E. Germain

Where Is the Soviet Union Going? 3

The War Strengthened
Pro-Capitalist Forces

(April 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 26, 29 June 1946, p. 3.
Originally published in La Lutte Ouvrière.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Superficial observers frequently insist that the USSR has emerged from the second word war “strengthened.” Like authors of kindergarten primers, they measure “victory” or “defeat” by the number of “cities taken” and “battles won.” We have tried to apply more serious criteria.

Thus, we have shown that the international situation of the Soviet Union was more precarious at the conclusion of the second world war than at its beginning, in view of the fact that a single imperialist power has now completed its encirclement of Russia. We will try to show that even inside Russia the war has considerably strengthened elements hostile to the economic base inherited from the October revolution. In this sense, the internal situation as well reveals itself to be much more precarious in 1945 than in 1940.

Rich Farmers

The pro-capitalist tendencies became accentuated during the war, above all, in the domain of agriculture. The disappearance of the tractors as a result of Hitler’s conquests; the psychological consequences of the partition of the land by German imperialism; the extreme scarcity of the most elementary tools and the general disorganization of the economy acted to destroy the material and subjective basis for collectivization in Western Russia. Individual exploitation remained, for all practical purposes, quite prevalent even after the liberation of the territories.

Even in the Soviet press, voices were raised demanding an implacable struggle against the pro-capitalist elements in the countryside. In the other Russian territories, the scarcity of prime necessities, the spread of the black market, the intensification of speculation, created conditions favorable for the crystallization of a new exploiting stratum within the collective farms (kolkhozes).

“Independent” Spirit

Many peasants succeeded in accumulating hundreds of thousands if not millions of roubles. That was shown clearly at the time of the individual purchase, more or less compulsory of State loans which frequently amounted to the above mentioned sums. As their riches increased, the spirit of independence of the well-to-do farmer elements (kulaks) in the countryside likewise increased. Numerous complaints appeared in the Soviet press about this or that kolkhoz which not only did not take into consideration the plan quota for the bread grain crop assigned to it, but even refused to make its grain deliveries to the state – that is to say, which began living independently of the Soviet economy.

Finally in March 1945, a decree effected changes in the law of inheritance so as to eliminate for all practical purposes any limits to the number of legal heirs. Now any Soviet citizen can draw up a will and make any other citizen his legal heir. To the extent that this permits pro-capitalist elements to transform numerous poor peasants into convenient figureheads who can be used to get around the limitations on the amounts of money or goods one can inherit, this decree constitutes an important concession to the kulaks and an accelerating element to primitive accumulation in the countryside.

Conditions in Industry

During the whole war period, industry worked without a general pre-established plan. In heavy industry this resulted in an increasing independence of different state trusts, which more and more tended to make agreements between themselves without consulting any intermediate central bodies. In light industry it led principally to an increasing decentralization, with the local authorities occupying themselves more and more with the production of very limited articles of consumption, often on a handicraft basis. Even in 1945, the local and regional authorities were told “Get along by yourself” in providing for the construction of new lodgings for the millions of homeless.

Finally, the “policy of forced savings” which was followed to prevent a runaway inflation during the war resulted in the accentuation of the tendencies toward independence in the domain of the banks. The banks have tended to follow their “own policy,” that is to say, to fix an interest rate determined by their own balance sheet, and no longer a general one for all of Russia. This inevitably causes a differential in investment policy and is also a serious step toward the dissolution of the Soviet economy as such.

Concessions to Reaction

We know that the caste of ranking officers received important concessions from Stalin at the beginning of the war: the reestablishment of indivisible command, abolition of political commissars, the reestablishment of the use of orderlies, the extension of officers’ rights (among others, the right to shoot deserters on the spot!). Later the inequalities in the army became even more accentuated. The officers and enlisted men were lodged separately, messed separately and the relative differences in pay became very much greater than those in capitalist countries.

Meanwhile the vilest chauvinism triumphed in the field of propaganda. The Greek Orthodox Church under the patronage of the government accumulated immense riches. It even succeeded in bringing about an official reconciliation between Stalin and the White Guard Russians in Paris and Shanghai. That is how Soviet society emerged from the Second World War, menaced internally and externally.

(The above is the third in a series of articles on the Soviet Union, translated from La Lutte Ouvrière, Belgian Trotskyist paper. Future issues of The Militant will print additional articles in this series.)

Last updated on 2 January 2019