E.A. Preobrazhensky

From N.E.P. to Socialism

Lecture 12

The collapse of capitalism and the civil war in Europe

FROM MY previous lectures you have seen that the Soviet power began, at a certain period of its economic development, to feel much more acutely than before the limitedness of its economic means for making a great forward movement. Only a fresh redistribution of the productive forces of Europe, directed towards applying new resources and instruments of production to Russian farming, to the rich and virgin lands of the South-East and Siberia, with mechanization of agricultural work on a mass scale, could supply a powerful impetus to the country’s advance. Psychologically this was expressed in a certain ‘drive to the West’, in a more and more excited looking forward to the proletarian revolution in the West and in an impatience which recalled that of 1917-1920. Russia’s task could not be accomplished on the basis of continued capitalism in Europe, because capitalism excluded the possibility of planned economy in Europe, the dividing of Europe into regions on a production basis, without regard to national frontiers, and because it excluded also the great break in the distribution of productive forces by which those tracts of land would be brought under cultivation first and foremost which gave the maximum return. Owing to the self interest of particular groups of entrepreneurs, capitalism could not carry out the concentration of production and abolish the ‘rotten spots’ in industry which were able to survive only under the protection of the customs tariffs of national states and the existence of which would be economically meaningless once regionalizing and concentration of production had been effected. Finally, capitalism would not – with the partial exception of German capital – take the risk of investing large resources in Russia. Only a revolution in railway transport, the laying of electrified super-trunk-lines and the cutting of a number of canals for communication by water could bring close together Russia’s sources of raw material and grain and Europe’s industry. In this way the development of Russia’s productive forces urged Russia to turn to the West, in order to hasten the West’s turn towards Russia. If the revolution in the West had delayed too long, this situation could have led to an aggressive socialist war by Russia, supported by the European proletariat, against the capitalist West. This did not happen because the proletarian revolution was by this time already knocking at the door owing to its own inner development. True, as you know, the further development of events did lead to war, but this war did not feature as the chief means of solving the historical problem which had matured – it was not the midwife but her technical assistant in easing the birth pangs.

What causes led to the rise of a new wave of proletarian revolution in Europe?

The post-war crisis of European industry gradually began to be resolved in the middle 1920s. This improvement in the conjuncture was brought about, first of all, by worsening the condition of the working class. The economic attack by capital against the workers, especially in the countries with a strong currency, the victorious countries, resulted by and large in the victory of capital and a general reduction in the level of wages. This reduction helped the capitalists of these countries to cheapen their goods and compete successfully with Germany. At the same time, European capital, especially British, began intensively seeking fresh markets and sources of raw material, both in the colonies and in particular agrarian countries of Europe and Asia. This search was crowned with a certain success. The raw material and market bases of Europe’s industry were enlarged. The establishment of economic ties between Europe and Russia, which every year increased its exports and imports, worked in the same direction.

This temporary improvement, however, could not be prolonged and lasting in character. Very soon the forward movement of industry came to a standstill at an overall level of production which did not even reach pre-war dimensions. And this meant that capitalism, starting in 1914, that is, the out-break of war, was either marking time or degenerating. These 15 years of stagnation or retreat revealed quite plainly that capitalism had exhausted itself as a definite economic system, that history had extracted from it everything it was capable of giving, and that, like the Moor, having done its work, it should now depart. We shall describe later on how this Moor departed and how he was helped on his way so that he might depart the more quickly. Here we come up against a very important theoretical question. Capitalism died, or was killed – it all depends on which aspect of the process we accord our chief attention. Socialism secured the opportunity of a more rapid and unhindered development of the productive forces. These are already facts of history. But, you will ask, why could not capitalism develop in the purely economic sense after the world war, why had the development of productive forces in capitalist forms become objectively impossible? In other words, what was the economic cause of the stagnation in Europe’s economy in the 1920s, when the first onslaught by the proletariat on the bourgeois order in 1917-1920 had been beaten back and the capitalist regime had got back on its feet?

We can find the explanation in the following circumstances. The very fact of the world war was an expression of the profound crisis of capitalism. Whereas previously capitalism had conquered a world in which there were still places still not reached by its tentacles, it was now a question of dividing up an already conquered world. One section of capitalism as a whole could now develop only by crushing the other; capitalism began tearing its own body to pieces. In essence, the answer to the question is partly contained in the answer to another question: what were the economic roots of the world war? The production of European capitalist economy before the war was the highest production ever achieved by European capitalism. After the war, the capitalist countries were capable only of redistributing the fundamental conditions of their industrial production, they could not create an extended basis for it. A few colonies were transferred from Germany to France, but the number of markets and their capacity did not increase. Certain sources of raw material were transferred from Britain to America, but neither the sources nor the raw material itself increased. Capitalism fell into a vicious circle. This had not happened in the decades preceding the war because then there were still undistributed markets and new sources of raw material, on the basis of which capitalist economy made its successive leaps ahead. These fresh sources of raw material and markets enabled capitalism to climb up to the next, higher stage of expanded reproduction, and this expanded reproduction itself created, to a certain degree, new markets and the preconditions for further development. As regards surplus population, which either accumulated in the rural areas of Europe or else took the form of a petty bourgeoisie ruined by capitalism and yet unable to find employment in its system, these masses of people drifted to America, along the channels of emigration. Before the war Europe despatched from 800,000 to 1 million emigrants to America every year. In so far as this emigration was directed towards the new lands of America, we had here a sort of spontaneous redistribution of the productive forces in world economy, which meant an enlargement of the basis of world capitalism: new tracts of land under cultivation, new masses of grain and raw material, new strata of consumers with effective demand for industrial products. During and after the war, emigration ceased, and in a number of countries, such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, there began a reverse movement, with the return of emigrants for whom, alas, there was in Europe neither work nor bread, nor land – land even less than before.

Capitalism, in its chase after profit, became entangled in its own contradictions. Private ownership of the instruments of production, freedom of enterprise and initiative, competition, were powerful stimuli to economic development in that phase of capitalism when the world had not yet been occupied down to the last colony, when there were still reserve outlets for surplus population, when even a small expansion of raw material sources and markets meant a very important expansion of industry. All these possibilities were now reduced. At the same time, agriculture had in general not kept in step with the development of industry in the world economy. Dragging behind it the survivals of medieval modes of production, and trammelled by the institution of private property not only in the instruments of production but in the very means of applying agricultural labour, the land itself, agriculture could not keep up with the drive of advancing industry and was unable to increase output of raw material and grain proportionably to industry’s progress, with the minimum expenditure of labour. If this task had been accomplished by capitalist farming it would have made possible uninterrupted industrial development on the basis merely of a different distribution of productive forces between industry and agriculture. But while the capitalist mode of production was retained, this proved impossible: the valve of rapidly progressing agriculture could not be opened, and the separate sections of the capitalist organism strove to find the way out through mutual extermination. Consequently, through being blocked in the sphere of agriculture, capitalism began to develop more fully its negative sides, which began to outweigh its progressive tendencies. What it had achieved on the basis of competition, freedom of economic activity and initiative, it wasted in world war, crises and mass unemployment.

During and immediately after the war not only all bourgeois circles but also the majority of socialists assumed that the world war, albeit on an unprecedentedly large scale, was nevertheless only an upheaval in capitalism, not the beginning of its downfall. It seemed as though the world war of 1914-1918 was little different in principle from earlier imperialist wars, that the difference was merely one of scale. The majority thought that on the basis of a new relationship of forces and a new distribution of the world, capitalism could resume its advance after a brief decline and regression. But the post-war years showed that the period of capitalism’s flowering, its highest point, was already behind it. It became clearer and clearer to everyone that the mere fact of the war was proof of the impasse in which capitalism now found itself. It might toss the existing and definitely limited sources of raw material and markets from the hands of some nations into those of others, but it could no longer expand them on the basis of capitalist production. On the contrary, this very tossing about was a powerful factor in the breakdown of capitalist connexions in the world market; it dragged world economy as a whole down to a lower level as compared with the pre-war period.

Capitalism was in no state rapidly and decisively to open the valve in agriculture and eliminate the cause of the existing stagnation, that is, to escape from the very impasse Irom which the capitalist states had sought a way out in the war. The struggle for markets, sources of raw material and spheres of investment had assumed the form of war only because the necessary economic effect could not be obtained on the basis of a fresh redistribution of productive forces on the world scale. Capitalism could not take decisive measures to abolish private ownership of land, distribute the productive forces in world economy without regard to national frontiers, and introduce improvements in the whole system of agriculture so that, on the basis of this new distribution of productive forces, and proceeding from the advance in farming technique, world economy might rise to new heights in the output of coal, the making of steel, the production of manufactured goods, harvesting of grain, and so on. If capitalism had been able to do all this it would have ceased to be capitalism. At best it would have been state capitalism organized on the international scale.

The first decade after the end of the world war was a time when capitalism, which had bled itself white in the war, was trying once more to climb the rungs of that ladder from which the war had hurled it, and to climb while retaining all the old methods of the capitalist mode of production. It failed, by and large. The few successes which it did achieve in this direction were too few and lagged too far behind the growth of the crisis. This crisis assumed the form of chronic mass unemployment, which in some years hurled overboard from production 5 to 10 million men in both hemispheres. The crisis took the form of an unprecedented piling-up of surplus population in the agrarian countries and in the agricultural areas of the industrial countries. This surplus population, now that the outlet-channel of emigration was closed, accumulated in Europe, and along with it and the masses of unemployed in the towns there accumulated discontent and unrest, the thundery energy of the masses on the eve of a revolutionary storm. In the form of surplus population, capitalism accumulated the forces which in all revolutions have played the part of assault infantry for the overthrow of the existing, socially outlived political order.

What exactly was the task which capitalism could not fulfil by its own methods and which passed by inheritance to the epoch of the proletarian dictatorship? The task was this. At the moment when the partition of the world was by and large completed, when emigration had to be reduced, when the spasmodic progress of capitalist industry could continue no longer on the basis of extending the basis of capitalism to fresh parts of the earth, the centre of gravity had to be shifted to the reform of agriculture at the decisive points of world agricultural production. Above all it was necessary to bring about a revolution in the technique of the peasant economy in Russia. But this reform was too deep-going and radical for capitalism; not only could it not cope with this task, it could not even seriously raise the question. The category of profit, freedom of enterprise, proved too weak a weapon to break through the obstacles which blocked the path of advance for the institution of private ownership of land, partition of the world among national states and senseless anarchism in the capitalist system as a whole. Capitalism could have been saved only by some unexpected discoveries in the field of agricultural technique and technique generally, such as the mass-scale manufacture of protein from the air, and so on. To some extent the surplus population itself functioned as an obstacle – it was not only a result of the crisis but also a complicating cause of the crisis. The cheapness of labour power in no way helped technical progress in agriculture. True, the increase in prices of grain and raw material stimulated the development of agriculture to a certain degree, but on a scale which lagged far behind the rapid advance of capitalism’s industrial chariot.

When the world war ended, European industry found itself face to face not only with agricultural production in a state of decline on its own territory, but also with the loss of a number of markets and sources of raw material outside of Europe, which had been captured by America or by indigenous industry. European industry was in the situation of a great ocean liner which, destined for sailing in deep waters, has gone aground in a shallow sea.

Capitalism was not only unable to cope with the task of securing a suitable redistribution of the productive forces on a world scale, it was also unable to organize the economy on rational lines within the different countries. The decade after the world war was a time when there began increasingly to prevail in Europe the psychology of the impasse, the feeling that there was no way out. Immediately after the end of the war, true, the predominant mood was one of revolt against controlled economy, against any rationing or any regulation of economic life at all. It seemed that it was not want that had led to con-trolled economy, against any rationing or any regulation of economic life at all. It seemed that it was not want that had led to controlled economy but controlled economy that had led to want. The capitalist press very successfully used this mood to discredit the whole idea of state planned economy. It tried to transform the reaction against hunger, want, queues and rationing into a reaction against socialism and a demonstration for freedom of competition and capitalist initiative. Soon, however, a reaction against this reaction set in. Triumphant Manchester-ism revealed its bankruptcy more and more as it went along. The benefits of free enterprise were such that production did not increase, wages fell and the number of unemployed grew no smaller. Taxes became heavier and financial bankruptcies echoed from one country to another. The workers of Britain, Germany and America, even those unaffected by Communist propaganda, put forward more persistently every year the demand for the nationalization of railways, mines and other important branches of the economy, especially when there were big strikes in these branches, which were usually brought to an end with the direct participation of the State and on its initiative. The whole of this period could be called a period of spontaneous struggle by the working class for the system of state capitalism. In this period important groups of bourgeois economists also began to recognize the need for planned economy on the world scale, though they, of course, cherished the illusion that capitalism could put this plan into effect.

The attention of the masses was chiefly drawn in that period to the most striking signs of the bankruptcy of capitalism which was beginning. There were a number of state financial bankruptcies in Germany, France, Austria and several smaller countries. The utter bankruptcy of the Treaty of Versailles was exposed, and even the French nationalists repudiated it, substituting de facto a number of temporary agreements. The statesmen of the bourgeois world racked their brains over the problem of squaring the capitalist circle: this circle proved durable, and no stunts, no agreements and conferences, whether political or economic, were able to find the way out. Gradually a profound conviction began to penetrate the masses – that it was quite impossible to get the economy started on the upgrade while the bourgeois order survived. This conviction of the helplessness of the capitalist class was manifested in everything: in the press of the period, and not only the workers’ press but the bourgeois press as well, in caricatures, in jokes and sayings, and in the concluding words of the resolutions passed by all workers’ meetings. It is said that before the war, when there were parliamentary elections in Italy the opposition used to claim that under the existing government the cows and goats gave less milk. Capitalism now began to be blamed even for things which were not essentially its fault.

‘Under capitalism nothing will get any better, there will be no progress,’ was a general slogan. Within the capitalist class itself a sense of the hopelessness of the situation began to emerge. This was also reflected in the literature of the time. The philosophy of Spengler and his supporters found more and more adherents. The conviction grew stronger that the whole of European culture was following in the footsteps of the Roman Empire; mysticism increased; Indian philosophy attracted many people; the bourgeoisie and its intelligentsia harked back to the crudest faith in a personal God; a breakdown of bourgeois morality set in. The speculator with his slogan: ‘seize the moment’ became more than ever the hero of the day. To uncertainty and irritability in social psychology corresponded uncertainty, unsteadiness and feverishness in the entire economy. At the same time a certain section of the bourgeoisie emerged who got ready to defend their positions to the last drop of blood. They upheld the view that the transition to state capitalism was a step back in economic development and an organized lowering of all human culture, and that capitalism was capable of healing its wounds and escaping from its difficult situation on the basis of freedom of economic initiative and competition. It was typical that at that time, while the bourgeoisie in the true sense of the word showed, in the persons of important sections of this class, some violent vacillations, one group even favouring state capitalism and a workers’ government, the most principled and irreconcilable force which stood forth in defence of capitalism was another class, namely, part of the petty bourgeoisie, part of the intelligentsia, ex-officers and some of the clergy. This paradox of history was seen in all the bourgeois revolutions. The petty bourgeoisie in the English, French and Russian revolutions developed a striving to carry through the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the very end, contrary to the wishes of those whose birthday it really was, the big bourgeoisie. This in spite of the fact that the development of capitalism not only did not improve the position of the petty-bourgeoisie, especially the economically independent sections, but actually worsened it. In the same way, in the counter-revolution certain strata of the petty-bourgeoisie and some intermediate groups proved more consistent than the bourgeoisie itself and gave their lives for its interests, as cannon-fodder of the counter-revolution, though socialism could not have worsened their positions. These strata, which had been, in the objective role they played, merely shock battalions of capitalism defending itself, often broke away from allegiance to the bourgeoisie and its state organization and independently took up the task of saving the bourgeois regime, repudiating all manoeuvres, retreats and temporary concessions to the working class. Fascism in Italy was only the first harbinger of this peculiar distribution of roles in the class struggle of this period.

The slogan of state capitalism in economics and a workers’ government in politics gradually became the universal slogan of the workers at the end of the 1920s. The transition to what was called the workers’ government took place differently in different countries. In Britain, for example, the Labour Party carne to power along with the Left Liberals, as a result of victory in parliamentary elections. In Austria and Germany workers’ governments were formed ‘in face of bourgeois majorities in Parliament, and in Germany the transition was completed through a struggle between the proletariat and reaction which had raised its head. Here appeared what was called the dual power, that is, the power of the workers’ organizations on the one hand and the purely formal power of the Reichstag on the other. In a period of extremely high cost of living, amid crisis and great agitations among the working class, expressed in demonstrations which clashed with the police and reactionaries, as also in general strikes, when it seemed that the whole structure of German capitalism was shaken to its very foundation, the Reichstag saw fit to declare by a majority of bourgeois votes for the formation of a workers’ government, and voted confidence in it when formed. This government, in which the leading role was played, of course, by the Scheidemannists, soon became de facto responsible not to the Reichstag but to the Social-Democratic Party and the trade union centres. In those days there were many simpletons who held forth about the transfer of power from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat having been accomplished painlessly, without the bloody horrors of civil war. These simpletons did not suspect that in reality no transfer of power had occurred. In actual fact, events very soon showed that the workers’ government was not the class power of the proletariat in the true sense of the word, but only the last ditch of bourgeois society struggling against the real workers’ power which had not yet arrived. The bourgeoisie consciously and willingly ‘surrendered’ power to the workers’ government and to cover its manoeuvre put up a largely simulated resistance. In fact it was biding its time, preparing for the decisive struggle. This preparation was carried on with especial energy by those intermediate groups which, as we have already said above, showed themselves more consistent, principled, staunch and self-sacrificing defenders of the bourgeois order than the bourgeoisie itself. The bourgeoisie calculated like this. The workers’ party in power can do nothing to bring about a real improvement in the position of the working class, they will just compromise both themselves and the whole idea of a workers’ government, and then the moment will come for the return to power of a purely bourgeois government, much stronger than had been, for instance, the coalition government of Wirth and others. In part the bourgeoisie’s calculation was proved correct. The reformists in power really did very soon compromise themselves in the eyes of the workers. But the masses drew from all this a conclusion quite different from that which the bourgeoisie had hoped for. Very soon even the masses who had followed the Scheidemannists began to reproach their leaders for having done nothing, and not wishing to do anything, to squeeze the bourgeoisie and to go over to real socialist construction. These masses rapidly began to quit the camp of the reformists and pass over to that of the Communists.

Where, however, the government workers tried, under the pressure of the proletarian masses, to effect a genuine regulation of production and distribution and a serious limitation of the incomes of the possessing classes, they met with desperate resistance and open disobedience, which impelled the bourgeoisie and landlords to resort to armed defence of their interests. As a result, the workers’ government merely made it possible for the proletariat to prepare better for the real conquest of power, to draw the backward sections into the struggle, to weld them together, to expose the reformists thoroughly and irrevocably on the basis of their practical activity. The workers’ government thus not only did not solve the central problem of the entire class struggle of the twentieth century, that is, it did not bring to a head the conflict between labour and capital, but merely put off this dénouement for a few years. It turned out that it was not only capitalism itself, in the form of bourgeois governments, that was unable to carry through the most important and urgent measures in the spirit of state capitalism – this was also beyond the power of a workers’ government which had taken power not as the outcome of a victorious civil war by the proletariat but as a result of a defensive manoeuvre by the bourgeoisie. Even for some serious measures in the spirit of state capitalism a soil cleared by class war was needed; it was necessary to drive the bourgeoisie and all the so-called privileged classes out of their basic positions and force them to submit to the proletariat. An insubordinate and maliciously ironical attitude to the workers’ government was characteristic of the European bourgeoisie of this period. The bourgeoisie did not take this government seriously, which was quite natural, since the historical task of this government consisted not in attacking the bourgeoisie but in protecting it from the proletarian revolution. If we recall that in Russia a similar attitude to the proletarian power existed even in the first period after the October Revolution, that is, after the actual conquest of power by the dictatorship of the proletariat, why should anything different be expected from the still unconquered bourgeoisie of the West? Owing to this attitude by the bourgeoisie to the workers’ government, which it saw as the government which reflected its own manoeuvre, not only was large landed property not expropriated, not only were the most important branches of industry not rationalized nor any serious regulation of economic life and the movement of prices carried out, but even the ordinary taxes were not paid conscientiously by the wealthy classes. This resistance by the bourgeoisie made it impossible to take steps to liquidate the crisis which had thrown up the workers’ government in its first phase. And at the same time this resistance deeply embittered the masses of the proletariat, who wanted to have a real, not a make-believe workers’ power, who seriously desired to put into practice the programme of state capitalism, and for whom the position of the workers’ government should have been that of waging an all-out offensive. In circumstances of ever more incandescent class struggle, the masses rapidly moved to the left, and more and more vigorously demanded decisive actions from their leaders.

But the reformists were unable to take such actions and never intended to wage a serious struggle against the bourgeoisie – so far, at any rate, as their leading elements were concerned. Among the reformists, including their rank-and-file, three trends appeared. The first was for sabotaging the struggle against capitalism and dissuading the workers from decisive actions. The second was for carrying out all the urgently needed measures directed against the wealthy classes and against anarchy in production and distribution. But this group hoped to ‘persuade’ the wealthy to retreat without a fight. Finally, the third trend was definitely disappointed in reformism and moved rapidly towards fusion with the Communists. To the the first two groups belonged nearly all the trade union and party bureaucracy of the reformists and also nearly all the reformist intelligentsia, while the majority of the rank and file of the reformist parties and trade unions were drawn towards the third group. This swing to the left by the mass of the workers was especially marked at each successive election in the trade unions and in the councils of workers’ deputies. It should be mentioned that simultaneously with the transfer of power to the workers’ parties in all the Western countries where this took place, councils of workers’ deputies were set up with great enthusiasm. At first the reformists had a firm majority in these councils, as in the trade unions. It appeared that the councils were at this stage merely an unusual form whereby the masses were kept under the control of the reformists and so, through them, in subjection to capital, the usual methods of control being inadequate owing to the growth of agitation and discontent. But the form of workers’ councils itself contained a remedy for the reformist illness of the proletariat. Even the reformist workers’ councils carried the seed of the future revolutionary workers’ councils. The dominance of the reformists in the councils was not eternal nor even especially long-lived, though it lasted considerably longer than in Russia (in the period between February and October). There were two typical and important dates in this period. The first was when in Berlin, the central city of the central country in Europe, the compromisers with the bourgeoisie were defeated and the Communists won the elections to the workers’ council. The second was the victory of the Communists at the next All-Germany Congress of workers’ councils, in which delegates from Austria always participated. Even before this the Communists had won the majority in the workers’ and peasants’ councils in Bulgaria. The reformists put up desperate resistance at all stages of their elimination from the labour movement. However, when they had the majority in the councils, their workers’ government was in practice responsible to these councils. Though the parliaments were not dissolved, nor was the institution of parliamentarism itself abolished, nevertheless they dragged out a miserable existence, like some sort of vestigial organs. When the reformists lost their majority in the workers’ councils they suddenly remembered that truly ‘legal’ authority in the country resided not in the central executive committees of the workers’ councils, or their congresses, but in the parliaments elected ‘by the entire people.’ This enlightenment in the sphere of constitutional law struck the reformists with astronomical precision wherever they lost their majority in the workers’ councils. But their loss of the majority had other consequences too, which stirred up the counter-revolution to come forward more actively and group itself around the parliaments. Workers’ councils with Communist majorities everywhere went over to active measures. First of all, they ousted the municipalities from the main functions of local government, except in those cases where the municipalities themselves were also Communist. They began an offensive against the bourgeoisie in the spheres of housing, local taxation, compulsory labour service, and so on. All this forced the bourgeoisie to go over to open struggle against the workers’ councils. The natural national centres of this struggle were now the parliaments. These parliaments had existed wretchedly, like flags drooping in calm weather, when the wind of the class struggle has not thrown them up. Now the storm of revolution and counter-revolution whipped them into the air again, forcing them to serve as the rallying banners of all the bourgeois, monarchist and reformist elements. I will not spend time on the specific incidents which led to open civil war in central Europe. This war now began.

Events unfolded in the following sequence. The proclamation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Prussia, Saxony and Central Germany was followed by armed seizure of power by the workers in the cities and factory centres. Here the overwhelming majority of the proletariat, and so the majority of the population generally, were on the side of the revolution. The reformists, as was to be expected, mostly fought on the side of the bourgeoisie and the landlords against the working class. As regards the German countryside, there the struggle assumed a more protracted and a more severe and bloody character. The Red workers’ armies from the cities, together with the partisan bands of the farm-workers, had to take by storm practically every landlord’s estate and every castle. The Junkers had in their residences a sufficient store not only of rifles, machineguns and grenades, but also, on some estates, even pieces of artillery which had been hidden since 1918. Military units were quickly formed by the Junkers (who were mostly former officers) from the peasants who were counter-revolutionary in sentiment, and these served as infantry under the Junkers’ leadership. Taken as a whole these units constituted a ‘powerful force, but it was territorially scattered and uncoordinated. Lacking bases of support in the cities, not having the railways at their disposal, and encountering at every step the stubborn resistance of the railway workers, the Junkers proved unable to organize a united front and were beaten group by group.

Events took quite a different turn in the south of Germany. The Bavarian counter-revolution succeeded in crushing the workers’ movement before it could get help from the North. Moreover, Bavaria had France behind it, helping to organize a proper front against the North German Republic. Here the struggle was long-drawn-out. The bourgeois elements defeated in the North fled to Bavaria. There was also a front on the border between Bavaria and Austria, because Soviet power had been proclaimed in Austria too, and Soviet Austria was giving armed support to North Germany. Of decisive significance for the further course of events were the positions taken up by France, Poland, Britain and America.

France and Poland, acting by mutual agreement, attacked Soviet Germany. But their attacks came up against armed resistance by the proletariat of these countries. The mobilization of reserves, the intervention against Germany and the invasion of the Ruhr basin by French forces led to a revolt in Paris and the northern departments of France. This revolt saved the revolution in Germany. It diverted the forces of French imperialism to an internal struggle at a moment when the Red Army of Soviet Germany had not yet been formed, when the Junker Vendées had not yet been crushed and when aid from Soviet Russia had not yet arrived. The internal revolt in France was put down, it is true, and as an attempt to set up the dictatorship of the proletariat in France it ended in failure. But its world-historical importance consisted in the fact that it prevented the French bourgeoisie from occupying by regular military operations, in the very first weeks, the territory of Northern Germany when it was in the throes of revolt,’ and so reversing the wheel of history. The French were able only to occupy part of the Ruhr basin with that section of their forces which was not tied up with suppressing the revolt at home. But this occupation of the Ruhr basin encountered desperate resistance by partisan bands of the workers’ Red Guard of this region. When, after suppressing the French workers, the French government had its hands free to wage a frontal struggle against Germany. North Germany was in a position to send regular Red Army units to the Ruhr and halt any further advance by the French.

As regards Poland, after some wavering, its ruling classes decided to attack North Germany along with France, and began to invade Prussia. Simultaneously, Rumania attacked Bulgaria, where Soviet power had been proclaimed a little earlier than in Germany and Austria. Immediately after this, Soviet Russia formally declared war against Poland and Rumania, and the Red Army began to advance westward. This offensive was in two directions, and the rate of progress was quite different in each. In Poland as in France there was a revolt by the proletariat and farm-hands. In the cities, Warsaw and Lodz, and in the Dombrowa basin, the rising was suppressed, but in a number of rural localities the rebels held out until the Red Army arrived. The revolt developed with particular success in Byelorussia, Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. Here the Red Army met with vigorous support from the widest misses of the peasantry. But when the Red Army crossed the ethnographic border of Poland it came up against great resistance. It proved difficult, and impracticable in a short time, to extend a helping hand to the German proletariat from this direction.

On the Rumanian front. however, things took a different turn. The Rumanian army was routed on the Dniester and began a continuous retreat. Soviet power was proclaimed in Bessarabia. Budyonny’s cavalry drove like an avalanche across the steppes of Rumania and, after smashing the Rumanian army of occupation in the north of Bulgaria, linked up Soviet Bulgaria with Soviet Russia, at the same time as the right wing of the South Eastern army group, advancing through Eastern Galicia, entered Hungary and helped to victory the Hungarian proletariat which had risen and proclaimed the second Hungarian Soviet Republic. This was a moment of triumph in the proletariat’s struggle. The ring of proletarian dictatorship was closed, forming a semicircle that extended from Petrograd, through Budapest to Vienna and so to Berlin and Königsberg. Soviet power was proclaimed also by the Czech proletariat, who immediately despatched reinforcements to help the German workers on the Bavarian, French and Polish fronts. Yugoslavia was obliged, after initial successes in struggle against Austria and Bulgaria, to withdraw within its own frontiers, and at the same time a number of violent national uprisings began in Montenegro, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia and Macedonia. Civil war broke out in Italy and resulted in the victory of the proletariat in industrial northern Italy while in the centre and south the Fascists ruled. The Apennine peninsula was traversed by a front of civil war running to the north of Rome. The Italian fleet, both the merchant fleet and the greater part of the navy, rendered great support to Soviet Northern Italy. This fleet sided with the proletariat from the very beginning and aided the Italian workers to stir up a peasant revolt in Sicily and South Italy, that is, in the Fascists’ roar. The breaking of the Rumanian ring and an offensive by the joint forces of Austria, Bulgaria and Russia against Yugoslavia put an end to the threat to the Italian Soviet Republic from the North-East. A direct link was established between Soviet Italy and the Soviet Balkans, and so between Italy and Russia. This was of great importance for Soviet Italy because it found itself blockaded by the American and French fleets and experienced much difficulty in feeding itself. Now, however, this problem was solved in a favourable way, through aid from the North.

When the Red Army of Soviet Russia reached the national frontiers of Poland, an explosion of chauvinism occurred in the latter country which, given the weakness of the Polish proletariat, looked like meaning an extremely hard struggle for the Red Army on Polish territory. On the Franco-Bavarian front the struggle also assumed a protracted character and it was impossible to count on a rapid and successful outcome. Considering the results attained fully adequate for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat over a large part of Europe.

Soviet Russia, Soviet Germany and the other Soviet states proposed peace to bourgeois France and Poland on the following conditions: bourgeois Poland to remain within its purely national frontiers; the French to evacuate the Ruhr and Saar basins and withdraw their forces from the Bavarian front; Poland to permit free and untaxed transit for economic exchanges between Germany and Russia. These proposals evoked great vacillations in the ruling class of Poland, which, however, were obliged to refuse peace owing to pressure from France. The French bourgeoisie declared against peace, though a tendency for peace was fairly strong in France too; lastly, America, who financed the Franco-Polono-Rumanian alliance and aimed at a complete crushing of the proletarian revolution in Europe, was categorically opposed to peace.

After the Soviet states’ peace proposals had been rejected, was renewed with redoubled violence. Having concentrated adequate forces, Soviet Russia passed to the offensive on Polish territory, and soon the Red Army entered Warsaw.

Soviet Germany passed from defence to attack on its Polish frontier and occupied part of Poznan province. At the same time a successful offensive began on the Bavarian front. Seeing that its eastern ally was inevitably doomed to defeat and taking into account Poland’s refusal to continue the war any longer, the bourgeois government of France agreed to peace on the old conditions. But these were now already unacceptable to the alliance of Soviet states. The war went on, bourgeois Poland’s existence carne to an end, the Polish proletariat took power on the territory of ethnographical Poland, and a direct link was established between Soviet Russia and Soviet Germany. This enabled Russia’s Red Army to help Soviet Germany on the French front, and the French forces were driven out of the Ruhr and Saar basins. At the same time, the United States began despatching its forces to the French front, but this aid came too late. The French bourgeoisie could still think of defending its own frontiers, but no longer had any chance of conducting an offensive war against all Soviet Europe. For this reason, in spite of the intense pressure of American capital, it agreed to new peace proposals on the basis of the status quo established by the war.

So ended this great period of civil war in Europe. The Labour government of Britain took no direct part in this war, in spite of the fact that its fingers kept itching to join with the French bourgeoisie against the European proletariat in revolt. The sympathy of the British workers with the European proletarian revolution was too strong, and the leaders of the so-called Labour Party dared not risk undertaking an adventure against the will of the majority of their own working class.

The military alliance of the Soviet states of Europe was naturally transformed into an economic alliance. The Federation of Soviet Republics of Europe set about organizing a planned economy on its territory as a whole. The victorious proletariat was not in a position to put into effect immediately a socialist organization of the economy; it carried out complete nationalization only in the most important branches of industry and in large-scale and medium farming; it had to retain certain capitalist methods for some time in its state economy, especially in everything connected with economic calculation. It did not even consider it necessary to abolish private trade before all the necessary pre-conditions for socialist distribution of products had been established. But it subordinated not only its own state economy but also the non-socialized part of the economy, especially small peasant economy, to conscious regulation, utilizing both purely socialist methods and also the methods of large-scale capital. Very soon two basic types of proletarian state economy were to be seen: a higher type, in industrial countries like Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria, and another type in backward agrarian countries like Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and so on. This transitional economic system was not socialist, in the full sense of the word, in either of its two forms, but it was already no longer state capitalism, which proved to be an unattainable ideal for capitalism and a stage left behind for the epoch of proletarian dictatorship.

New, Soviet Europe opened a fresh page in economic development. The industrial technique of Germany was united with Russian agriculture, and on the territory of Europe there began rapidly to develop and become consolidated a new economic organism, revealing enormous possibilities and a mighty breakthrough to the expansion of the productive forces. And along with this, Soviet Russia, which previously had outstripped Europe politically, now modestly took its place as an economically backward country behind the advanced industrial countries of the proletarian dictatorship.

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Last updated on 24.1.2009