Ted Grant

Stalin Versus Marx

Source: Socialist Appeal, February 1946
Transcription: Francesco 2008
Markup: Manuel 2008

A significant speech was delivered by Gregori Aleksandrov at the Lenin memorial meeting in Moscow. Aleksandrov is the chief of the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist (Stalinist) Party. Present at his speech were the elite of the bureaucracy and all the members of the Political Bureau.

In this speech he openly proclaimed a revision of the fundamental doctrines of Marxism-Leninism on the state.

Aleksandrov’s Speech

“Theories developed by Marx in the middle of the nineteenth century could not be accepted unchanged by Lenin. Lenin developed the idea that Marxists could not regard the theory of Marx as inviolable, and that that theory must constantly absorb the new experience of history and exert a transforming influence on the development of society. He accurately foresaw that the forces of reaction abroad would attempt to destroy the Socialist Soviet Union.

“The establishment of a powerful and flourishing Socialist land had been possible only, the speaker explained, because the theory of building a Socialist society in a single country was put into effect. There were two aspects of this policy. There were internal obstacles to be swept away and dangers from abroad to be met. Today there was no force within the Soviet Union capable of preventing the further development of Socialism and its gradual transition to Communism. Vigilance against attack from without had necessitated the rejection of the Marxist theory of the withering away of the State, based on the assumption of international Socialism and the adoption of the Stalin theory of building a strong State with a powerful army and its own military science capable of winning in war and achieving the military and diplomatic consolidation of victory.” (The Times, February 1st, 1946).

Here, in a finished form, is that vulgarisation of the ideas of Marxism against which Lenin fought all his life. The attempt to drag Lenin in as an opponent of Karl Marx is a vilification of the memory of the orthodox Marxist, Lenin. Lenin fought his whole life against the narrow, nationalist conception of “Socialism in one country.”

Stalin’s Previous Position

Stalin himself wrote in 1924, in his book Foundations of Leninism: this of course, before he said exactly the reverse:

“Can we succeed and secure the definitive victory of Socialism in one country without the combined efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries? Most certainly not. The efforts of a single country are enough to overthrow the bourgeoisie: this is what the history of our revolution proves. But for the definite triumph of Socialism, the organisation of socialist production, the efforts of one country alone are not enough, particularly of an essentially rural country like Russia; the efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries are needed. So the victorious revolution in one country has for its essential task to develop and support the revolution in others. So it ought not to be considered as of independent value, but as an auxiliary, a means of hastening the victory of the proletariat in other countries.” (Stalin, Theory and Practice of Leninism, issued by the C.P.G.B., 1925).

Fruits of “Socialism in One Country”

This theory of “Socialism in one country” has been shown to be false both internally and externally. The Communist International, from being an instrument of revolution, was reduced to an instrument of foreign policy for the Soviet bureaucracy. Thus, as a consequence, the revolution in other countries met disaster after disaster and because of this, inevitably resulted in war on the Soviet Union. Today the Communist International has been thrown into the dustbin.

The victory of the Soviet Union in war does not solve the basic problems of the Soviet Union. The policy of Stalin is preparing inevitably a third world war. All the efforts of Stalinism to gain “military” and “diplomatic consolidation” against her “allies”—Britain and America—will in the end result in the same disaster as did the Stalin-Hitler pact. As Lenin so clearly pointed out, war will continue so long as capitalism exists in the rest of the world. Thus, the theory of “Socialism in one country” far from building socialism free from interference, prepares new and greater catastrophes for the Russian and world working class.

Socialism needs no state

Stalinism cannot show a single line in Lenin which would justify the rejection of the Marxist theory of the withering away of the state. Just the contrary. Lenin’s little masterpiece State and Revolution categorically refutes this revisionism. The argument that a strong state is necessary because of the danger of intervention from without, is palpably false. If socialism really had been achieved in the Soviet Union, there could be no question of intervention on the part of the capitalist world. On the contrary, the capitalists would be powerless economically, militarily and politically in the face of a socialist society. This would be because socialism would achieve such an enormous development of the productive forces that America’s vast productive facilities would seem puny by comparison.

Such a system, far from requiring an enormously strengthened state, as Lenin taught in the above mentioned work, would need no state at all. The necessity of the state does not arise from the danger of military intervention—but from the inequalities within society, and to regulate the antagonisms that arise from these inequalities. Lenin called the state a capitalist survival. Far from seeing the need for a constant strengthening of the state and of the army, Marx and Lenin expounded the idea of the “armed people” replacing the standing army, pouring scorn on the opportunists and the Mensheviks who argued the need for a military caste and a civil bureaucracy standing above the people.

Lenin on the State

Lenin would have stood aghast at such a revision, even in the early stages of the dictatorship of the proletariat. We quote from Lenin:

“The proletariat needs the state—this is repeated by all the opportunists, social-chauvinists and Kautskyists, who assure us that this is what Marx taught. They  ‘forget’ however, to add that, in the first place, the proletariat, according to Marx, needs only a state which is withering away, i.e. a state which is so constituted that it begins to wither away immediately, and cannot but wither away; and secondly, the workers need ‘a state, i.e., the proletariat organised as the ruling class.’

“The state is a special organisation of force; it is the organisation of violence for the suppression of some class. What class must the proletariat suppress? Naturally, the exploiting class only, i.e. the bourgeoisie. The toilers need the state only to overcome the resistance of the exploiters, and only the proletariat can direct this suppression and bring it to fulfilment, for the proletariat is the only class that is thoroughly revolutionary, the only class that can unite all the toilers and the exploited in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, in completely displacing it.” (State and Revolution, Lenin, Collected Works, page 168). [source] (translation differs)

Lenin was not satisfied with explaining how the state would wither away under Socialism, but laid down concrete measures, not for socialism be it noted, but even for the establishment of a workers’ state—the dictatorship of the proletariat.

“The workers, having conquered political power, will break up the old bureaucratic apparatus, they will shatter it to its foundations, until not one stone is left upon another; and they will replace it with a new one consisting of these same workers and employees, against whose transformation into bureaucrats measures will at once be undertaken, as pointed out in detail by Marx and Engels: (1) not only electiveness, but also instant re-call; (2) payment no higher than that of ordinary workers; (3) immediate transition to a state of things when all fulfil the functions of control and superintendence, so that all become ‘bureaucrats’ for a time, and no one, therefore, can become a ‘bureaucrat’.” [source] (translation differs)

The Stalinist State

Not a single one of these conditions is in existence in Russia today. The Soviets have been abolished and a parliament—without the advantages of bourgeois democracy, free elections of contending parties and candidates—has taken their place. Instead of the dissolution of the army into the armed people, we have a caste of privileged military bureaucrats living on higher standards in relation to the Russian soldiers than even the generals in the capitalist countries in relation to their rank and file. The rule of no payment for officials higher these that of a worker was long ago abolished. And high state officials and bureaucrats have greater differences with the people in privileges and wages than even in the capitalist countries. “The functions of control and superintendence” have long ago disappeared and an all-powerful caste of bureaucrats in state and factory orders the workers’ lives.

As if to make quite certain of answering traitors such as Stalin and Aleksandrov in advance, Lenin had written:

“The possibility of such destruction [of bureaucracy—E.G.] is assured by the fact that Socialism will shorten the working day, raise the masses to new life, create such conditions for the majority of the population as to enable everybody, without exception, to perform ‘state functions’, and this will lead to a complete withering away of every state in general.” [source] (translation differs)

“The more democratic the ‘state’ consisting of armed workers, which is ‘no longer a state in the proper sense of the word’, the more rapidly does every state begin to wither away.” [source] (translation differs)

Open break with Marxism

Thus we see that Lenin’s position is just the opposite to that of Stalin and his mouth-piece Aleksandrov. To attempt to separate Marx from Lenin is to betray all the teachings of Leninism, in the name of Lenin. Stalin, the anti-Marxist, for the first time here openly proclaims his break with Marxism through one of the stooges. Up to now the Stalinists have made a pretence of basing themselves on the Marxist theory of the state. For years they have slandered and vilified Trotsky because he foretold the inevitable break with Marxism. This open break will make the road considerably easier for the Trotskyist movement in its approach to members of the Communist Parties who suffer from illusions that Stalinism is Marxism.

The break with Lenin’s internationalism led to the theory of “Socialism in one country.” This in its turn has led now to the open break with Marxism on the question of the state. This fundamental breach with the ideas of Marx and Lenin prepares the way for the complete abandonment of any pretence of standing on the programme of Bolshevism, which was always based on the teachings of Marx.

Now that the danger of military intervention has receded into the background, the workers, especially the youth of the Soviet Union will be asking, even if in mottled tones, why the Marxist and Leninist theory is not working out; what need is there for the highly paid generals and bureaucrats in the army and civilian life? The workers will be saying: Isn’t it about time that they who have lorded over us for the past 20 years, should start to make themselves scarce and “wither away”?