Karl Kautsky

Social Democracy versus Communism

6. Is Soviet Russia A Socialist State? [1]

We do not know whether Lenin would have continued the NEP. He died in 1924. After his death, differences arose among the Bolsheviks on the question of the NEP. And indeed its development demanded the adoption of a definite policy. It was necessary either to extend the system, which promised an economic upturn but threatened the existence of the dictatorship, or to abolish the NEP and return to integral communism. It was the latter that was decided upon by Stalin, who had gained unlimited authority among Lenin’s followers.

State industry, however, was in a precarious condition and facing imminent ruin. Its production apparatus had to be overhauled. And so once more the Bolsheviks recalled Marxist doctrine, upon which after all Bolshevism at the beginning was founded, namely, that modern Socialism could develop only on the basis of a highly advanced heavy industry. It was decided, therefore, to create this industry at express train speed with the aid of a Five Year Plan. Within five years, beginning with 1928, it was planned to build an industrial organization that was to eclipse even that of the United States.

The Five Year Plan was undertaken as a result of the desperate economic situation in Soviet Russia. War and civil war had undermined all industry. Added to these were the effects of the original nationalization of industrial plants in 1918, under which industry found itself in a state fluctuating between anarchy and militarization. The output of Russian industry was rapidly approaching zero.

This situation, emphasized by the Kronstadt rebellion, (in 1921) led to the New Economic Policy, which continued until 1928, the year of the introduction of the Five Year Plan. The NEP and return to peace brought a temporary revival of economic life. Nevertheless, the Bolsheviks could not stop with the New Economic Policy. They did not realize that intellectuals were part of a working class, that the working class could not emancipate itself and achieve a higher order of production without the full and willing cooperation of a sufficient number of able and well trained intellectuals.

The socialist conceptions of the Bolsheviks were so primitive and crude that they failed to realize this. They preached the gospel of the mailed fist of labor, branded the intellectuals (insofar as they were not members of the Communist Party) as on a par with the “bourgeoisie” and the capitalists, and reduced them to the condition of pariahs without any rights. But the Communists soon realized that they did not have within their own ranks an adequate supply of talent capable of directing industrial plants. Their operation had to be entrusted to “class enemies,” who from the beginning regarded the new economy as misguided and destructive, and whose opposition was accentuated by the ill treatment accorded them. Looked upon with distrust, they were subjected to constant control by utterly incapable fanatical Communists, and made the scapegoats for every failure. Under the desperate conditions prevailing, failures continued to multiply while the managers of Soviet industry, living in an atmosphere of increasing terrorism, found themselves helpless in the hands of their Communists masters.

Lack of skilled labor constituted an additional difficulty. Shortage of such labor was also a feature of czarist Russia, due to lack of proper educational facilities. The war had served to reduce still more the number of skilled workers, while curtailing the training of additional forces. This shortage was further aggravated during the revolution when many skilled workers – provided they were Communists or “non-partisans” – were transferred as a matter of favoritism from the factories to government jobs.

All this put industry at a great disadvantage. Worst of all, however, was the effect of the tremendous state apparatus which the dictatorship had to set up in order to maintain itself. Nationalized industry was subjected to the domination of this machine which, under the circumstances, assumed increasingly larger proportions. The dictatorship inevitably brought about a condition in which all organizations subordinate to it were deprived of any independence. The absence of any outlet for open criticism made it necessary to extend in ever growing measure the task of keeping watch over the state apparatus, in proportion as it grew in scope and unwieldiness. This slow, top-heavy, artificial, bureaucratic machine vitiated the joy and efficiency of labor. An inevitable concomitant of these conditions was the spread of corruption, which certainly did not improve matters.

The leading Bolsheviks themselves looked with dissatisfaction upon the degeneration of economic life arising from the effects of the rampant bureaucracy. Individual departments came under the criticism of the Soviet press. This was so called “self-criticism.” But all that these outbursts of indignation against the bureaucrats accomplished was punishment of a few scapegoats and individuals guilty of particularly glaring inefficiency.

These were the reasons why Soviet industry was unable to move forward with any marked degree of success under the NEP, although production did increase somewhat over that of 1918-21, the period of “military communism.”

Prices of industrial commodities rose above pre-war and world-market levels. The purchasing power of the peasant declined in growing measure as a result of the state’s determined efforts to keep down prices of farm products. This gave rise to a dangerous oppositionist tendency on the part of the peasants, who replied by cutting down production in the face of the disquieting growth of the population, which was proceeding at the rate of more than 3,000,000 annually. Worst of all, was the fact that despite all increases in prices industry was able to meet only wages and costs of materials, without any margin to cover wear and tear of machinery, to say nothing of creating a surplus for the extension of plants and equipment commensurate with the tremendous growth in population. The production apparatus taken over by the Soviet Government from its capitalist predecessors was rapidly deteriorating. This threatened to bring industry to a complete standstill.

Under Stalin’s leadership the Soviet Government there upon decided to embark upon an attempt as bold as it was colossal of extricating itself from the swamp which threatened to engulf it. All of Russia’s resources were to be mobilized and concentrated, to the neglect of all other branches of activity, upon the development of heavy industry. In the event of success, it was contemplated to develop similarly the lighter industries, agriculture and, finally, the cultural domain. Heavy industry was to be developed as quickly as possible, the fear being that even as powerful a national organism as the Russian people could not very long withstand the enormous strain to which it was being subjected by the task set before it. Heavy industry was to be completely reorganized within five years, the promise being, however, that the beneficient effects of new construction were to manifest themselves in an improvement of living conditions within two to three years.

This was to be the Five Year Plan. The plan was immediately put into execution with all the zeal and energy available. But the causes which had contributed to the failure of industry under the NEP, despite the temporary improvement, remained unaltered: lack of skilled labor, the outlawing of plant managers, and particularly the crippling of production by the monstrous, bureaucratic machine which is simultaneously the instrument of the governing apparatus of the dictatorship and the administrative apparatus of production.

To the old misery which the Five Year Plan inherited and perpetuated had been added a great deal of new suffering. This was inevitable. The execution of the plan required immense capital. Where was this to be obtained? Capitalist industry creates tremendous surplus values which permit the capitalists not only to live and to maintain expensive armies and navies, but to accumulate also immense capital reserves. Soviet industry has barely managed to pay wages and costs of materials. The costs of the army, the police, the bureaucracy, the state controlled press, the Communist Party must be met for the most part by exploitation of the peasantry. Under these circumstances, how were the enormous resources necessary for the realization of the Five Year Plan to be obtained? Through loans from capitalist countries of the “decayed West?”

These, to be sure, the Bolsheviks tried hard to obtain, but the credits received, through maneuvers of doubtful moral character, were very far from sufficient. Only from Russia herself could the great bulk of the capital necessary for the Five Year Plan be sought, for the machinery required and supplied by foreign capitalists had to be paid for.

The problem, could, therefore, be solved only by depriving the Russian population, which contains virtually no capitalists but only wage-earners, peasants and intellectuals, of the product of its labor to the extent which would barely keep it from revolting or dying of hunger in the streets. Everything that can possibly be squeezed out of the people was sold in the world market at any price. The proceeds were devoted to purchasing machinery and equipment from capitalists abroad. During the “Piatiletka” (Russian term for the Five Year Plan), there were accomplished indeed colossal things that aroused the amazement and admiration of the capitalist world and of many Socialists who had previously maintained a skeptical attitude toward the Bolshevik experiment. Some of them took the view which they themselves had previously rejected. They said, “Well, it is true that the Bolshevik methods are not suitable for us; nevertheless they seem to lead to socialist construction in Russia.”

An indirect criticism of this view was once offered by Lenin himself in the days of czarism, when he was ridiculing the czarist government. In January 1905, he published in the newspaper Vperiod an article about the Russian reverses in the war with Japan, where he clearly proved that those reverses were the result of Russia’s lack of freedom, which hindered the efforts of energetic and selfreliant people without whom it was impossible to win a war.

“Events have proved,” wrote Lenin, “how right those foreigners were that tens and hundreds of millions of roubles were wasted on the purchase and construction of magnificent dreadnoughts, and who pointed out that all these expenditures were useless in the absence of people capable of handling modern military machinery and navigating modern vessels.”

This applies both to machines intended for destruction and those built for production. Machines are useless if there are no competent people to tend them.

Indeed, what characterizes modern production is not only a highly developed technique but also highly qualified workers who know how to operate the latest machinery and who are to be found in sufficient numbers only in a democracy. These workers are the prerequisites, even to a larger extent than the machines, of a true Socialist society that guarantees welfare and freedom to all.

In Russia, however, under the Czar as well as under the Bolsheviks all efforts have always been directed toward importing the modern technique of capitalist countries, but not the freedom which creates modern men.

In the ’60’s of the past century, under the influence of the defeat suffered in the Crimean War, a liberal movement sprang up among a section of the Russian nobility. This faction, after abolishing serfdom, wanted to emulate the English aristocracy in conducting a modern economy. The abolition of serfdom brought to some of the landowners large indemnities which they used in the purchase of agricultural machinery in England. But they could not import English workers along with the machinery, or if they could it was only in small numbers. The peasants, who by law had just been freed from serfdom but who in reality continued to be the slaves of the landowners arid of absolutism, showed little capacity for handling modern machinery. The machines soon fell into disrepair and became junk.

The promoters of the Piatiletka disregarded these early experiences. They too, believed that all that was necessary was to import as many new machines as possible from the industrial countries. They forget that it was necessary also to create the political and social conditions that furthered the development of modern men. Still less did they think of the fact that such men cannot be developed as fast as new machines are created, and, for this purpose, the Five Year Plan was not enough.

But to create new machines in the face of a lack of qualified workmen means not to increase the productive forces of the country, but only to waste its resources.

Furthermore, Stalin and his men during the Piatiletka were wasting national wealth in a manner quite different from the method employed in the sixties by the liberal landowners. The latter spent for the purchase of machinery only such funds as would have been wasted in gambling, in trips to Paris, etc. The condition of their peasants did not grow worse on account of it. Quite different is the case with Stalin. All the wealth of Russia which her exploiters had been able to garner before the World War by accumulating the surplus value that flowed into their pockets had been spent or destroyed first in the war, then in the civil war, and finally in consequence of the establishment of a bureaucratic state economy by the Bolsheviks. The large sums of money needed for the creation of the new industrial apparatus could be raised only be extracting as much as possible of the newly-created surplus value from the laboring masses. But the productivity of these masses was quite small. Under Czarism the wages and standard of living of the workers were pitifully low. They declined further during the world war and civil war. During the NEP period, they rose somewhat. Now they have been greatly reduced again in order to obtain money for the purchase of machines.

Foreign tourists in Russia stand in silent amazement before the gigantic enterprises created there, as they stand before the pyramids, for example. Only seldom does the thought occur to them what enslavement, what lowering of human self-esteem was connected with the construction of those gigantic establishments.

The Russian land-owners imported machinery without improving the condition of the peasants or adding to their freedom. This was the cause of the failure of their technical reform plan. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, imported machinery by rendering the condition of the workers immeasurably worse and curtailing their freedom. They extracted the means for the creation of material productive forces by destroying the most essential productive force of all-the laboring man. In the terrible conditions created by the Piatiletka, people rapidly perished. Soviet films, of course, did not show this. But to convince oneself one only has to inquire of Western European and American workers who went to work in Russia to escape the capitalist hell and find happiness in the Soviet paradise. After a short stay, these workers hurried back to their former “hell,” where conditions may have been bad enough but yet more bearable than was the condition of the workers or even privileged persons on the other side of the Soviet border.

The results of the Piatiletka have turned out to be terrible largely because the Bolsheviks, not content with setting up a large number of gigantic industrial establishments, undertook to transform the individual peasant economy forthwith into a gigantic collective economy, doing precisely that which Lenin had prudently abstained from. For Lenin was able to win because he energetically supported the demands of the peasants who were bent on taking possession of the land of the landowners. It must be noted, however, that this support was quite unnecessary to the peasants, inasmuch as the Social Revolutionists and Mensheviks sided with the peasants in this question and had promulgated the division of the land among the peasants before the Bolsheviks had seized power.

But Stalin needed money for a program of rapid industrialization on a gigantic scale. Those enterprises which already existed were working on a deficit, and therefore the expedient of extracting more from the peasants seemed all the more necessary. This method of procedure encountered many difficulties when applied to the individual, free peasants who had enough resistance power. Hence, the idea of combining the individual peasant holdings into gigantic collectives, the so called “kolkhozy,” ruled by the state. From such enterprises, the state thought to collect a much larger share of their production than from individual peasants. But the peasants would not join the “kolkhozy.” Therefore they must be compelled to join them by force. Thus, the diligent and willing toil of free peasants was replaced with the compulsory labor of unwilling serfs. And the yield of such labor is always poor in quality and quantity. It can be managed only with the aid of the most primitive and simple tools of production. A man working under compulsion will quickly damage any kind of complicated tool. And yet the kolkhozy were supposed to be the last word of efficiency and modernity in agricultural economy. They were supplied with the best American implements. With the change to the new methods of production, cattle were to a large extent slaughtered. The member of the kolkhoz was compelled to work with the new implements of production which were not suited to him, for they require free, highly-skilled workers. The old implements, to which he had become accustomed, are gone. It is easy to imagine the results accomplished by a man working against his will and interests. And in fact, since the introduction of “Socialist construction,” the productivity of Russian agriculture has been declining appreciably. At present[2] there is real famine in that agricultural country. In the days of the Czar we were perfectly justified in denouncing famine in Russia as evidence of the rottenness of the political order. But the famine in Russia this year exceeds anything known before. It rages practically all over the Ukraine, in Northern Caucasus and the Lower Volga region, the most fertile sections of the country-the very ones in which the collectivization of agriculture has been most extensive.

There are some who admitting the economic weaknesses of the Soviet regime continue to have faith in its aims and possibilities. But are not these economic weaknesses of the regime themselves due to the fact that the social transformation possible under the historical and structural conditions prevailing in the Soviet Union cannot by the very nature of things be a socialist one? By its very nature, the Soviet regime cannot create anything beyond a purely governmental economy with an enormously unproductive bureaucracy. Is this not the kind of economy the socialist character of which has always been denied by Socialists?

The highly rationalized technology of some Soviet industrial plants which, like the rest of Soviet economy, are woefully unproductive when looked upon from any true economic point of view, is but a drop in the bucket as a positive factor when viewed from the standpoint of the interests of the national welfare. Still, the Bolsheviks continue to speak glibly of the necessity of “greatest sacrifices” in the present as the price of “future welfare.”

Great sacrifices cannot be waved aside quite so easily. Who will guarantee that “the future welfare” under the dictatorship will be anything more than a Fata Morgana? This dictatorship is pictured by some as the dictatorship of a minority animated by faith, enthusiasm and readiness for higher self-sacrifice in behalf of a great human ideal, and seeking to impose that ideal upon the great majority of 170,000,000 people.

I see the present generation of Communists, i.e. not those in the opposition but those in power, in quite a different light. A few among them may still be regarded as idealists, but too many of them have succumbed to the inevitable consequences nurtured by the dictatorship. These are the consequences of every despotism, which inevitably cultivates and encourages a conscienceless element eager to adapt itself to the needs of the powers that be, spies, stool pigeons, informers, careerists.

How can a ruling caste among whom such elements dominate in increasing measure the despotism from which they sprang, while ejecting progressively the influence of decent comrades, be animated by any readiness for high self-sacrifice in the name of a great human ideal? No doubt, they speak much of sacrifice, as do many German Nazis, they demand immeasurable sacrifices of others, but never of themselves. They themselves are quite comfortable as long as the Communist Parry remains in power.

The Russian Communist Party which is seeking to impose this road to “future welfare” upon 170,000,000 human beings embraces some 2,000,000 members. How many among them are spies, informers, careerists?

Socialism could be brought about only by an independent movement of an overwhelming majority. It is the task of the Socialists to lead in this movement. And when they are confronted, with the apathy of the majority, they must seek to enlighten it and to win it over to their side. Under no circumstances must they seek to dominate it by violence and compulsion. Only when minorities of exploiters try to hold down by force majorities of exploited do we consider the use of force against such minorities justified. But never against the majority of the. population, however reactionary it may be.

Under Czarism the working class of Russia had to contend against very limited opportunities for political and social development. Nevertheless, a large portion of the working class managed to utilize whatever opportunities were available to the best possible advantage and to enlarge these opportunities in constant, stubborn struggle against the oppressors. With the breakdown of absolutism in 1917, the expectation was justified that under the new democratic conditions the elite of the Russian workers would continue to make rapid progress and carry the masses with them.

Then came the Bolsheviks and destroyed all the seeds that had sprouted so hopefully by imposing upon the people a regime that is much more oppressive. The old revolutionary idealists, insofar as they failed to become Communists, were killed, driven into exile or silenced in prison cells. Of former Bolsheviks themselves many have disappeared and died; many have submitted in hopeless resignation or have been corrupted by posts of power. Of the new generation now rising, an ever decreasing minority belongs to the Communist Party. The greater portion of this minority has fallen victim to those perversions of character which the possession of limitless power inevitably cultivates – among Communists as well as among princes. The overwhelming majority of the people, however, has been shorn of all human dignity, all capacity for action, and reduced to the level of starved and beaten beasts of burden. The fact that they appear to submit and to bear silently, without protest, with aching heart, all the heavy sacrifices and privations heaped upon them by their new masters is not to be regarded as in the nature of the heroic but as extremely depressing.

The Russian working class has declined progressively with every year from the height to which it had attained in 1917. It is not approaching closer to Socialism, but is moving constantly away from it, and is losing in every increasing measure the capacity for self-determination in the labor process. State slavery does not become Socialism merely because the slave drivers call themselves Communists.

The methods of dictatorship in general and of the Five Year Plan in particular do not constitute the road to Socialism, but rather the road away from it.

Certainly, it is the aim of Socialists to deprive the capitalists of the means of production. But that in itself is not enough. We must also determine who is to control these means of production. When another minority takes the place of the capitalists and controls the means of production, independently of the people and frequently against their will, the change in property relations thus accomplished signifies least of all Socialism. There are forms of Oriental despotism in which the master of the state wield also mastery over the country’s instruments of production. [2] In comparison with this form of state economy, the capitalist system of production is much less oppressive, and resistance to it much more promising of results. In Russia it is the government, not the people, who controls the means of production. The government is thus the master of the people.

The Socialism toward which Social Democracy is striving is a mode of production superior to capitalism. But the latter constitutes the highest of all modes of production yet developed: large industries with free workers who as yet have no authority over their means of production. Collective ownership and management of large enterprises with fullest freedom for the workers is Socialism, which is superior to industrial capitalism. But this capitalism is superior not only to the small industry of the guild craftsman, but also to large industry with compulsory labor, as well as to every form of state economy based upon conscript labor. Every economy of this sort must be rejected in spite of the fact that it is not capitalist. I do not agree with Max Adler who, arguing against me, once said that “for a Marxist the duty to participate in and sympathize with every movement against capitalism is a moral axiom.”

Our duty is not merely to abolish the capitalist order but to set up a higher order in its place. But we must oppose those forces aiming to destroy capitalism only to replace it with a barbarous mode of production.

It is for this reason that the democratically-minded portion of the working class must oppose all tendencies toward dictatorship threatening the freedom of the workers, tendencies manifested not only by the capitalists but also those that originate with anti-capitalist groups.

What we see in Russia, is, therefore, not Socialism but its antithesis. It can become Socialism only when the people expropriate the expropriators now in power, to use a Marxian expression. Thus, the socialist masses of Russia find themselves with respect to the problem of control of the means of production in the same situation which confronts the workers in capitalist countries. The fact that in Russia the expropriating expropriators call themselves Communists makes not the slightest difference. The difference between Soviet Russia and Western Europe is that the workers in the advanced capitalist countries are already strong enough to have limited to some extent the dictatorship of capital and to have altered power relationships to a point which makes the socialization of important economic monopolies a matter of the political victory of the workers in the near future, whereas in Russia the means of production are highly concentrated in one hand and their ownership protected by an absolutist state machine, while the workers, being divided, without organization of their own, without a free press or free elections, are completely shorn of any means of resistance.

Similar to the monopoly of property ownership in Russia is the monopoly of education. This is one of the instruments whereby the dictatorship seeks to buttress its power.

Still worse is the complete destruction of intellectual freedom, which strikes even the mass of Communists. True education, genuine participation in the knowledge of our time, is impossible without intellectual liberty.

The situation has been characterized by Otto Bauer as follows:

“Russia is a state of unlimited absolutism, much more than it was under the Czar. The government is all-powerful. No meetings are permitted except those agreeable to the government, no newspapers except those of the government party. Members of all other organizations are at best jailed, at worst shot. The control of the police over the population has attained a measure which can hardly be imagined in free countries. It is a regime of absolutist dictatorship, of a power quite without any limitation, which holds every human being completely in its hand but is itself subject to no control.

“Such a system of dictatorship destroys all intellectual liberty. In Russia there is only one form of science – that officially authorized by the government. He who entertains scientific views other than those prescribed officially is thrown out to starve and must, indeed, consider himself fortunate if he is not exiled or shot.”

Nowhere are the mass of the people and the mass of Communists themselves deprived of opportunity to learn what is raking place in the world of science, to explore the truth and to know it, as in Soviet Russia. In capitalist countries the masses of the people have a hundred times more opportunity for real knowledge, not mere drilled and regimented Communist talk; a hundred times more opportunity to break the educational monopoly of the ruling class than in the land of so-called “proletarian” dictatorship. Only Fascist Italy may be compared with Russia in this respect. It is precisely in respect to education that the Russian people have yet to win what the people of the West have long been enjoying. This cannot be attained so long as the dictatorship continues to rule. On this point, too, the road of Bolshevism leads not to Socialism but away from it.

But are not the Russians superior to us at least in the domain of planned economy? Are we not at the present moment experiencing in capitalist countries the calamitous consequence of capitalist anarchy? Is not the planned economy of the Soviet Union to be hailed in favorable contrast to this situation?

One might be inclined to think so. A planned economy should certainly be possible where the general apparatus of production is concentrated in one hand. Nor does such an economy require the socialist self-determination of the people in the labor process. Even the state economy of a despot may be planfully regulated. All human social life which does not spring from mere natural causes requires planned regulation if it is to proceed to some purpose. Any industrial plant is evidence of that.

The Bolsheviks, too, tried to introduce such regulation from the beginning of their rule. But they met with no success, and could not have been successful because of the peculiar conditions under which they came into power.

When the Socialists come into power in the democratic countries they will have already secured the support of the majority of the population for their program. They will be able to support themselves upon great mass organizations of trained comrades, political, trade union, cooperative and educational. Their leaders will have already gained wide experience in the organization and administration of developed social enterprises, as well as much practical and not merely theoretical knowledge in economic affairs as representatives in communal legislatures and administrative organs, as state officials and ministers and, on the other hand, as leaders of workers’ cooperatives and labor banks, as managers of great newspapers, etc. They are acquiring also the ever-increasing support of intellectuals now engaged in managing private enterprises.

All this will make it possible for Social Democracy to introduce planning and system in production when we acquire power and will enable us to master the production process. Its economic knowledge and sense o£ responsibility with regard to the masses will keep it from striking out upon adventurist policies and will guard it at every step against ill-conceived actions.

The conditions prerequisite for any such development were non-existent in Russia when the Bolsheviks seized power. Czarism had suppressed every opportunity for the participation of all classes in government, and subjected the regulation of all social life to rigidly centralized, bureaucratic, police and military institutions.

When these institutions collapsed in 1917, in the midst of military defeat, all classes of the population found themselves free but without any experience and knowledge in self-government. Under a democratic regime they undoubtedly would have acquired quickly the necessary experience and ability. At first, the democracy showed itself quite helpless, however. The Bolsheviks utilized this period to destroy democracy and to erect a new despotism by means of a rigidly centralized conspiratory organization, with the support of a group of workers, soldiers and sailors in Petrograd. Bolshevism obtained the support of these elements by making unmeasured promises, prompted to a large extent by demagogy but certainly also by underestimate of the difficulties of the task.

No less than the masses were the leaders unable to develop under czarist conditions the necessary ability without which victory over capitalism is impossible. The Bolsheviks were well schooled in fighting the police and in winning the plaudits of poor, ignorant devils. But they lacked any knowledge and experience in the administration of government and economic institutions. They had studied Marx theoretically, but in a talmudic sense, for they lacked any opportunity to study more intimately the economic phenomena with which Marx dealt.

With quite inadequate human material, themselves entirely unprepared, the Bolsheviks ventured to turn topsy-turvy a country of 170,000,000 inhabitants and to establish in Russia an order of production the prerequisite for which were absent, nay, for which there were no models even in the much higher developed West.

Even the greatest of geniuses would have found this too large a task. Visionaries like Upton Sinclair, Bernard Shaw, Henri Barbusse and others may be impressed by the daring of the Bolsheviks, but this daring emanates from complete ignorance.

The Bolsheviks were forced to the attempt to create something resembling a planned economy. Planned economy presupposes, however, something more than the drawing up of a plan-nothing is easier. It presupposes also its systematic and consistent execution. Only when this is attained can we speak of planned economy. This has never been achieved in Soviet Russia, however, and could not have been achieved, for the conditions prerequisite to the success of any plan were non-existent. Failure was all the more certain because each succeeding plan was embarked upon in haste and without preparation. As soon as one plan would be put into operation its shortcomings would become apparent and it was found necessary to change it and, finally, to abandon it. Naturally, the decision to cast it overboard would be delayed as long as possible, as long as there appeared to be any prospect of making any progress along the particular road in question. It would be abandoned only when it was no longer. possible to cling to it. Thereupon, the Bolsheviks would rush into another plan.

This constant change of plans in Soviet Russia, is, therefore, no mere accident. It is the inevitable consequence of the original sin of Bolshevism, which imagined that it could regenerate the world by means of a coup d’etat carried out with the assistance of a few thousand soldiers and sailors.

What we see in Russia is not planned economy but an economy of plans, an unbroken succession of plans, which characterizes Bolshevism from its very beginning. These projects are frequently colossal, but each is only begun, none is carried calmly to a conclusion, being constantly modified, abridged, altered, until it is found inadequate and “improved” by a new one or abandoned. What we find in Soviet Russia is ordre, contre-ordre, desordre, or arrangement, rearrangement, disarrangement.

But has not the dictatorship in Russia some real successes to its credit? Has it not industrialized and collectivized the nation’s economy and “altered thereby, not only the face of the Soviet Union but of the world, thus rendering the greatest service of our time so far as the future is concerned?”

The construction program carried out under Stalin’s reign is by no means unprecedented. Other rulers before Stalin who commanded the services of large masses of docile, helpless labor whom they sacrificed mercilessly to their plans were able, even in primitive times, to build huge edifices which roused astonishment, edifices the construction of which was brought about by tremendous sacrifices and expenditures of human lives, and which did not, however, move the “leader” in the least. The builders of the pyramids have been cited in this connection. The Roman Caesars and the Rajahs of India astonished the world with similar remarkable performances by using the labor of millions of cheap slaves over whom they held sway. Nor did they confine themselves to luxury construction. The Roman Caesars built not only great amphitheatres and bath-houses but also very fine roads connecting all parts of the great empire, water systems, etc. Many persons who admire these accomplishments fail to realize that because they rested on slave labor they led ultimately to the destruction of the state.

The Pharaohs of Egypt and the despots of Babylonia and India built not only great palaces, temples, mausoleums but also huge works, dams, reservoirs and canals without which agriculture could not endure. Marx characterized these works as part of the material foundations of the despotism of those regions (Capital Volksausgabe, p.453). He did not regard them as the material basis of a socialist society.

The fact that the present rulers of the Kremlin follow these examples of Asiatic despots does not signify, a fundamental change in the face of the world. Neither the brutality of the rulers nor the enslavement of the ruled is altered by these achievements. It is not technical and economic innovations but the human aspects of a society that matters. Many see only the construction of plants and collectives, but fail to perceive the rise of a new aristocracy which controls these new means of production and exploits them for its own purposes. Above this aristocracy stands the nobility of members of the Communist Party, and still higher in power is the aristocracy of the political police, holding in its power the officialdom and party members.

But all of these elements of the aristocracy, each endowed with special privileges, are subject to the rule of the highest central authority in the state, headed for the moment by Stalin. He gives and he takes away. He raises those who please him to positions of influence and power and he hurls those who displease him into oblivion. The old nobility obtained its land, after the system of ownership had been definitely established, neither from princes nor from the Czar, and from time to time it ventured to exhibit discontent. In a modern dictatorial state this is impossible. Its aristocracy consists entirely of servile elements, lacking all character and independence.

The privileged elements themselves are divided into various categories. This is no mere accident. The rule of a minority over the great majority requires for its preservation not only bloody terror but the splitting up of the population, in accordance with the old principle: divide and rule. For this reason, the Communist dictatorship instills into the workers the feeling that they are a ruling class favored by the regime as against the peasants, while within the working class itself elements and individuals of particularly ignoble servility are treated as pets and accorded special privileges. In this manner there has been set up, after the destruction of the old classes, a new differentiation of classes, a hierarchy headed by a Pope.

The fruit of the Bolshevist regime has been the establishment of a new class rule. The Bolsheviks, to be sure, have destroyed the -old classes, but new classes, new elements of aristocracy have arisen under their regime. They have arisen of necessity from the conditions of the Bolshevist dictatorship, although they may be invisible at first glance because they had not been foreseen in Bolshevist ideology and phraseology. But they are there, nevertheless. They are striking ever deeper root and are becoming in ever increasing measure the determining factor in the actions and aspirations of Bolshevism. Its ultimate Communist objective is becoming more and more a matter of decoration, a mere memory or allurement for Socialist idealists whom the dictator seeks to utilize for his own purposes.

The old Bolsheviks who took their Communism seriously and who have ventured to oppose the new aristocratic institutions have either been rendered helpless by the beneficiaries of the system or have been jailed, exiled and in many cases executed. Others who have escaped being corrupted by the system, have retired in disgust to finish their lives in sulky silence. A large number of the old Bolsheviks, however, have succumbed to the dictator and have degenerated from the level of revolutionists to the low estate of servile courtiers. Erstwhile Communists who preached the doctrine of equality have become the parvenus of a climbing parry hierarchy, archbishops and cardinals of the pope of the Bolshevist church. The new generation of Communists however, consists, for the most part, of conscienceless careerists, whose Communism is limited to mere lip service and whose activities are devoted solely to the attainment of power and the privileges it implies. Acquisition and retention of these privileges is their only aim.

Not the abolition of all classes but the substitution of new classes for the old has been the outcome of the Bolshevist revolution of 1917, as it was of the French Revolution of 1789. Then, too, the revolutionists had failed to note that in abolishing the differentiations of classes they had failed to create a system of universal freedom, equality and fraternity, but had merely facilitated the rise of a new class society.



1. Written in 1933. – Ed.

2. Of Mehemet Ali, Viceroy of Egypt (1797-1849), it is reported: “Mehemet Ali made himself the sole land owner and agriculturist as well as the sole industrialist of his realm. The cotton and silk produced in the land were turned into manufactures by the fellah slaves in the factories of the viceroy. Only from these factories were the inhabitants permitted to draw their necessities.” (Flathe: The Period of Revolution and Restoration, p.376.)


Last updated on 27.1.2004