Editorial from the November 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
The new Bolshevik regime inspired the formation of 'communist' parties worldwide. After the Second World War, many of these parties were elevated to power in those countries that were under Soviet occupation, that is in Eastern European and North Korea. Elsewhere, they came to power either through civil war or through anti-colonial struggles.
The Chinese Communist Party, which was formed in 1921, rose to power after successfully mobilising the peasants in the countryside to resist the Japanese occupation forces during the Second World War, and subsequently defeating the Kuomintang Government forces in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. It is worth noting that Stalin backed the Kuomintang against the 'Communists', thus giving the lie to the fiction that the Soviet Union was a beacon for global communism. What emerged was not socialism, but an authoritarian regime of state capitalism.
Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese leader, developed his own Leninist theories, commonly known as "Maoism". The main tenet is that the rural peasants are the driving force in the revolutionary party and that support should be given to third world nationalist struggles against the first world 'imperialists'. In the 1960s and 1970s, Maoism was popular in the universities and provided the ideological basis for guerrilla groups, such as the Naxalites in India. After the split between China and the Soviet Union in the 1960s, Maoist parties broke off from the pro Soviet 'communist' parties. In the United States, the so called New Left and the Black Panther Party were influenced by Maoism. The latter added to the confusion that already exists about socialism.
In 1954, after the Viet Minh, a self styled 'communist liberation' group, defeated the French forces in a guerrilla war in Vietnam, the country was partitioned between a 'Communist' North and an openly capitalist South. Soon after, war broke out between the North and its Vietcong allies on one side and the South, which was heavily supported by the United States, on the other. It ended in 1975, when a victorious North Vietnam united the country under its rule.
In Cuba, a 'communist' state was established after a group of insurgents led by Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista regime in 1959. In Yugoslavia, the Communist Party, which led the Partisan resistance to the Axis powers, emerged as the dominant political force and established a 'communist' state.
In the late 1980s, the East European states began to collapse, along with the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia descended into civil war. Both China and Vietnam have effectively abandoned 'Maoism' and have introduced market reforms, in some cases inviting investors from the 'imperialist' countries. Cuba and North Korea are stagnating economically.
These regimes were never socialist, but state capitalist, where the state operates the wages system and tries to plan the market. Not only did they maintain the lie that they were socialist, but that the struggle for socialist is a nationalist one. In line with Leninist thinking, they have promoted the cult of leadership with Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro venerated as icons . Apparently without them, socialism could not exist. So much for the materialist conception of history. In North Korea, there is even a ruling dynasty. No wonder workers are so confused as to what socialism is.