Raya Dunyeskaya 1953

Malenkov Pledges H-Bomb and Caviar

Source: Correspondence, Nov. 14, 1953. Published without a bye-line. Included in the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection, microfilm numbers 2205-2207;
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels;
All notes are by the transcriber.

On October 25, the Pravda published a speech by the Russian Minister of Domestic Trade in which the following self-criticism and program was set forth:

“To buy caviar, cream cheese, honey, jam or marmalade the customer has to provide his own container...Industry must provide these goods ready-packed.”

The world press had a hilarious time laughing their heads off. It is indeed comical when one of the two rivals for mastery of the world sinks to the level of cream cheese and picked caviar as a solution to the crisis that is shaking it to its foundations. It is easy to laugh. But it is not so easy to grasp the totality of the crisis that is sending the Russian rulers to this pathetic policy.

The first turn to a policy of consumers’ goods began in Germany after the June revolts. So overwhelming had been the revolt of the workers in production against speed-up that the bureaucracy in East Germany was compelled to do something, anything, and hit upon the “New Look” in consumption, seeking to buy off the workers with clean lavatories, less tasteless clothes for women, and more love interest in films.

After the June Days in East Germany Malenkov embarked on a new domestic policy of consumers’ goods – proof sufficient that the rebellion of the Russian workers is no less. That was in August. But the new caviar policy in October is not to appease the Russian workers – who are not even sure of bread – but the Russian bureaucracy.

Regime Without A Future

Unlike its puppets in East Germany, the Russian bureaucracy has real power, economic power and state power. As long as the regime seemed to have a future, the demands of this bureaucracy for its own consumption could be kept within the context of the needs of production. Now, however, that it is filled with uncertainty both in regard to its internal power and its ability to challenge the United States for world power, it is going back to conspicuous consumption.

Grasping for privileges, the sure sign of imminent collapse of a system based on production at all costs, has set in. Malenkov, as the new boss aware of the type of bureaucracy he heads, has now promised them “elegant footwear,” the H-bomb and caviar. The H-bomb-caviar-footwear policy is an exact measure of the many conflicting tendencies within the ruling bureaucracy of post-Stalin Russia, each of which demands some appeasement of its interests.

It is not the death of Stalin that produced the new conflicts in Russia. It would be far more correct to say that the new conflicts in Russia produced Stalin’s death.

Postwar Russia

Stalin’s real troubles began with the conclusion of World War II. In 1946 Stalin could look back to two decades of power, during one of which he had been the “Sun, and the strength of the Himalayas.” He had wiped out all opposition and created a completely new state-capitalist class in his own totalitarian image, knowing no loyalty and allegiance to anything and anybody except the state, the planned economy and the “Leader” who had led so murderously and single-mindedly to power. Nobody, not one, had any vested interest in any private factories. Nobody, not one, cast an envious glance in the direction of the West. From all appearances Stalin was not only securely entrenched. There were no limits to how far he could expand. They owed him everything.

In behalf of the planned state economy and this new ruling intelligentsia who was to administer it, Stalin had destroyed workers’ control of production, substituted conferences of planners for workers’ production conferences, created history’s most elaborate apparatus of anti-labor legislation (in which a single tardiness of 15 minutes meant a 25 per cent loss of pay for six months). In addition, he had put the youth at the service of the state from their early teens, transformed women into hewers of wood and bearers of babies who thanked Stalin for their daily bread, uprooted whole villages of peasants in an attempt to liquidate the peasants as a class, sent more than 10 million persons into forced labor camps.

He had promoted the job-killers into a technical intelligentsia who had to be respected, depersonalized everybody except them, and finally legalized their status in a new Constitution. He had not only gotten rid of all oppositionists in the purges, but decapitated the Red Army as well. Finally, he had led the country to victory for the mastery of the world.

Nevertheless, after all this, Stalin was faced with an opposition. Not a Trotskyist-Bukharinist Opposition, nor one of any private – interventionist – capitalists. But a smoldering opposition from within his own monolithic bureaucracy. There, within, suddenly emerged people who were not ready to follow him headlong into war for world conquest. Instead, they said: Look at the United States and the capitalist world. They too have weathered the war; they have proved that they can plan. Let’s try to live with them. Both Eastern Europe and they are state-capitalist countries and we can co-exist.

Parallel in Post-War America

It should not be too hard for Americans to understand this. Because the end of World War II was so clearly just an interval between wars, here, too, in the United States, people began to question whether it was inevitable. In 1948 no less a figure than the former Vice-President, Henry A. Wallace, came to the head of a Communist-led movement, the Progressive Party. But it would be the most stupid mistake imaginable to think that the close to a million votes received by Wallace were Communist votes. [1] The middle classes, the youth, and newly returning GIs knew how close to a hot war the cold war was, and were therefore looking for a basis of co-existence with Russia. Stalin was no more shocked to have found heretics in his inbred bureaucracy than was the Democratic Party to have bred a Wallace.

The Russian Heretics

The Russian masses had no political party through which to express their opposition to Stalin’s plans. So they expressed themselves in the only way that they could, with their feet. Instead of continuing to work at break-neck speed in the plants after the war, they wandered all over Russia. Similarly, the Russian GIs and refugees from Russia in the DP [2] camps resisted repatriation to the extent of a desperate civil war.

The Russian theoreticians, on the other hand, took the easy way out. Cosmopolitanism became the new catchword for all the varieties of theoretical tendencies seeking in the chaos of the post-war years for some way to wiggle out inconspicuously from the vise of Stalin’s single-minded drive toward World War III. Varga, [3] with his Changes in the Political Economy of Capitalism Resulting from the Second World War, led the economists who said that capitalism had shown during the war that it could plan and overcome the general crisis. The whole Institute of World Economics headed by Varga got itself into that theoretic mess, and was forced to confess.

But it was not only the economists. There were the literary cosmopolites, the “Jewish intellectuals,” the army generals who had worked with the West, the diplomats who had lived abroad. These appeasers had no objection to the devaluation of the ruble which had robbed the peasants and the wartime workers of their savings, but they held back from the totality of Stalin’s plans for production and war.

Heresy Becomes Murder

Zhdanov was the only theoretician Stalin had. In 1939 Zhdanov had joined Party and Plan together in the report to the 18th Party Congress, changing the statues of the Party to erase all distinction as to class origin between factory managers and workers in the application for membership. In 1947 he joined the Party, the Plan, and the War together for Stalin in carrying out the cultural purges of all “cosmopolites” in economics, philosophy, literature, music, art, and so forth.

Then in 1948 Zhdanov was bumped off. Who could have done it? It could have been engineered only by the highest echelons of the bureaucracy. And, in fact, as we showed in the article on the Beria purge [4], it was Malenkov who engineered it, although the “doctors-poisoners plot” laid it at the door of Beria’s Ministry.

The New Men of Power

Between the Old Guard of the Stalinist bureaucracy and the new men of power there exists a gulf as deep as that between the tycoons of American industry who built their industrial empires and the new managers of these industries. Stalin and Malenkov represent two different stages of the bureaucracy: the first, its conquest of power; the second, its disintegration. Zhdanov is the transition between them.

Stalin believed in Production, the Plan and the Party and the terror was a means to achieve these.

Malenkov and Beria had become full members of the Political Bureau only as late as 1946. Whereas Stalin joined together the Party and the Plan and Production and Terror, and Zhdanov joined together the Party and the Plan, Malenkov and Beria represented only the Apparatus of the Party and the Terror. Contrast their methods. Under pressure from the vast bureaucratic machine he had himself created, Stalin worked out a new plan of production. History has its own ironies. This man who in his struggle with the brilliant Trotsky was so anxious to be a theoretician in his own name finally became a theoretician and laboriously and single-handedly worked out his last pronouncement, The Economic Problems of Socialism of the U.S.S.R. Pathetic and feeble as it was, it was a continuation of the conception of the abolition of private property as the means to solve economic crises. Malenkov, on the other hand, under pressure, and without the theory of production and more production as the way to solve every crisis, can only try to create a new loyalty to himself among the contending interests in the bureaucracy through the method of bribery.

It is true that in Stalin’s lifetime Malenkov was Stalin’s right-hand man. But Malenkov was of a new generation entirely, with no roots of any kind in the 1917 Revolution. They are both murderers of the working class. But if Stalin was a petty intellectual, Malenkov is just petty. If Stalin sought an economy in which the means of production so predominated over the means of consumption as to guarantee it an equal status with the United States, Malenkov is so much the pure technocrat that he thinks an announcement of possession of the H-bomb is sufficient to reassure the Russian bureaucracy. If Stalin took seriously the question of exterminating the peasantry as a class, Malenkov at present is counting on Khrushchev to take the agronomists out of the office and into the field to organize agriculture from above.

Stalin shared power with no one. Malenkov must share power with Khruschev. He must appease the Stalin men who carry on the tradition of production over consumption. Thus at one and the same time he tries to satisfy all poles of the vast bureaucracy. He thinks that can be done by turning some airplane factories to the production of atomic energy. And all of them together hope to keep their wives happy with fashionable clothing and crepe suzette recipes, and in that way live on despite the cracks in the regime, and particularly so in the satellite countries.

Thus does the Russian regime live from hand to mouth.

1. Wallace ran for president in the 1948 election, which was won by Democrat Harry Truman. Segregationist Strom Thurmond also ran, winning 39 electoral votes.

2. Displaced persons

3. Eugene Varga. See Dunayevskaya’s “The Case of Eugene Varga” http://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1949/varga.htm

4. “The Beria Purge,” Correspondence, Oct. 3, 1953. http://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1953/beria-purge.htm