Victor Serge

Dictatorship and Economic

(16 November 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 99, 16 November 1922, pp. 799–800.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A problem which those comrades who still debate the principle of dictatorship will do well to reflect upon. – How shall we conquer counter-revolution in industry? – Our solution.

We say to the comrades, syndicalists and liberals, who still dilute die principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat:

With the bourgeoisie dethroned in a city or a country, it will be necessary for you to defend your newly-born “Communist fatherland”, against external aggression, and for that, you must organize the red army for war.

It will be necessary that you repress in city and country the conspiracies of the counter-revolution, and for that you must organize your machinery of force.

It will be necessary that you organize the food supply and the functioning of public utilities, in spite of the sabotage of enemies and the misunderstanding of neutrals; and for that you must act with authority according to a plan thought out in advance.

In a word, it will be necessary, that you assure, as far as possible, the continuity of production.

And to accomplish all these tasks, – failing which your revolution would be utterly defeated – you will have to establish yourselves as an organization, governing its members by an efficient disciplined moral control, with a vested leadership (a party); this organization, consisting essentially of the industrial workers, – for the peasantry, relatively backward in development, will not play the principal part, – will exercise power dictatorially if it is not to lose power altogether.

Such is our most simple theoretical axiom, of the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to be exercised by the best organized class group.

Let us now survey the problem too much neglected io the present day by the revolutionaries: the struggle with the economic counter-revolution.

Economic counter-revolution presents infinite dangers. The bourgeois armies may any day themselves turn against the bourgeoisie. The most highly efficient police is never more than a mechanism which the force of the workers can destroy in a few hours. But the day after the victorious insurrection, are the workers sure that they will find on their side, the technicians, the organizers, the administrators, whom it will need? No, certainly not. The possessing class jealously keeps the poor out of its higher schools. To become an engineer many costly years of study are indispensable. The personnel most qualified to direct industry are therefore recruited exclusively from among the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie. They tend by reason of their origin, class psychology, and immediate interests, towards reaction. Will the revolution be able to absorb them immediately? Nothing is more doubtful. Will not the revolution in its beginnings affect this personnel more or less adversely? Yes. Many of these brain workers enjoy considerable privileges under present society: notoriety, material comfort. The storm will break upon them, disturbing their accustomed pleasures, it will ruffle their egoism.

It happened in Russia. During the great days of October 1917, at Moscow, some students, lately Socialistic, but now petty-bourgeois, fired on the red guards from the windows of these Russian intellectuals’ houses where culture plays so great a part. Sabotage followed. And from then up till the present time, the effort of this economic counter-revolution, to undermine by underground work, the dikes erected by the Red Republic against rum and misery, has not ceased.

For instance, a factory needs fuel. The application, addressed to the Fuel Center, remains three months in the offices, receives 30 stampings, passes from Room 12 to Room 38, is brought back to Room 17 and, is sent from there to Room 40 – meanwhile the factory without coal or oil is perishing. Thus it is in the office of the specialists trained under the old regime who take a malicious delight in multiplying obstacles and in protracting the execution of matters. Understanding nothing, not desiring to understand anything of Communism, these imbeciles only think of justifying then employment by bureaucratizing the slightest job, or as conscious counter-revolutionists, of extending and prolonging their “strike”.

The Nobel and the Trauber cases, the last insignificant by itself, – are two very characteristic affairs. In the first case, a large foreign capitalist succeeded in subsidizing his old technicians from Stockholm to keep the upper hand on the nationalized exploitation of petroleum, to control its production, to stop it entirely perhaps! In the second a small master optician, thanks to numerous plots and a happy coincidence of circumstances, succeeded in preventing the nationalization of his establishment, but had it restocked by the State just as if it had been really nationalized.

1921 was a fertile year for economic conspiracies. How many times valuable merchandise, purchased abroad by the Commissariat of Foreign Commerce, was stolen by those who were charged with its distribution? What intrigues, what plots, what intricate manoeuvres, there were surrounding such and such a factory, coveted by unknown personages – and they always concerned first denationalization, then concession!

The principal parts in all these affairs are played by the same characters.

Here one always finds the specialists – scholars, professors, technicians – “sympathizers”, assistants of several Soviet institutions (and the best paid) belonging to the same sphere, created by the bourgeois University, known to each other, forming a sort of clique, expressing common distrust, if not actually hate, of the new order, only awaiting its disappearance ...

In addition to these, there are the honest technicians, incapable of conspiracy. Communists, old revolutionaries and workers, too few in number, and often not sufficiently competent, overloaded with work and responsibility. (Comrades, have you many militants capable of directing a factory or a foundry or a high furnace?)

These intellectuals find moral and material support abroad, in capitalist countries. They bide their time, they are prudent. They live as best they can, pretend to work, and very gently organize the destruction of nationalized industry. Nothing can very well control them, nor replace them. They feel themselves masters of the situation. What armed intervention cannot do, what the heroism of the counter-revolutionaries, conspirators and soldiers, cannot accomplish, they themselves hope to do, with almost no risk, in a few years of methodic work. The terror will pass, the dictatorship will relax, the most dangerous men will pass away ... and the engineers of Mr. Nobel, and this good optician, Mr. Trauber, and all the well-paid technicians, their equals, will find themselves one fine day at the head of the industry of a socialized country, reduced to their mercy by blackest misery, when the capitalist will return to revive production and recompense those who have served him with devotion ...

At least, so they think, and persist in their work until the time when the Revolutionary Tribunal shall demand an accounting. In Russia, ten years will be necessary to completely reduce them to harmlessness: time to create several classes of red technicians, drawn from the revolutionary proletariat.

But the Russians are fulfilling their work, comrades, while you have not yet begun yours. And you often discuss the first principles of revolutionary action while the ancient social edifice is crocking above your heads. Have you given thought to the economic counter-revolution?

Those who serve it are perhaps the most formidable enemies of the revolution. How shall we conquer them?

How shall we make them work for the new society?

This problem is one of the most pressing which the dictatorship has to decide upon. And dictatorship is the absolute preliminary condition to its solution.

For organization is necessary to defend production against this form of internal counter-revolution – an organization cemented by one thought, one will, one common discipline – of a party of producers, that is to say, of proletarians.

And it is necessary that this party, which, during the great danger of the transition period, will not have time to employ persuasive methods, should know how to act promptly, and resolutely, with its authoritative force organized all the time so that socialized production shall overcome sabotage or counter-revolutionary undermining.

Economic counter-revolution is the idea of thousands nay, hundreds of thousands, of men comprising the majority of the educated classes. It attacks the newly born society in all its parts. It is everywhere. In order to fight against its omnipresence, the powerful unity of organization, the united plan, the one will of the Communist Dictatorship is necessary.

Dictatorship has to be. This is not the statement of a theorist. It is, in the light of Russian experience, a vital necessity. And the logic of the facts is such that no revolutionary party can ignore them.

Last updated on 4 January 2021