Brian Pearce

Stalin on Coexistence 27 Years Ago

(Spring 1955)

From Anglo-Soviet Journal, Volume 16, no 1, Spring 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 9 and 10
FLPH and Lawrence and Wishart, 1955, 5/– each volume

Those in whom the recent boosting of Orwell’s Animal Farm may have aroused curiosity to know what the so-called Stalin versus Trotsky dispute was really all about cannot go to a better place for their answer than to Stalin’s writings covering the years 1924–27, and especially the present two volumes of his collected works, which together cover the period from December 1926 to December 1927, when the conflict between the Opposition and the majority in the Bolshevik Party came to a head. This was the time when Trotsky and his followers passed from abstract propaganda to open advocacy of defeatism in the event of war (this was, of course, the ‘Arcos raid’ epoch), with their notorious ‘Clemenceau thesis’ about the propriety of overthrowing the Soviet Government while an enemy army was advancing on the capital.

In his long, patient fight with the Opposition, Stalin reviewed the entire history of the Bolshevik Party and the Russian labour movement as a whole, so as to show the role played by Trotsky and his associates and the significance of their ideas. A secondary reason for his doing this was to rebut the charges brought against himself concerning various episodes in his career; and these volumes contain Stalin’s own version of his alleged ‘waverings’ in April 1917, his attitude to the ‘Military Opposition’ of 1919, his ‘differences’ with Lenin about Georgian affairs, his letter of 1923 on the situation in Germany, and the document known as ‘Lenin’s will’ and other matters – Trotsky’s version of which has been copied by one anti-Soviet writer from another over a very long time now, in book after profitable book.

Stalin deals thoroughly with the allegation that the idea of building socialism in one country taken separately, and that country Russia, ‘not Montenegro or even Bulgaria’ (Volume 9, p. 21), was raised for the first time in 1925, and traces Trotsky’s disputes with Lenin on this question, as well as showing why in 1926–27 it had become objectively necessary to undertake socialist industrialisation as an immediate practical task (Volume 9, pp. 37–38).

A theme which recurs continually throughout the dispute with the Opposition is that of the policy of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet Government towards the peasantry. Stalin, following Lenin, repeatedly stressed the necessity for correct relations with the peasantry as a sine qua non of the advance to socialism, and denounced the Opposition’s tendency to treat the peasants as a sort of ‘colony’ to be exploited for the benefit of the workers. The dictatorship of the proletariat, he explained, was a special form of class alliance between the workers and the peasants, not a special device for squeezing the latter. In view of the reforms affecting the collective farmers which were introduced in mid-1953, it is particularly interesting to read Stalin’s observations on this theme. It will be recalled that the series of postwar price reductions had proved a mixed blessing to large sections of the collective farmers, through their effect on the prices which the latter could get on the market for their surplus produce. In order to right this balance, the Soviet Government halved the agricultural tax and cancelled arrears of payment, and also greatly increased the procurement prices paid by the state to the collective farms. Collective farmers interviewed by British visitors in the second half of 1953 were enthusiastic about the benefit these reforms had brought to their budgets. The measures in question were evidently not adopted without a struggle; from a passage in the statement issued in connection with the arrest of L.P. Beria, which occurred at this time – ‘Beria did his best to retard the solution of urgent problems of strengthening and developing agriculture, to undermine the collective farms and to create difficulties in the food supply of the population of the USSR’ – one may deduce that, in 1953 as in 1926–27, would-be disrupters of Soviet society saw troublemaking between its two basic classes as their principal modus operandi.

These volumes contain the bulk of Stalin’s writings on China, with their close analysis of Chinese feudalism in relation to the problems of the revolution which saw such extraordinary ups and downs in those years. While the Opposition rushed from fantastic hopes and plans to the blackest pessimism, Stalin forecast the general lines of future development of events in China with amazing accuracy. Drawing upon his study of the similarities and differences between pre-1917 Russian and current Chinese society, he pointed out, among other things, that even such a consolidation of the counter-revolutionary regime as had been effected in Russia after 1905 was beyond the range of Chiang Kai-shek, for there was no group in China capable of undertaking anything like the Stolypin reform, ‘which might serve the ruling groups as a lightning-conductor’ (Volume 9, p. 365). These speeches and articles on China include a number of observations en passant about the political institutions of other countries, mentioned for purposes of comparison with what was happening in China. Notable among these are Stalin’s classic remarks about the nature and future of the British Labour Party, and about Kemalism – the latter a useful guide to some aspects of Middle East politics today.

Of some topical interest in connection with the recent campaign in the USSR against excessive drinking of vodka, and measures to restrict its sale, are a number of passages (for example, Volume 10, pp. 238–39) dealing with the reasons for the introduction of the vodka monopoly and the long-term policy concerning this drink and its place in Russian life.

On the most important question of the present day, these volumes recall how, twenty-seven years ago, Stalin was fighting for the same general foreign policy as that now being pursued by the Government headed by Mr Bulganin:

Our relations with the capitalist countries are based on the assumption that the coexistence of two opposite systems is possible ... Our country could be a vast market for imports of equipment, while the capitalist countries need markets for precisely that kind of goods. (Volume 10, p. 296)

Last updated on 6 June 2015