From New International, Vol.3 No.2, April 1936, pp.63-64.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The Soviet Union and World Problems
Harris Foundation Lectures – 1935.
It has become less and less difficult, hardly even embarrassing, as the course of the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union has become clear to the enlightened bourgeoisie, for university round-table discussions to be devoted to the Soviet Union. We can guarantee that no professor, no gentleman of the professional or business world need fear the ruffling of his feelings by any crudeness in touch or approach to this delicate problem on the part of such understanding and sympathetic interpreters as Ambassador Troyanovsky, Chairman Boyeff, Correspondent Romm and Professors Kuhn and Graham. Unlike jewellers who polish off the rough edges and facets of a diamond to bring out its fire and lustre, these disseminators of culture use their technique to dim the intensity and brilliance of the October Revolution. The greatest world problem today is the problem of the transformation of capitalism into socialism, the problem of the international proletarian revolution and the relation of the Soviet Union to the world proletariat. In the perfunctory factual reports strung together in this book, not a hint is given that such a problem exists or that there is still a class struggle being waged. Rather the entire emphasis is laid on the juridical aspects of things, on the Stalin-Litvinov foreign policy, and on the question of nationalities in the Soviet Union.
The basic “principles” of the diplomacy of Stalin are stated with becoming clarity. The “struggle for peace”, that is, for the. maintenance of the status quo, the entry into, the League of Nations, the Franco-Soviet pact are all traced to the theory of socialism in one country. The peaceful coexistence of a workers’ state and of the surrounding world of capitalist states was premised on this Utopian theory. Stalin felt compelled to adopt this anti-Marxian “principle” in order to maintain power. The bureaucracy, with its Bonapartist pinnacle, became the regulator not only of the internal relations between workers and peasants in the workers’ state, but also of the antagonism between the workers’ state and world imperialism. In the process of regulating this inevitable antagonism between two fundamentally opposed economic and social systems, Stalin met reaction half way by crushing those instruments and organs which tied the Soviet Union firmly to the world proletariat and hence to world revolution. To the world working class Stalin assigned only one role – the policing of the borders of Russia to defend the Soviet Union against attack. But fearing to trust the workers with even this role, Stalin turns to the “friendly” imperialists for mutual defense against the “unfriendly” ones. These facts are, of course, not stated in such precise, terms by the Troyanovskys and Romms, but are not difficult to gather even in their guarded versions. Troyanovsky, who was a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Mensheviks during the October Revolution, makes it a point here as elsewhere, to link up the present policies of the Stalinists with those of Kerensky and the Mensheviks. Stalin is the continuator of Lenin – and Kerensky!
The treatment of the problem of nationalities in the Soviet Union is the best part of the book. Not, however, in the sense of portraying the tremendous role of national revolutions as one main stream flowing into and merging with the October Revolution, but as an indication of the completely democratic foundations of the Soviets and their freedom from the bourgeois taint of colonial exploitation. Nowhere was national oppression so intense, so bitter as under the Great Russian ruling class of the Czarist period. This was due to the backwardness of Russia and to the meagerness of the peasant economic foundation for the greedy exploitation by the feudal nobility and the landowners. It was the great contribution of Lenin to the strategy of revolution to have realized that the only way for the workers to gain the complete confidence of the oppressed nations was by the incorporation in the Bolshevik program of the complete self-determination of each nationality, even to the point of separating from Russia, the oppressor nation. It was this policy of the Soviets that actually kept the two hundred or more nationalities of Russia together in a federated socialist republic, pursuing the same socialist aims under different national forms. From the address of Stalin on the national question, reproduced in the appendix, one would hardly gather that Stalin the Georgian had endorsed the Menshevik point of view on this question just before October – a view which played the game of the Great Russian bourgeoisie in their attempt to keep in their clutches the exploited nations. The cultivation of the feelings of national patriotism in Russia at the present time are merely the recrudescences of Stalin’s old point of view. The Stalinist bureaucracy, relying more and more on a privileged and consciously fostered section of the working class, a stratum that is being imbued with feelings of superiority to the great mass of toilers, menaces the entire Soviet system. It creates the forces and the milieu that can prove fatal to the very existence of the workers’ state. It is to be expected, therefore, that Stalinism cannot help but have a corroding influence on the relation between the Soviets and the nations forming part of the Union. The danger of the restoration of capitalism inherent in the Bonapartist regime, includes the danger of the restoration of national oppression. A workers’ state can allow the completest freedom for national cultural development. In an imperialist epoch, a restored bourgeois state would by its very nature reestablish national and colonial exploitation.
The Harris lectures will not help to an understanding of the present phases of the class struggle, in or out of the Soviet Union. They form part of a vast literature of Stalinist justification, which means Stalinist prevarication and perversions of truth. It is necessary to refute the false and poisonous views presented in such books.
Last updated: 25.12.2005