The Latest Deception by Gabriel Miasnikov 1930
This is not the first time that the social-bureaucracy has raised the alarm with this business of criticism and self-criticism and with the democracy of the councils and the proletariat, trying to dissimulate its fear of the growing discontent of the working class and peasant masses, as well as its repression of the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals, behind a radical propaganda campaign of love and peace.
We all remember the ferocious repression of 1923 against the proletarians of the Workers Group of the CPSU(b), whose crimes can be summarized under the rubrics of having criticized the theory and practice of the bureaucracy in the Manifesto of the Workers Group, for having denounced “accumulation”, and for the fact of existing as an organized group. And we all remember the repression, just as ferocious, secret and subterranean, as is the way of the GPU, which was inflicted upon them by the bureaucracy, which was all the while talking about Soviet democracy and proletarian democracy. We can all recall that subsequently, in 1924-1925, when the discontent of the working class and peasant masses took the form of strikes and spontaneous uprisings, the bureaucracy endlessly repeated the watchwords of “criticism” and “self-criticism”. Thus, at the 13th Party Conference in Moscow, in January 1925, Stalin, who is currently at the head of the bureaucratic leadership, declared:
“The issue is as follows: either we, the entire Party, allow the non-Party peasants and workers to criticise us, or we shall be criticised by means of revolts. The revolt in Georgia was criticism. The revolt in Tambov was also criticism. The revolt in Kronstadt—was not that criticism? One thing or the other: either we abandon this official optimism and official approach to the matter, do not fear criticism and allow ourselves to be criticised by the non-Party workers and peasants, who, after all, are the ones to feel the effects of our mistakes, or we do not do this, and discontent will accumulate and grow, and we shall have criticism in the form of revolts.” (Pravda, No. 24, January 30, 1925).
Can we not detect in this speech the portrait of a miserable, frightened and panic-stricken bureaucracy that has just noticed the wave of working class and peasant discontent and which, when the workers and peasants have been pacified thanks to a campaign of lies, provocations, blackmail and violence, promises to continue to deceive them?
“The revolt[s] of Tambov…. Georgia…. Kronstadt [were] criticism.” The criticism of the workers and peasants took the form of revolts and strikes because, up until then, they did not have the right to express any kind of criticism, written or oral, of the policy of the ruling bureaucracy and its party. Stalin knew this, and continued as follows: “either we … allow ourselves [the bureaucracy] to be criticised by the non-Party workers and peasants … or we do not do this, and discontent will accumulate and grow, and we shall have criticism in the form of revolts.”
Which means that Stalin, the leader who is at the head of the bureaucracy, admits that prior to 1925 the workers and peasants did not have any political rights: freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, of political and trade union organization. They were dispossessed of all freedom of criticism.
The tyranny and violence of the bureaucracy know no bounds. That is why the workers and peasants who suffer bodily from the policies of Stalin & Co. were driven by desperation and decided to express their discontent by way of uprisings and strikes.
“Either we abandon this official optimism and official approach to the matter, do not fear criticism and allow ourselves to be criticised by the non-Party workers and peasants, who, after all, are the ones to feel the effects of our mistakes, or we do not do this, and discontent will accumulate and grow, and we shall have criticism in the form of revolts.”
The bureaucracy, as a whole, and its leaders, are spewing radical phraseology of love and peace, while at the same time confessing that they are compelled to do so given the increasing discontent of the workers and peasants, which could lead to revolt. In the meantime, the desk-jockey-in-chief calls upon his bureaucratic peers to repudiate their privileges and bureaucratic ways, that is, he exhorts them to rid themselves of their petty bourgeois bureaucratic nature. Evidently, that was that. And the leader himself, as well as his whole gang of desk-jockeys, remained the same bureaucrat that he always had been.
What does stand out in this concession made by the panic-stricken bureaucrat-in-chief, is the fact that “bureaucratic-desk jockey” conduct had led to the emergence of internal dissent; in the meanwhile, criticism coming from the workers and peasants, whether from the left or the right, regardless of its political position, was considered as Menshevik and counterrevolutionary by these bureaucrats and their party, and silently, concealed from the sight of the proletariat, it is quite effectively dealt with in the prisons of the GPU. But this was not enough to save the bureaucracy, and its leaders were obliged to openly call for the repudiation of bureaucratic methods and for the toleration of criticism, in order to prevent bureaucratic conduct—the violent and arbitrary rule over the peasants and the workers—from being criticized by way of uprisings and strikes.
“The whole trouble, comrades”, Stalin went on, “is that many of our comrades do not understand, or do not want to understand, how extremely important this question is. It is often said: our leaders in Moscow have made it the fashion to talk about the peasantry; probably, they don't mean it seriously, it is diplomacy. Moscow needs these speeches to be made for the outside world, but we can continue the old policy.”
“I think, comrades, that of all the dangers that face us, this failure of our local responsible workers to understand the tasks before us is the most serious danger. One thing or the other: Either our local comrades will realise how very serious the question of the peasantry is, in which case they will really set about drawing the peasantry into our constructive work, improving peasant economy and strengthening the bond; or the comrades will fail to realise it, in which case things may end in the collapse of the Soviet power.”
Stalin knew perfectly well that not even his comrades believed him, since these discourses of “peace and love” concerning the freedom of criticism had already repeatedly been used to deceive the workers and peasants. The local cadres looked upon the latest display of concern about freedom as merely the latest trick, another turn of the screw to deceive the workers and peasants.
And that is exactly what it was. If freedom of criticism has been granted to the workers and peasants since 1925, why did we witness another round of talk about “criticism” and “self-criticism” in 1928? Up until that point they had tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the workers and peasants by speaking to them about their right to “criticism”; now they even speak about “self-criticism”, as well.
And the problem is not restricted to the fact that the workers and peasants who are not members of the party are not permitted to criticize the all-powerful bureaucracy, that is, to publish newspapers, magazines, and books of a non-bureaucratic nature, to express themselves at meetings, to organize in groups and parties and to participate in the elections in opposition to the party bureaucracy. It is rather that criticism is not even permitted to the party comrades themselves, and when they do express their dissenting opinions, in an attempt to advocate their position and to convince a majority within the party, they are ferociously and viciously attacked, in a way that would provoke envy among the brutal Italian fascists, who usually prosecuted communists in public trials. In Russia, however, trials are only for thieves, murderers, rapists, embezzlers, White Guards, generals, and capitalists and their gunmen, while the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals are quietly eliminated in the dungeons of the GPU. And until the most basic rights are granted to the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals, such as a public trial and protection under the law, something that is even enjoyed by every kind of common law criminal, as well as spies, agents provocateurs, policemen, generals, etc., while the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals are quietly eliminated in the cells of the GPU without the right to a legal defense, because they are sentenced by a sham court, until that time, neither the workers nor the peasants will be able to believe the bureaucracy and its leaders when they claim that they will permit freedom of criticism; until then all the discourses about “criticism” and “self-criticism” will be nothing but so many lies sewn together with the white threads of provocation.
In 1925 the bureaucracy launched the slogan of the right of the workers and peasants to enjoy freedom of criticism. In 1928, it was the turn of the slogan of self-criticism. The value of these campaigns has not changed, however, since in 1925 as well as in 1928 the GPU continued eliminating those same dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals and dragging them off to those same fake courts where they have no right to mount a legal defense. And as long as these workers, peasants and intellectuals are still rotting in prisons and in internal exile, without the right to a public defense, no one will swallow the wishes and promises of Stalin & Co., which are nothing but the latest bureaucratic deception.
 The English translation of this paragraph and the preceding one were taken from the document available at Marxists.org. The text of the second paragraph as provided in the Spanish translation is, however, substantially unlike the English translation provided at the Marxists.org, and an English translation of the Spanish translation of the passage in question is provided here for reference: “The problem, the biggest problem, is that the local cadres think the new policy is not a new policy, but a ruse to deceive foreign countries, and in the meantime continue to behave in their usual manner, and do not perceive the criticism of the workers and peasants, of the right or of the left, as anything but Menshevism or counterrevolution, and treat it in the same way they have done all along until now.” Perhaps this paragraph is a recapitulation by the author, Miasnikov, rather than an excerpt from Stalin’s speech [American Translator’s Note].