The source: Staatsbürgerkunde 10 (Berlin: Volk und Wissen Volkseigener Verlag, 1988), pp. 4-33.
1.1 The nature of our era.
Human history is rich with important events. But never before have there been so many different and far-reaching changes as in our century.
The shots fired by the cruiser “Aurora” in 1917 marked the beginning of a new age. With the Soviet victory in Petrograd, the most important revolution in the whole of human history was ushered in. Following the Great October Socialist Revolution, many more revolutions occurred and continue to occur today, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
But this century is not only familiar with progressive development. Two devastating world wars brought enormous suffering for millions of people. Revolutionary forces suffered temporary defeats, as in Chile in 1973 and Grenada in 1983.
Major discoveries in science and technology have afforded new possibilities and horizons: people are exploring space, diseases like polio have been eliminated in many lands, including the GDR. But at the same time, aggressive imperialist circles are misusing these scientific discoveries; human life on our planet could be eliminated by an atomic war.
In view of these various and contradictory features, we must answer the question: what drives the world? What is the fundamental cause underlying the many individual experiences in the lives of people? Many young people ask a justified question: What are the social perspectives that influence my future, the life that lies before me?
We will answer to this question when we accurately determine the character of our era by considering the genuine struggles of our time.
Eras can be defined as major significant periods of time in the historical development of humanity. They are tied to certain classes, and despite all the varied and contradictory events, one sees in their main thrust the primary developments of the era.
Lenin defined an era in this way:
“We cannot know the speed and success with which individual historical movements of a respective era will develop. We can and in fact do know, which classis at the center of this era or that era, what determines its essential content, the main direction of its development, the most important characteristics of the historical situation of the respective era, etc.”
Lenin’s starting point for the definition of an era is the proper determination of classthat defines the character of the respective era.
Applying this to our era: For a number of reasons, the working class is at the center. It is most directly involved in modern mass production, and is its most important force. The working class has also developed rapidly as a result of developments in science and technology in recent decades. In the middle of the 1980s it constituted a worldwide army of 660 million people.
The working class is the main social force of our time. In advocating its own class interests, it also represents the fundamental interests for peace and social progress of all other productive classes and walks of life, which are the interests of humanity itself.
In our era, the working class fulfills its historical mission on a world scale. Under the guidance of the Marxist-Leninist parties, its function is to eliminate the capitalist social order and, in alliance with other classes and walks of life, establish its own power while building up socialism and communism. Today the historical mission of the working class is bound more tightly than ever with world peace.
The struggle of the working class is being guided by the nature of our era, the main direction of social development, and the most important details of the historical situation.
What is the character of our era?
The program of the SED [Socialist Unity Party of Germany] states: “Our era is the era of transition from capitalism to socialism.”
Our era began with the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, and it will last until socialist conditions have triumphed throughout the entire world.
But as Lenin knew before the Great October Revolution, conditions for a socialist revolution would ripen at different paces in individual countries. In the beginning socialism would only triumph in one or a few nations. In the course of time, however, it will triumph in other countries, and eventually the entire world will become a part of the socialist community.
History has proven that Lenin was correct.
Whoever does not start with Lenin’s principles will reach a false understanding of our era. Bourgeois opinion makers, for example, speak of this as an “era of industrial societies” in contrast to the earlier “agrarian societies.” Others conclude that electronic and robot technologies in our era are resulting in an “era of technological societies.” These narrow and one-sided approaches consider only development in production capacity, not the overall development of society. Who does not know, for example, that is it not only the means of production in socialist countries that are fundamentally different from the means of production in capitalist countries, but rather the whole human way of life and production.
Through such methods, bourgeois ideologues conceal actual social development. They never answer the crucial question: which class determines the character of an era and the direction in which society consequently goes. Bourgeois ideology is not able to give scientifically-based answers to these questions, so it must admit the inevitable fall of capitalism and the victory of socialism.
Some bourgeois theorists maintains that the main direction of today’s development may be defined as the “era of the downfall of humanity.” In this century there have been disastrous wars, the threat of nuclear catastrophe, the abuse of science and technology, and the decay of culture and morals. But this is the question one must ask: Who is threatening humanity, who is misusing science, and where are culture and morality decaying? Only under imperialism.
Such “theories” try to represent imperialism’s lack of a future as a general human lack of future, and imperialism’s defects and crimes as general human defects and crimes.
When this happens, the main direction of humanity’s development is concealed. And even worse, because our era has been misrepresented in such pessimistic and false ways, the working class and the other working people in capitalist nations are discouraged and prevented from fighting for a better future.
What are the actual characteristics of our era?
1. With the worldwide transition from capitalism to socialism, something more is happening than the replacement of one social order by another. The significance of today’s revolution is that the old exploitive order, which shaped the social life of humanity for the last thousand years, is being completely abolished. All the evils and maladies which were and are connected with this order are thus eliminated.
With the transition from capitalism to socialism on a worldwide scale, humanity’s age-old dreams of life without exploitation and poverty, life without injustice and war, are gradually being realized.
This development has a deep influence on the life of humans of our time, particularly in those countries in which socialism has already become reality, but also in those where this fundamental social transformation is still coming.
The influence of the individual on developments in his own country depends substantially on his knowledge and convictions regarding the course of history. The correct understanding of the present era is a prerequisite for correct personal orientation. To be on the side of history’s victors — and who would not want to be — demands supporting the socialist party through mind, heart, and action!
2. The nature of our era is such that over the course of many decades two social systems face each other in the world arena: socialism, which has already entered history and is still developing, and imperialism, which, despite being condemned to fall and losing battle after battle, is still an opponent that must be taken seriously. Our era has been characterized by the relentless fight of these two systems from its beginning.
|According to the Theses of the General Committee of the SEDfor the Karl-Marx Year in 1983, “In the era of the worldwide transition to socialism, the development processes and struggles in the world may not be separated from the growing political world influence of real socialism. At the same time, the nature, policies and crises of imperialism still influence world events.|
In our era socialism and imperialism face each other as the two protagonists of the class conflict.
3. Our era is characterized by a great number of social revolutions and political movements, not all of which are socialist.
Among them are:
There is a close, multifaceted relationship between these various national, social, and democratic movements and the transition to socialism, the defining aspect of our era. The existence, the growth, and the political initiatives of socialism influence these movements in one form or another. The elimination of exploitation under socialism has effects on the conditions of class struggle in capitalist lands, on the struggle of the workers for political rights, social improvements, and democratic change.
Even if they do not have any direct socialist goals, these various progressive movements contribute to the international balance of power in favor of the forces of change peace, democracy, and human progress.
4. The struggle between the two social systems entered a new phase in recent years. “In the world today, objective conditions have developed under which the conflict between socialism and capitalism can only occur through peaceful competition.” Maintaining peace has become the most important task of the present day.
At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, the most aggressive circles of imperialism in the USA and other NATO countries gathered their forces for an all-out attack on social progress through confrontation and military buildup. They continue the arms race, even extending it into space. The danger to humanity’s very existence has become even greater because of the development and introduction of new weapons of mass destruction. Therefore the prevention of a nuclear inferno is now humanity’s most important task. The importance of ensuring peace does not eliminate the inevitable disagreement between socialism and imperialism, but it does preclude the use of military force.
The socialist countries, allied with all other freedom-loving and democratic forces, conduct this fight confident in their goal of preventing a nuclear inferno and building a world in which people may work in peace and happiness.
The correct understanding of the character of our era and its specific attributes has great importance for the development of the strategy and policies of a Marxist-Leninist party. It is particularly important in organizing the struggle and development of one’s own country in a way consistent with the larger historical and international situation.
1.2 The development of the international balance of power — an expression of the historical advance of socialism
In the political world, very different forces work to shape social classes and groups, political movements and social orders. We have already determined that in our era socialism and imperialism are the two main forces that face each other. Both are world systems. The concrete international balance of power depends on the development of socialism and imperialism. But other social and political forces are also involved.
Therefore, the international balance of power is the worldwide distribution of force between socialism and the other progressive revolutionary forces on the one hand, and imperialism on the other.
This balance of power is determined by a number of economic, political, military, ideological, moral, and other factors. We are not able to express it mathematically. However, when we consider all the important factors, we can determine the direction of the international balance of power, and from that derive conclusions for the future.
The international balance of power has changed in favor of the forces of peace, democracy, national liberation and socialism. This is above all the result of the fight by and the development of the main engine of social development, the revolutionary, but also other democratic and peace-loving forces. Together, they work closely to influence the course of historical development.
|Today, the main forces of the social
How has the international balance of power developed under the influence of real socialism?
Since the Great October Socialist Revolution, socialism’s strength has grown steadily throughout the world. That has happened in many ways. Of special importance:
— the steady liberation of new peoples and nations from the imperialist system, as well as the creation of socialist conditions in an ever larger circle of countries;
— the strengthening of the influence of socialism due to its internal political, economic, and social development, and the ever-improving development and use of its advantages;
— the strategic creation of a military balance of power between the USSR and the USA, between the nations of the Warsaw Pact and NATO.
Consider these factors closely!
Since the first victory of workers and farmers in Soviet Russia in 1917, when imperialism lost its autocracy in the world, socialist revolutions have occurred regularly in other countries. The most important result of this process after the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution was the development of the socialist world system. It developed as a result of the victorious revolutions in a series of European and Asian nations in the 1940s, which were followed in subsequent decades in other countries.
Socialism has taken on a real form in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. In Africa as well, a number of lands have chosen a socialist future.
The area of imperialism’s dominance and influence is steadily growing smaller. Bourgeois politicians love to make the “Hand of Moscow” responsible for this. In reality, the deepest cause for all revolutionary changes is in the individual countries themselves, resulting from the objective lawsof historical development, and in the intensification and resolution of internal contradictions.
Today the international balance of power is largely determined by how well socialism succeeds in solving its political, economic and ideological tasks as its superiority to capitalism as a social system grows.
Thus the 11th Party Congress of the SED set the following as the chief aim and primary direction of our international policy:
“The further development of fraternal ties with the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries, comprehensive contribution to the all-around strengthening and increasing of the strength and international attractiveness of socialism through the steadily increasing unfolding of its advantages.”
Socialism’s accomplishments weigh ever heavier in the international class struggle. The unity of economic and social policy is the crucial link in the historical competition between socialism and imperialism.
Despite all the problems in this area that still have to be solved, in only a few decades socialism has proven that its productive forces grow faster than in capitalism. It has an increasing share of the world’s industrial production.
This increase is not only a result of the increasing number of socialist countries, but even more of socialism’s higher economic growth rate compared to capitalism. The countries united in the RGW [the communist equivalent of the European Community] are particularly notable. The annual average growth rate in capitalistic industrial countries from 1951 to 1984 was 4.3 percent, in the socialist countries during that same period it was 8.8 percent. With only 18.5 percent of the world’s land and 9.6 percent of its population, the RGW nations produce around a third of the world’s industrial production.
The comprehensive intensification of the economies in the majority of the nations in the socialist community will have decisive influence on the further development of the competition between socialism and imperialism.
The GDR makes its contribution with the successful implementation of the economic policy decided on by the SED. (These questions are handled in more detail in section 3.2).
With its great economic strength and rich resources, the Soviet Union is primarily responsible for the economic strengthening and development of a socialist society.
Over one-fifth of all the goods produced in the world were manufactured in one of Lenin’s lands.
At the 27th Party Congress of the CPSU, [the Communist Party of the Soviet Union] Michail Gorbachev stated that “The standard of the US economy in the years before and immediately after the war seemed hard to attain,but in the seventies our scientific, technological, and economic potential came very close to theirs, and we actually surpassed the US in the production of some very important products.”
While the social position of the worker comes under constant attack in the capitalist world, the standard of living in socialist countries has increased.
For example, the gradual development of material and cultural standard of living is obvious in housing construction. In three decades, more than 70 million apartments were built in the member countries of the RGW, improving the life and living conditions of about two-thirds of the entire population of these countries. At the beginning of the 1980s, around 3 million apartments were built annually. This is proportionately double as many apartments as in the capitalist EC [European Community] countries.
The successful unity of economic and social policies strengthens the relationship of trust between the leading Marxist-Leninist party and the citizens, and also strengthens the political stability of the socialist nations. That is an important factor for international relations. Workers in the non-socialist lands increasingly recognize that only in socialism are working people at the center of everything. That strengthens the authority of socialism and the socialist idea in the world. This, too, influences the balance of power.
One of the major factors that changed the international balance of power was the achievement of an approximate militarily strategic balance between the USSR and the USA, between the Warsaw Pact and NATO.
Without a doubt, a decisive factor for socialism’s strength and invincibility is the socialist and communist morale of the soldiers in the Soviet army and in the other armed forces of the Warsaw Pact, as well as the high degree of cooperation within the socialist military coalition.
Military technology naturally plays a large role in the evaluation of socialist and capitalist military strength. That includes the quality and number of tanks, anti-tank defense weapons, planes, and ships.
Nuclear warheads as well as the means of carrying them are of extraordinary importance in the evaluation of the military balance of power. We refer to rockets, which can be launched from land or from sea, along with aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
In 1945 the USA tried to show its military superiority to all the world and to pressure the Soviet Union by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even though the Soviet Union succeeded in splitting the uranium nucleus in 1946, making the building of its own bomb only a matter of time, the USSR proposed to the USA that both nations cease the production and use of nuclear weapons. The acceptance of this Soviet proposal would have saved not only vast expense, but also would have prevented the growth of a deadly danger to the existence of humanity. The USA rejected the Soviet proposal. It bears the full responsibility for missing the opportunity, and for the resulting arms race. The USSR was forced to arm and build nuclear weapons.
The Soviet Union broke the United States’ monopoly of the atomic bomb in 1949, and later of the hydrogen bomb. Those were important steps in establishing the militarily strategic balance of power that exists today.
In contrast to the most aggressive circles of Imperialism, the socialist nations do not strive for military superiority. They work towards disarmament, by which the balance of power is preserved with decreasing levels of armaments.
Socialism’s establishment of a military balance of power is an historic achievement, the significance of which cannot be overestimated. It secured the longest period of peace in modern history for the people of Europe, and it is the decisive foundation for the prevention of a nuclear inferno. The sacrifices were necessary and worthwhile: peace became more stable because the imperialist world realizes that it is impossible for them to win a nuclear war.
The increasing influence of the working class of all continents on the revolutionary world process is one of the critical factors in the international balance of power. That is seen in the growing strength of its revolutionary vanguard, the international communist movement.
The modem communist and workers’ movement developed in the wake of the Great October Socialist Revolution. There is a close mutual relationship between the development of the communist movement and real socialism: on the one hand, socialism is the crowning achievement in the struggle of the international revolutionary workers’ movement; on the other hand, the entire communist movement can rely upon real socialism as its greatest strength in its struggle for peace and national and social liberation.
Anywhere there is human progress today, one will find the sacrificial work of communists.
The most importance forces of the international workers’ movement include:
The collapse of the imperialist colonial system is one of the surest signs of the change of the international balance of power in favor of progressive forces.
The national liberation movements developed in response to the victory of the Soviet Union and the other powers of the anti-Hitler coalition over German and Italian fascism and Japanese militarism, as well as the strengthening of world socialism.
Since 1945, 90 former colonies and half-colonies have irrevocably thrown off the burdens of Imperialism’s colonial yoke. The national liberation movement showed particular strength in the fifties and sixties. In these decades, 40 African lands won independence. In 1950 there were only three independent states (Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia). Today, there are no more colonies except for the racist and imperialist regime of South Africa, and illegally occupied Namibia.
The imperialist colonial system has collapsed in Asia and Latin America as well. In the 1970s, the liquidation of the colonial colonies was effectually concluded.
Naturally not all social problems are solved with independence, such as underdevelopment resulting from imperialist colonial control, the elimination of the economic dependence on the imperialist monopolies, the elimination of illiteracy, and others. The growing sm is historically on the defensive, but it is not to be underestimated. “It is and remains with its aggressiveness, its unpredictability, and its drive for hegemony, supported by its still substantial resources, a threat and danger for the peoples.”
If we summarize all the factors mentioned, then we can determine:
History is characterized by increase of the power of Socialism and other revolutionary and peace-loving forces, and the decrease imperialism’s influence. In spite its remaining ability to influence international events and threaten peace and progress, Imperialism has lost its former superiority. This shift in the d international balance of power is irreversible. It reflects the fundamental laws of our era: Capitalism is on the defensive defensive, doomed to inevitable collapse, while socialism is on the offensive, and will ultimately triumph throughout the whole world.
1.3 The deepening general crisis of capitalism — Evidence of imperialism’s decline
In the 1950s and 1960s as capitalist world economics were on an upward swing, bourgeois politicians and idea-makers prophesied that capitalism would have permanent growth and that the workers would always have a good and secure income. At that time, all the new theories assumed that there was no reason to fundamentally change society since capitalism had overcome its crises once and for all.
In the 1970s these theories were less common. In 1973 there was a worldwide economic crisis in the capitalist world. At the beginning of the 1980s capitalism suffered its deepest crisis in fifty years, which completely silenced these theories.
Even the most eager advocates of capitalism must admit that there are a variety of crises in the capitalist world. They talk about a “steel crisis,” an “oil crisis,” and so on, but they deny that they have anything to do with a crisis in the capitalist system.
As a matter of fact, capitalism has achieved considerable things in science and technology, and it produces modern, well-designed products. In more than a few industrial capitalist countries, a considerable number of the workers enjoy a relatively high standard of living.
The question follows: how can these facts be reconciled with the fact that this society is in a general crisis.
You have already encountered what is most important in answering this question in the ninth grade with the treatment of imperialism, as well as at the beginning of tenth grade with the treatment of the main content of our era (1.1) and the shift in the international balance of power (1.2). What we examined first under the criterion of the increaseof socialism’s strength, we now want to handle under the criterion of the development of imperialism.
As we know, overcoming of imperialism will occur over a long historical process, during the entire era of the transition of humanity to socialism and communism. Since this process is unavoidable for capitalism, it is at the same time evidence of its general crisis.
In contrast to the cyclical crises (see p. 190) which occur for limited periods in the economy, the general crisis of capitalism includes:
— the entire period of our era including the World War I and
— all sides of capitalist society (science, social relationships, domestic and foreign policy, and ideology, among other things).
The general crisis is characterized by three factors.
First: Socialism became a social reality. As socialism has gained step after step, imperialism has lost position after position. Imperialism finally lost its position of world domination. In growing measure, the events of the world are influenced by socialism.
It is clearer than ever that imperialism is not only a hindrance for further social development, but that its most aggressive circles pose a direct danger for the further existence of humanity.
Second: The development and growing strength of socialism in the world and the arrival of new international relationships based on respect and equality between peoples and states caused imperialism’s attempts to maintain national and colonial oppression to falter, until finally the colonial system of imperialism collapsed completely. Since the colonies represented a main pillar of imperialism, the loss of the colonies had substantial effects on the capitalist system as a whole. Imperialist states try to make up for this loss by intensified neo-colonial exploitation. Therefore newly liberated nations — with support from socialist states — demand a new international economic system on the basis of equal rights. Even though most of the newly independent national states developed from the rubble of the imperialist colonial kingdoms and are still economically dependent on the imperialist states, they are developing an anti-imperialist strength which increasingly influences international events. That is a factor that intensifies imperialism’s crisis.
Third: The inherent contradictions of capitalism are deepening and sharpening enormously. Economic crises, political crises, social crises, crises in ideology and morality, are weakening the imperialist system. In addition, the contradictions between the individual imperialist countries continue to increase.
Features of the general crisis of capitalism
The general crisis of capitalism is characterized by three fundamental processes:
1. The existence and growing influence of socialism in the world
2. The collapse of the imperialist colonial system and the strengthening of nationally liberated states
3. The deepening of capitalism’s fundamental inherent contradictions
Let us consider how the general crisis of capitalism is intensifying!
As the 11th Party Congress of the SED stated, “it is becoming more clear that imperialism, whose most aggressive circles risk a nuclear war, has become a hindrance to societal development.” That is the clearest proof that it is outdated.
Lenin explained the connection between imperialism, war, and outdatedness of the imperialist system. A few weeks after the outbreak of World War I he wrote: “The European war is an enormous historical crisis...” That means the general crisis of capitalism, exposed by the Great October Socialist Revolution, began during World War I. The war “intensified the deeply hidden contradictions and brought them to light.”
The expansionist tendencies of imperialism directed themselves against socialism since the Great Socialist October Revolution, and against any social progress at all. The manipulative domination, exploitative conditions, and the hunt for the highest profit are the root cause of imperialism’s aggression. Nothing has changed regarding this basic tenet of imperialism. Today however, conditions can be created within an international framework that successfully work against the tendency of the most aggressive imperialist forces to cause war. The most important factor is the growing strength and influence of socialism in the world.
Just as the deepest roots of the connection between imperialism and war lie in the economic and social nature of this system, the deepest reason for the unity between socialism and peace also lie in the economic and social nature of our society.
Contrary to monopoly-driven capitalism, in socialism there are no classes who earn money through armament, who are interested in the exploitation foreign peoples. Here, the happiness and well-being of all, for the ruling working class and the other classes and groups, depends on peaceful work.
Karl Marx discovered the connection between socialism and peace. He wrote, “...that, contrary to the old society with its economic misery and its political insanity, a new society is developing whose international principle will be peace, because the same principle rules in each nation—work.” The socialist society proves itself in humanity’s most important question, the maintenance of peace. It is the social system that fights the hardest for the life interests of humanity, for its very survival.
Capitalism’s outdatedness is particularly clear in times of recurring cyclical crises and the resulting worsening conditions in the social situation of workers. These general and cyclical crises are nothing new in the history of imperialism. For example, that was the situation in 1929-1932, 1973-1975, and 1980-1982.
Today, however, we can observe the relationship between general and cyclical crises. These cyclical crises are occurring more and more frequently.
The cyclical crises become permanent phenomena and therefore characteristics of the general crisis of capitalism. It reflects clearly in growing social uncertainty for the workers, above all in the increasing mass unemployment.
|Growth of unemployment in selected capitalist industrial countries from 1960-1982 (in millions)|
Earlier there was very little unemployment during periods when capitalism was growing economically. Today, however, unemployment is unusually high for a period of economic prosperity, and it gets even higher in times of crisis. At the end of 1980 there were 24 million people registered as unemployed in the 24 leading capitalist countries. In 1986 it was 31.25 million.
Especially hard and inhumane is that the youth are also affected by this scourge. Over 40% of the people registered as unemployed were under 24 years of age.
The deepening of the general crisis of capitalism is also evident in the aggravation of political and spiritual crises in the leading capitalist nations.
For example, the political crisis in the capitalist world is evident in the fact that between 1970-1980 approximately 80 capitalist governments fell, including practically all NATO members. This process continued into the 1980s. Parallel to that, even stronger forms of authoritarianism become apparent. In many capitalist nations, democratic rights and freedoms were limited, people’s opinions were watched, and there were governmental bans on communists and other democratic forces.
Characteristic of the spiritual crisis in the leading capitalist nations is the rise of anti-communism and anti-Sovietism and the decline of culture and morals. Crime rates in society rise. Many, above all, the youth, turn to drugs to escape capitalist reality.
Another characteristic of the deepening general crisis of capitalism is the increasing number of conflicts between imperialist countries.
The basic cause for this is the shift in the balance of power, above all the economic balance of power, between the imperialist countries. The result is that three rival imperialist centers of power have developed: the USA, Japan, and Western Europe in the form of the European Community (EC).
Proportions of the capitalist world economy’s industrial production by the three imperialistic centers of power (in percent)
Finally, the increase of militant activity of the working class and those allied with it shows a deepening of the general crisis of capitalism.
It becomes clearer and clearer that the struggle against the social consequences of the crisis is most closely connected with the fight for peace.
Imperialism has become the greatest obstacle to humanity’s further development. The deepening of its general crisis has made its inhumane nature more obvious and proved that it is on the historical defensive.
Participants in strikes in the capitalist industrial states in the last decades (per year)
|Beginning of the 1970s||46 million|
|Beginning of the 1980s||over 50 million|
If we combine the statements made until now about the main content of our era, about the development of the international balance of power, and about the deepening of the general crisis of capitalism, we come to the basic answer to the question of the causes of growing imperialist aggression during the 1980s, mostly in the USA and other NATO states. It lies, briefly said, in the degradation of the inner and outer living conditions of imperialism.
Imperialism’s hopeless condition is more evident today than ever before. The most aggressive circles of imperialism still do not want to admit this hopelessness, and have begun a new “crusade against communism.” They even consider a nuclear conflict and so endanger the existence of humanity. At the same time they call forth the forces that oppose their threat.
1.4 Maintaining peace — the most important task today
Since the beginning of the 1980s, the most aggressive circles of imperialism, evident in the striving of US imperialism for world domination and the heating up of the arms race, have substantially heightened international tensions and increased the danger of the outbreak of a nuclear war.
At the same time, the strength of those forces that were in the position to protect world peace and implement steps toward disarmament grew. Today it is possible for these forces to eliminate the danger of a world war, even though the imperialist socio-economic roots of war and aggression have not been completely eliminated.
The question of peace has a new significance in this nuclear-cosmic era, when the existence or non-existence of humanity is at stake. The 11th Party Congress of the SED stated: “The preservation of peace on earth and in the cosmos is the most important task of the present era.”
Sometimes the question is asked if the necessity of preserving peace has pushed revolutionary social change to the background.
Obviously, the struggle for a revolutionary transformation of the world cannot be halted. As we know, the working class, in cooperation with other classes and groups in our era must fulfill its historic mission, namely to replace bourgeois society and build socialism and communism in the entire world. More than ever this task is requires maintaining world peace, since that is the requirement for further social progress. For the first time in history, a world war would endanger not millions of people, but the entire human race.
The most aggressive circles of imperialism are undertaking a massive effort to stop socialism and the national liberation movements, and to eliminate their influence in the world. Their strategy is to exhaust socialism economically through an arms race, and then achieve military superiority. In order to win a nuclear war, one needs a first strike ability that renders an opponent unable to react with a devastating counterstroke. The entire armament strategy of the USA and NATO aims at achieving such a first strike capability. That means that the most aggressive circles of Imperialism are willing to drop the first nuclear bomb when they believe that they have achieved the appropriate level of strength.
Against the clear will of the people, in the early 1980s the most aggressive circles of imperialism in the USA, West Germany and other NATO lands began a course of confrontation and armament. In the USA alone 199 billion dollars were spent on arms in 1982. In the 1985-1986 fiscal year the money designated for arms rose to $302.5 billion.
Today elements of the most aggressive circles in the USA want to extend the arms race into space. This is a further dangerous attempt to destroy the existing military balance and gain military superiority by using cosmic weapons. The success of this program to militarize space would immensely increase the temptation of the most aggressive imperialist circles to risk an atomic attack against the USSR and socialism. It would nurture their dangerous hopes and illusions that they could avoid a counterattack by the USSR with a “Star Wars protective shield.”
Those from the most aggressive circles of the USA and NATO have achieved a dangerous status: only 10-15 percent of the accumulated nuclear weapons would be sufficient to destroy all the life on earth.
The 11th Party Congress of the SED concluded that, given the growing nuclear danger to humanity’s survival, that it is necessary: “to go about these things in a new way, to find new forms and new procedures for relations between the different social systems, states and regions.”
This means, above all, to maintain peace and to learn how to live and get along with each other.
Such an approach to international relations assumes that the competition between the two social systems requires the preservation of peace, which is necessary for the survival of humanity. Therefore, today policies of peaceful coexistence are more important than ever.
“A nuclear war will simply erase civilization from the earth. A war can also mean the end of the human race.” (Linus Pauling, American bio-chemist, multiple Nobel Prize winner.)
“The nuclear bombs of today are a million times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima... A one-megaton hydrogen bomb is enough to destroy all of Paris within the outer highway ring — an area of 100 square kilometers.” (Alfred Kastler, French physicist, Nobel Prize winner.
“In a modern nuclear war, which cannot end in anything but global catastrophe, there is neither winner nor loser, only complete destruction. Even if some people could survive in bunkers for a while, which is by no means certain, they would nevertheless have to leave the bunkers eventually and would fall victim radiation sickness and its consequences.” (Josef Riman, Academy member, Director of the Institute for Molecular Genetics of the Czechoslovakian Academy of Sciences.)
What is a policy of peaceful coexistence?
As we have said, socialism will require a long period before it triumphs in every nation. Until then, socialism and capitalism must exist alongside each other.
Lenin, who established the necessity and the possibility of peaceful coexistence between states of different social orders, knew that there would be a period of many and intense arguments between the two opposing and irreconcilable social systems. We must find ways to argue and solve our problems that do not involve war, above all another world war. The superiority of a social order must prove itself in peaceful competition in the social and economic arenas. Confident from the beginning of its superiority, Socialism has always been an advocate of peaceful coexistence in international relations.
In order for states of differing social orders to live together on our common planet, there must be a set of principles on which truly peaceful relations depend.
The most important principles for peaceful coexistence
These principles correspond to the interests of all peace-loving people, even the interests of a considerable portion of bourgeois monopolists. That increases the chance that in the long run they will become generally accepted.
Peaceful relations between socialist and imperialist countries is necessary if socialism is to prove its superiority over the capitalist order, and it also creates the necessary conditions for the struggle of the progressive forces in the capitalist nations and in the newly independent states.
However, the necessity of policies which lead to a peaceful coexistence can not only be considered only from the point of view of creating favorable conditions for social progress. These policies are not only in the interests of the working class and the other productive classes and groups. They are necessary for the survival of everyone, even those who do not stand for social progress.
Under today’s conditions, it is vitally necessary to implement the policies socialism has long maintained, since peaceful coexistence is the only alternative to nuclear war; it is a basic requirement for human survival.
The USSR and the other socialist nations hold to these principles in their foreign policy, working against the increase of dangerous tensions in international affairs. These nations are principled and firm in their resistance to attempted imperialist blackmail, and at the same time display circumspection and patience in solving current tasks, in maintaining peace, in stopping the arms race, and in introducing real steps toward disarmament.
The countries of the socialist community have submitted a number of extensive and far-reaching proposals to prevent a nuclear war. The following are of special importance:
These constant initiatives prove to the entire world that socialism promotes peace. Socialism needs peace, and socialism creates peace.
That socialism needs peace is grounded in its very nature, that it creates peace is grounded in its economic, political, ideological and military strength.
Socialism is the strongest power for peace, but not the only one. Today the strength of about 120 nationally liberated states opposes the most aggressive circles of imperialism. For these states as well, most of whom belong to the nonaligned movement, world peace is the prerequisite for the defense of their national sovereignty against neo-colonialism, for their struggle for economic and social progress.
The nationally liberated states make up four-fifths of the countries of the world with 74% of its population. That shows their importance in maintaining peace.
In the UNO, the nationally liberated states are numerically the largest group of states. They therefore exercise a decisive influence on the work of the UNO. In the General Assembly, the highest body of the UNO, important resolutions for peacekeeping measures as well asnomics of capitalist countries have come to the conviction that the policies of détente are also in their interest, and the policies of confrontation of the most aggressive wings of Imperialism must be overcome.
If we review the forces which are able to protect humanity from the danger of war, we see that they are those of peace-loving people throughout the world. Today more people, and not only people from socialist nations, recognize that the most aggressive circles of imperialism are trying to move the world down the path to nuclear war.
At the beginning of the 1980s, a strong peace movement developed, the likes of which had never been seen in post-war history.
In the capitalist world, there are no social classes or groups that do not participate in this movement. Even members of big capital take part in it. It includes members of various political and religious convictions as well as the most diverse occupational groups. In the name of millions of believers, Catholic bishops in the USA spoke out against the confrontational course of the US government. Social Democratic parties mobilize memberships and groups of voters for powerful demonstrations.
The communist and workers’ parties are among the most dedicated forces of the peace movement. They see the prevention of a nuclear inferno as their primary and most important task. World famous athletes and artists call for peace and disarmament in overflowing meetings. More than a few former generals and admirals from NATO states and NATO staffs have joined the peace movement, using their expertise to justify the necessity of stopping the arms race.
A coalition of realism and reason against the danger of a nuclear world war is growing stronger and stronger. The GDR contributes to its further strengthening with our policies of dialogue and working together with all willing forces. Erich Honecker said: “The goal of our struggle is to assure that humanity lives and is not destroyed in an atomic inferno, and in spite of all the differences between the different social systems and the characters of the states, humanity can live and work together.”
We can thus state:
It is humanity’s good fortune that the rapid development of science and technology in our century accompanies the triumphant worldwide advances of socialism. Only socialism has the ability, together with all other forces for peace, to restrain those circles of imperialism that are ready to use the great accomplishments of the human spirit against humanity. Socialism and peace work together. That is one of the most important aspects of our era.
We live in the era of the transition from capitalism to socialism, in a time in which all the aspects of human society are being fundamentally renewed. In our era the working class, in alliance with other productive classes, fulfills its historic mission and is building a new society that is free from the exploitation of the people by people. These revolutionary transformations are connected to the permanent elimination of the main evils of capitalism, namely national oppression and devastating wars.
Humanity has already come a long way. The steady shift in the international balance of power in the world since the Great October Socialist Revolution convincingly proves the historic progress of socialism. In contrast, we see from the steadily deepening general crisis of capitalism that imperialism is on the defensive. However, capitalism is still a force that needs to be taken seriously. It still exerts an influence in international affairs that is contrary to the interests of the peoples.
In the 1980s the struggle between socialism and imperialism has reached a new level. This historic development may not hinder the common effort to maintain peace.
The forces of peace are stronger than the most aggressive circles of imperialism, which risks the dangers of a nuclear inferno with its policies of confrontation and an arms race. The decisive force for peace is socialism. Together with the powerful movement for peace in the world, it is able to defend peace and human progress.
The conflict between socialism and Imperialism in our era is evident in bitter ideological battles. The more successfully the revolutionary world advances, the more the forces condemned to destruction try to prevent socialism’s further advance by attacking it. With lies and slander they conceal the true goals and efforts of communism and its allies.
Presently, anti-communism attacks not only communism, but also all the progressive forces. Above all, however, it attacks real socialism, and the USSR, the main strength of socialism. The lie of the Soviet threat justifies the imperialist arms race, the atomic threat, the economic war against socialism and the suppression of national liberation struggles. It is obvious that combating anti-communism and anti-Sovietism are inseparable components in our struggle for peace and social progress, and furthermore have important roles in the struggles of our era. Our scientific worldview, Marxism-Leninism, is our irreplaceable weapon.
[Preliminary translation by Katherine Lynch. Final page copyright © 2000 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]
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