Brian Pearce

The Beginnings of Socialist Industrialisation

(Autumn 1954)

From Anglo-Soviet Journal, Vol. 15 No. 3, Autumn 1954.
Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

J.V. Stalin
Works, Volumes 7 and 8
FLPH and Lawrence and Wishart, 1954, 5/– each volume

These volumes cover the years 1925 and 1926 (to November only), when the Soviet people, after completing postwar restoration of the national economy, began the mighty process of socialist industrialisation of their country in the midst of a ‘temporarily stabilised’ capitalist world. The principal thread linking together Stalin’s articles, speeches and letters of this period is his struggle against the opposition groupings led by Zinoviev and Trotsky. They deal with the usual wide range of topics, but most of all with problems of the relations between the Soviet working class and the peasantry and between the Soviet state and the capitalist countries. The shelves of many of our public, university and other libraries are now so well stocked with books containing accounts of this conflict derived from opposition sources that it is to be hoped that most of them will find room for these volumes, in which ‘the other side’ is given, for instance in the Report on the Social-Democratic Deviation in Our Party (November 1926) in Volume 8. Students who have hitherto relied for their understanding of this period on such works as Isaac Deutscher’s will discover many interesting facts which will be new to them: among others, that Stalin was a witty as well as a very thorough and painstaking controversialist.

There are a number of passages about Britain and British affairs in these volumes, where Stalin discusses Britain’s economic and political position in the world, her relations with Russia and the special features of British social and political life; notably the role of the trade unions in Britain and the differences between the relationship of the trade union to the political side of the labour movement in this country and in pre-revolutionary Russia. Speeches on the Anglo-Russian Joint Advisory Council of 1925–27 and on the general strike are included in Volume 8. There is more of this to come in later volumes, for example, Volume 9 will contain his Talk with Students of the Sun Yat-sen University in May 1927, in which he gave a remarkable evaluation of the nature and prospects of the British Labour Party. Together with his extraordinarily prescient articles and speeches on China (Volume 8 contains his first major statement, The Prospects of the Revolution in China, November 1926), these passages cannot but give a jolt to those who have accepted the legend that, because he was less widely travelled than other prominent figures, and was so deeply absorbed in the task of building socialism in the USSR, Stalin had no views worth considering on other countries and their problems. Stalin’s field as a social scientist is seen to extend far beyond the limits of his own country.

Particularly interesting are the sections in these volumes, especially in Volume 7, which throw light on Soviet foreign policy. Stalin saw the contradictions between the various capitalist countries as a factor which, by putting difficulties in the way of the formation of an anti-Soviet alliance, helped the USSR to survive. From this some writers have tried to deduce that the USSR under his leadership strove to set one capitalist country against another so as to provoke war between them. How incorrect this idea is appears from some observations of Stalin’s (Volume 7, pp. 13–14) on the dangers to the USSR which arose from the growing conflicts between the capitalist states, with the possibility of war breaking out between them in Europe. In this situation, he declared, there could, unfortunately, be no question of disbanding the Red Army, as some proposed to do, burdensome though its defence apparatus was for the struggling young Soviet economy:

The question of our army, of its might and preparedness, will certainly face us as a burning question in the event of complications arising in the countries around us. That does not mean that in such a situation we must necessarily undertake active operations against somebody or other. That is not so. It anybody shows signs of harbouring such a notion, he is wrong. Our banner is still the banner of peace. But if war breaks out we shall not be able to sit with folded arms. We shall have to take action, but we shall be the last to do so. And we shall do so in order to throw the decisive weight in the scales, the weight that can turn the scales.

Another legend about Soviet foreign policy to which Stalin gives the answer in this book is that which depicts the Soviet Government as supporting now this faction of states, now that, in its conduct of international relations. When this idea was put to him in connection with the first Soviet treaty of non-aggression with Germany (predecessor of the more famous one signed in 1939), Stalin replied (Volume 7, pp. 242–43):

No. We have always had and always will have but one orientation: our orientation is on the USSR and its success both at home and abroad. We need no other orientation. Whatever pacts are concluded, they cannot change anything in this respect.

Did this mean that Stalin was in favour of a self-centred approach to foreign affairs similar to that of the Tsarist Government? He answered this question in an interview with students of the Sverdlov University, in which he sharply criticised those who stood for a ‘nationalist’ course in foreign policy, ‘believing that the interests of all other countries should be sacrificed to the interests of our country’:

Support the liberation movement in China? But why? Wouldn’t that be dangerous? Wouldn’t it bring us into conflict with other countries? Wouldn’t it be better if we established ‘spheres of influence’ in China in conjunction with ‘advanced’ powers and snatched something from China for our own benefit’? ... Such is the new type of nationalist ‘frame of mind’ which is trying to liquidate the foreign policy of the October Revolution and is cultivating the elements of degeneration. (Volume 7, p. 170)

China was indeed a most important test case for the foreign policy of the USSR, and it is in relation to China that Stalin’s remarkable foresight and the fundamental realism of his conception of Soviet foreign policy stand out most clearly in the light of everything that has happened since:

The forces of the revolutionary movement in China are unbelievably vast. They have not yet made themselves felt as they should. They will make themselves felt in the future. The rulers in the East and West who do not see those forces and do not reckon with them to the degree that they deserve will suffer for this. We, as a state, cannot but reckon with this force ... (Volume 7, pp. 300–01)

The close, friendly relations established between the USSR and the Chinese People’s Republic which are today such an important element in the world power and prestige of the USSR derive directly from this policy which Stalin fought for in 1925; how different the world situation would be if the petty-minded pseudo-realism of his right-wing adversaries had triumphed instead!

All through the book runs a note of insistence on the need, while maintaining strong defence forces and conducting a shrewd diplomatic activity, to retain and consolidate the ‘moral support’ of the working people in the capitalist countries. This ‘is so important that its value cannot even be measured, it is inestimable’ (Volume 7, p. 26). The confidence of the workers of Europe ‘is more valuable to us than any loans, because the workers’ confidence in our state is the fundamental antidote to imperialism and its interventionist machinations’ (Volume 7, p. 291). It was the economic progress of the USSR plus the rallying around it of ‘both the workers of the advanced countries and the oppressed peoples of the colonial and dependent countries’ that was making it ‘possible to convert the brief “respite” into a whole period of “respite”’ (Volume 7, p. 259). To this important point, it will be recalled, Stalin returned in his last public speech, at the Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in October 1952.

One is continually struck, when reading Stalin, by his ability, while dealing with the urgent tasks of the moment, to see several moves ahead, to visualise the problems which will arise as a result of the solution of the immediate problems, in a radically new situation. Of this characteristic of his thinking there are a number of examples in the present volume. Thus, the principle behind the adjustments made last year in the economic planning of the USSR, Hungary, Bulgaria and other countries of the socialist camp, so as to give fuller play to the international division of labour within this camp, is laid down here already in 1925. Stalin observes, after stressing the need for developing the USSR on an economically self-reliant footing given the conditions at the time he is speaking, that this matter will have to be looked at in a new light when other countries, each with its own industrial and other economic resources, join the socialist camp: ‘We shall then pass from the policy of transforming our country into an independent economic unit to the policy of drawing our country into the general channel of socialist development.’ (Volume 7, pp. 306–07) Again, the exporting problems of socialist countries, which Stalin touched on in his last work, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, are already glimpsed here, at a time when the immediate task ahead was that of industrialising the USSR:

I do not know what the situation will be when our industry develops to the full, when we are able to cope with the home market, and when we are faced with the question of winning foreign markets. We shall be faced with that question in the future, you can have no doubt about that. (Volume 7, p. 29)

Last updated on 6 June 2015