R. Page Arnot

A Short History of the Russian Revolution

from 1905 to the present day (1937)

Part II
from February 1917 to the present day

Socialist Society

THE SECOND FIVE-YEAR PLAN, begun in 1933, had to achieve results considerably greater than the first Five-Year Plan. But, just because of the success of the first Pyatiletka, the still more remarkable projects of the second Pyatiletka did not encounter the incredulity with which the first had been greeted throughout the world.

The tasks of the second Five-Year Plan were set forth as the building of classless Socialist society; the completion of technical reconstruction throughout the whole of national economy; a still more rapid improvement in the standard of material well-being and culture of the entire Soviet population, with a twofold to threefold increase in consumption per head. In this second plan, the question of quality, mastery of the new technique, was particularly stressed.

Halfway through the second Five-Year Plan there began a movement from below which changed the situation and enormously accelerated the speed of Socialist construction. This was the famous Stakhanovite movement. Stakhanov was a miner who in one shift, on August 30th, 1935, performed many times the usual quota of work. This was achieved by careful planning of work and division of labour. His example was imitated. It spread to hundreds, to thousands, and then to scores of thousands. By mid-November 1935 there was held the First All-Union Conference of Stakhanovites, at which Stalin pointed out that Stakhanovism enabled them to catch sight of the horizon of Communism, that higher stage of development beyond the classless Socialist society. It meant that the prospect was now being opened of the cultural and technical level of the working class becoming so high as to eliminate the distinction, still existing under Socialism, between mental and manual labour. There was now in view a productive capacity at least as far beyond capitalism as capitalist productive capacity had exceeded that of feudalism; a prospect of such an abundance of articles of consumption that society, in the phrase of Marx, would be able to inscribe on its banners the slogan: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

Not only was there no longer any doubt that the second Five-Year Plan would be fulfilled, but the Stakhanov movement made it clear that it would be considerably over-fulfilled. Indeed, before the end of 1936 a whole number of branches of industry had already fulfilled their Five-Year Plan. By the end of March 1937, in the whole of industry and on the railways, the second Five-Year Plan had been fulfilled.

The second Pyatiletka encountered no difficulties in the shape of any open grouping within the Party opposing the Plan in general or in detail. But there were other difficulties originating outside the Soviet Union. The first month of the second Pyatiletka was the month in which Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. The first year of the second Pyatiletka witnessed the burning of the Reichstag, the epic struggle of the Bulgarian Communist, George Dimitrov, in the frame-up trial at Leipzig, the withdrawal of Japan from the League of Nations. Thus the second Five-Year Plan coincided with the development of Fascism, with the rapidly increasing danger of war, and finally with the Japanese-German-Italian “Anti-Communist Treaty” of November 1936, directed mainly against the U.S.S.R.

This demanded an enormous increase in the defensive capacity of the Soviet Union. Accordingly, at the beginning of 1936, the numerical strength of the Red Army was raised to 1,400,000, while, at the end of that year, a separate defence industry was established under a People’s Commissar.

The anti-Soviet war preparations of Japan, Germany, and their allies, which rendered necessary additional measures of Soviet defence, were not, of course, restricted within the German and Japanese borders. Espionage, wrecking, and terror in the shape of individual assassination, methods familiarly used both by the Japanese militarists and by the German Fascists, began to be employed within the Soviet borders. To some extent Japanese and German spies and secret-service agents were employed for these purposes. But, linked up with these as part of the general wrecking, espionage, and assassination agency, the Fascist Powers were able to use a number of Trotskyists, some of whom, like Trotsky, resided abroad, while others were in the Soviet Union. These men proved willing to turn traitor to their country and to the cause of Socialism.

In December 1934 one of the groups carried through the assassination of Sergei Mironovich Kirov, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Subsequent investigations revealed that behind the first group of assassins was a second group, an Organisation of Trotskyists headed by Zinoviev and Kamenev. Further investigations brought to light definite counter-revolutionary activities of the Rights (Bucharin-Rykov organisations) and their joint working with the Trotskyists. The group of fourteen constituting the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre were brought to trial in Moscow in August 1936, found guilty, and executed. In Siberia a trial, held in November, revealed that the Kemerovo mine had been deliberately wrecked and a number of miners killed by a subordinate group of wreckers and terrorists. A second Moscow trial, held in January 1937, revealed the wider ramifications of the conspiracy. This was the trial of the Parallel Centre, headed by Pyatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Serebriakov. The volume of evidence brought forward at this trial was sufficient to convince the most sceptical that these men, in conjunction with Trotsky and with the Fascist Powers, had carried through a series of abominable crimes involving loss of life and wreckage on a very considerable scale. With the exceptions of Radek, Sokolnikov, and two others, to whom lighter sentences were given, these spies and traitors suffered the death penalty. The same fate was meted out to Tukhachevsky, and seven other general officers who were tried in June on a charge of treason. In the case of Trotsky the trials showed that opposition to the line of Lenin for fifteen years outside the Bolshevik Party, plus opposition to the line of Lenin inside the Bolshevik Party for ten years, had in the last decade reached its finality in the camp of counter-revolution, as ally and tool of Fascism.

It was a remarkable tribute to the solidity, calm, and universal support of the Soviet Government by the masses that, during the very period when those investigations and trials were taking place, leaders of the Soviet people should have been preparing and publishing a draft of a new Constitution, which was to be the most democratic in the world.

At the same time as Hitler was denouncing democracy, and, together with Mussolini, had launched a ferocious war of intervention upon the democratically elected Government of Republican Spain, the U.S.S.R. was seen by the whole world as foremost champion of democracy against Fascism.

The Constitution was elaborated by a Commission of which Joseph Stalin was Chairman, set up at the Seventh Congress of Soviets in February 1935. On December 5th, 1936 (now a public holiday), the new Constitution was ratified by the Extraordinary Eighth Congress of Soviets of the U.S.S.R.

The Constitution confirms and registers the results already achieved on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the October Revolution. Its opening articles run thus:

“Article 1: The Union of Soviet Republics is a Socialist State of workers and peasants.

“Article 2: The political foundation of the U.S.S.R. is the Soviets of Toilers’ Deputies, which developed and grew strong as a result of the overthrow of the power of the landlords and capitalists and the winning of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

“Article 3: All power in the U.S.S.R. belongs to the toilers of town and country as represented by the Soviets of Toilers’ Deputies.

“Article 4: The economic foundation of the U.S.S.R. is the Socialist system of economy and the Socialist ownership of the implements and means of production firmly established as a result of the liquidation of the capitalist system of economy, the abolition of private property in the implements and means of production, and the abolition of exploitation of man by man.”

Here, then, is closed the last chapter of “the prehistoric stage of human society”: pre-history ends and history begins: and the famous words of Engels receive their application: “It is only from this point that men, with full consciousness, will fashion their own history; it is only from this point that the social causes set in motion by men will have, predominantly and in constantly increasing measure, the effects willed by men. It is humanity’s leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.”

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