(By Alexei Volynets)
“From the 1960s to the 1980s dozens of Maoist groups operated in Russia fighting against the ‘bourgeois degeneration’ of the Soviet bureaucracy.”
This is a translation of part 1 of an article in Russian by Alexei Volynets which appeared under the title: The Soviet Red Guard: The Soviet Union Needs Mao Zedong. It was published on July 10, 2013. The translation appears on Afoniya’s blog.
When histories of the dissident movement in the Soviet Union get written the “democratic”, pro-Western sector of this movement get the bulk of the attention for reasons that are rather obvious. Far less attention is paid to the nationalists of the ‘Russian party’ and the various Left dissidents. But far the most unfortunate groups of dissidents are the followers of Chairman Mao, the Soviet ‘Red Guards’. They have been left out of the story by both the “western voices” of those years and have been ignored by the contemporary historical memory of all other groups. And yet those who attempted the repeat the lessons of the “Great Cultural Revolution” in the Soviet Union were no fewer than those who preached the models of Western-style democracy in the Soviet Union.
After the death of Stalin, and especially after the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU, for many citizens of the USSR who sincerely believed in Bolshevism, the leader of the ‘International Communist Movement’ naturally became Mao Zedong. Comrade Mao, an old honored partisan, leading under his red banner the most populated country in the world, seemed to received wisdom to play far more effectively the role of world leader than a professional party apparatchik with a rather unclear biography like Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev.
Soviet People for Leninist Socialism
And the Soviet leader certainly felt ill at ease with this fact. Like, for example, in March 1962, when a 40 year old worker named Kulakov, a member of the Soviet Communist Party, working in the construction of Bratsk Hydroelectric Power Station in the Irkutsk region, sent a letter to Khrushchev. In the letter, the proletarian didn’t mix his words to the First secretary of the Central Committee:
“The main mass of Soviet peoples believe you to be an enemy of the Party of Lenin and Stalin. In a word you have remained a living Trotskyist… V.I. Lenin dreamed of making China a friend of the Soviet people and this dream was realized by Comrade Stalin but you have destroyed this friendship. Mao is against your defilement of the Leninist Party and Stalin. Lenin and Stalin audaciously fought against the enemies of the revolution and were victorious in open battle not fearing imprisonment. You are a coward and an agent provocateur. While Comrade Stalin was alive you kissed his ass, and now you pour dirt on him…”
For this letter the worker Kulakov was sentence to a prison term of one year, accused of ‘anti-Soviet propaganda’. And similar declarations, some of them public, were not lacking. In Kiev on March 18 of the same year (1962) during the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, a 45 year old Kolkhoz chairman by the name of Boris Loskutov and a member of the Soviet Communist Party, distributed leaflets with the text:
“Long live the Leninist Party without the windbag and traitor Khrushchev. The politics of this madman has led to the loss of China, Albania and millions of our former friends. The country has reached a dead end. Let’s close ranks. Let’s save the country.”
The arrested kolkhoz chairman was later sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.
In the night of June 18 1963 in the town of Mena of Chernigovskaya region in the Ukraine, a 27 year old artists of the town theatre, Ivan Panasetsky, put up some self-made placards with the slogans
“Khrushchevian anarchy killed the truth during the reign of Stalin so as to grab power!”
“Down with Khrushchevian anarchy! Long live the Chinese Communist Party!”
“Long Live Mao Zedong – the leader of workers throughout the world!”
In the night between the 3rd and 4th of August 1963 in the city of Batumi in Georgia where the once-young Stalin began his first practical activities as a revolutionary, three citizens of the Soviet Union- 28 year old G. Svanidze, his wife 24 year old L. Kizilova and their 23 year old comrade V. Miminoshvili (all three of them Komsomol members) posted up fly-sheets with the demand that Khrushchev be overthrown and to defend the memory of Stalin. In the text the young Komsomol members had written “Our leader is Mao Zedong!” and “The USSR needs Mao Zedong!”.
June 1 1964 in the town of Donetsk a 37 year old miner Vasilii Poluban’ pasted fly-sheets in the town with the call:
“Support links with the People’s Democracy of China which is fighting for world peace and democracy! Lenin! Stalin! Khruschev get the hell out!”;
“Lenin and Stalin will live through the ages! Down with the Khruschev dictatorship, contaminating the minds of the working class!”
“The Party of Lenin and Stalin will lead us to victory, to communist unity! Down with N.S. Khruschev! Long live the friends of China!”
These were only a few examples of the red dissidence of those years when the formal leader of the USSR, Khruschev, was opposed by the informal leader of the “world communist movement”, Mao. These social moods, among other things, were also to lead to the exclusion of Nikita Sergeevich from power. But it is remarkable that even after the resignation of Khruschev those citizens of the USSR who supported the ideas of Comrade Mao still did not call an end to their activities. Moreover, it was at this very time that the “cultural revolution” in China was at its peak and many Soviet citizens were not against applying all the methods of Red Guard to their own bureaucrats…
From January to March of 1967 a 21 year old student of the aviation training college A. Makovsky was to distribute leaflets in Moscow on numerous occasions. Leaflets in which, according to the investigators of the Office of the Prosceutor General of the Soviet Union “were propagated the ideas of Mao Zedong”. Part of the leaflets were scattered in Red Square, near the Kremlin. It is worth noting that this action at the kremlin happened a year before the well-publicised “demonstration of the seven” in August 1968 praised to high heaven by the western media.
On February 13th 1967 in the city of Komsomolsk on the Amur 6,000 kilometres from Moscow, a 20 year old Komsomol member, an engineer of the city shipping club, V. Ermokhin, a 21 year old Komsomol member and student of the Medical Institute, M. Chirkov and a 30 year old communist and professional diver, P. Korogodsky, pasted fly-sheets which declared “Mao Zedong is a red sun in our hearts! Proletarian communists, struggle against this gang of modern revisionists, successors of Khrushchev!”
At almost the same time on February 16th 1967 at the other end of the USSR in the Ukrainian Donetsk a 35 year old miner P. Melnikov hung up on a billboard some leaflets written in his own hand praising Mao Zedong and calling for the overthrow of Brezhnev.
These are only a few single examples of similar actions which have been preserved for us by the Procurators Office and the Soviet KGB. But apart from the single individual actions in the Soviet Union of those years, circles of a “communist underground” also emerged and were formed which based themselves on the ideas and revolutionary slogans of Mao.
The Romanenko Brothers, Soviet Maoists who gained fame in China
One of the first groups of this kind emerged in 1964 in Ukraine in the industrial Kharkov region where the ‘proletarian tradition’ were still not as yet a simple late-Soviet propagandistic cliché. There in the town of Balakleya, not far from Kharkov, a Marxist group was formed under the title of “Workers and Peasants Revolutionary Party of Communists”. Its founders were the brothers Adolf and Vladimir Romanenko. The 35 year old Vladimir Romanenko worked as an electrician in Kharkov and then studied in the Faculty of Journalism of the University of Leningrad. His 33 year old brother Adolf worked for a newspaper named “Hammer and Sickle” in the industrial district of the city.
In Leningrad Vladimir Romanenko get to know sudents from China from whom he received Maoist literature. Already in September 1963 the brothers wrote a declaration to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party with criticisms of the new programme of the CPSU which had been adopted at the XXII Congress in 1961. A copy of this declaration was given to the Chinese citizen Tchzan Dadi, a student of the Leningrad Institute, to be sent to China to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
As the Procurator of Kharkov region was to write later in his report to the Kremlin, the Romanenko brothers
“falling under the influence of Chinese propaganda, decided to create an illegal radical leftist organization because they came to the conclusion that the CPSU had stopped representing the interests of the workers and became deformed from a revolutionary party to one representing petty bourgeois interests and ultimately becoming a reactionary force”.
In September 1964 the Romanenko had finished drawing up the programme of their “Workers and Peasants Revolutionary Party of Communists” project. The programme included the following declaration:
“The gap in wages between the average worker and major specialists or bureaucratic pen pushers continues to grow day by day … and even now the service bureaucrats and even the organs of so-called party-state control thieve surplus produce from the productive classes…
“The assertion that the dictatorship of the proletariat has been rendered obsolete is not needed by either for the working class, nor by the peasant classes but by those who even the mention of the term the dictatorship of the working class gives them a toothache, by those who it is more convenient to plunder the surplus product in the framework of a “national” semi-bourgeois state. And when the ruling party doesn’t struggle with this but helps to legalize it, then this party is a petty bourgeois party…
“The CPSU has run its course as a political party capable of leading the masses on the path set out by the great Lenin…Therefore there is no time to lose. One must, as quickly as possible, arm the working class and the peasants of the collective farms with the authentic Marxist revolutionary theory… To do this it is necessary to create organisations in every factory, in every plant, in all the collective farms (kolkhozes) and the state forms (sovkhozes), in all the educational establishments, in the military units in order to explain the revisionist nature of the CPSU programme.”
At the end of Autumn 1964 the Romanenko brothers were arrested by the KGB. During the criminal investigation Adolf Romanenko continued to speak his thoughts fully in the spirit of the “cultural revolution” of Chairman Mao:
“I even now believe that up until now in our country there are all the conditions for the flourishing of petty bourgeois elements. In my view so long as the leaders of the CPSU both at the centre and in the periphery, the leaders of the Soviet government and local soviets, the leaders of the administrative apparatuses have all imaginable privileges, as long as material wealth is distributed, in my view, incorrectly, until that time, I believe, that in our country a petty bourgeois ideology will flourish. And the Soviet, Party and administrative apparatuses will try to authorize in law their privileges and inequality in the distribution of material wealth.
From this I draw the conclusion that fraternity and equality is out of the question in the present set up and believe that the CPSU can’t be an expression of the people’s will… I believe that the interests of the working people and the leadership are diametrically opposed to each other and from this, I believe, that there is no unity of Party and the People”
The Romanenko brothers were saved from a long prison sentence practically through the intercession of Mao Zedong. The brothers were arrested a day before the extraordinary Plenum of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union where Khrushchev was toppled from power. The new leaders of the CPSU Brezhnev and Shelepin, organizers of the removal of Khrushchev, hoped at that moment without changing the domestic and international policies of the USSR to somehow overcome the schism with communist China. Therefore at a meeting in the Kremlin, where the managers of the Procurators Office and KGB department of the Kharkov region were specially summonsed, a decision was taken not to bring the case to court against these Soviet Maoists who were well-known in China. The Romanenko brothers after a few months were released from prison but from that time were under the close supervision of the KGB which excluded for them under possibility to continue their political activity.
To be continued