Learn more about Revisionism
Revisionism has several meanings. One of its first (neutral) uses was the revision of Marx's doctrine by Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky in the late 19th century. Revisionism can also refer to the reexamination of past historical events as in to question conventional wisdom on a subject and determine what really occurred during an historical event as in historical revisionism. The term also has taken on a negative meaning in which it refers to attempts to deny generally accepted past events or at least alter the view of such events for political or other advantages such as in Holocaust denial (See also historical revisionism (negationism)). The term is also used neutrally in describing fiction which alters or comments on a previous fictional work or genre.
 Revisionism in the Socialist movement
Revisionism (particularly in the western socialist context) has most usually been applied to the reformulation, or for its detractors, the watering down, or abandonment, of cherished principles. For the more authoritarian currents within socialism, but not necessarily exclusively, the term has been used as a term of abuse. It has, however, been used in different ways at different times about different socialist trends.
- In the late 19th century revisionism was used to describe writers such as Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky who sought to revise the teachings of Karl Marx by claiming that a violent revolution was not necessary to achieve socialism. In all further uses of this term, there was an initial intent to create "guilt by association" between the abused socialist, and the actions of Bernstein in opposing violent revolution. See reformism.
- In the 1940s and 1950s within the international Communist movement, revisionism was used to describe Communists who focused on consumer goods production instead of heavy industry, accepted national differences and encouraged democratic reforms. Revisionism was one of the charges leveled at Titoists in a series of purges beginning in 1949 in Eastern Europe. After Stalin's death revisionism became briefly acceptable in Hungary during Imre Nagy's government (1953-1955) and in Poland during Władysław Gomułka's government, although neither Nagy nor Gomułka described themselves as revisionists.
- Following the Soviet repression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, many people, particularly intellectuals, resigned from western Communist parties in protest. They were sometimes accused of revisionism by "loyalist" Communists. E. P. Thompson's New Reasoner was an example of this revisionism. This movement eventually became known as the New Left.
- The views, so described, of Anthony Crosland, Hugh Gaitskell and their followers in the United Kingdom's Labour Party in the 1950s and subsequently, concerning the relevance of Public ownership in the party's objectives.
- In the early 1960s, Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China revived the term revisionism to attack Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet Union over various ideological and political issues, as part of the Sino-Soviet split. The Chinese routinely described the Soviets as "modern revisionists" through the 1960s. This usage was copied by the various Maoist groups that split off from Communist parties around the world.
 Marxist definition of revisionism
According to orthodox Marxists, theories, movements, leaders are revisionists when they describe themselves as Marxist but perceived by orthodox Marxists to be opposed to the general analysis of Marx and Engels.
The party that created the Soviet Union was built by Lenin and the Bolsheviks on the basis of a particular version of the analysis of Marx and Engels and on the struggle against revisionist analysis. Two questions were essential in Lenin's contribution to Marxism: (1) the revolutionary way to socialism; (2) the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Lenin attacked deviations and revisionist positions leading to the weakening the proletarian revolution involving many aspects of the struggle of the working class to overthrow the bourgeoisie and to build socialism and maintain power for the working class (i.e. the dictatorship of the proletariat), as a first step before communism (the establishment of a classless society with the withering of the State).
Marx's theories became gradually dominant in the workers' and socialist movement. The Marxists waged many struggles against revisionists and opportunists in the Second International, and mainly two debates: against Bernstein (who accepted Marxism without its revolutionary aspect) and against Kautsky (who believed that capitalism led to socialism without struggle). Lenin fought against revisionist positions of the Second International (on the peaceful transition to socialism, on narrow nationalism and separatist positions instead of internationalism, on the support by the social-democrat parties to "their" bourgeoisie during the First World War, etc.)
With the success of the October Revolution (1917) in Russia, Lenin's followers continued these battles in defense of what they called Marxism-Leninism: their theoretical struggle led to the struggle of Stalin against Trotsky, Bukharin and others.
With the development of the Third International, of the struggle of Communists against fascism and the victory against the Third Reich, Marxism-Leninism incorporated other theoretical concepts: the United Front against Fascism and War (1935), which led to the Popular Front and different sorts of United Fronts (Revolution in China). The alliance of communists with progressive forces were victorious.
In 1944, based on the unity against fascism (Teheran Conference), Browder declared that capitalism and Communism could peacefully co-exist (a concept that was different than that of Lenin's peaceful coexistence). In 1945, Jacques Duclos, a leader of the French Communist Party denounced Browder's policy ("Duclos letter") and Browderism was considered a new form of revisionism.
In 1963, after the death of Stalin (1953), Khrushchev, at the 20th Congres of the CPSU, attacked Stalin and presented a new analysis of contradictions within the Communist International. The CP of China started a debate with the CPSU ("Proposal concerning the general line of the International Communist Movement" among other letters and comments) which led to a struggle, by the CP of China against "modern revisionism".
 Historical revisionism
The term historical revisionism has a respectable meaning among historians and journalists as, illustrated in the Washington Post article "History In The Remaking: Reagan's Story Doesn't End Here" <ref>Lewis L. Gould History In the Remaking Reagan's Story Doesn't End Here in the Washington Post, June 13, 2004, Page B01.</ref>. Historical revisionism also has a more specific meaning when it is used as a label to describe the views of historians who publish articles that deliberately misrepresent and manipulate historical evidence. An example of this secondary usage is reported in another Washington Post article, "Conservatives Celebrate Winning One for the Gipper" <ref>Lisa de Moraes Conservatives Celebrate Winning One for the Gipper in the Washington Post, November 6, 2003, Page C07</ref>:
- People for the American Way saw it in a different light [...] Our primary concern is continued right-wing intimidation against the expressions of opposing points of view, whether attacks on dissent, intimidation of scientific researchers, or a demand for historical revisionism – or historical cleansing – regarding Ronald Reagan. (emphasis added).
This second common usage has occurred because some authors who publish articles that deliberately misrepresent and manipulate historical evidence (such as David Irving, a proponent of Holocaust denial), have called themselves "historical revisionists"<ref> Page 145. Richard J. Evans "Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial", (2001), ISBN 0-465-02153-0.</ref>, and this label has been used by others as a pejorative to describe them when criticizing their work.
Another example of historical revisionism is as a result of political intent. In particular, one can examine the aggressive efforts of some governments to censor school textbooks and online sources. By intentionally omitting or censoring some information, such governments can pursue a nationalistic agenda. Even delays of public information can misconstrue the original events. Current examples would include:
- The Chinese government for censoring criticism of how the CPC dealt with the civil protests such as Tiananmen Square Protests.
- Japanese school textbooks tend to whitewash acts of aggression and atrocities by Japan during WWII Japanese war crimes.
 Territorial revisionism
- Territorial revisionism is sometimes used as an euphemism for revanchism or irredentism. In post-World War I Europe the term was used to connote various nationalists opposed to international treaties which have deprived their country of territory, such as Germans opposed to the Treaty of Versailles, Hungarians opposed to the *Treaty of Trianon and the like. The term regained a rather similar usage in European post-Cold War debate, where many ethnic minorities hope to change the state borders drawn up after World War II.
- Revisionist Zionism was a movement founded by Vladimir Jabotinsky, who argued that the terms of the British Mandate in Palestine should be revised to make explicit the objective of creating a Jewish state there, and that the territory east of the Jordan River (Emirate of Transjordan in Jabotinsky's time, now the Kingdom of Jordan) be included in that future Jewish state. Today's Likud party is a direct descendant of the Revisionists.
 Fictional revisionism
- In fiction, revisionism is the retelling of a story or type of story with substantial alterations in character or environment, to "revise" the view shown in the original work.
- For example, the film Dances With Wolves is a revisionist Western because it portrays the Native Americans sympathetically instead of as the savages of traditional Westerns, which have been criticized as racist.
- Similarly, the novel Wicked by Gregory Maguire is a revisionist account of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which portrays The Wicked Witch of the West being on the right side and the Wizard being evil.
- The novel Creation by Gore Vidal portrays a secret history of the Persian Empire, not implausible but neither supported by historical evidence, in which Darius murders King Cambyses and steals the throne from rightful heir Prince Smerdis, in collusion with Queen Atossa.
- This usage is not generally considered pejorative.