Stefan Engel

Stefan Engel

Opening statement of Stefan Engel for “Lenin like a red rag to a bull?”

Event of AUF Gelsenkirchen, 22 August 2020 by Stefan Engel

Dear Gerd Koenen,

Dear participants of this event,

Dear comrades!

I wholeheartedly welcome this opportunity to conduct a public debate today, here in the Horster Mitte, about the assessment of Lenin.

It is one of the essential aims of the countrywide movement “Don’t give anticommunism a chance!” to bring about a public discussion of communism, on an equal footing.

Since the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was banned in 1956, anticommunism has become a veritable state religion which is not open to any discussion. Rather one complies with it, starts from it, or even supports or carries it further.

In the bourgeois mass media and in the labor unions there are incompatibility rulings against Marxist-Leninists which have the purpose to deprive them of the possibility to spread their communist ideology of freedom.

That Gerd Koenen has consented to hold such a discussion in the lion’s den, so to speak, earns my genuine respect, despite all fundamental differences of opinion.

Though we may express our positions with passion, I expect that we will practice an objective, scientifically justified culture of debate.

There are different variants of anticommunism – the essential feature of bourgeois ideology.

Gerd Koenen stands for – as he says himself – a “democratic,” I say “modern,” anticommunism, in that he does not completely condemn communism, but indeed concedes a few achievements to the communist and working-class movement.

One often hears this from “chastened” Old Leftists who turned their back on communism in the course of their life and became avowed anticommunists.

Upon study of their texts, however, a number of methods are conspicuous which all anticommunists apparently have adopted:

1. Anticommunism is a clever mixture of truths, half-truths and lies. The cleverer this mixture, the harder it is for the mass of the population to see through it, and the more that sticks in people’s minds.

2. The evidence presented for the alleged communist atrocities is usually very superficial, makes use of quotes taken out of context, usually excludes the historical context in which certain events took place, and gives facts and statements generally a different, partly contrary content. As example I would cite the treatment of the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat developed by Marx. Marx characterized capitalism as sole reign of the bourgeoisie or dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Socialism, in contrast, should be ruled by the propertyless, most exploited and oppressed workers. He termed this, scientifically, dictatorship of the proletariat. Taken out of context it appears as though Marx advocated dictatorial conditions as opposed to democratic conditions. However, Marx explicitly said that socialism means democracy for the broad mases, whereas in capitalism democracy exists only for the ruling bourgeoisie. Basically the anticommunists bank upon a lack of knowledge of their readers and listeners.

3. Instead of working with concrete analysis, the anticommunist method operates with stigmatization and sweeping denigration. The communists and Marxist-Leninists are defamed as left-wing extremists; they are alleged to be absolutely willing to use violence and to pursue the goal of a totalitarian social system in which the mass of the population must submit to the views of the Communist Party. Of course, an objective discussion with someone who has such prejudices is hardly possible.

4. The anticommunists deny the class character both of capitalism and of socialism. While modern anticommunism takes a critical stand on some abuses of the capitalist social system, partly even playing these up into a fig leaf of a democratic order, it generally treats mistakes and negative developments in socialism as inherent in the system, even though socialism is a transitional society that still carries many features of bourgeois society. The very task of socialism is to overcome these characteristics of the old capitalist society and open the way to a classless communist society in which humanity and nature form a unity. Without concrete analysis, negative social phenomena such as single crimes against humanity simply are imputed to Lenin or Stalin, even though they have been committed by card-carrying petty-bourgeois bureaucrats, against whom Lenin and Stalin waged a lifelong struggle.

5. One of the most popular methods of anticommunism is to ignore the societal change in the formerly socialist countries to a bureaucratic monopoly capitalism since the 20th Party Congress of the CPSU in the Soviet Union. The exhibition across the street in Schloss Horst even manages to blame Lenin for the bureaucratic-capitalist conditions in the German Democratic Republic, despite the fact that Lenin already died in 1924 and that the GDR leadership, since the building of the Wall at the latest, abandoned the principles of Marxism-Leninism and replaced them with modern revisionism. In particular Gerd Koenen, himself a top official of the KBW (Communist League of West Germany) in the early 1970s, is well aware of this social discontinuity. And yet he uncritically adapts to this anticommunist method.

6. Not least of all, anticommunism conceals and denies the tremendous social progress that socialism represented compared with Russian imperialism and Tsarist rule:

  • Lenin put an end to the participation of Russia in the First World War. His party was thus the only party of the Second Socialist International to follow up on the joint resolution of 1910 stating that no worker should shoot at other workers in the coming war.
  • The major means of production were socialized and the exploitation of wage labor terminated. The land was given to those who cultivated it. The feudal system of enforced, unpaid labor (corvée) in the countryside was abolished. The industrialization of agriculture eradicated the hunger of the broad masses and the poverty of the small peasants. Despite tremendous poverty, disruption and regression following the October Revolution, socialist construction was such a success that in the 1950s the Soviet Union rose to become the second largest economy in the world.
  • Before the October Revolution, illiteracy was rampant among the mass of the population, of whom only 5 percent could read and write. Less than 25 years later illiteracy was largely vanquished. Socialism could be built only by people of strong convictions who could think and act on their own. Systematically the cultural level of the broad mass of the population was improved.
  • Women were granted very far-reaching rights that did not exist in any other country of the world. If these were partly restricted again due to the pressure of the Church, this was in the main a compromise in order to win the Church as an ally in the Great Patriotic War against fascism.
  • Russia, and from 1924 the Soviet Union, was a multinational state. In socialism the nationalities were treated as equals, and in the individual Soviet republics school lessons were taught in the respective national languages. The Jews, too, were first to get a territory of their own and were not systematically persecuted and humiliated as in the capitalist countries.
  • In a decree after the October Revolution, capital punishment was abolished in Russia, as one of the first countries in the world. That it had to be reintroduced later during the time of the White Terror and the war of defense against the intervention of 14 foreign powers was due solely to the state of war. It was a mistake under Stalin’s leadership not to abolish the death penalty again after the war.
  • Russia and the Soviet Union made proletarian internationalism a reality with the founding of the Communist International in 1919. It supported the revolutionary working-class movement all over the world and lent wings to the national and social liberation struggle in the colonial and neocolonial dependent countries in China and many countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The slogan of Marx and Engels, “Workers of all countries, unite!” thus became reality. After the Second World War the socialist camp thus emerged. A third of the globe was rid of capitalism, and the old colonial empire of the imperialists was smashed.

Anticommunism is a deeply undemocratic, intolerant and reactionary world outlook. There will be no socialist revolution and no victory over capitalism without overcoming it.