Chapter XIV

Bulding a New Civilisation

By equality we do not mean the levelling of the personal requirements and conditions of life, but the suppression of classes: that is to say, equal enfranchisement for every worker after the overthrow and expropriation of the capitalists. It is the duty of everyone to work according to his capacity, and the right of everyone to be paid according to the work he does. Marxism starts from the fact that the needs and tastes of men can never be alike, nor equal either in quantity or quality.

It is only from this point that men, with full consciousness, will fashion their own history; it is only from this point that the social courses set in motion by men will have predominantly and in constantly increasing measure, the effects willed by men. It is humanity’s leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.

WITH the ending of the great purge Stalin had achieved one of the most important of his aims. Ever since he became General Secretary of the Bolshevik Party he had determined that it should become a “united party free from all factional struggles.” This had now been achieved. For the first time in its history the Party was free from oppositional groups. Lenin had striven for the same end from the time of his entrance into the Russian Social Democratic Labour Movement, both he and Stalin referring to this unity as “monolithic,” by which term they meant a party united in aim, principles, methods, and action. The Bolshevik Party is built up on what are called the principles of democratic centralism, whereby authority for direction is vested by the membership and the members voluntarily accept the discipline of their chosen leader to ensure unity in action. The lower units of the Party elect delegates to congresses of districts and the Congress of the Union. The Congress of the Union elects the Central Committee. This is the highest authority between sessions of Congress. The Central Committee elects the Political Bureau, which is the highest authority between Central Committee meetings. All lower organs of the Party carry out the decisions of the higher. The Political Bureau is therefore the most important body, carrying the authority of the Congress, and in short actually leads the Party.

The latter maintains its quality by imposing a qualifying period before granting full membership, and by periodical “cleanings” of those who fail to live up to the high standard set. There is also another check called the “Control Commission,” a body consisting to-day of some 200 members, elected by the Congress to control the decisions of the Central Committee. The principal work of the Commission is to see that the decisions of the Party are carried out, and how this is done.

Party members join voluntarily. They subscribe to the Party Programme, pay contributions, and must be members of some Party organisation applying its policy. Stalin says of the Bolshevik Party which he has done so much to create:

The Party is the organised detachment, but not the only organisation of the working-class. The latter has a series of others which are indispensable for its struggle against capital: trade unions, co-operatives, factory committees, etc. . . . Most of these organisations are non-party, or a ramification of it. . . . . But how can unity of direction be realised with organisations so diverse? . . . These organisations, it may be said, carry out their work each in its special sphere, and therefore cannot be in anyone’s way. That is so. And they all serve one class, the proletariat. Who is it then determines this one direction? What central organisation is there, experienced enough to work out this general line, and able, thanks to its authority, to induce all these organisations to follow it, able to secure unity of direction and to prevent any possibility of sudden halts and deviations?

This organisation is the Party of the Proletariat.

It possesses, in fact, all the qualities that are required. First, it includes the flower of the working-class, an elite directly connected with the non-party organisations of the proletariat and often leading them. Secondly it is the best school for the production of leaders able to direct the various organisations of the working-class. In the third place, its experience and authority make it the one organisation capable of centralising the fight of the working-class and of transforming in this way all the non-party organisations of the working-class into organs for connection with the latter. The Party is the highest form of the class-organisation of the proletariat.

. . . It is impossible to win and maintain the dictatorship of the proletariat without a party made strong by its cohesion and discipline. But iron discipline cannot be thought of without unity of will and absolutely united action on the part of the members of the Party. This does not mean that the possibility of a conflict of opinion within the Party is excluded. Discipline, indeed, far from excluding criticism and conflict of opinion, presupposes their existence. But this most certainly does not imply that there should be “blind” discipline. Discipline does not exclude, but presupposes understanding, voluntary submission, for only a conscious discipline can be iron discipline. But when discussion has been closed and a decision made, unity in will and action is the indispensable condition without which there can be neither Party nor discipline. . . . [1]

It must be fairly clear that once rival classes are abolished and the whole population becomes a working community, such a party must modify itself into an organisation of those undertaking the vocation of leadership in the construction of Socialism; and when that happens the whole process of selection of candidates for Party membership, as well as the qualities required for membership, must perforce take on a new character. The iconoclasts have to give way to the pioneers of construction, the militant agitators to the educators, scientists, directors, engineers, the accountants, builders, and administrators.

This was the stage reached by the end of the great purges, and it marks a turning-point in the history of the Revolution. The new types were not there and ready, just waiting to leap into action. There were in 1924, in the midst of the period of N.E.P., not more than 446,000 members of the Party besides the 200,000 who had been chosen by the workers to reinforce it after Lenin’s death. “Chosen by the workers” is the correct expression, and reveals a development of great importance. Stalin had encouraged the presence of non-party workers at “Party cleanings.” Now non-party workers begin the process of selecting those who shall be permitted to make application to join the Party. This phenomenon is new in the history of political parties, and is likely to grow as time goes on. In the first instance it was the result of a wave of emotion following the death of Lenin. Later, when Socialist construction had grown to be a permanent feature of Soviet life, it would become systematic.

The team of men and women comprising the Party—fewer than 700,000 out of Russia’s 160,000,000—had undertaken under Stalin’s guidance to lead the way in the most gigantic undertaking ever conceived by man—nothing less than the building of a new civilisation with new powers and new values, and the incidental creation of a new type of human being. The world to-day stands amazed at the achievements of the Soviet peoples, and but for the overwhelming evidence of their reality furnished by the shattered armies of Nazi Germany it would still doubt them.

At the time when Stalin faced the Union with its tremendous task, of the 446,000 Party members, 44 per cent were workers, 26 per cent peasants, and 30 per cent employees in institutions of one kind or another. At this time too there were only 1,780,500 workers engaged in large-scale industry, of whom only 15 per cent were Party members. The percentage of peasant members among the 53,000,000 peasant population, Stalin reported, was only 0.26. He recognised that the numbers were far too small, but it by no means weakened his confidence in either the Party or the masses to accomplish what he had set before them. This is how he spoke of their position:

You know that our Party consists of carefully chosen members. In this respect we have done what no party in the world has ever been able to do before. The fact that our membership is so carefully selected is what gives us an immeasurable influence in the working-class, so that our Party has a monopolist position in the working-class. . . .

. . . One thing must be recognised: during this year the successes of our socialist construction work have proved that the working-class, after overthrowing the bourgeoisie and seizing power, is capable of reconstructing society upon a socialist foundation. That is an achievement of which no one can deprive us. . . .

That the Bolsheviks ever entertained the idea they could impose their solution on the masses is absurd, and that Stalin could impose his will on the Bolshevik Party is equally absurd. That he expressed the will and power of the Party more emphatically than any other man is more a tribute to his qualities as a collective worker than an indication of domination by personal power. His method of working is somewhat different from Lenin’s. Lenin usually presented his “theses” for discussion by the Political Bureau, committee, or commission. He would supplement his written document with a speech amplifying the ideas contained in it, after which every member would be invited to make his critical observations, to amend or provide an alternative. Lenin would consult specialists on particular aspects of a problem, and no one ever went to such lengths to talk matters over with the workers individually and collectively.

Stalin on the other hand rarely presents theses and resolutions first. He will introduce a “problem” or a “subject” requiring a decision in terms of policy. The members of the Political Bureau, the Central Committee, or the commission of which he may be the chairman, are invited to say what they think about the problem and its solution. People known to be specially informed on the topic are invited to contribute to the discussion, whether they are members of the committee or not. Out of the fruits of such collective discussion, either he himself will formulate the decision or resolution, or someone specially fitted will prepare the draft.

Stalin holds the view that decisions made by one person are nearly always one-sided. He does not believe in “intuitions.” He regards the Bolshevik Central Committee as the collective wisdom of the Party, containing the best managers of industry, military leaders, agitators, propagandists, organisers, the men and women best acquainted with the factories, mills, mines, farms, and different nationalities comprising the life of the Soviet Union. And the Political Bureau of this Central Committee he regards as its best and most competent part. If its members are otherwise they will not hold their position for long. Hence he believes in everyone having freedom to correct the mistakes of individuals, and in there being less chance of a collective decision proving lop-sided than an individual one. But once a decision is arrived at he likes to see it carried out with military precision and loyalty. Throughout his career his victories have been triumphs of team-work and of his native capacity to lead the team by securing a common understanding of the task in hand.

This position of Stalin in relation to the Party was matched by the position of the Party in relation to the masses. It had to make the Party aims into the masses’ aims, and this could be done only by winning the confidence of the majority and getting them to act with it. So far the Bolsheviks have succeeded. Since the moment when they first secured a majority in the Soviets prior to the November Revolution they have retained the confidence of the majority, or they could not have maintained power. But it is one thing to gather a people together to smash a common enemy, and another to build a new civilisation. Here was a population of some 160,000,000, belonging to various races and nationalities, spread over a vast territory, and just recovering from the desolation of international war, civil war, and famine. A high percentage of these people were still sulk in immeasurable ignorance, superstition, and social backwardness. The housing conditions were an abomination. There was lack of sanitation everywhere, and disease was rampant from one end of the country to the other. Hundreds of thousands of homeless children ran wild in the cities and the countryside. There were not more than 5,000,000 industrial workers, and fewer than 2,000,000 of these were employed in large-scale industry. While the peasants had cleared out the landlords and taken charge of agriculture, they had in the process cut up most of whatever large-scale farms there had been, and 25,000,000 peasants, mostly with primitive instruments and backward forms of agriculture, occupied small farms. The standard of life was lower than that of the unemployed workers of Britain existing on unemployment insurance and poor relief. To precipitate such a multitude, amid such conditions, into an industrial and agricultural revolution destined to overhaul and surpass the technological levels of capitalism; to floodlight the intellectual and spiritual darkness with universal and all-round education; to dispel the superstition of the millions and make the dumb masses of the “backward nations” articulate; and to do all this in less than two decades, was something few people, if any, outside the ranks of the Bolshevik Party, believed possible.

There were three organisations through which these millions could be mobilised for action—the Soviets, the trade unions, and the co-operatives. The collective farms had still to come into being. The Soviets were the channel through which the political alliance of proletariat and peasantry could be most effectively made operative. They were also the means whereby self-government could be made real to the millions. For these representative bodies—local, district, regional, republican and All-Union—elected by the people on the basis of adult suffrage at eighteen years, have executive as well as administrative powers. The local Soviets have their clearly-defined responsibilities for the development of the economic and social life of the people. So have the district, regional, republican, and All-Union bodies. They draw the millions into the responsibilities of government. They discuss what is to be done, plan it, and carry out what they have planned. The local plan is embodied within the district plan, the district plan within the regional, the regional within the republican, the republican within the All-Union plan of the central planning commission. Thus the initiative and will of every individual are drawn into a vast co-ordinated scheme of human development and scientific exploitation of the resources of the Union.

The Bolsheviks had to procure leadership in the Soviets through election by the non-party voters, in competition with non-party candidates. That these Soviets would function perfectly from the beginning, just as if every elector had had half a century’s schooling in political democracy, could not be expected. But despite blunders and mistakes they have “worked,” and their working has so far been among the most astounding features of the “Century of the Common Man.”

Supplementing the Soviets were the trade unions, the organisations of the industrial workers. Membership was, and is, voluntary. Drawn mainly from the workers in the factories, mills, and mines, the unions control the conditions of labour, train labour, and function as partners with the Bolshevik Party and the State in the administration of industrial production. The Bolsheviks had to win the leadership of the trade unions by individual applications for union membership and then by proving themselves the most active and capable trade unionists. That in this rôle they would provide a thousand examples of immaturity, bureaucracy, “communist conceit” and interference, and “non-democratic methods,” measured in terms of the richly-experienced Western trade unionism, there was from the first no doubt. But they would constitute a system of self-government in industry such as obtained nowhere else.

Still another important means of self-government in the realm of production were the co-operative societies, the connecting links in the transfer of goods from producer to consumer. As with the trade unions, to become leaders of the co-operatives the Bolsheviks had to prove themselves the most capable co-operators and so win election to the leading committees.

As a matter of fact [wrote Stalin in January, 1923], the power of the State over all large-scale means of production, the power of the State in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasants, the assured leadership of the peasantry by the proletariat, etc., is not this all that is necessary in order to build a complete Socialist society out of the co-operatives, out of just the co-operatives and nothing else? This is not yet the building of a Socialist society, but it is all that is needed and sufficient for building it.

Stalin’s leadership through the period of the Five Year Plans bears all the marks of strategic and tactical genius which have since been exhibited in his direction of the Red Army during the Second World War. He never regarded any situation as static. Things and people are, in his view, always on the move, and it is the duty of a leader to lead and not to apply a drag. Of the strategy of revolution he says:

Strategy is the determination of the direction of the main proletarian onslaught in this or that phase of the revolution; the elaboration of the best plan for the distribution of the revolutionary forces (the main reserves and the secondary reserves), and the endeavour to carry out this plan during the whole of this or that phase of the revolution. [2]

Of tactics he writes:

Tactic is concerned, not with the war as a whole, but with the fighting of this or that campaign, with the gaining of this or that victory which may be essential during a particular period of the general revolutionary advance or withdrawal. Tactics are thus parts of strategy, and subordinate thereto.

With such principles guiding him it can hardly be a matter of surprise that from the moment when he saw the time at hand for calling a halt to the N.E.P., he should begin active preparations for the next stage. His whole-hearted endorsement of Lenin’s electrification plan, and his urge for its immediate implementation despite the conditions set up by civil war and famine, is a measure of how strongly he felt that the economic, industrial and social transformation of the country was the key to the problems of his time. The State electrification plan was the beginning of planned economy. The commission appointed to set it in being became the State Planning Commission years before the question arose of preparing the First Five Year Plan. Under its auspices grew up a statistical bureau and a staff of experts, collecting and collating the information necessary for the vast tasks ahead.

Side by side with the development of the Planning Commission went the reorganisation of the scientific resources of the country. The Russian Academy of Science was transformed into the Soviet Academy of Science and its work brought into direct association with industry and agriculture. A new relationship was established between the scientists and the workers, research problems being now submitted from field and factory, mill and mine, and all the other institutions for production and social well-being. Students were admitted to the universities on the basis of ability only, and paid while they studied. Research laboratories were established in factories and on farms. All that science had to offer was to be harnessed to planned economy and the enlightenment of the whole population. Timing the actual introduction of the plan with the recovery of the economic position to the level of 1913, Stalin brought his team into action with this declaration:

We must transform the U.S.S.R., from a weak, agrarian country dependent upon the caprices of world capitalism . . . . drive out without mercy the capitalist elements, widen the front of the Socialist forms of economy, create the economic basis for the abolition of classes in the U.S.S.R. and for the construction of a Socialist society . . . . create in our country an industry which would be capable of re-equipping and organising not only the whole of our industry but also of our transport and our agriculture on a Socialist basis . . . to transform our small-scale and scattered agriculture into large-scale collective economy, so as to ensure the economic base for Socialism in the rural districts and thus eliminate the possibility of the restoration of capitalism in the U.S.S.R. . . . create in the country all the necessary technical and economic prerequisites for increasing to the utmost the defensive capacity of the country, enable it to organise determined resistance to any and every attempt at military intervention or military aggression from outside, to any and every attempt at military attack from without.

Thus the new civilisation was ushered in. The press, the schools, the radio, every conceivable means of propagating the plan was enlisted, with the emphasis always on the construction of a new technique of modern industry. Soon every town and city seemed to be buried under a mass of scaffolding. New mines, new power stations, new factories sprang up in places hitherto untouched. Imports from abroad were predominantly of machinery. Hosts of engineers and technicians from America, Germany, and Great Britain, were brought in at high prices to pioneer the new technique and train Soviet workers. Modern motorcar plants equipped with American machinery were erected, and masses of raw peasants recruited to work them. For anyone with experience of machinery it was heartbreaking to see these beautiful machines handled by such labour and to witness the multitude of breakdowns due to sheer ignorance. Yet this labour was the only human material on which the Bolsheviks could draw. It had to learn by practice, whatever the cost—and the cost was high. The waste was prodigal, the discipline appalling, and there were blunders innumerable. Red tape embellished with a thousand knots abounded everywhere. There were enough data concerning how not to do things to fill the newspapers of the world with overwhelming evidence of the failure of planned economy. And yet it did not fail. The drive continued at increasing speed, and the difficulties were overcome.

At no time did Stalin lose control of the situation. He was a director who knew how to direct, moving his forces at the right time to the right place, emphasising first one phase of the struggle and then another. In 1928 all the emphasis was laid on new construction, new technique, new engineering works, chemical and tractor plants, power stations, and coal-mines, plus the development of a new working-class of technicians and brain-workers of all kinds.

In 1929 he directed attention to agriculture. The tractor and combine factories were producing sufficient to set the peasants on the move towards a Socialist solution of their problems. Stalin did not advocate collectivising all farms at once, but beginning slowly, attracting the poor and semi-poor peasants and inviting them voluntarily to pool their farms into a collective enterprise. This is how he framed his proposals to the Sixteenth Congress of the Bolshevik Party:

. . . Amalgamate the petty and tiny peasant farms gradually but steadily, not by means of pressure, but by example and conviction, into large-scale undertakings on the basis of communal, fraternal collective tillage of the soil, applying agricultural machinery and tractors, applying scientific methods for the intensification of agriculture . . .

During 1928 and ’29 Soviet farms received 18,000 tractors. It had been estimated that by the end of the First Five Year Plan some 30 per cent of the farms would be collectivised, but suddenly towards the end of 1929 and in 1930 the process of transformation developed into a mass rush of the poor and middling-poor peasants into collectivisation, a rush that entirely outstripped the capacity of the still developing industry to supply the requisite technical equipment. With the characteristic Russian flare for making “the sky the limit,” agricultural collectivisation at all costs and by all means, including compulsory methods, became a universal craze, until in the Moscow region the Bolsheviks actually set out to complete by the spring of 1930 what the Plan had outlined as their aim for 1932. Stalin put on the brakes. Standing firmly on the cumulative decisions of the congresses, he published an open letter telling the Bolsheviks they had become “dizzy with success,” and brought them back to the line of voluntary collectivisation. Then, consolidating the new situation and overcoming the crisis conditions which this enthusiastic rush had created, he led a drive to complete the collectivisation process by raising the cry for the “liquidation of the kulaks as a class.”

He was not afraid of difficulties. He regarded those of the Soviet people as quite different from those of capitalist countries. He said to the Sixteenth Congress of the Bolsheviks:

. . . our difficulties are not difficulties of decline or stagnation, but difficulties of growth, difficulties of revival, difficulties of progress. . . . And what does this mean? It means that our difficulties are of such a kind that they contain within themselves the possibility of overcoming them. . . . But in order to utilise these possibilities and transform them into reality, in order to crush the resistance of our class enemies and achieve the overcoming of our difficulties, there exists only one method—to organise the offensive against the capitalist elements along the whole front and isolate the opportunist elements in our own ranks, which hinder the offensive, which rush in panic from side to side, and which give rise in the Party to uncertainty as to our victory. . . .

To-day even the blind can see that a tremendous and radical turn has been taken by the peasantry from the old to the new, from kulak bondage to free life in the collective farms. There is no returning to the old system. The kulak class is doomed and will be liquidated. There remains only one path, the path of the collective farms. And this is no longer an unknown and untried path. It has been explored and tested in thousands of ways by the peasants themselves. It has been explored and summed up as something new which brings the peasants emancipation from kulak bondage, from want and ignorance. In this lies the foundation of our achievements. . . .

He went on to attack those who could not see the wood for the trees, who could only look on the acts of repression as a process of war and not as an essential to the construction of a new way of life. Stalin said:

Some think that the main thing in the Socialist offensive is repressions, and if repressions don’t increase there is no offensive. Is this true? Of course it is untrue. Repressions are a necessary element in the offensive, but an auxiliary, not a principal element. The principal element in the offensive of Socialism, in our present-day conditions, consists in increasing the rate of development of our industry, increasing the rate of development of our Soviet farms and collective farms, increasing the rate of the economic squeezing out of the capitalist elements in town and country, mobilising the masses around the cause of Socialist construction, mobilising the masses against capitalism. You may arrest and exile tens and hundreds of thousands of kulaks, but if at the same time you do not do everything necessary to hasten the building of the new forms of economy, replace the old capitalist forms of economy by new forms, blow up and liquidate the productive origins of the economic existence and development of the capitalist elements in the villages—the kulaks will be reborn and grow just the same. . . .

The class-war warrior was in his stride toward clearly-defined objectives. He declared:

We are advancing full steam ahead along the path of industrialization—to Socialism, leaving the age-long “Russian” backwardness. We are becoming a country of metal, a country of automobiles, a country of tractors. And when we have put the U.S.S.R. on an automobile, and the muzhik on a tractor, let the esteemed capitalists, who boast so loudly of their “civilisation,” try to overtake us! We shall see which countries may then be “classified” as backward and which as advanced.

The First Five Year Plan was completed in four years and three months. The country was transformed from one predominantly agricultural to one predominantly industrial. In 1913 industrial production represented not more than 47 per cent of the total output of the country. In 1932 it represented 70.7 per cent and agriculture 29.3 per cent. By 1933 the Second Five Year Plan was under way. Stalin defined the aim of this plan thus:

“The basic political task of the Second Five Year Plan is the final liquidation of capitalist elements and of classes in general; the final annihilation of the causes which lead to class differences and to exploitation; the overcoming of all remnants of capitalism both in our economy and in the consciousness of our people; the transformation of the entire working population of our country into conscious and active builders of a classless Socialist Society.”

It was in the following year that Kirov was murdered and the terror against the remnants of the old order was unleashed, to continue right into 1938. It has been argued that the terrific campaign set back Soviet economy at least five years. There is plenty of evidence of its interruption of production and that a terrible atmosphere of fear clouded the administration of the country. In this, as in almost everything else undertaken by Russians, there were no half-measures but full measures brimming over. Nevertheless the “observers” exaggerated a little. The Second Five Year Plan was fulfilled on time, and there is abundant evidence in this fact that Stalin was not spending all his days and nights chasing the supporters of Trotsky or listening behind the scenes to the trials of the Fifth Columnists. When the intelligentsia and technicians had become reconciled to the growing power of the Soviet State, Stalin drew them into new positions of responsibility, improved their conditions and removed the disabilities that had been imposed upon them. After the period of rapid construction had ceased to demand first place he threw himself energetically into the question of developing new cadres for improving the quality of production. Addressing the Red Army Academies on May 4th, 1935, he said:

In order to set technique going and to utilise it to the full, we need people who have mastered technique, we need cadres capable of mastering and utilising this technique according to all the rules of the art. Without people who have mastered technique, technique is dead. In the charge of people who have mastered technique, technique can and should perform miracles. If in our first-class mills and factories, in our state farms and collective farms, in our transport system and in our Red Army we had sufficient cadres capable of harnessing this technique, our country would secure results three times and four times as great as at present. That is why emphasis must now be laid on people, on cadres, on workers who have mastered technique. That is why the old slogan, “Technique decides everything,” which is a reflection of a period already passed, a period in which we suffered from a dearth in technique, must now be replaced by a new slogan “Cadres decide everything. That is the main thing now.”

One day Stalin told how a group of timber-haulers in Siberia returned to their village with one of their comrades missing. Stalin asked about him, and received the indifferent reply that he had remained behind. A request to explain this elicited the answer, “Drowned, of course.”

“One of the men,” said Stalin, “strolled away to attend to his horse, and when I reproached him with having more concern for this animal than for human life, I received the reply, ‘Why should we be concerned about a man? We can always make men. But just try to make a horse.’” Stalin added. “It is time to realise that of all the valuable capital the world possesses, the most valuable and decisive is people.”

Similarly when mass elementary education had got into its stride, he brought to the forefront the development of higher education. In all things the people must now pass from quantitative to qualitative production. From concern about things, buildings, machines, dynamos, mines, blast furnaces, crops, animals, the emphasis must shift to persons.

The Second Five Year Plan was completed. They must go onward to the third. The industrial army of a people now wholly united was working with tremendous energy and verve. It was a mighty force, now 180,000,000 strong. There is nothing with which to compare its development. To judge the incidents of this mightiest of human emancipatory movements by the yardsticks of Western political democracy is a sheer waste of the critical faculty. Stalin and the Bolshevik Party were leading a war which had to be won quickly because war of another kind was already in the offing. In this period Russia was no eldorado. The Socialist Society was not falling as heavenly manna from the skies. It was being won with “sweat, blood and tears” and the casualties were great. Thousands upon thousands were killed and wounded, frozen to death, starved. Thousands were court-martialled, shot. The winning of the industrial battle of Magnitogorsk, which gave the Soviet Union her greatest steel-producing plant, made possible the winning of the Battles of Stalingrad, Kharkov, Kiev, and many more, but it was not without casualties. The riveters who froze to death on the top of the great construction, the riggers who fell from swaying scaffolding, the thousands who starved in tents in the Siberian temperatures of forty below zero, must not be forgotten in assessing the costs of saving the world from Nazi domination. To crowd into ten years whole centuries of human experience would have been impossible without casualties, injustices, and suffering unpardonable judged by the standards of another society enjoying a period of comparatively quiescent development.

Stalin was leading three closely interwoven revolutions, and it was his consciousness of the nearness of the impending clash of world Powers that set the pace. He had to finish off the class war by eliminating the N.E.P. men and the kulaks; he had to lead an industrial and agrarian revolution, and in the process a spiritual one in the breasts of the millions fighting their way upwards from medieval poverty, ignorance, national hatreds and superstitions.

The last-named task he said:

consisted of helping the working masses of non-Russian nationality to overtake the more advanced central Russia, or, in other words, in helping them (a) to develop and strengthen the Soviet State in their own midst and in forms adapted to the national and traditional circumstances of these peoples; (b) to develop and strengthen judicial, administrative, and economic services in their own language, so that all the organs of power should consist of local people well acquainted with the customs and psychology of the local population; (c) to develop their own press, schools, theatres, clubs, and all other cultural and educative institutions in their own language; (d) to create and develop a farflung network of schools both of a general educative and of a professional and technical character in their own language, especially for the Kirghiz, Bashkir, Turkmen, Uzbek, Tadjik, Azerbaidjanian, Tartar, and Daghestanian peoples, in order that there maybe trained with the greatest possible expedition cadres of native skilled workers and Soviet and Party organisers, and administrators in all spheres of government and especially in the spheres of popular education.

Probably in no phase of this great struggle did Stalin show his genius for collective work to greater advantage than in his method of encouraging initiative among the people. The shock brigade tactic for harnessing “Socialist emulation,” by which groups of workers set the pace for higher norms of production, was a political conception derived from the practice of leadership by the Bolshevik Party. But the Stakhanovite Movement was something quite different and quite new. It did not originate in the ranks of Party leadership. It started in a coal-mine, and its pioneer was a miner named Stakhanov. He applied his mind to the problem of raising the production level of coal. In the West we should probably call the technical process the rationalisation of industry. Stakhanov, however, did more than introduce new technical methods. By his initiative he infused a new spirit into the rationalisation process which developed a passion among the workers of all categories for scientific knowledge and its application to every method of production. Stalin seized on this new phenomenon and gave it an organised form. He initiated conferences of miners, railwaymen, engineers, and scientists to learn from Stakhanov, and addressed all of them. He saw in the new movement the forerunner of a new type of human activity in which manual and intellectual labour would no longer be divided. He asks, “What type of people are these Stakhanovites?” and answers:

We have before us people like Stakhanov, Busygin, Smetanin, Krivonoss, the Vinogradovs and many others, new people, working men and women, who have completely mastered the technique of their jobs, have harnessed it and driven ahead. We had no such people, or hardly any such people, some three years ago. . . . Look at our comrades, the Stakhanovites, more closely. What type of people are they? They are mostly young or middle-aged working men and women, people with culture and technical knowledge, who show examples of precision and accuracy in work, who are able to appreciate the time factor in work and who have learned to count not only minutes, but also seconds. The majority of them have taken the technical minimum courses and are continuing their technical education. They are free of the conservatism and stagnation of certain engineers, technicians and business executives; they are marching boldly forward, smashing the antiquated technical standards and creating new and higher standards; they are introducing amendments into the designed capacities and economic plans drawn up by the leaders of industry; they often supplement and correct what the engineers and technicians have to say, they often teach them and impel them forward, for they are people who have completely mastered the technique of their job and who are able to squeeze out of technique the maximum that can be squeezed out of it. . . Is it not clear that the Stakhanovites are innovators of industry, that the Stakhanov movement represents the future of our industry, that it contains the seed of the future rise in the cultural and technical level of the working-class, that it opens to us the path by which alone can be achieved those indices of productivity of labour which are essential for the transition from Socialism to Communism and for the elimination of the distinction between mental and manual labour.

This movement, nowadays grown to great dimensions, typifies the qualitative change which was the product of the mass educational efforts of the years since first the Soviet efforts to wipe out illiteracy and backwardness throughout the world. John Scott, in his extraordinarily fascinating account of his six years as a worker in Magnitogorsk, says:

“Every night from six until twelve the street cars and buses of Magnitogorsk were crowded with adult students hurrying to and from schools with books and notebooks under their arms, discussing Leibnitz, Hegel, or Lenin, doing problems on their knees, and acting like high-school children during examination week in a New York subway. These students, however, were not adolescents, and it was not examination time. They were just the run of the population of the Soviet Union making up for several centuries of lost time.” [3]

From the day this Stakhanov Movement appeared it can be said that science was no longer the preserve of the few, a particular department for experts. Fields, factories and workshops, mines, quarries, every unit of productive activity became a people’s laboratory of science, the workers themselves scientists at work. It was a turning-point in human history. The Revolution had produced the new type of workman—the worker-scientist, the prototype of the men and women of the coming civilisation in which Man must learn to master both the machine and nature.

The crowning glory of Stalin’s leadership came when, gathering up all the many strands of the people’s achievement, he reflected them in what has become known to the world as the Stalin Constitution. Since the first Soviet Constitution of 1922, for which he and Lenin were principally responsible, great changes had taken place. He had no longer to deal with a largely illiterate community. Illiteracy had been almost eliminated. He had no longer to consider the position of hostile classes. They had been liquidated. That section of the Churches which had assisted the forces of counter-revolution had been dealt with, and the Churches had purged themselves of all leadership hostile to the Soviet régime. The “kulak” peasantry were gone, and the peasants of the collective farms were enthusiastic for the great changes which had been made in their way of life. The foundations of the classless society were firmly laid. The liberated nations had had great experience of their new status. The time had thus arrived for an advance in democracy, the removal of disabilities no longer necessary and the simplification of government and administration. In 1935 the Seventh Congress of Soviets made a decision to change the Constitution of the U.S.S.R.

Once again Stalin revealed himself as the great leader of collective work. He functioned as chairman of a large commission appointed to prepare a draft of the Constitution. On the commission were such men as Molotov, Zhdanov, Kaganovitch and many more of the best known and most able leaders in the country. When their draft was ready there ensued the greatest discussion known to history. Sixty million copies of the draft were issued in all the languages of the nations forming the Union. It was printed in full in 10,000 newspapers with a circulation of 37,000,000 copies. It was broadcast from every radio station and discussed at 527,000 meetings attended by 36,000,000 people. Suggested amendments numbered 134,000. In factories and mills, in co-operative societies and clubs, in farms, workshops and mines the Constitution was discussed and studied. The commission examined every amendment, whether emanating from individuals or organisations. The final draft was submitted to an extraordinary Congress of the Soviets on December 5th, 1936.

The Constitution declares that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a Socialist State of workers and peasants:

All power in the U.S.S.R. belongs to the working people of town and country represented by the Soviets of deputies of the working people. . . . All citizens have equal irrevocable rights irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, State, cultural, social and political life. . . .

Any direct or indirect limitation of these rights, or conversely any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for citizens on account of their race or nationality as well as any propagation of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred or contempt, shall be punished by law.

The Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. consisting of two chambers with equal rights, the Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities, is elected by the citizens of the U.S.S.R. for a term of four years on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. All citizens of 18 years and over, irrespective of race or nationality, religion, standard of education, domicile, social origin, property, status or past activities, have the right to vote and to be elected, with the exception of the insane and persons convicted by court of law to sentences including deprivation of electoral rights.

The economic foundations of the U.S.S.R. consist of the Socialist economic system and the social ownership of the tools and means of production. . . . Socialist property has either the form of State property or the form of cooperative collective property. . . . The law allows small-scale private enterprise . . . provided there is no exploitation of the labour of others. . . . The right of personal property in their income from work and their savings, in their dwelling-house and auxiliary husbandry, in household articles and utensils, and in articles for personal use and comfort, as well as the right of inheritance of personal property of citizens, is protected by law . . . Work is a matter of duty and a matter of honour for every able-bodied citizen on the principle He who does not work shall not eat.

Citizens have the right to work, guaranteed employment and payment for their work in accordance with its quantity and quality . . . the right to rest . . vacation with pay, the provision of a network of sanatoria, rest homes and clubs . . . security in old age, sickness or loss of capacity to work. “These rights are ensured” by the wide development of social insurance . . . at State expense, free medical service and the provision of a wide network of health resorts. . . . Citizens have the right to education, including higher education free of charge. . . . Women are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, State, cultural, social and political life . . . and State protection of the interests of mother and child, pregnancy leave with pay, the provision of a network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens. . . . The Church shall be separate from the State, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda shall be recognized for all citizens. . . . In accordance with the interests of the working people and in order to strengthen the Socialist system, citizens are guaranteed by law Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and demonstration. . . . No one may be subject to arrest except by an order of the court and with the sanction of a State attorney. The inviolability of the home of citizens and secrecy of correspondence are protected by law.

With these rights are duties.

It is the duty of every citizen to observe the constitution, to carry out its laws, maintain labour discipline, honestly perform public duties, respect the rule of the Socialist community, safeguard and strengthen public Socialist property, as the source of the wealth and might of the fatherland, and a sacred duty to defend the fatherland.

The representative system of government through which these rights and duties operate and are made secure is based upon a universal franchise whereby deputies are elected to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R.; the Supreme Soviet of the Constituent Republics; the territorial and provincial Soviets; the Supreme Soviets of the Autonomous Republics; the Soviets of the autonomous provinces, regions, towns and rural districts. All citizens shall participate on an equal basis, women equally with men and have the right to be elected on equal terms. Citizens in the ranks of the Red Army have the right to elect and be elected on equal terms with all citizens. The elections are direct and the voting secret. Candidates are nominated by electoral districts and all organisations and associations of the working people, the Communist Party organisations, trade unions, co-operatives, organisations of youth and cultural societies, have the right of nomination. All deputies to all institutions are obliged to report on their work and the work of the institutions and may be recalled by a decision of a majority of the electors in the manner prescribed by law.

This Constitution of the U.S.S.R. rounded off ten years of triumphant industrial, economic, and social progress over seemingly insuperable difficulties. In 1917 there were 130,000,000 Russian subjects who could neither read nor write. In 1937 illiteracy was almost a thing of the past, and the Soviet Union had 9,000,000 technicians. When Stalin, in 1927, led the way with the First Five Year Plan, Russia had only 210 research laboratories. In 1937 there were 2,300. In 1941 his own writings had a circulation of 509,000,000 copies in many languages, the works of Lenin a circulation of 171,000,000. Book production had risen from 26,200 titles, involving 86,700,000 copies, in 1913, to 40,000 titles involving 692,700,000 copies in 1938. The Russian classics by the great authors, from Herzen and Gogol, Pushkin and Tolstoy, Lermontov and Chekhov, to the modern writers, are now issued in scores of millions and translated in some cases into as many as seventy-two languages. The classics of other lands, Byron, Dickens, Shakespeare, Goethe, Victor Hugo, Cervantes, Anatole France are circulated in millions of copies in from six to forty languages. The total circulation of 859 newspapers in the whole of Russia in 1913 was not more than 2,700,000 copies. In 1938 there were issued 8,550 newspapers (2,188 of them in non-Russian languages) with a circulation of 37,500,000. In 1940, 850 theatres catered for the Union, a unique feature being that 173 of them are for juveniles only. In 1914, 8,137,000 persons were attending schools of all grades. In the school year 1936-7, no fewer than 38,335,000 enjoyed free elementary education up to 15 years of age, while 10,834,000 children received a secondary education and 700,000 young men and women received higher education of university standing. In 1939 there were 86,266 public libraries containing 166,000,000 books. In the same year the Academy of Sciences had sixty scientific institutes and its budget was 158,000,000 roubles. In 1940 the total expenditure of the State on cultural purposes was 42,875,000,000 roubles.

Nor are these astounding developments confined only to men. In 1940, 12,000 women were research workers in the Academy of Sciences. Twenty per cent of the leading positions in Government and Party work are held by women, while no fewer than 428,570 hold elected offices in the numerous organisations of the various republics. It is not too much to say that the cultural revolution has rushed ahead of that of all other lands.

Letting in the light of knowledge has facilitated vast changes in social welfare. The preventative and curative organisations of maternity and child-welfare clinics form a great network of health institutions endowed by the Government. Mortality figures have decreased since the days of Czarist Russia by 55 per cent, and infant mortality is less than half the old figure. The population increases at the rate of 3,000,000 a year. Perhaps, however, the greatest achievement of all in which Stalin rejoices is that of the solution of the problem of nationalities. The one-time “colonial” nations have leaped from feudalism and barbarism to civilisation. Stalin has worked on the principle that all nations and races should have equal rights and opportunities irrespective of differences of colour, language, culture level, and economic development. This principle was embodied in the original Soviet Constitution, and the twenty years’ effort in its application have witnessed nomadic tribes and backward peoples grow into self-governing nations of collective farmers and industrial workers-literate, educated, and cultured persons who have left behind the age of pogroms and inter-racial hatreds and conflict. Stalin’s native Georgia, once a primitive semi-colony, is now one of the most advanced Socialist Republics in the Union, while in the flourishing neighbour Republic of Armenia the days of persecution are a bad memory. Both have now their own educational systems, from primary schools to university. In Uzbikistan, Bukhara, Tadjikistan, Kirghizia, Turkmenistan, Kazakh, Yakut, Siberia and all the regions incorporated in the republics of Soviet Asia, short cuts have been taken from primitive life to modern civilisation. The machinery of industry has entered these regions as a liberator, and science has rushed in to sweep away the mental fetters which had accompanied the brutal enslavement of the lands when they were the colonial possessions of the Imperial regime. The foul, smoke-filled huts and primitive filth are replaced by new houses, modern furniture, new industries, collective farms, new schools, new habits, new ways of life. But, while throughout the Union individual national culture and political forms find untrammelled expression, all rest firmly on the economic unity of the Union as a whole. There are no customs barriers at the national frontiers, no outdated attempts at national autarchy. As a productive organisation the U.S.S.R. is a single unit, one in defence and one in purpose.

Stalin explains the triumph as being due to—

The absence of exploiting classes, which are the principal organisers of strife between nations; the absence of exploitation, which cultivates mutual distrust and kindles national passions; the fact that power is in the hands of the working-class, which is the foe of all enslavement and the true vehicle of the ideas of internationalism; the actual practice of mutual aid among the peoples in all spheres of economic and social life; and, finally, the flourishing national culture of the peoples of the U.S.S.R.—culture which is national in form and Socialist in content—all these and similar factors have brought about a radical change in the aspect of the peoples of the U.S.S.R.; their feeling of mutual distrust has disappeared, a feeling of mutual friendship has developed among them, and thus real fraternal co-operation among the peoples has been established with the system of the single federated state. As a result, we now have a fully-formed multi-national Socialist State, which has stood all tests, and whose stability might well be envied by any national state in any part of the world.

Of the economic transformation which has been accomplished he proudly reported to the Eighteenth Congress of the Bolshevik Party:

In the sphere of economic development we must regard the most important result during the period under review to be the fact that the reconstruction of industry and agriculture on the basis of a new, modern technique has been completed. There are no more, or hardly any more, old plants in our country, with their old technique and hardly any old peasant farms, with their antediluvian equipment. Our industry and agriculture are now based on new, up-to-date technique. It may be said without exaggeration that from the standpoint of the degree of saturation of industry and agriculture with new machinery, our country is more advanced than any other country, where the old machinery acts as a fetter on production and hampers the introduction of modern technique.

The social composition of the country presents an entirely new picture. In 1937, 34.7 per cent of the population were classified as manual and clerical workers; 55.5 per cent were classified as collective farmers, co-operative craftsmen and artisans, 5.6 per cent as individual peasant craftsmen and artisans, and 4.2, per cent as students, pensioners and armed forces. In the same period the Bolshevik Party grew from 470,000 members in 1925 to nearly 2,000,000 reinforced by an organisation of 5,000,000 Young Communists.

All these great constructive changes were proceeding while Stalin was settling accounts with the opposition elements now generally classified as Russia’s Fifth Column. Had a little less attention been given to this struggle which so few understood, and a little more to the gigantic constructive work which Stalin directed during the same years, there would have been fewer miscalculations concerning the power of the Red Army and Soviet people to deal with their enemies when the German challenge came.

The race against time in the internal affairs of the Revolution had been won. But in his hour of triumph shared with the people of the Union, Stalin never lost sight of the gathering storm soon to beat so furiously upon the new civilisation he had guided to maturity. And as he stood at the head of the mighty force of his creation, with the same serenity and poise which marked his years of greatest adversity, there were no signs of his hand faltering while he prepared State and Party for the greatest challenge of all.



1.  Theory and Practice of Leninism, by J. Stalin.

2.  Leninism, p. 146.

3.  Behind the Urals, p. 174.

Next: XV. Stalin and the World Revolution