A wide array of underground Maoist groups arose in the capital of the USSR in the second half of the 1960s when the example of the “Great Cultural Revolution” was especially intense. In Western Europe it played out in the guise of the Parisian student revolt, in the Soviet Union such an open revolt was impossible but the echo of the Red Guard was felt even here. Thousands of students and doctorate students from Maoist China were studying in Soviet universities and higher education establishments. And it was through these students that Red Guard literature came into the hands of our fellow citizens.
Between 1965 and 1967 a small Marxist group operated in Moscow headed by two research assistants of the Economic Institute of World Socialist Systems at the Soviet Academy of Sciences. These were a 35 year old citizen of the Peoples’ Republic of China Ho Dantsin and a 30 year old Soviet citizen G. Ivanov. Together these Chinese and Soviet communists circulated agitational literature from China in Moscow and also created a whole gamut of their propaganda material which they entitled “Manifesto of Socialism (the Programme of the Revolutionary Socialist Party of the Soviet Union)”. In February 1967 the Chinese Ho and the Russian Ivanov were arrested by the KGB.
In 1968 in Moscow a 30 year old bricklayer G. Sudakov and his 20 year old brother V. Sudakov created a small group “The Union of Struggle against Revisionism”. From February through to June 1968 they circulated literature from revolutionary China as well as their own leaflets which they produced on their own through their own primitive printing press which they had built.
On February 24th 1976 on the day of the inauguration of the XXV Congress of the CPSU, four youths scattered and stuck more than 100 leaflets to the doors of homes along the central Nevsky Prospekt in Leningrad. The leaflets hand-written ended with the call “Long live the new revolution! Long live communism!”
Only after some time did the KGB manage to work out that the participants of this action were first-grade students of Leningrad universities Arkady Tsurkov, Alexander Skobov, Andrey Reznikov and a tenth-grade school student Alexander Fomenko. They were the organisers of an illegal Marxist group which called itself the “Leningrad School”. The informal leader of this group was the talented mathematics student 19 year old Arkady Tsurkov. From the beginning of the 1970s he was fascinated by the ideas of Mao Zedong and used to illegally listen in to the Russian language service of Radio Peking.
At that time Chinese students (who in the 1960s had been the main distribution source of Maoist literature amongst Soviet citizens) no longer studied in Russia. But in the 1970s a sea of published materials appeared (books and brochures) in the Soviet Union which unmasked and criticised the course of the Chinese Communist Party and Mao. At the beginning of the 1970s Soviet agitprop more actively and willingly worked against Maoist China than against “the bourgeois West”. As with all hostile propaganda in this literature it was necessary to describe those phenomena and actions which it inveighed against. But that which was a negative for the propagandists of the Central Committee became a plus for “leftist dissidents”. In this way Arkady tsurkov was to become a Maoist having read all the Soviet anti-maoist propaganda.
In 1977 and 1978 the leaders of the “Leningrad School” organised in a house in the outskirts of Leningrad a commune where young people lived together, studied and propagandised amongst students the ideas of comrade Mao. In 1978 the “Leningrad School” established links with student sympathisers’ from Moscow, Gorky (now Nizhni Novgorod), Riga and a number of other cities in the Soviet Union. While attempting to organise an illegal youth conference with the aim of creating a large association- the “Revolutionary Communist Union of Youth”- the leaders of this “Leningrad School” were arrested by the KGB.
Soon after their arrest on the 5th December 1978 in Leningrad a previously unheard of event took place: at the Kazan Cathedral (the site of the first mass student demonstration against the Czar in 1876) several hundred young men and women gathered from the institutes and schools of Leningrad to protest these arrests. About 20 people were detained. During the trial against the leader of the “Leningrad School”, A. Tsurkov, from April 3-6 1979 a large mass of protesting students gathered in front of the building. Arkady Tsurkov received a sentence of 5 years to a strict regime prison camp and a further two years of exile.
Maoists- Leaders of the Strike Movement of Soviet Workers.
But the revolutionary ideas of Mao were not confined just to school and university students. The existence of at least one illegal Marxist group not only studying the experience and ideas of Mao Zedong but also taking part in the organization of successful strikes of Soviet workers has been well documented. I am referring here to the emergence in the 1970s in the industrial city of Kuibyshev (Samara) of the political group, the “Workers Centre”. The group aimed to found an illegal Marxist Party, the “Party of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”.
In the spring of 1974 in Kuibyshev in the Maslennikov Factory a strike of the workers in one of the shop floors took place. The factory also produced equipment for the Soviet military-industrial complex. The workers didn’t make any political demands but managed to achieve some improvements in their working conditions from the administration and local authorities who were taken completely unawares by such an organised action. On the model of this successful strike during the next year in the Maslennikov factory and in a number of other enterprises in the city more than ten strikes took place. Such a significant event for the Soviet Union immediately caught the attention of the KGB but they were only able after two years of thorough investigations to establish the fact that the illegal Marxist organization “Workers Centre” was organizing in the city.
The leaders of the organization were 31 year old Grigory Isaev, a worker from the foundry shop floor of the Maslennikov factory and 39 year old Alexei Razlatsky, an oil engineer.
It was Isaev and Razlatsky who were the inspirational force and organizers of a series of strikes in the factories of Kuibyshev in 1974. After two years this illegal Marxist organization could already count on more than 30 clandestine activists. One should emphasise that the “Workers Centre” was one of the most successful of dissident organizations in terms of its conspiratorial planning. Its activists carefully and persistently studied the conspiratorial experience of Russian revolutionaries before 1917 and that of Underground Partisans of the Great Patriotic War. This permitted the “Workers’ Centre” to successfully operate from 1974 to 1981.
In 1976 the leaders of the “Workers’ Centre” created a “Manifesto for a Revolutionary Communist Movement”:
The contra-revolutionary coup d’etat in the USSR has taken place so quietly and so unexpectedly that no one has realized. Today’s increasingly dictatorial Soviet administration in the course of a decade has managed to pose as Marxist-Leninist leadership, and succeeds in brainwashing the workers with their democratic play. Even the international communist movement as a whole doesn’t come near to a true Marxist evaluation of what is happening in Russia. But the counter-revolutionary coup d’etat has taken place and the first thing that we must do is to stop this very coup d’etat.
In 1961 the CPSU Programme and then the latest 1977 Constitution have stated that the tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat have been accomplished and the Soviet Union has now been declared an all-peoples state. But to Marxists it has always been clear that until the victorious proletariat can go without the need for a state, then this state can not be other than a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
The activists of the “Workers’ Centre” called for the thorough study of the experience of Communist China. Their manifesto was to include the following declaration:
Until the middle of the 1950s the political development of China at an accelerated pace repeated the experience of the Soviet Union. It is possible that other principles and possibly events linked to the arrival on the political arena of N.S.Khrushchev, forced Mao Zedong to consider the validity of the system which was able to promote such people to the supreme leadership. An analysis of the situation has confirmed our worst fears: with certain national divergences the Chinese system was a copy of the Russian one. And in China there has been a clear separation of the Party from the masses, and the formation at its apex of a parasitical organism.
The politics of the “Great Leap Forward” was an attempt to stir the initiative of the masses, arouse its conscious relation to the events taking place in comparison to a ‘peaceful’ road … The “Cultural Revolution” is a direct appeal to punish this formative bureaucracy, an attempt by crude facts to demonstrate to the masses that it is they who are the masters of the situation in the country, that in its collective actions it is all-powerful.
The death of Mao Zedong for China has meant, like the death of Stalin for the Soviet Union, the end of the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Andropov’s final rout of Maoists.
Towards the beginning of the 1980s the activists of the “Workers’ Centre” set up illegal links with their supporters in many cities of the Soviet Union from Moscow to Tyumen’. The question of the creation of an illegal revolutionary Marxist organization was raised which it was suggested would be called The Party of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. At this time the number of clandestine activists of the “Workers’ Centre” amounted to several hundred.
Thanks to the well organised conspiratorial methods the KGB didn’t manage to locate and discover the identities of a large amount of the activists. By 1981 the security services could only find out the names of the leaders of the organization even though according to the laws of the Soviet Union no facts were discovered which were sufficient to detain or arrest the leaders of the “Workers’ Centre”.
But by the end of the 1981 the international situation for Brezhnev’s USSR was growing more complicated. At the Central Committee of the CPSU they were very fearful that the mass actions of workers in Poland and the Solidarity Movement could find some support amongst Soviet workers. Therefore an order for the arrest of the leaders of the “Workers’ Centre” was given personally by Yuri Andropov even though the KGB had no proof of their illegal activity. This took place on December 14th 1981 on the day after a State of Martial Law was declared in Poland.
In Kuibyshev Isaev and Razlatsky were arrested. In spite of the fact that neither searches nor the subsequent investigation could gather any proof of their illegal activity, the leaders of the “Workers’ Centre” were condemned to long prison sentences in November 1982. Alexei Razlatsky received a sentence of 7 years and 5 years exile and Girgory Isaev 6 years prison and 5 years exile.
The frustrated Soviet Red Guards from Leningrad and Samara would only be freed after a few years at the very height of prestroika. And here begins a completely different history- Arkady Tsurkov who once propagated the ideas of Mao in Brezhnevian Leningrad would emigrate to Israel and an authentic Red Guard would establish himself in a paramilitary kibbutz…