Karl Kautsky

Communism and Socialism

4. Dictatorship in the State

The Russian Revolution of March 1917 occurred under circumstances which could not possibly have been more favorable for the socialist parties, even though not for the immediate introduction of Socialism. The czarist governmental machinery was in ruins, the obsolete nobility lay helpless while the capitalist class, its capital largely of foreign origin showed itself quite powerless. All-powerful were only the workers and intellectuals in combination with the peasantry Among these the Socialists were in overwhelming majority – the Socialist-Revolutionists among the peasants; the Social, Democrats, Mensheviks as well as Bolsheviks, among the wage earners and intellectuals.

The Socialists dominated the state. Relatively speaking, i.e. as far as the backwardness of the state and of the working classes permitted it, they could have accomplished then a very great deal for these classes, elevate them to a very high standard and make them fit for domination over the processes of production. But only under two conditions: first, the retention of the democratic liberties won in March, 1917, in order to make possible, unimpeded, the work of enlightenment and organization of the masses and their independent participation in politics and economics: second, a coalition of all socialist parties on the basis of a common program of action and loyal cooperation in its execution.

The Socialist-Revolutionists and Mensheviks acted precisely along this line. But not the Bolsheviks. Lenin arrived in Petrograd on April 16, 1917, from Switzerland with the clearly formulated and openly expressed determination to proclaim war against the other socialist parties and to destroy them. This determination was not merely a mood but emanated from the very nature of his idea of dictatorship in the party.

More Asiatic than European in concept, and applicable to the needs and instincts of the backward portion of the Russian proletariat, dictatorship in the party proved to be, under the quite exceptional circumstances then existing in Russia, an excellent instrument for the destruction of the democratically organized parties of the peasants and workers and the seizure of power in the state without their approval, nay, against their will – power for the dictator and not for the proletariat, to be sure.

After the complete dissolution of the czarist army and bureaucracy in the World War, the Bolshevik Party, rigidly centralized and dictatorially administered, was the organization which finally asserted its domination amidst the general disorganization of the state. All it succeeded in accomplishing, however, was to create a new army and bureaucracy, a new autocracy, which destroyed all freedom of action and thought in the state and society.

Lenin’s dictatorship over the party was now extended to dictatorship over the general population of the state. This inevitably accentuated greatly the conflict between Bolshevism and the other socialist parties.

Until 1917 the Bolshevik Party regarded the dictatorship within its organization as a means of struggle for democracy in the state, and Lenin’s fight for democracy in the state proceeded along the line of the other socialist parties. Like the latter, and as late as 1917, he demanded the convocation of a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal suffrage. Until 1917 he could fight the other socialist parties only with intellectual weapons, by means of propaganda. In this respect he differed from the other socialist parties in that he never hesitated to resort to the moat unscrupulous falsehoods. A Socialist who seeks to lift the proletariat intellectually and spiritually to the high level of ability to emancipate itself must always stick to the truth in his propaganda activity. On the other hand, he who does not consider the proletariat capable of emancipating itself and regards it merely as cannon fodder with no other capacity than that of supplying blindly and obediently the necessary power to the dictator does not recoil from falsehoods if they serve to enhance the prestige of the dictator and to make all Socialists who think independently appear to be miserable scoundrels.

When the elections to the Constituent Assembly revealed that the majority had been won by the Socialists, not the Bolsheviks, Lenin decided without further ado to dissolve the Assembly, the convocation of which he had himself but recently demanded. Upon the ruins of democracy, for which he had fought until 1917, he erected his political power. Upon these ruins he set up a new militarist-bureaucratic, police machinery of state, the new autocracy. This gave him weapons against the other socialists even more potent than shameless lies. He now had in his hands all the instruments of repression which czarism had used, adding to these weapons also those instruments of oppression which the capitalist, as the owner of the means of production, was against wage slaves. Lenin now commanded all the means of production, in utilizing his state power for the erection of his state capitalism, which is best characterized as state slavery.

No form of capitalism makes the workers so absolutely dependent upon it as centralized state capitalism in a state without an effective democracy. And no political police is so powerful and omnipresent as the Tcheka or G.P.U., created by men who had spent many years in fighting the czarist police and, knowing its methods as well as its weaknesses and shortcomings, knew also how to improve upon them.

It would have been absolutely unnecessary to resort to any of these instruments of repression had Lenin agreed to form a coalition with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionists in 1917. These parties commanded the support of the overwhelming majority of the population, as the elections to the Constituent Assembly had shown. Everything of a truly progressive nature which the Bolsheviks sought to realize was also part of the program of the other socialist parties and would have been carried out by them, for the people had empowered them to do so. The confiscation of the big landed estates had also been planned by the Socialist-Revolutionists and Mensheviks – they actually put it into effect in Georgia. Abolition of illiteracy, marriage law reform, social welfare measures, children’s homes, public hospitals, shop councils, unemployment insurance and laws for the protection of labor, about all of which such a big to-do is being made in Soviet Russia, have been attained to a much greater and more perfect degree in capitalist countries where the democracy of labor has won any considerable power. The socialization of heavy industry, insofar as this would have appeared economically advantageous, would likewise have been approved by the majority of the Constituent Assembly.

All the innovations in the domain of social welfare in which the Bolsheviks take so much pride and which so greatly impress tourists would have been introduced by the majority of the Constituent Assembly, and in much better fashion than the dictatorship has been able to do, because the country’s economic condition would have been immeasurably better. All the social welfare measures in force in Russia suffer from lack of resources, the haste and ill-prepared manner in which they have been introduced, as well as from the methods of brutal force used by the dictators even in instances where abstention from force would have been more advantageous. Many workers were thereby embittered against the new regime when their willing cooperation was possible and necessary.

How disgusting and unnecessary, for example, have been the forms of struggle against religion in Soviet Russia. The dictatorship does not seek to find a substitute for religion by promoting independent critical thinking and knowledge – such methods are not in the nature of dictatorship. Religious services and institutions, sacred to the devout, are subjected to the coarsest insults and humiliations. Without the slightest necessity, harmless, devout folk are embittered and made to suffer, while simultaneously the free thinkers themselves are degraded by such low forms of anti-religious propaganda.

All such difficulties of social change as arise from lack of means, undue haste, opposition of the population, would have been largely averted if these changes had been the work of the Constituent Assembly. They were accomplished directly or indirectly through the civil war, which was the inevitable consequence of Lenin’s dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by the hands of his sailors in January 1918.

The majority behind the Constituent Assembly was so overwhelming that not a single one of the czarist generals dared move against it. Had any one of them ventured to do so he would have had no following. These generals were emboldened to counter-revolutionary mutiny only after Lenin had dissolved the Constituent Assembly and enabled them to put forward the pretense of seeking to restore the rights of the Constituent Assembly.

Had Lenin not dissolved the Constituent Assembly, Russia would have been spared the civil war with all its horrors, cruelties and destruction. How much richer the country would have been, how much greater the good of the social transformation! All the enormous expense of the military, bureaucratic, police apparatus, insofar as it has been devoted to purposes of repression, could have been spared. These expenditures could have been applied to productive purposes for the promotion of the general welfare.

The population should have been accorded the greatest possible measure of freedom, freedom of the press, of assembly, of organization, of self-government. Under such conditions the masses would have speedily developed economically, physically, intellectually. All this stimulation of independent thinking and mutual confidence among the workers, peasants and intellectuals would have genuinely enhanced the development of socialist production, of a nation of liberty, equality, fraternity.

This noble development was halted on the day when Lenin ordered his military bands to make an end of the Constituent Assembly.

Certainly, the fact that it proved easy to dissolve it indicates the high degree of political immaturity of the elements who dominated Petrograd at that time – quite ignorant soldiery who had but one wish, immediate peace, and who sensed that Lenin’s dictatorship was the one infallible instrument to bring it about.

Not the confidence of the majority of the proletariat but the complication of the revolution by the war brought Bolshevism to power. And because it did not possess this confidence it was compelled, once in power, to maintain itself by terrorism, which it is employing to this day without the slightest prospect of its mitigation.

It is often said that terror belongs to the nature of revolution, that revolutions are not made with rose water or silk gloves, and that this has ever been so.

It is, indeed, a peculiar revolutionism which asserts that what has always been must ever be so. Moreover, it is not true that there never were revolutions without terror. The great French Revolution began in 1789, but the terror did not come until September 1792, and only as a consequence of war. Not the revolution but war brought about the terror as well as the dictatorship. Revolutions resort to terror only when they are driven to civil war.

This was absolutely unnecessary in Russia in 1917. Democracy had been achieved. The proletariat and peasantry were in power. The demands of the proletariat could have been satisfied by democratic methods, insofar as these demands were compatible with the interests of the peasantry and with the material resources available.

The rule of the overwhelming majority in the interest of the overwhelming majority does not; require the use of brutal force in a democratic state in order to assert itself.

At the election to the Constituent Assembly 36,000,000 votes were cast, of which only 4,000,000 were polled by the bourgeois parties, and 32,000,000 by the socialist parties. The Assembly was in no way threatened from the right. It was in a position to proceed undisturbed, and with full hope of success, with the task of .the regeneration of Russia and preparation for Socialism.

As the Bolsheviks saw it, it had but one great fault: they had failed to obtain a majority in it. The Bolsheviks received 9,000,000 votes while 23,000,000 were cast for the other socialist parties. This was an intolerable actuation for any brave Bolshevik. The Constituent Assembly would have carried out everything in the interests of the proletariat that was at all realizable, and in more rational, more successful manner than the Bolsheviks acting alone have been able to do. But this would have required the Bolsheviks to act merely as equals and not as a party of dictatorship issuing orders from above.

Against any such democratic procedure the Bolsheviks struggled with all their might, and they utilized a favorable situation to dissolve the Constituent Assembly. This blow they struck not against a czarist, aristocratic, bourgeois or “white guardist« counter-revolution but against the other socialist parties, who had been more successful than the Bolsheviks in the struggle for the soul of the workers and peasants.

Hence the abolition of all democratic rights of the masses, hence the terror. It was the necessary consequence of the rule of a minority over the great majority of the working people. Hence the fact that the terror has been indispensable for the Bolsheviks not only in the civil war but throughout the more than ten years since its conclusion. They resort to terror not only as a means of repelling counter-revolution but as an instrument of holding down and destroying all revolutionists among the workers and peasants who refuse to submit without protest to the whip of the new Red czar and his Communist cossacks.

While the Bolsheviks in Russia were occupied with the struggle against the white czar their leaders confined their dictatorship m their own party. Here it resulted in a split and served to stifle the intellectual development of the membership. Since their seizure of the power of government their dictatorship has become a means not of splitting but of destroying the other socialist parties in their own state. And their stiffing of intellectual development is now no longer confined to their own party and the circles close to it, but extends to the entire Russian people.

Added to this, they have also crippled Russia’s economic development and destroyed the brilliant opportunities which awaited her after the end of the war with the liberation of the creative powers of the people by the revolution of March 1917. In vain did the Bolsheviks try to stem the destructive process, first through the NEP, which proved to be only a passing palliative, and then through the Five-Year Plan. This, too, must fail, despite certain superficial accomplishments. Those who look beneath the surface, those who consider human beings more important than buildings must see that the Five-Year Plan represents only a steel-and-stone economy, pursued under complete disregard of all human economy; that it seeks to set up new industrial plants by robbery and exploitation of human labor power, with the human beings sinking deeper and deeper into under-nourishment and filth as the increasing number of new factories rear their chimneys to the sky.

The Five-Year Plan was undertaken as a result of the desperate economic situation of 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 (1921), led to the NEP (New Economic Policy), which continued until 1929, 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 at the New Economic Policy.

They did not realize that intellectuals were part of the working class, that the proletariat 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. An effective propaganda for Socialism in their ranks is an essential prerequisite to the victory of Socialism.

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 “bourgeois« and the capitalist, 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 Communist masters. Lack of skilled labor constituted an additional difficulty. Shortage of such labor was a feature also of czarist Russia, due to lack of proper educational facilities. The war 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 posts.

All this put industry at a great disadvantage. Worst of all, however, was the effect of the tremendous state apparatus n which the dictatorship had to set up to 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. As 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 the 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 degree of success under the Nep although production did increase over that of 1918-21, the period of military communism.

Prices of industrial commodities rose above prewar and world-market levels. The purchasing power of the peasants 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 is 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 thereupon 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, which was to exceed even that of the United States. 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.

That was the Five-Year Plan. It cannot be denied that much has been accomplished under the plan. To be sure, not nearly as much as is being claimed so boastfully, and at much greater cost than the original estimates. The productivity of the new plants also still remains to be demonstrated. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that several hundred new factories and plants have been built and equipped with the most modern machinery. These are the plants exhibited to tourists and which arouse their admiration, as they do that of capitalists invited by the Soviet Government with the idea in mind of convincing them that Russia is a good credit risk. The capitalists are interested only in the material means of production, which they find impressive.

Naturally, we Socialists look at the problem quite differently. We differ from the capitalists not only in that we regard production as intended for man rather than regarding man as intended for production, but also in that we consider man as the most important and decisive factor in production.

An army may be perfectly equipped, but if its troops are undisciplined, discontented, indolent, cowardly and officered by fools it will be defeated by a weaker and poorly equipped army of soldiers who are enthusiastic, brave, permeated by strict but willing discipline, bent on bringing into play all their energies, and led by intelligent officers.

The same holds true in production. A working class living under conditions tending to promote intelligence and the joy of labor, a working class well nourished and rested, educated and inspired by initiative, can produce double and triple the quantity with the same equipment that ignorant, discontented, overworked, half-hungry, uneducated workers, deprived of all opportunity for freedom of thought, can turn out. The difference will be even more accentuated if on one side we have a determined, capable, free leadership, and on the ocher a harassed, ignorant leadership, encumbered at every step

Capitalists know this as well as Socialists, and in their practice they keep this in mind at least as regards the managers of industry, even though they may neglect the great mass of workers. In practice, they continue to be governed by the age-long principle that industry fares best the more the workers are exploited. And if despite this attitude capitalist industry has achieved great progress, it has been due primarily to the fact that the industrial proletariat of capitalist countries has managed to improve greatly its working and living conditions by means of stubborn resistance.

In Russia, too, our main interest is not in new plants and machinery but in the human beings involved. On this point, however, we maintain that there has not been the slightest improvement. All the causes which had contributed to the failure of industry under the NEP despite the temporary improvement, remain unaltered: lack of skilled labor, the outlawry 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 has been added a great deal of new. 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 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 is sold in the world market, at any price. The proceeds are devoted to purchasing machinery and equipment from capitalists abroad.

Remarkable, indeed, are the patience and endurance of the Russian people in the face of this situation. In this respect, the Five-Year Plan has been successful beyond all expectations. If Upton Sinclair and others are inclined to find satisfaction in this they are welcome to do so. The Russian people, however, are being profoundly injured by such policies, both morally and economically. Now that the first Five-Year Plan is drawing to a close, Bolsheviks and their apologists calmly inform us that it will require decades of the greatest sacrifices and privations to achieve the aim which the Stalin regime has set for itself; decades of overwork and undernourishment, ugly living conditions, and renunciation of all genuine cultural development, of every vestige of free and truly creative activity. Already the effects of these degrading conditions are manifesting themselves in increasing alcoholism, brutality, indifference .to human suffering and despair. And yet, in the face of all this, we are told that the Russian people are being lifted to higher forms of life, to loftier moral and intellectual levels. There are persons so naive as to believe that the rising generation of the Russian people is being permeated with enthusiastic faith in the ideal of socialist freedom and equality. It is quire true that the tyrannical Communist regime is assiduously cultivating talk of this kind in the schools and encouraging its parrot-like repetition. In the press and at public meetings Communists continue to prattle in similar vein. They ridicule democracy, freedom and equality. They demand freedom only for themselves, as well as special political privileges. In practice the dictatorship is the most bitter caricature of freedom and equality. How can any situation of this sort possibly inspire the new generation, living under the conditions created by the dictatorship, with faith in these ideals?

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 Soviet 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 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 waived 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 the highest self sacrifice in behalf of a great human ideal, and seeking to impose that ideal upon the great majority of 150,000,000 people.

I see the present generation of Communists, i.e. not those in the opposition but those in power, in quite different light. A few among them may still be regarded as idealists, but 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 Nationalists: they demand immeasurable sacrifices – by others, but never by themselves. They themselves are quite comfortable as long as the Communist Party remains in power.

The Russian Communist Party which is seeking to impose this road to “future welfare« upon 150,000,000 human beings embraces some 2,000,000 members. How many among them are spies, informers, careerists?

Marxism has always rejected the idea that a minority can ever impose a genuine socialist order upon the masses. The Communist Manifesto clearly stated:

All previous (liberation) movements were movements of minorities in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the independent movement of the overwhelming majority in the interest of the overwhelming majority.

Marx and Engels erred insofar as they assumed that the proletariat of their time had already constituted a majority. But they clung to the belief that Socialism could be brought about only by an independent movement of the 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. 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 proletariat 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, but 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 proletariat has declined progressively with every year from the height to which it had attained in 1918. It is not approaching closer to Socialism but is moving constantly away from it, and is losing in ever 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.

We hope we have demonstrated that 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 our aim 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 of property rights thus accomplished signifies least of all Socialism. There are forms of Oriental despotism in which the master of the state wields also mastery over the country’s instruments of production. [1]

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.

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 developed capitalist countries are already strong enough to have limited to some extent the dictatorship of capital and to have altered the 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. It is true that we Socialists seek to deprive the possessing classes of their monopoly of education. But only by making available to all the treasures of modern science and culture. This is not, however, the object of the Communists. In Russia they have established a new monopoly of education. This is one the instruments whereby the dictatorship seeks to buttress its power.

Although the work of the school teacher is difficult enough and the schools do not belong to the domain of industry, they are nevertheless, like everything under the Five-Year Plan, sinking ever deeper into filth, due to their miserable construction, lack of educational facilities, their hungry pupils and teachers.

The higher schools remain likewise inadequate. Admittance to these schools is becoming ever more the privilege of Communists and their favorites. The children of the erstwhile bourgeoisie – there are no capitalists in Russia, only intellectuals – are directly excluded from the higher schools. The number of applicants to these schools is usually five or six, times greater than the available facilities.

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 so 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 taking 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 as 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 consequences 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 sax 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. We will be able to support ourselves upon great mass organizations of trained comrades, political, trade union, cooperative and educational. Our leaders will have already gamed 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. We are acquiring also the ever increasing support of intellectuals now engaged in managing private enterprises.

All this will make it possible for our party 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 of responsibility with regard to the masses will keep our party from striking out upon adventurist policies and will guard it at every step against ill conceived actions.

The conditions pre-requisite 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 m erect a new despotism by means of a rigidly centralized conspiratory organization, with the support of a group of workers, soldiers and sailors m 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 governmental and economic institutions. They had studied Marx theoretically, but in a talmudistic 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 150,000,000 inhabitants and to establish in Russia an order of production the pre-requisites 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. Marx and Engels themselves would have failed in any such undertaking. But they would have most certainly realized the difficulties beforehand and would have refrained altogether from venturing upon any such undertaking under the given conditions. Visionaries like Upton Sinclair, Shaw, 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 pre-requisite 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 plane 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, désordre, or arrangement, rearrangement, disarrangement.

Some speak of the heroic, colossal experiment in Soviet Russia. We have already touched upon its so-called heroic aspect. Anything affecting the lives of 150,000,000 people, be it a social experiment or a world war, may be characterized as colossal. The stupidity and crimes of the leaders of the state likewise assume colossal proportions under such circumstances. It is quite proper to characterize Soviet economy as an experiment, but it is the opposite of planned economy. Due .to the lack of proper pre-requisites and preparation the Bolsheviks are unable to emerge from the stage of experimentation.

Above all, does their neglect of the human element, which is inextricably bound with the dictatorship, command the uncompromising hostility of all democratic Socialists against any dictatorial regime, even though it may have originated with a proletarian party.

Socialist reason is turned to nonsense, socialist welfare becomes torture when there is no free, well-trained proletariat to promote the work of social reconstruction in a democratic environment, and when, instead, it is attempted to perform the task by dictatorial methods through the instrumentality of a small clique of dictators operating among a mass of ignorant workers deprived of all rights and opportunities for self-government.



1. Of Mehemet Ali, Viceroy of Egypt (1797-1819), 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