The Latest Deception by Gabriel Miasnikov 1930
If the old adage that says that every text gets the fate it deserves is true, then, in the case of a book, this fate begins on the day it is published. Will it be read from front to back, or will it prudently remain in the bookstore or the warehouse, in the library or the archives, irritating everyone with its bothersome cover, its uselessness and its ugliness, only to end up being used as a doorstop?
And if it is read, will it be read by many or by few? What impression will it make on the reader? Will it open his eyes to anything new? What portion of truth will it reveal to him? Will it have the kind of influence on the reader that the author intended? Or will it only arouse his anger and his indignation, provoking revulsion at the slightest contact?
Or will it merely cause boredom and indifference? “All of this is just fine, it is true, but we should leave everything the way it is because this book leads us down a path of pain and hardship, full of struggles and sacrifices, toil and suffering.” There will be those who, viewing this book with malevolence and hatred, will no doubt take it upon themselves to see to it that it will rot on the shelves and in the warehouses along with insignificant monographs, waiting for someone to use them as props for furniture.
Any of these fates may be in store for books that have the luck to be published. This pamphlet has undergone every kind of difficulty, even when it was “in the maternal oven”. It was written approximately two years ago, in Yerevan, where the author had been deported after three and a half years of solitary confinement in cells in high security prisons of the GPU in Moscow, Tomsk and Vyatka.
It was written secretly, the proscribed fruit of audacity and resourcefulness; and once it was born it had to be hidden from Herod, who devours illegitimate and disobedient children. The seed that it was, was destined to fall on sterile soil, buried in a steel coffin and drowned in an ocean of fear whenever the tribe of Herod came looking for it to discover its hiding place.
But then … one night, an individual appeared…. He paid careful attention to his surroundings, took one more step and stopped in front of the bars. He gazed attentively; the coast was clear. Silence. No one from the tribe of Herod in sight.
He walked by the bars and passed through the building like a dart. He knocks, the door opens. “Come in. With a little help we can copy the whole thing in one day. They will take the original to Moscow and we will keep the copies.”
Said and done.
The original was dispatched to Moscow. But the trip was not simply a question of transport, of buying a ticket and choosing a seat on the train car for the next six days. Nothing like that. It was impossible to send it by mail. But, dodging the eagle-eyed watchers of the tribe of Herod, a messenger had arrived who had taken all the necessary precautions. He took the manuscript and furtively disappeared. Once in Moscow he copied the original and it passed from hand to hand, and everyone who touched it experienced a thrill of fear.
My copy shared my destiny, the fate of its author. On November 7, 1928, I attended the demonstration, but I did not go home: along the way I stopped at a barbershop and got a shave and a haircut, changed clothes, and with my suitcase full of manuscripts I flagged down a taxi and headed for the train station. I bought a ticket for Julfa and waited for the train, which was two and a half hours late.
The storm clouds had begun to dissipate and this was not a good sign, since the night would be clear. Oh, dark night, come to my aid! The waning moon was shining in its last quarter and the first rays of dawn were gleaming. It would have been better, however, if there had been clouds, wind, rain or snow and darkness, total darkness. But no. The weather was clear. The train arrived at the station, I climbed aboard, and I sat down, but there was not much room, so I climbed into one of the upper bunks, which was more comfortable and out of sight of probing eyes.
Around midnight, when the train was underway between the stations of Deresham and Julfa, I jumped off and ran towards the Aras River. Concealed by the moving train, I went silently and without being seen towards the Aras River, I quickly stripped off my clothing, I tied my suitcase and my clothes with a rope around my neck and I dove into the river. The water was freezing cold. The Aras was raging. The sky was cloudy and there was some light snow. A biting wind blew all along the river. I swam across it. The manuscript crossed the river tied to my neck, as if it were part of me.
And then … the Persian government arrested me, me and my manuscript. Then came the usual police stations and jails.
The tribe of Herod, always alert, pursued me relentlessly. Despite the Persian police and the GPU, however, I escaped in one direction and my manuscript in another.
They searched through my suitcase twice… but the manuscript was not there. They gave up … twice the tribe of Herod failed and could not find new conspirators, and had to return with empty hands.
Now, however, the author has to illegally cross the Turko-Persian border and once again he is brought to the police stations, the prisons and exile, fleeing to a place where the GPU was not in charge. A new manuscript appeared in the police station of the small city of Karaköse: A Brief Critique of the Theory and Practice of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) and of the Komintern. Without a penny to my name, extolling the generosity of the police in order to survive, without being able to use a mechanograph to copy even one single line, and with the paper that the police had given me, line after line, the ideas were taking form, and then I carried on the task in exile, in the city of Amasya. The efforts and the help of some friends made it possible for me to go to Constantinople—my sentence of four years in prison was commuted. In Constantinople I wrote another manuscript: What Is the Nature of the State in the USSR? Once again they tried to steal my manuscript from me. The police arrested Ivan Jelezov for bribing someone with a thousand Turkish liras to steal it from me.
At last, I reached France. And what was impossible in Persia and in Turkey became a reality here. From Persia, via Berlin, to Paris, overcoming all obstacles, my manuscripts, which I had so sorely missed for so long, arrived, and the suitcase with which I had crossed the Aras River was once again reunited with the head to which it had been fastened and which had given birth to the manuscripts. I had reason to be pleased. I celebrated!
On October 3, 1930, however, the manuscripts disappeared, along with the suitcase.
Written during long years in jail in solitary confinement, where I was held by order of the GPU, these manuscripts had not only been written down on paper, but had also managed to dissipate and reemerge beyond the walls of the prison and escape the assaults of Herod. They had been placed in the custody of one jail after another, and then in exile. The manuscripts existed under the constant threat of destruction. And when they had passed through all these perils, and had overcome almost every obstacle, there, right in the heart of Paris, in the printer’s workshop, in broad daylight, they disappeared. And there were many manuscripts:
• Some original and irreplaceable texts: a) two letters to Stalin and one to Bukharin, one to Zinoviev, and another to Rykov, written in the isolation modules of Tomsk and Vyatka; b) the transcript of a conversation with Maxim Gorky in Yerevan; and c) an account of my escape from the USSR;
• A short commentary on the Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels;
• “On the Workers State”;
• A critique of the program of the Komintern;
• A copy of the Program and Constitution of the Communist Workers Party of Russia;
• “Three Questions”;
• A brief critique of the Theory and Practice of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) and of the Komintern (including an open letter to Trotsky on organizational questions pertaining to the Communist Workers Party of Russia);
• “The Thoughts of a Materialist” (incomplete);
• An outline for a program for a Communist Workers International;
• Three chapters from my memoirs;
• Sketches, notes and drafts.
As you can see, the suitcase was stuffed full.
If the GPU was responsible for this theft, then all the manuscripts will be in its archives; the Central Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) must return them to me and thus show that it has nothing to fear from their publication. If they are not returned to me, this will prove that the theft was the work of the GPU under the direct orders of the Central Committee.
By chance, “The Latest Deception” managed to escape the fate of its fellows—it was being edited at the time of the theft. So, too, did “What Is the Nature of the State in the USSR?” In Germany, there are copies of the “Brief Critique of the Theory and Practice of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) and of the Komintern” and of the “Outline of the Program for a Communist Workers International”. “The Latest Round of Liquidationism” (a response to Sorin and Bukharin concerning the former’s book, The Workers Group, concerning the followers of Miasnikov) was also saved, along with six issues of the newspaper, The Proletarian Road to Power, clandestinely published in Moscow.
The fate of “The Latest Deception” was more fortunate than its brothers, perhaps because it was the youngest. Here we publish it, now, after so many adventures and tribulations.
The plan of the thief was clear: the author has to work to survive, which keeps him busy all day long. He has no time to write. What he has written is embarrassing and dangerous. The workers of all countries might learn some things. What he has written reveals the nature of the regime of the USSR, and if the workers understand this they will be able to answer the question: What are we fighting for? We will not accommodate ourselves to oppression and exploitation in the countries of private capitalism. Wage slavery must be abolished. But we do not want to exchange one form of exploitation for another, either—the bourgeoisie for the bureaucracy—to the contrary, we want to abolish every form of exploitation. This is the goal of the proletariat. State Capitalist exploitation in the USSR must be destroyed. But what should we replace it with? Should we go forward or backward? Towards the workers state or towards private capitalism? All these texts were attempts to answer these questions, both theoretically—by explicating the philosophy of the proletarian revolution—and practically—by explaining what Marx meant when he declared that “the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy”, and showing that a workers State must learn from the experience of the Paris Commune and three Russian Revolutions. And that was what made them dangerous. The bureaucracy knows this perfectly well…
Two years have passed since I wrote this pamphlet. I wrote it at the express request of some comrades of the Provisional Central Organizational Bureau of the Communist Workers Party of the USSR (the Workers Group), who thought that it was necessary to respond to the latest con game of the bureaucracy concerning the slogan of “self-criticism”. For over two years this slogan was featured on the pages of Pravda, Izvestia and all the other Soviet newspapers. Furthermore, at that time the slogan had emerged amidst the suffocating environment of bureaucratic omnipotence and was only mobilized in order to deceive the Soviet proletariat, it was then disseminated to every section of the Communist International and has become an integral part of the ideological and organizational bases of all the Communist Parties. Thus, insofar as this phenomenon has become generalized at the international level, this critique is even more necessary.
This modification of the operational methods of the organization, undertaken in a situation in which the reigning bureaucracy is all-powerful as a result of its specific conditions of rule and a type of one-party system in the framework of State Capitalism, but in a totally different historical context, on a terrain in which the aptitude of the classes is totally different, demonstrates a bizarre “rule of the dialectic” and a strange “Marxist coherence” in the general articulation of the ideas that have been propagated, both on the part of those who are struggling to impose these ideas as well as on the part of those who adopt them in order to submissively implement them.
The reigning bureaucracy thus demonstrates that it shares the destiny of all the other ruling classes and that it has exchanged its critical and dialectical methods of reflection for dogmatic methods, since it considers its form of rule as the ideal (perfect) State and is at the same time attempting to impose its program and the organizational methods of its State on the proletariat of the entire world. This proves its essential class nature and the nature of its goals, although it also serves to reinforce its own rule.
From Trotsky to Stalin, from the Mensheviks to the Latest News, all the political tendencies testify to the class essence and nature of the USSR, on the basis of State ownership of the means of production and projects carried out in the sphere of economic development.
The Platform of the 83 (the Trotskyists and Zinovievists) criticizes the “theory of building socialism in one country” and proposes, instead of Stalin’s Five Year Plan with its 9% increase in industrial growth, its own internationalist Five Year Plan with a target of 20% increase in growth. It would seem that an increase of 20% in industrial production is internationalism, while an increase of 9% is “the kind of conservatism that is typical of a petty nationalist spirit”. The bureaucracy, however, with Stalin at the lead, has decided to propose an increase in industrial production of 30% for the Five Year Plan, which, with luck, will be implemented in two years, which implies a significant acceleration of the rate of the Five Year Plan, which will now be completed in four years. It is obvious that anyone who honestly reflects upon these matters will admit that these putative attributes of “internationalism” and “petty nationalism” do not stand up to scrutiny, and that the disagreement concerning the rate of growth must be debated in less pretentious terms.
Obviously, one can say that quantitative changes are qualitative changes, especially on this terrain. In fact, if instead of a growth rate of 9% we have one of 5%, or instead of 5% we have 2%, then the private sector will inevitably grow more rapidly. And if, with a 20% growth rate in the State industrial sector, the private sector grows by 2%, then when the former grows by 9%, the latter will grow by 3-5%, and with a 2% growth rate in the State sector, the private sector will grow by 7-9%. This is how it must be, for otherwise the development of the productive forces will come to a halt and a crisis will break out. This is easy to see. But in the context of serious and conscientious debate, who can accuse Stalin & Co. of following this road? After all, we all know that the question of the growth rate is not a question of principles, but of arithmetic. Neither Stalin & Co. nor the now-extinct duo Trotsky-Zinoviev have taken into account, for even a single moment, the possibility that the rate of growth of State industry will be lower than that of the private sector. And this means that, due to the direction taken by economic development, private property, industry and trade are condemned to totally disappear. Neither the horse-drawn cart, nor the sickle, nor the scythe, nor the flail, have a future, unlike the machine and heavy industry. The peasant is the representative of the old bourgeois world, of the world of private property. And the bureaucracy organized into a party and a State, with all the resources of heavy industry and industrial agriculture at its disposal, is a ruling class, the personification of heavy industry. The bureaucracy represents machinery; the private business owner and the peasant represent the horse-drawn cart. The fight is not an equal one. The horse-drawn cart is doomed. The bureaucracy will complete its triumphant march and will do so in such a way that will presuppose the transformation of the class nature of the State.
Collectivization is the introduction of State Capitalism into the countryside, as comrade Sapronov has correctly observed. It is the first step to eliminate the private economy and the horse-drawn cart. The second step is to transform all the collectives into Sovkhozy and the petty bourgeois into proletarians. The bureaucracy cannot stop at the stage of collectives, cooperatives or communes.
What is a well organized and equipped collective? It is a factory, a factory for agricultural production. But the difference between urban industry and agricultural collectivization resides in the fact that the factory is run by a bureaucrat, who is the only person who has been appointed with this power by a commission of bureaucrats, while the collectives are directed by an elected collegial directorate as in the factories where the Factory Councils of Workers Delegates direct production.
This is in principle an unacceptable state of affairs for the bureaucracy, but a favorable one for the proletariat. A proletarian could say: “If those people who used to be petty bourgeoisie and peasants can be appointed to be directors of industry, why can’t I, who have always been an honest proletarian, do the same? Down with the bureaucracy! Long live the Factory Delegates of the Workers Councils!” This would be the death of the bureaucracy, and it is incapable of facing such a situation. And even if the bureaucratic law of the one-party system allows the members of the bureaucracy to make the rules, there are still many things that it does not control; it will inevitably have to fight to transform the collectives, the communes and the cooperatives into Sovkhozy, appointing directors who will implement their commands. In this way, any features that might be attractive to the urban proletariat would be abolished.
State Capitalism is undoubtedly experiencing success in the field of economic development. Only a blind man or someone who desires the return of private capitalism could deny this. But this success, which is accompanied by the world crisis of private capitalism, makes one thing clear: State Capitalism is more vigorous and progressive than private capitalism.
In fact, in 1920, all urban industry was in ruins and was only operating at about 15-20% of its 1913 output. The armies of the White Guards, paid and supplied by the capitalists of the entire world, isolated the country, destroying everything they could lay their hands on, devastating the country and annihilating the productive forces to a degree never before seen in history.
The long and difficult process of reconstruction of industry under the conditions of economic and financial blockade and embargo began in 1921. It was completed in five years and in 1926 production had already attained its pre-war level. From 1926 to 1930 it reached 200% of the pre-war level. Without credits and subject to financial embargo!
What private capitalist country would have been capable of enduring the financial embargo that has been inflicted on the USSR? Not only have such rates of growth been achieved amidst the awful conditions faced by Soviet industry, but the country also had to survive and prevent total catastrophe. If, under conditions of close financial and economic cooperation the bourgeoisie has undergone a crisis that threatens its very existence, and the existence of private property, what would have happened to any bourgeois nation if it had suffered a blockade such as Russia has endured for more than twelve years? What would have happened to such a country if its production had also declined to 20% of its 1913 levels? It would have ceased to exist as a private capitalist country and would have undergone a revolution. But the USSR not only survived, but even grew. It grew rapidly, more rapidly than any other country in history. And it did so despite the coercion of bureaucratic rule and the bureaucracy’s fear of the living forces of the proletariat, the peasants and the intellectuals. What would have happened if these same masses had taken control of production by way of their Councils of Workers Delegates from the factories, if they had seized control of distribution under the management of the Cooperatives and their industrial trade unions and taken over the State by way of the Councils and Cooperatives? If the State were to have been organized in this way its rules would have been the product of a multiplicity of parties inclined to guarantee the Right to Liberty for all the proletarians, peasants and intellectuals, both in the letter of the law and in practice, at a higher level than any bourgeois State: freedom of association (party organization), freedom of expression, of the press, of assembly, etc., giving free rein to the creative forces of the working masses who have been suffocated by centuries of oppression and violence. Under such conditions, would there be any place for sabotage? Would there really be any reason for the existence of artyomovists or smolenskists, for theft on a petty or a grand scale? At the present time there is no commercial society that is not affected by theft of goods, no major commercial society is exempt from corruption and graft. In these conditions the colossal and unprecedented expansion of the economy and culture would produce veritable miracles. Of course, the proletariat thus organized into its own State would offer a real fatherland to all the oppressed working masses. Can there be any doubt that this would be a refuge for all the workers who think freely and who have been expelled from their own countries for fighting against capitalism? Today, however, it is nothing but a refuge for the bureaucrats of the USSR. Even if you are the most hardened bureaucrat—like Trotsky, for example—you cannot manifest the least disagreement or the least complaint—such as the disagreements and complaints expressed by our distinguished opponents, who have been reduced to discovering the maximum quantity of hair that one can have in order to be defined as bald or at what percentage growth rate internationalism begins and “socialism in one country” ends—not even they have the right to express themselves or to assemble freely and if they do so they are hauled off to prison, or rot in internal deportation, or are expelled from the country or shot down like dogs in the deepest dungeons of the GPU. What will the millions of workers who engage in critical thought and fight to overthrow their shameful slavery think of their fatherland? If the influence of the Soviet bureaucracy is immense this is due to the fact that it employs the prestige of the October Revolution for its own benefit. This constitutes yet more evidence of how hard life is for the proletariat: we will have the devil close on our heels until we rid ourselves of our odious slavery. By virtue of its mere existence, the workers’ State will accomplish this task more effectively than the bureaucracies, better than all the writers and orators. We have to sound the alarm, issuing a call to the workers to cast down the walls of Jericho of exploitation.
The achievements of the USSR with respect to economic development only reflect the fact that State Capitalism is superior to private capitalism, just as the achievements of the bourgeoisie in their time demonstrated the superiority of its relations of production over those of feudalism.
This shows that the Soviet bureaucracy is fighting private capitalism, within and without the USSR, because State Capitalism is the enemy of private capitalism as long as the bureaucracy remains faithful to its class interests. Likewise, the bourgeoisie, with its hostility towards the USSR, defends its rule and remains faithful to its own class interests. It does not want to be expropriated by either the bureaucracy or by the proletariat. But this does not prove the proletarian nature of the Soviet State.
Besides addressing the question of “self-criticism”, this pamphlet examines programmatic (what are we fighting for?), tactical (how should we fight?) and organizational questions (how should we organize our ranks in order to be victorious?). But these questions are discussed above. There are other manuscripts that have also managed to survive, which can provide more substantial material for discussions of these programmatic, tactical and organizational questions:
1. “Brief Critique of the Theory and Practice of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) and of the Komintern”.
2. “What is the Nature of the State in the USSR?”
3. “Outline of a Program for a Communist Workers International”.
4. “Outline of a Program and Constitution for the Communist Workers Parties in the USSR”.
All the comrades who are sincerely concerned with the conditions of the proletariat and who suffer by their side, who have the courage to think for themselves and know the valor and the integrity of the proletariat, will participate in this debate. They need to know what they are fighting for, how they should fight and how to organize for victory. Clear and precise answers to these questions will unleash the energy of the proletariat and help it to organize for the battle and for victory.
The exiled representatives of the Provisional Central Bureau of the Communist Workers Party of the USSR do not enjoy the formal legal liberties of the bourgeois State and cannot publish these documents without help from other comrades. We need financial assistance. If we had more money, my manuscripts would not have been stolen and they would have been published long ago. Comrades, we need your help!
Another way you can help us is by sending books and pamphlets to the USSR, to the proletarians of the USSR. We must find a way to send them, to cause them to be read and to put our shoulders to the wheel.
We must resume the publication of The Workers Road to Power.
We need volunteers, money and contacts.
 The demonstration commemoration the October Revolution.
 The Aras River marks the border between Azerbaijan and Persia [Iran].
 Author’s Note: Agabekov told me that not only were they looking for my manuscript, but they were also out for my head. But he did not tell me more. Why? Which of his masters prevented him? The current one, the previous one, or both?
 Now known as Agri, capital of the Turkish province of the same name, on the border with Iran.
 The letter to Zinoviev was found in the archives of Perrone, a member of the Italian Communist Left. Yaroslavsky cites it in an entry from the minutes of a meeting that bears the note: “secret”.
 Vladimir Gordeevich Sorin (1893-1944) joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917. In 1918 he was a “Left Communist”. In the 1920s he was a supporter of Bukharin, who seems to have been ready to break with him. In 1924 he accepted a position at the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute. He was arrested in 1939 during the Stalinist Terror. He wrote a book on the Workers Group during the first part of his career, around the mid-1920s.
 During the late 1920s, two famous trials of engineers and “specialists” that were held in the cities of Artyomovsk and Smolensk.
 The official journal of the Workers Group.