Brian Pearce

The First Plan

(Autumn 1955)

From Anglo-Soviet Journal, Vol. 16 No. 3, Autumn 1955.
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 11, 12 and 13
FLPH and Lawrence and Wishart, 1955, 5/– each volume

The two first volumes (11 and 12), covering the years 1928 and 1929 and the first half of 1930, are of more than merely historical interest in that they deal with the launching and the initial period of the First Five-Year Plan, and so with Stalin’s dispute with the ‘Rights’ about comparative rates of growth for heavy and light industry. This dispute and its outcome were referred to in the Soviet press early last year, it will be recalled, when discussions and revisions of policy took place relating to this same question.

The famous titles A Year of Great Change, Concerning the Policy of Eliminating the Kulaks as a Class and Dizzy with Success remind the reader that this was the period of the crucial ‘second revolution’ in Russia – the struggle for mass-scale, country-wide collectivisation of agriculture. Here, incidentally, is the background to the section called State Grain Farm No. 5 in Kaverin’s novel Open Book, recently published in English by Lawrence and Wishart.

Among the works published in these volumes for the first time is a letter to Bill Belotserkovsky (2 February 1929, Volume 11, pp. 341–44). Stalin chides the playwright for suggesting that such plays as Bulgakov’s Days of the Turbins be banned:

What is easiest must not be considered the best. It is not a matter of banning but of step by step ousting the old and new non-proletarian trash from the stage by competing against it, by creating genuine, interesting, artistic Soviet plays capable of replacing it.

Also published for the first time is a letter to Bezymensky (19 March 1930, Volume 12, p. 206) replying to his criticism of two current works of fiction as being ‘petty-bourgeois’ and ‘anti-party’. Stalin defends them, observes that ‘their message lies in the concentration on the shortcomings of our apparatus and in their profound belief that these shortcomings can be corrected’, and gives as his opinion that this ‘is also their principal merit’.

In a third letter published for the first time (to Felix Kon, 9 July 1929, Volume 12, pp. 118–21), he retorts sharply to apparent insinuations that he should not have written a foreword to a pamphlet on the then burning question of socialist emulation, by an unknown writer who, out of inexperience, had made some mistakes.

I am emphatically opposed [Stalin writes] to supplying forewords only to pamphlets by the ‘bigwigs’ of the literary world. I think it is high time for us to abandon this aristocratic habit of giving prominence to literary ‘bigwigs’, who are prominent enough as it is, and from whose ‘greatness’ young literary forces have to suffer, writers who are known to none and ignored by all.

No doubt the writer of the pamphlet should be ‘properly taken to task in the press for her errors’:

But I am decidedly opposed to having this undeniably capable authoress done to death and buried. As to withdrawing Comrade Mikulina’s pamphlet from sale, in my opinion that wild idea should be left ‘without sequel’.

The last volume is the English version of the last one in the series which began to appear in Russian in 1946 and ended in 1949. It is of exceptional interest in that it covers the period (July 1930 to January 1934) when Soviet Russia made its biggest impact on the Western world since the years immediately following the revolution – the period when a wave of British tourists swept into the country where socialism was being built, to pile up a mountain of books about it on their return, when the SCR was able to include a We Have Been to Russia dinner as an annual feature of its programme, and when many now in their forties first became interested in Soviet affairs. With the great changes of these years – the successful completion of the First Five-Year Plan and the launching of the Second, and the profound alteration in the pattern and tone of Soviet society resulting from them – Stalin was associated more closely than any other personality and then emerged as the undisputed leading figure in the USSR even while still holding no government office.

American specialists played a notable part in rendering the help needed by the Russian workers, and the book contains a number of generous tributes by Stalin to the value of this help, to American ‘efficiency’ generally and to the courage and realism of President Roosevelt, who in 1933 took the step of establishing diplomatic relations between the USSR and the United States. Also of particular interest in the sphere of foreign relations are the interview with Walter Duranty in December 1933, when the possibility of a change in the Soviet attitude to the League of Nations was first publicly hinted at, in connection with the increasing aggressiveness of German and Japanese policy; the historic prophecy, in January 1934, that attempts by outside powers to exploit the weakness and disunity of China would result, as had happened in Germany and Italy, in a great national movement to make the country united and truly independent; and the no less historic warning on the same occasion that, should war be launched against the USSR: ‘Let not the bourgeoisie blame us if some of the governments near and dear to them, which today rule happily “by the grace of God”, are missing on the morrow of such a war.’

Last updated on 6 June 2015