as a theoretician, greater by far than Plekhanov. Take, for instance, Lenin’s whole theory of imperialism. Plekhanov never worked out any comparable doctrine of the basic aspects of present day capitalism. Then take Lenin’s theory of the state — the whole concept of the Soviet state, which was of such critical importance in the building of socialism. It was Lenin who rose to that occasion in 1917, and not Plekhanov. Again, it was Lenin and not Plekhanov who understood the nature of the imperialist war, and who, consequently, never wavered in his attitude towards it, whereas Plekhanov completely lost his bearings, and adopted a chauvinist position.” (Quoted in Somerville, pp. 223-224)

“Deborin… had taken Plekhanov, the theoretician, as a complement to Lenin, the man of action; he had constituted himself the uncritical apologist of Plekhanov’s entire ouvre” (Wetter, p. 135)

“Long before the Revolution, Deborin’s book, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Dialectical Materialism, had appeared with a friendly preface by Plekhanov which was in great contrast to the remarks which Lenin penned in relation to the work. They were found in the margins of Lenin’s copy of one of Deborin’s chapters, printed in 1909 in advance of the full work. Lenin was greatly given to writing comments in margins, and among the remarks with which he sprinkled Deborin’s chapter were: “inexact,” “clumsy,” “fibs,” and “ne plus ultra of clumsiness.” There is only one favorable comment, “right,” next to an underlined passage.” (Somerville, p. 224)

“the objection was that… Deborin takes over from Plekhanov precisely what is least valuable in him, his apology for Feuerbach, the application of Feuerbach’s anthropological principle to epistemology, the discounting of Lenin’s theory of knowledge (the ‘copy-theory’ [aka. the theory of reflection]), the attempt to solve the epistemological problem of the subject-object relation in terms of purely metaphysical categories without regard for historical and revolutionary reality. The whole nonpolitical, unrevolutionary spirit of Deborin’s philosophy resembles that of Plekhanov’s.” (Wetter, p. 157)

“Elsewhere, in his Introduction to Volume IX of Lenin’s Selected Writings, Deborin modifies his opinion to some extent, maintaining that Lenin and Plekhanov represented different stages in the development of Marxism:

‘There is a difference between Plekhanov and Lenin which reflects what is peculiar to the historical phases of development in the revolutionary movement and the class-struggle of the proletariat.’

To this the [Marxist-Leninists] objected that the most important works of Plekhanov and Lenin, and not only the philosophical ones but also others, such as the polemic against the Narodniks, belong to the same period. Another well-known Deborinist therefore deals with the question in a rather different fashion. In an article in the magazine Pod znameneni rnarxizma he writes:

‘Plekhanov and Lenin are representative . . . not of different periods in the workers’ movement, but of different currents in it and in Marxism, a different type of insight into the same thing.’

But even this approach found no acceptance from the [Marxist-Leninist] point of view. To speak of different currents and tendencies in Marxism is to abandon Marxist-Leninism. It would mean reverting to the standpoint of the Second International, which looked on Marxism as an agglomeration of movements, tendencies, etc.” (Wetter, p. 158)


“the mechanists were accused in their day of having interpreted the negation of the negation to signify a restoration of equilibrium; Bukharin, for example, thought of synthesis, not as the negation of the negation, but as a ‘reconciliation’ of opposites:

‘a unifying position, in which contradictions are reconciled’. [see Bukharin, Historical Materialism, p. 74]

The same objection was also brought against ‘menshevizing idealism’, Deborin, for example, having seen in dialectical materialism a reconciliation of empiricism and rationalism,’” (Wetter, p. 358)

“Mitin… makes it a further objection to Deborin that the latter’s view of dialectic represents a reconciliation of opposites, not a struggle between them. In discussing Kant’s antinomies, Deborin writes:

‘Kant opposed the thesis to the antithesis and attempts to show that the thesis excludes the antithesis, and hence that they cannot be reconciled or resolved. The positive dialectic, on the other hand, sees in thesis and antithesis opposites which are not mutually exclusive, but reconciled one with another.’

Mitin contrasts this view of dialectic with that of Lenin, according to which it is not the unity, but the opposition, which plays the primary role in the dialectic: the unity of opposites is relative, temporary, transient; whereas the conflict between mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, like development and movement itself.” (Wetter, p. 166)


“To sum up, we may say that menshevizing idealism is condemned… firstly as an idealistic tendency in that it offers too many hostages to Hegelianism, adopts the Hegelian dialectic without transforming it materialistically, separates form and content and misconceives the nature of matter; secondly, as a menshevizing tendency, in that it represents a revival of the traditions of the Second International, separates theory from practice, philosophy from politics, failing thereby to practise partisanship in philosophy, over estimates Plekhanov, and underestimates the importance of Lenin in the development of philosophy.” (Wetter, p. 158)


“Since the above-mentioned condemnation of ‘menshevizing idealism’ by the Party Central Committee (25th January 1931), Deborin, having… acknowledged his ‘errors’, has been able thereafter to occupy leading positions in the scientific work of the U.S.S.R. In November 1935 he was elected secretary of the Social Sciences division of the Academy of Sciences, in 1938 we find him on the Council of the Philosophical Institute of the same Academy of Sciences, while in 1939 he was elected to the Presidium of the Academy itself. At present [in the early 1950s] Deborin is a member of the editorial board of the Vestnik, the official organ of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R.” (Wetter, p. 159)

Mitin and his collaborators received some criticism in the mid 1930s for not keeping up with the development of the political situation, but despite this, Mitin was considered a leading Marxist-Leninist philosopher:

“On the occasion of his nomination to ordinary membership of the Academy of Sciences [in 1939], Mitin’s services to Soviet philosophy were appraised by the Vestnik of the Academy as follows: Mitin is ‘one of the foremost researchers in the field of philosophy. For the past 10 years he has been engaged in investigating the problems of dialectical materialism and of the history of philosophy. Among the deepest inquiries devoted to the problems of dialectical materialism are works such as his Boevye voprosy material is ticheskoy dialektiki (Burning Questions of Materialist Dialectics), Engels i dialektichesky materializm (Engels and Dialectical Materialism), Materialist icheskaya dialektika—filosopya proletariat a (Materialist Dialectic—the Philosophy of the Proletariat), Stalin i rnaterialisticheskaya dialektika (Stalin and the Materialist Dialectic). As regards the history of philosophy, particular importance attaches to those works of Mitin which outline the interrelation of ideas between Marxism and classical German philosophy, more especially the philosophy of Hegel (Hegel i materialisticheskaya dialektika (Hegel and the Materialist Dialectic), Istoriya fdosofii Hegelya (Hegel’s History of Philosophy), Filosofiya prava Hegelya (Hegel’s Philosophy of Right). Translations of a number of Hegel’s greatest works are appearing under M. B. Mitin’s editorship (Science of Logic, History of Philosophy). In combination with his scholarly activities, Mitin pursues a thorough-going campaign against mechanist and idealist theories in the field of philosophy. In addition to his academic work, Mitin displays great activity as a lecturer and publicist. He is in charge of the philosophical and socio-political journal Under the Banner of Marxism and is at present Director of the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.’ (Vestnik Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1939, No. 2/3, p. 181.)” (Wetter, p. 179)

In this article I have discussed and criticized Plekhanov and Deborin at great length. However, I want to re-emphasize that Plekhanov was a great theoretician, and Lenin praised some of his philosophical works highly. Certain works of Plekhanov such as “The Development of the Monist View of History” and “The Role of the Individual in History” are classics of Marxism. In other words, it is good and useful to read and study Plekhanov. Plekhanov still failed to understand certain aspects of dialectics and made serious opportunist mistakes in politics, so his work must be read critically.

Deborin also wrote many good works and I also encourage people to study Deborin. Needless to say he also made many mistakes (some were serious, many were not so serious) but this article hopefully can serve as a guide to avoid many of them. But as Lenin said:

“It goes without saying that nobody can be blamed for making mistakes” the problem is when one chooses to persist in them. (Lenin, The Vperyodists and the Vperyod Group)

I also recommend reading the works of M. B. Mitin. You can find some of them collected on this page.


Somerville, Soviet Philosophy: A Study Of Theory And Practice

Stalin, Concerning Questions of Agrarian Policy in the U.S.S.R., Speech Delivered at a Conference of Marxist Students of Agrarian Questions, December 27, 1929

Marx, The Introduction to Contribution To The Critique Of Hegel’s Philosophy Of Right

Gustav Wetter, Dialectical Materialism

Bukharin, Historical Materialism

Lenin, The Vperyodists and the Vperyod Group

“Otto Ville Kuusinen – The iron helmsman of the Finnish Communist Party” by Elli Parkkari (1945)

Source: SKP – taistelujen tiellä (1945)

Translated from Finnish by ML-Theory blog.


It must be said that although for decades O. W. Kuusinen was a leading figure of the old Finnish workers’ movement and the Finnish communist movement, and he opposed various kinds of revisionists and opportunists — he still became a revisionist in his last years. During the “destalinization” period he manifested misguided opportunist views. His views were not identical with Khrushchev’s, but he was tasked to serve as one of the early theoreticians of Khrushchevite revisionism. Mainly he tried to develop the theory of the so-called “state of the whole people” and tactics which in fact covertly advocated a rightist, reformist road to socialism. This is something that must be taken into account when evaluating the career of O. W. Kuusinen.

Otto Ville Kuusinen – The iron helmsman of the Finnish Communist Party” by Elli Parkkari (1945)

Otto Ville Kuusinen, the iron helmsman of the Finnish Communist Party, too little has been said considering his work and great importance, not only for the Finnish but for the international working class movement. And yet, we Finnish communists say it, often and with great pride.

Then who is Otto Ville Kuusinen? The older generation of the Finnish working class, and those who follow political life even a little, know his name and approximately the stages of his life, after all before the Finnish revolution, during it and after it, his name was practically on everyone’s lips. His opponents spoke of him with fear and hatred, the most progressive and poorest part of the population with admiration and love. But these days, especially those who grew into youth or adulthood during the war, didn’t have the opportunity to come to know him other than through the slanders of fascism, with the exception of those few who were lucky enough to perhaps get accurate information about Kuusinen from their relatives.

Otto Ville Kuusinen is above all a child of the Finnish nation, despite his long exile. It was precisely his great love for the Finnish land and people which drove him to the path of struggle, to free his people from the forces oppressing them. This love for his country he has also taught to all those who came within his influence.

He is the son of a tailor from the deep inland of Finland, born in Laukaa 4. of October 1881, finished school in Jyväskylä, graduated as a bachelor of philosophy. However this isn’t the most important part of his life, albeit always menioned with biographical information. Most important is his work in the working class movement, first in the Finnish, then in the Finnish and internationally. This fact has caused him to become an admired, beloved and respected leader, not only for the Finnish but for the international working class and the most progressive circles of all nations.

Kuusinen joined the Finnish workers’ movement during the 1905 events, as one of the so-called “December socialists”. He worked as the editor of the Socialist Periodical all throughout its initially run of publication from 1906 to 1908. He also joined the editorial board of The Worker in 1906, where he worked until 1916, when he moved to work for the social-democratic party to prepare laws and reforms which the social-democratic parliamentary group were planning to present to parliament.

He was elected to parliament for the first time as early as 1908, and then again in every election until the outbreak of the class-war in 1918. It is said about this time:

“He was feared and respected by his political enemies – when the blood-revenge of the white mob and their bloody agitators had not yet poisoned the best of our bourgeoisie. As a speaker and debater he was the sharpest of the sharp, and for that reason was always the first in parliamentary battles. His pen was shining bright and many writings in the Socialist Periodical and countless in The Worker originated from it.”

During the revolution he was the most central figure of red Finland, though because of his modesty he perhaps wasn’t as visible as others. A description written soon after those times says:

“His work, his organizational skill, his motivation and self-sacrifice were even in those times greater than anyone else’s. In the Finnish People’s Delegation [the government of Red Finland] he had the modest post of education minister, but it’s doubtful there was even one part of the People’s Delegation, whose work he didn’t help, and thus he ended up involved in from financial and bank policy, up to the planning of purely military matters.” (O. V. Kuusinen’s obituary in the Social-Democrat 1920 due to his assumed assassination)

These couple of quotations from descriptions of those times demonstrate what importance O. V. Kuusinen had for the Finnish workers’ movement already before the Finnish revolution. Already in those days he was the best theoretician of the old social-democrat party, “the most talented man, that Finnish social-democracy has been lucky enough to include within its ranks”, as an honest estimation stated. But of course these estimations don’t give a full picture of the scope and importance of his work.

After the defeat of the Finnish revolution Kuusinen was forced to move to the Soviet Union together with many comrades who actively participated in it. This marked the beginning of his broad and varied work for the international working class movement, though work on behalf of the Finnish workers was always closest to his heart.

One of the first great tasks after crossing the border was a thorough analysis of the past. Not lamenting the fact that they had risen to fight, but the fact that they hadn’t known how to fight better. Now important lessons had to be learned from the defeat, the reasons, mistakes and results had to be analyzed.

The next task was the founding of the Finnish Communist Party in Moscow in August 1918. But Kuusinen wasn’t satisfied only with a thorough self-criticism* and founding the party as well as leading its work from the other side of the border. He wanted to get to Finland, to the site of struggle and danger despite the fact that getting caught would have meant a certain death sentence. He asked permission from the party to be allowed to work “underground” in Finland, and was given it. His activity in Finland soon bore results and the okhranas** [secret police] began an unusually intense hunt after him. Once he was reported captured and to have been shot while trying to escape. The bourgeois circles and newspapers of Finland naturally celebrated but the working population felt this as a painful attack against itself. However Kuusinen continued his dangerous work and right after the rumor about him being shot, addressed a sharply worded declaration to the Finnish bourgeoisie:

“It is a falsehood that I have supposedly been arrested and shot. You must have shot the wrong man.”

At the same time he criticized the white terror perpetrated by the bourgeoisie, arguing that it is evidence of the fear and weakness of the bourgeoisie and not of strength and courage, and demonstrated that the foundation of capitalism was shaking, the reasons for this and that the mission of the communists, and the entire working class, to be the ones moving progress forward. After working for a time in the harsh underground conditions as a target of constant pursuit by the okhrana, he traveled back to the Soviet Union to continue his work without tiring.

Kuusinen took part in the founding of the Comintern – after all, the Finnish Communist Party was one of the founding parties of the Comintern. Already in the First Congress of the Comintern, gained a lot of international attention due to his sharp intellect and tremendous foresight:

“His noble revolutionary heart blazed in every word he spoke at the congress and its bureaus, in which he actively participated,” was the Comintern’s own evaluation of Kuusinen from the time of this congress. His importance is estimated to have been even greater at the III congress of the Comintern. His theses on “the organizational structure of the communist parties” were presented and accepted at this congress. He was also elected as one of the secretaries of the Comintern and thus recognized as one of the first leaders of the revolutionary working class of the whole world. Kuusinen had to perform responsibilities of many different kinds for the Comintern. His services were needed everywhere even in handling special affairs in the far-East. And everything he performed with the same alertness, foresight and care. No task was too large or too small for him, he always took the time to investigate every issue. His importance in fighting for the correct political line against right- and left-oppositions also cannot be called small. He brilliantly exposed the schemes of Trotskyists as well as Zinovievite-Kamenevite groups, and showed what embarking on their road would mean in the end, not only in the Soviet Union but everywhere in the world. In the VII congress of the Comintern in 1935 he together with Dimitrov was one of the main presenters, and especially in his speech on the youth, he explained what importance and role the youth in particular had in the struggle against fascism and war and in building the popular front. And these congresses were not the only ones where the work of Kuusinen was seen, the work of his hand could be felt in every congress, meeting, and perhaps even more in the otherwise unseen daily work.

Otto Ville Kuusinen, the iron helmsman of the Finnish Communist Party, a beloved leader of the international working class, fighter in the ranks of the Communist Party, – one soldier – like he sometimes has called himself, is still at the helm in his own humble way. Still just as keenly, and with the same love he observes the struggles of the Finnish workers. Here we will tell few of the statements he has said in private recently about our conditions.

“I congratulate you all on the results of the elections! It seems your work has had success. . . but even this result is only the first step in your new great struggle. I won’t try to talk about the tasks ahead, because I am too distant from the movement that has begun there, to know its concrete requirements”

He once again shows how the party is always at the forefront for him, all-important, how even its best leader is only a party worker at his own job, and how necessary it is to lift up and raise new young forces to the work while the old also fulfill their duty with honor. About this he says, among other things:

“It is already time for you young ones to take our place, and besides, we elders don’t plan to sit idly either but will go and fight where the party orders us to.”

And later he points out:

“As far as I’ve been able to observe your work, I have no doubt that your course till now has been the correct one. If in the future too, you can avoid at least the bigger mistakes, the quality of your work will only improve.”

These few short quotations from Kuusinen’s words show, with what warmth and interest he is still involved in our work, ready to give advice, ready to evaluate mistakes and ready to join the work on the ground, right away when it is possible.

An entire book could be written about Otto Ville Kuusinen, about his work in the Finnish and international working class movement, and even then not everything would be said. In an outline as short as this, even the most important parts of his life so rich in experience, can’t be described, but his life continues, and still just as bright, and the coming days and years certainly bring still new great tasks, the solving of which, require exactly the sharp intellect, attentiveness, warm heart and humility of someone like Otto Ville Kuusinen, who the majority of the workers in all countries, not the least in Finland, have learned to rely on.


* Kuusinen wrote a very important pamphlet titled The Finnish Revolution: A Self-Criticism. It is available in a text or audio versions.

** Okhrana was the tsar’s secret police but it was customary for Finnish communists to call the Finnish secret police the same thing.

HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY IN THE USSR: Mechanism VS Dialectics (1920s)

This series of articles will discuss the development of philosophy in the Soviet Union.


“The period of the twenties in Soviet Russia was marked by an extended controversy in science and philosophy over the relative merits of dialectical and mechanistic materialism. There were actually two prongs to the discussion. One issue was whether or not the principles of dialectics, part of the official Marxist philosophy, were applicable to the natural sciences. The other issue was the actual definition of the principles of dialectics.

The initiative in this controversy was taken by a group of natural scientists who maintained that natural science discovers its laws by empirical research, and should not be subject to the imposition of preexisting philosophical laws. Their early spokesman, O. Minin, said that philosophy had to be thrown overboard together with religion… [and his slogan was] “overboard with philosophy… In addition, they favored the models of mechanics as the basis for scientific explanation, and many of the scientists believed that the principles of dialectics could actually be expressed in terms of mechanics. In this contention they found support from Bukharin in his Historical Materialism

Resistance to this attack was organized among a group of philosophers led by A. M. Deborin at the Communist Academy, an organ of the Central Committee of the Party. A Society of Militant Materialist Dialecticians was organized, and support was gained from philosophers at the Lenin Institute, the Marx-Engels Institute, and the Institute of Red Professors… The position of the dialecticians was given further valuable support in 1925 by the Marx-Engels Institute’s publication of two important fragmentary works, Engels’ Dialectics of Nature and portions of Lenin’s philosophical notebooks.” (Raymond A. Bauer, The new man in Soviet psychology, pp. 24-25)

The debate between mechanists and dialecticians centered around the following main topics:
1. Many mechanists considered that philosophy was unnecessary and the only thing needed was natural science, or that the role of philosophy was very small, while dialectical materialists considered philosophy to be very important.
2. Mechanists considered that motion was mechanical, i.e. simple and not contradictory, while dialectical materialists considered that motion was due to contradictions and interactions.
3. Mechanists considered that motion was external to objects and phenomena while dialectical materialists considered motion to be inherent inside objects and phenomena.
4. Mechanical materialists were fatalistic determinists, considering that freedom doesn’t exist. Dialectical materialism holds a dialectical view of freedom and necessity.
5. Mechanical materialists were a heterogeneous group of revisionists and many also held vulgar materialist views and anti-marxist views in general.


“mechanists… believed that the positive science had virtually eliminated the need for philosophy.” (Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the bolshevik revolution, p. 114)

O. Minin distorts the view of Lenin and Plekhanov, claiming their discussions of philosophy were mere “slips of the pen”:

“Both V. I. Lenin, and Plekhanov also, employ old-fashioned terms such as “the philosophy of Marxism”, “the philosophical implications of the natural sciences” and so forth, but these terms as used by Lenin and Plekhanov are merely slips of the pen and nothing more. In fitting out and trimming the ship of science we must take care to throw, not only religion, but also the whole of philosophy overboard.” (O. Minin, Overboard with Philosophy, 1922, quoted in Wetter, Dialectical Materialism pp. 129-130)


“To the mechanist the concept of force is the means of explaining causal relationships in the world. Since his theoretical model is that of a machine which responds or adjusts to external force, there would be no initial motion in the system without the application of external force. The mechanist sees the world as consisting of rigid, isolated elements, so that if force is applied at one point it is transmitted by these rigid elements to other elements and so on. If forces equal in magnitude but opposite in direction are effective on the same point, no motion results but an equilibrium is established… Bukharin’s conception of equilibrium was a good example of this approach. To him society was a system which adjusted to the natural environment. The internal structure—the state of equilibrium within the system— is a function of the system’s external equilibrium. In such a scheme, the initiative always rests in external factors. This is illustrated by Bukharin’s statement: “We may say of a system that it is in equilibrium if that system of itself, without the application of external energy, cannot change its condition.” [N. Bukharin, Teoriia Iistoricheskogo materializma, p. 76]”

Bukharin talks about two kinds of contradictions, ones internal to the system and ones between the system and its external environment. He says the external contradiction is primary, while the internal is only secondary:

“It is quite clear that the internal structure of the system (its internal equilibrium) must change together with the relation existing between the system and its environment. The latter relation is the decisive factor” (Bukharin, Historical materialism, p. 79)

That is a completely anti-marxist position! Bauer sums up the criticism of the dialecticians correctly:

“The dialecticians argued that motion is an inherent property of matter, while the mechanists considered motion to be a property that is imparted to matter from without. The dialecticians contended that the mechanists’ position involved the positing of a prime mover to set matter in motion, and thus led to such concepts as God… This difference in interpretation of the nature of force is a key to understanding how certain Marxists who considered themselves to be dialecticians were criticized as being mechanists.” (Bauer, pp. 26-27)

The classics of Marxism understood the source of motion to be internal contradictions:

“A motionless state of matter is therefore one of the most empty and nonsensical of ideas — a “delirious fantasy” of the purest water.” (Engels, Anti-Dühring)

“Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things… and that the struggle between these opposites… constitutes the internal content of the process of development” (Stalin, Dialectical and historical materialism)

“The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their “self-movement,” in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the “struggle” of opposites… [this view] alone furnishes the key to the “self-movement” of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to “leaps,” to the “break in continuity,” to the “transformation into the opposite,” to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.” (Lenin, On the Question of Dialectics, in his Philosophical Notebooks)

Dialectical-Materialism holds that motion and development are constant and absolute, while rest and balance are only relative and temporary:

“The unity… of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute.” (Lenin, On the Question of Dialectics, in his Philosophical Notebooks)

“All rest, all equilibrium, is only relative” (Engels, Anti-Dühring)

The classics of Marxism held that matter is uncreated, uncreatable, indestructible and eternal. It does not need a creator because it has always been:

“Thus we have once again returned to the point of view of the great founders of Greek philosophy, the view that the whole of nature, from the smallest element to the greatest, from grains of sand to suns, from protista to men, has its existence in eternal coming into being and passing away, in ceaseless flux, in un-resting motion and change, only with the essential difference that what for the Greeks was a brilliant intuition, is in our case the result of strictly scientific research in accordance with experience, and hence also it emerges in a much more definite and clear form.” (Engels, Dialectics of Nature)

“the eternally repeated succession of worlds in infinite time is only the logical complement to the co-existence of innumerable worlds in infinite space… It is an eternal cycle in which matter moves, a cycle that certainly only completes its orbit in periods of time for which our terrestrial year is no adequate measure, a cycle in which the time of highest development, the time of organic life and still more that of the life of beings conscious of nature and of themselves, is just as narrowly restricted as the space in which life and self-consciousness come into operation; a cycle in which every finite mode of existence of matter, whether it be sun or nebular vapour, single animal or genus of animals, chemical combination or dissociation, is equally transient, and wherein nothing is eternal but eternally changing, eternally moving matter and the laws according to which it moves and changes. ” (Engels, Dialectics of Nature)

“Whereas only ten years ago the great basic law of motion, then recently discovered, was as yet conceived merely as a law of the conservation of energy, as the mere expression of the indestructibility and uncreatability of motion, that is, merely in its quantitative aspect, this narrow negative conception is being more and more supplanted by the positive idea of the transformation of energy, in which for the first time the qualitative content of the process comes into its own, and the last vestige of an extramundane creator is obliterated.” (Engels, Anti-Dühring)

“Motion is therefore as uncreatable and indestructible as matter itself” (Engels, Anti-Dühring)

“It already becomes evident here that matter is unthinkable without motion. And if, in addition, matter confronts us as something given, equally uncreatable as indestructible, it follows that motion also is as uncreatable as indestructible.” (Engels, Dialectics of Nature)

Engels further says “the creation and destruction of motion… presupposes a creator.” (Engels, Dialectics of Nature)

Lenin and Stalin both referred to Heraclitus’s statement:

“Speaking of the materialist views of the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, who held that “the world, the all in one, was not created by any god or any man, but was, is and ever will be a living flame, systematically flaring up and systematically dying down”‘ Lenin comments: “A very good exposition of the rudiments of dialectical materialism.” (Stalin, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, quoting from Lenin’s philosophical notebooks)


“The mechanists were criticized for being rigid determinists. They argued that chance or accident were merely the products of our ignorance: “. . . in reality they think that only necessity exists. Accident is a product of our ignorance, and therefore exclusively a subjective phenomenon.” To the extent that the dialectic view of accident can be disentangled from Hegelian terminology it is this: Certain elements in a situation are more relevant than others for the problem at hand. The analyst concentrates on these elements, and factors external to his scheme of analysis, but which may impinge on the events with which he is dealing, he calls “accidents.” “Hence the accidental may be defined as a cause which is not directly related to the lawful inner development of a given phenomenon. It appears as something external in relation to it. That is to say there may be two or more quite independent series of causes and effects which may intersect, and this intersection is accidental.”

The mechanists, in holding to the view that chance is incompatible with causality, are accused of failing to distinguish between the relevant and the irrelevant. The essence of the difference is that to the person looking into the past, “complete” determinism makes sense since the relevance of events can be judged on the basis of the effect they have produced. The person looking into the future does not have such wisdom of hindsight, and he must make some decision before the fact of the relevance of the factors involved since he cannot take all conceivable variables into consideration.” (Bauer, pp. 30-31)

As Engels explained, in trying to deny accidents mechanical materialism actually lowers everything to the level of mere accidents:

“chance is not here explained by necessity, but rather necessity is degraded to the production of what is merely accidental. If the fact that a particular pea-pod contains six peas, and not five or seven, is of the same order as the law of motion of the solar system, or the law of the transformation of energy, then as a matter of fact chance is not elevated into necessity, but rather necessity degraded into chance” (Engels, Dialectics of Nature)

Mechanical materialism was perhaps the most serious threat in the history of Soviet philosophy. The debate between mechanists and dialecticians started in the realm of philosophy of science, because most of the mechanists were natural scientists and not philosophers. They advocated a simplistic position which underestimated the importance of philosophy. They had a tendency of saying that the “simple facts” discovered by science should be accepted at face value, and philosophy should simply repeat those findings. They did not question the methodology they had inherited from the capitalist class, and instead of developing a methodology of science based on Marxism-Leninism, they wanted to twist Marxist dialectics into the typical mechanism used by non-dialectical capitalist scientists and philosophers of science. However, the Soviet mechanists still claimed to support dialectics and claimed that in fact they were the real dialectical materialists. This confusion is exemplified by their slogan that “dialectics is mechanist”.

The mechanists also seriously underestimated the subject matter of philosophy. They believed that philosophy can only closely follow the findings of natural sciences, and thus it was only an appendage to science instead of having any possibility to develop relatively independently. Of course materialist philosophy must base itself on science and make generalizations based on scientific findings, but as Marx and Engels noted, philosophy has often been very much ahead of natural science, and philosophy at the end of the day is a separate and theoretical discipline. Most philosophical discussions and debates do not in fact merely summarize recent scientific findings, but discuss much more broad theoretical topics.

The way of thinking of the mechanists “might be characterized as an extreme empiricism. The word “extreme” here would have reference not only to a total exclusion of opposing philosophic tendencies, but also to a certain “untheoretical,” literal minded quality which attached to their conceptions and methods… “Materialism” to them meant a thorough reliance upon the methods and findings of
experimental and exact natural science, which alone, in their view, was capable of coming to close grips with “matter” in its various phases. They did not hesitate to refer to themselves as “mechanists,” and to advocate the mechanistic terminology, not only in the philosophy of nature, but in the philosophy of history and society as well.” (Somerville, Soviet Philosophy: A Study Of Theory And Practice, pp. 213-214)

The mechanists claimed that only natural science could reach an understanding of matter. But matter is a philosophical category. A narrow empiricist might list various forms of matter: “matter is particles”, “matter is energy”, “matter is waves”, “matter is electro-magnetism”, but those things do not exhaust the category of matter. As Lenin said:

“Matter is a philosophical category denoting the objective reality which is given to man by his sensations, and which is copied, photographed and reflected by our sensations, while existing independently of them.” (Lenin, Materialism and empirio-criticism)

One of the leading mechanists was the future leader of the Right-Opposition, Nikolai Bukharin. He explicitly claimed that dialectics can be adequately explained mechanistically:

“It is quite possible to transcribe the ‘mystical’… language of Hegelian dialectics into the language of modern mechanics.” (Bukharin, Historical Materialism, p. 75)

Lenin had always maintained that Bukharin did not understand dialectics. During the trade union debate of 1921 Lenin said that Bukharin replaces dialectics with eclectics, i.e. mere mechanical combination:

“Bukharin’s fundamental theoretical mistake, which is substitution of eclecticism (especially popular with the authors of diverse “fashionable” and reactionary philosophical systems) for Marxist dialectics.” (Lenin, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin)

Lenin had consistently attacked Bukharin’s mechanism and his use of revisionist and capitalist theories. Lenin particularly criticized Bukharin’s reliance on the anti-dialectical empirio-criticist Bogdanov:

“Lenin… particularly disliked what he called the use of “Bogdanovist gibberish” instead of “human language,”… Over and over again he greeted them with “ugh!”, “ha, ha,” “eclecticism,”” (Cohen, p. 114)

“Bukharin came out openly in favor of certain aspects of mechanism in his book, Historical Materialism… his opponents attacked not only his nomenclature, but his basic conceptions and theories, particularly the doctrine of social equilibrium, as being mechanistic.” (Somerville, p. 219)

Precisely what the mechanist group asserted was that the dialectical conception of nature, properly understood, was the mechanistic conception. Thus [mechanist] Stepanov flatly entitled one of his articles, “The Dialectical Understanding of Nature Is the Mechanistic Understanding.”” (Somerville, p. 215)


“The mechanists had gone so far as to advocate, for instance, that the study of the history of philosophy be scrapped in higher institutions… Just as the mechanists were prone to “play down” the study of the history of philosophy as such, they were inclined to belittle the role of classic philosophers in relation to the development of dialectical materialism. These tendencies came out with particular clarity in the voluminous discussions centering around Hegel and Spinoza… they probably would have been glad to forget all about Hegel. But they were not permitted to do so. Hegel became an issue. The “dialecticians” accused the mechanists of failure to comprehend the significance of the fact that Marx and Engels had built on Hegel, had profited immensely from the study of Hegel, and had advised everyone to do likewise.” (Somerville, p. 218)

Lenin wrote:

“the contributors to [the philosophic journal] Pod Znamenem Marksizma must arrange for the systematic study of Hegelian dialectics from a materialist standpoint, i.e., the dialectics which Marx applied practically in his Capital and in his historical and political works” (Lenin, On the significance of militant materialism)

“In the discussion centering around Spinoza, the main question concerned the significance of his work for the philosophic constructions of dialectical materialism. The mechanists— in particular, writers like Axelrod and Timianski— were disposed to make short shrift of the matter by declaring Spinoza an outright idealist. Deborin and his group, however, were inclined to see great value in Spinoza, both as a dialectician and as a materialist. Properly taken, they argued, that is, taken in the light of his historical movement and direction, Spinoza belonged to materialism. They were ready to hearken back to Plekhanov’s conception that dialectical materialism could be characterized as a certain form of Spinozism.” (Somerville, pp. 218-219)


“In 1929 the controversy came to a head. The immediate occasion of the crystallizing of the long debated views was the meeting in April of the Second All-Union Conference of Marxist-Leninist Scientific Institutions. This was a gathering made up of delegates (229 in number) from all the important scientific institutions of the country. All the leading figures were present and took part in the debates… The leading report was delivered by Deborin, and, in the end, as part of its proceedings, the conference voted a resolution on it which acted as a kind of official condemnation of mechanism.“ (Somerville, p. 220)

Points 6 and 7 of the resolution contain the direct and concrete reference to the mechanist position:

“The most active revisionist philosophical tendency during latter years has been that of the mechanists (L. Axelrod, A. K. Timiriazev, A. Variash, and others). Carrying on what was in essence a struggle against the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism, not understanding the foundations of materialist dialectics, substituting for revolutionary materialistic dialectics a vulgar evolutionism, and for materialism, positivism, preventing, in point of fact, the penetration of the methodology of dialectical materialism into the realm of natural science, this tendency represents a clear departure from Marxist-Leninist philosophical positions.

“The conference considers it necessary to continue the systematic criticism and exposure of the mistakes of the mechanist school from the point of view of consistent Marxism-Leninism.

“The most important problems confronting the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism are the further development of the theory of dialectics, and the thorough application of the method of dialectical materialism both in the field of social science . . . and natural science.

“The crisis through which the contemporary theory of natural science is passing is a continuation of that crisis which has already been analyzed by Lenin. The present successes of natural science do not fit into the pattern of the old, mechanistic, formal logic theories. Here, bourgeois philosophy paralyzes
itself, attempting to utilize the crisis in natural science for its own ends. However, a genuine solution of the fundamental difficulties of natural scientists can be attained only by applying the method of materialist dialectics.” (Quoted in Somerville, pp. 220-221)

“the appearance (in 1925) of Engels’ hitherto unpublished work Dialectics of Nature… heartened the supporters of dialectical materialism… The dialecticians took yet further courage from the first publication, in 1929, of Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks” (Wetter, Dialectical Materialism, p. 130)


“the mechanists see something mystical, teleological, in the notion of dialectic. Bukharin accused Marx and Engels of having bequeathed to the proletariat a world-outlook by no means free from ‘a certain teleological flavour which inevitably clings to the Hegelian formula which speaks of a self-development on the part of “spirit”

In spite of this the mechanists themselves make use of the term ‘dialectic’, though interpreting it in their own mechanistic fashion. Bukharin proposes, in place of the ‘mystificatory’ dialectic, to found Marxism on the ‘theory of equilibrium’, which ‘would constitute a more general formulation, purged of idealist elements, of the laws governing material systems in motion’…

One outcome of this basic conception is the denial of quality, and of the emergence of new qualities. The mechanists taught that phenomena of higher order are attributable to those of lower order” (Wetter, pp. 140-141)

“In the social and political field, mechanism brought forward the theory of spontaneity. The latter represents a radical economic determinism according to which socialism will come about automatically, spontaneously, by natural necessity, in the course of the social and politico-agrarian development of the national economy, in consequence of the socialization process in the towns (industrialization), without the intervention of the collective class-will, without class-warfare in the countryside, without an active struggle for the collectivization of the economy… The class-war and the dictatorship of the proletariat thereby lose their significance…

In the mechanistic theory of samotek [I would translate this as “spontaneity” or “automatism”, the idea that development happens automatically regardless of consciousness] we may see the precise reason why mechanism finds no acceptance in Leninist Bolshevism: the mechanist thesis, which admits only of quantitative changes, leads to the denial of development by leaps and maintains that all such development is continuous. Evolution proceeds steadily, and not in jerks. Mechanism therefore implies the elimination of class-contradictions and avoidance of the class-struggle. Bukharin, the leading exponent of mechanism, was in fact accused of cherishing the hope that the larger peasants [kulaks] would move peacefully over to socialism.” (Wetter, p. 142)


I quoted various authors who stated that the mechanists were mostly natural scientists and not philosophers. This is true, but the group of mechanists did also include philosophers. These philosophers were actually a very heterogeneous group of revisionists, utopian socialists etc.

“the authors reckoned as mechanists… themselves differed considerably in opinion one from another… The mechanists include both the vulgar materialists of the early years of the Soviet regime, such as Minin and Enchmen, and natural scientists… Among the mechanist philosophers, the most prominent is Bukharin, who applied the philosophy of Bogdanov to historical materialism and political economy, and endeavoured to supplant the materialist dialectic by his well-known ‘theory of equilibrium’. Finally, there are various other philosophers who are reckoned as mechanists, such as Axel’rod and Sarab’yanov, of whom the latter, however, is more of a positivist or subjective idealist, and Varyash, who ranks as a disciple of Freud.” (Wetter, pp. 142-143)

Trotsky also supported not only Freud but also a mechanistic view of society:

“Trotsky favored a fusion of Freudian theory and Pavlovian method” (Bauer, p. 54)

“[Marxist-Leninist philosopher] Mitin also draws attention to a further affinity on Trotsky’s part towards mechanism, rightly detecting in him opinions symptomatic of mechanistic materialism… Trotsky maintains phenomena of higher order to be deducible from those of lower order:

‘Psychology, in our opinion, is reducible, in the last resort, to physiology, and the latter in turn to chemistry, physics and mechanics… The same may be said of sociology… Society is just as much a product of the development of primary matter as the crust of the earth or an amoeba. Thus it is that scientific thought, with its diamond-drill methods, can penetrate from the most complex phenomena of social ideology to matter and its constituent elements, the particles and their physical and mechanical properties.’” (Wetter, pp. 173-174)


“The victory of the dialecticians was announced in April 1929, the same month in which Bukharin and other members of the Right opposition were stripped of much of their political power.” (Bauer, p. 26)

In the end some of the mechanists actually realized their mistakes and corrected themselves:

“comrades Perelman, Sarabjanov*, have appeared in the press criticizing mechanistic errors, first of all their own, and so are gradually joining in our common work.” (V. Adoratski, E. Kolman, A. Maksimov, M. Mitin, P. Judin, V. Raltgevitsh, “Questions of the day on the philosophical front”)

*Sarabjanov had already criticized Bukharin’s philosophical views despite himself being a mechanist at the time (Somerville, p. 219)

The physicist A. K. Timiryazev also went on to have a very successful career as a scientist and communist.

Ivan Skortsov-Stepanov died in 1928 right before the condemnation of mechanism, and Stalin praised him at his funeral:

“staunch and steadfast Leninist… Comrade Skvortsov-Stepanov devoted his whole life of brilliant labour to the cause of the victory of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” (Stalin, To the Memory of Comrade I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov October, 1928)

Bukharin never corrected his erroneous and opportunist views.

Soon after the defeat of the mechanists, the leader of the “Dialecticians” A. M. Deborin, and the entire “Deborin school” were also criticized for idealist and semi-menshevik mistakes – but that will have to be the topic of the next episode. . .


Raymond A. Bauer, The new man in Soviet psychology

Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the bolshevik revolution

Gustav Wetter, Dialectical Materialism

O. Minin, “Overboard with Philosophy”

Bukharin, Historical Materialism

Engels, Anti-Dühring

Stalin, Dialectical and historical materialism

Lenin, On the Question of Dialectics, in his Philosophical Notebooks

Engels, Dialectics of Nature

Somerville, Soviet Philosophy: A Study Of Theory And Practice

Lenin, Materialism and empirio-criticism

Lenin, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin

Lenin, On the significance of militant materialism

Stalin, To the Memory of Comrade I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov October, 1928

V. Adoratski, E. Kolman, A. Maksimov, M. Mitin, P. Judin, V. Raltgevitsh, “Questions of the day on the philosophical front”