Max Shachtman

25 Years of the
Russian Revolution

A Critical Appraisal

(November 1942)

From The New International, Vol. VIII No. 10, November 1942, pp. 291–295.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

It is hard to believe that twenty-five years have passed since the Bolshevik Revolution. A quarter of a century, measured in terms of world history, is only a moment, to be sure. But people do not live in terms of world history. They live and struggle for existence in terms of their own time; at most, of yesterday, today and tomorrow. And measured in these terms – above all when it is remembered that in our time events crowd each other with a speed utterly unknown in earlier epochs – a quarter of a century is a long time.

So much has happened in these twenty-five years that seems to refute the claims and predictions of the men who led the revolution and the regime created by it. We will create an entirely new type of state, a state which, properly speaking, is no longer a state because from the day of its establishment it is already in the process of dying out, said Lenin on the eve of the Bolshevik seizure of power. Yet the state in Russia today is the most despotic and oppressive the country ever knew, one might almost say the world ever knew.

Now we proceed to lay the foundations of socialism, were the simple words with which Lenin concluded his first public appearance after the revolution freed him from Kerensky’s illegality. But if someone had set out deliberately to elaborate a wickedly malicious caricature of socialism, a social monstrosity in which labor enjoys neither the fruits of its toil nor the invigorating air of liberty, he could hardly have improved upon present Russian society.

We count firmly on the world revolution, on the state aid of the workers of the advanced countries of the West, for we tell you openly that without it we shall surely perish. We are nothing but a beleaguered fortress, which we can hold for any length of time only if the revolution is victorious in the other countries. Between our revolution and the capitalist world, there is no possibility of reconciliation, no possibility of peaceful coexistence. – Thus spake Lenin and Trotsky and all the other leaders of the revolution, not once but time and again. Yet, although the world revolution which did break out in Europe turned out to be a failure, the rule of the bourgeoisie was not restored in Russia.

We may have socialism in Russia in the days of our grandchildren, said Lenin. A real rise in socialist economy can be expected only after the revolution in other countries, wrote Trotsky. Yet, the revolution in other countries failed to triumph and Russia nevertheless experienced a tremendous and unforeseen development of its economy. As for the socialist society that Lenin postponed for at least two generations, it has long ago been achieved, according to Stalin.

The predictions seem to have been refuted. But only “seem.” The reality is different, fundamentally different, from the appearance. With hardly an exception the forecasts of the most authentic leaders of the revolution, Lenin and Trotsky, proved to be clairvoyant, and the elapsed quarter of a century has confirmed them, some of them tragically, some of them in a unique and unexpected way.

What has happened since 1917? Why did it happen? What does it signify?

The first question is sooner answered than the second; the second sooner than the third.

The regime established by the Bolshevik revolution no longer exists. The mastery of the workers in the factories has been abolished. The factory councils are a half-forgotten memory. The trade unions, the school of communism under Lenin, and the protector of the workers’ interests even from the state itself, have become police institutions in the factories, organizing and carrying through an exploitation of labor whose intensity would not be tolerated by a half-decent union under capitalism. The worker is now chained to his job and may not leave it without police permission, and the system is even more universally and rigidly enforced than in Germany One critical word from the worker, and he finds himself on the street, with an even worse fate possible.

The peasant is in little better position, if at all. His master is no longer the feudal landlord or the fiscal agent of the Czar. In their place is an arrogant, all-powerful, all-devouring bureaucrat, imposed from above, unconcerned with the welfare of the peasantry, fraternizing with the well-to-do farmers (the “millionaire kolkhozniki”) if with anyone, but interested above all in seeing to it that the agricultural population meets or exceeds the productive demands made upon it by the new rulers of society. There is no resemblance here with that smychka, that alliance between worker and peasant, which Lenin considered indispensable for the maintenance of the Soviet state.

For that matter, the Soviet state no longer exists either. The omnipresent bureaucratic machine exists, but not the Soviets. There is more significance in Hitler’s occasional convocations of what he continues to call the Reichstag than in Stalin’s less occasional convocations of what is constitutionally the supreme legislative and executive body of the country, the two upper Soviet houses. For that matter, it would not make a particle of difference if they met twelve hours of every day. They are nothing but a megaphone of Stalin’s Political Bureau. The way in which they were elected became an international joke for the simple reason that they were not really elected by their constituents, they were appointed by the machine. Elections to the Soviet, once tangible evidence of the people’s control of their political representatives, once tangible evidence that with all its shortcomings the Soviet system was a thousand times more democratic than the most democratic of capitalist parliamentary systems, now have less significance than a senatorial election in Mississippi – much, much less.

The Bolshevik Party, indispensable element, principal element of workers’ rule in Soviet Russia, has been destroyed root and branch. Hitler has not yet succeeded in crushing the revolutionary Marxist movement with the same thoroughness displayed by Stalin. As for the Czarist Okhrana, it was like a town constable compared with the OGPU. Under Lenin, the prison cells, at least 95 per cent of them, were filled with Czarist noblemen, bureaucrats, policemen and spies, with landlords and bankers and monopolists, with priests and generals of the old regime, and with Mensheviks and Social Revolutionists who had turned from the weapon of criticism of the Bolshevik regime to the criticism of weapons. Under Stalin, the prison cells, the concentration camps (the largest and most numerous in the world), the forced-labor camps, and the cemeteries are filled with literally millions of innocent workers and peasants, and with tens of thousands of revolutionary Marxists. For nowhere are the Marxists hounded with such venomous persistency and mercilessness as in modern Russia. This contrast tells everything.

All trace of democratic rights – and the attainment of socialism is absolutely inconceivable without them – has been relentlessly extirpated. Workers and peasants have no right to meet together freely, no right to freedom of speech, no right to freedom of the press, no right to organize, no right to strike, no right to change jobs freely, no right to change residence freely. The right to emigrate is as fiercely prohibited as the right to immigrate. The system of family hostages for an offender is incorporated into the country’s statutes. Foreign passports are not available; the internal passport is the universal obligation. The Russian serfs before Alexander “freed” them in 1861 had more liberty than the worker or peasant of Russia today.

Early Achievements

The advanced social legislation inaugurated in Lenin’s time, which evoked the glistening admiration of enlightened people – even bourgeois – through the world, has been wiped out, some in statute, some in practice, some in both. Free education is now limited; the worker’s child is taught to keep his place in the lower scholastic ranks, for the higher schools are reserved to the offspring of the well-to-do and the influential. As for the curriculum, it is not even a mockery of the Leninist period because it bears no resemblance to it whatsoever. The proletarian and peasant woman is no longer the sex liberated by October; she is commanded by the state to breed and breed and breed, and keep her mouth shut like everyone else. As for the new ruling “Soviet woman,” she is well exemplified by the recent visitor to America, Lyudmilla Pavlichenko, and her chauvinistic rantings.

Everything else has changed. The foreign policy of the regime has nothing in common with Lenin’s revolutionary proletarian internationalism. It fears the socialist revolution not one whit less than does Churchill or Hitler, and has more than once sent its forces abroad to suppress it. In deceit, not toward its diplomatic counterparts but toward the people of its own and other countries, in behind-the-scenes trickery and secrecy, in cold-blooded pacts with capitalist imperialism for the division of loot, it yields to few, if any, predecessors or contemporaries.

All that was done by Lenin and Trotsky in the decisive field of nationalities – decisive especially for Russia, which under Czarism was a great prison of national minorities – has been undone by the new regime. The peripheral republics of the Union, the non-Russian peoples, are treated with that truly Great-Russian chauvinism, that imperial Muscovite contempt, which Lenin observed in Stalin more than twenty years ago. That apparently personal trait of the one bureaucrat is now an essential characteristic of the whole ruling bureaucracy. The latter, from its Vozhd on down, has not even hesitated to yield the dirty weapon of anti-Semitism. In the Soviet Union the national question has been solved – we read only the other day in a periodical that calls itself, of all things, Trotskyist. So little has it been solved that the Fourth International has warned more than once about the anti-Semitism of the regime, and has found it necessary to demand the right of self-determination for the Ukraine, for White Russia, etc., to the point of separation from the Moscow regime.

Where the Revolution, and the Communist International it created, was an inspiration, a beacon light, a rallying center for the oppressed all over the world, it has now become the great disorganizer and demoralizer and destroyer of the labor and revolutionary movements everywhere. The so-called Communist Parties are concerned with anything you wish, but not with the socialist revolution. Their function is the protection of the interests of the Stalinist autocracy. If the fulfillment of this function requires calling strikes, they call them; breaking strikes, they break them; organizing unions, they organize them; destroying unions, they destroy them; supporting the capitalist regime, they support it; opposing the régime, they oppose it; opposing entry into the war, they oppose it; sup porting entry into the war, they clamor fiercely for it. With the genuine interests of the working class or the labor movement, they have nothing in common, any more than their paymasters in the Kremlin have.

Everything seems to have been thrown back to where we were in 1914, and in some respects, still further back.

Why did it happen?

We shall surely go under if the world revolution does not come to our aid. Our own efforts were sufficient for the establishment of a workers’ state, but to establish socialism the efforts of more advanced countries are required. That, as previously noted, is what the Bolsheviks said to the Russian masses, and they proved to be right.

The revolution came in the West, and even in those countries where the struggle did not reach the point of uprisings there was one revolutionary situation after another. But everywhere the tidal wave broke against a capitalist bulwark whose strength was badly estimated – the social democracy. More accurately, the strength of the conscious revolutionary leadership or the speed with which it would separate itself from the apron strings of social democracy and constitute itself independently – these were overestimated by the Bolsheviks. No country produced in time a party quite like the Bolsheviks, quite like the Bolshevik leadership. The tidal wave was just about strong enough to overthrow the more reactionary of the European regimes, but not strong enough to overthrow capitalism, But the Bolsheviks in Russia obtained a short breathing spell.

They needed it badly. The country was war-torn and war-weary. Three years of blood-letting in the World War; then the February revolution; then the October Revolution; then the terrible civil war and the exhausting struggle against the armies of imperialist intervention; then, as if that were not enough, the famine. All this while, the hopes for world revolution went crashing to the ground, one after another: Germany, Hungary, Austria, Italy, England. Also, all this while the elite of Bolshevism – the best of the old and the best of the young, the most devoted, the most reliable, the most intran-sigeant – had sacrificed itself in the fight to keep the Soviet regime alive, in every field, on every front.

What remained was not what the Bolsheviks had to begin with, above all from the standpoint of revolutionary resisti-bility. This quality was further diluted by the influx of new and untrained elements on the one side, and of any number of old wheelhorses from the Menshevisk and the SR’s, to say nothing of turncoats from the bourgeois parties. This combination was not ideally suited to stem the rise of a conservative reaction in the country.

The peasant wanted no more disturbances, at home or abroad. He had his piece of land, and with the moderate concessions to free trading provided for under the New Economic Policy, he was more or less content, particularly with the hope that Soviet Russia might evolve gradually and peacefully to “NEP Russia.” If this was true of the peasants in general, it was especially true of the better-off peasant, the kulak, who was beginning to raise his head again.

The bulk of the workers were getting tired, too. The first slight economic boom was in striking contrast to the gray days of war communism. The conditions were favorable for a “status quo mood” and not favorable to the idea of continuing to put the accent on world revolution.

Most serious of all, the party and Soviet officialdom, the bureaucracy, the real repository of power, gave way to the pessimistic moods (“the world revolution will come, of course, but God alone knows when”), then began to rationalize them, and ended by fostering them.

Origin of Conservative Developments

The remaining Bolshevik bureaucracy, especially as supplemented and permeated by bandwagon-jumping Menshevik and bourgeois elements, had special characteristics.

In the first place, these outcasts of Czarist society had become unchallenged masters of one-sixth of the earth, in a matter of months, so to speak. They headed a regime which had triumphantly dealt with all the counter-revolutionary armies and all the interventionist armies. Such sensational successes were not calculated to promote plebeian modesty or humility. In the second place, any corrective criticism which the existence even of conservative workers’ parties might have made possible, was virtually destroyed when the Mensheviks and SR’s invited outlawry by their reckless and fatal policy of taking up arms against the Soviet power in collaboration with the bourgeois counter-revolution and under the banner of the pitiable Constituent Assembly. Together with the temporary prohibition of active factions in the Bolshevik Party during the Kronstadt uprising scare, this provided a broader base for the rise of an absolutist bureaucracy in the ruling party and then in the country at large.

In the third place, the party officialdom generally lacked what might be called Lenin’s or Trotsky’s internationalist socialist culture, and was not imbued with Lenin’s socialist and internationalist conception of the old and, after 1917, officially discarded slogan of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.” It is significant that this slogan was revived by the bureaucracy after Lenin’s death, and has been officially upheld by it for most of the world to the present day. It interpreted the slogan, in Russia in 1917, in China in 1925–27, and afterward, as providing for some sort of non-proletarian and yet non-bourgeois regime. This interpretation was not inaccurate at least so far as it related to the inner political ambitions of the bureaucracy, striving for freedom from the existing classes, and to the path of development it was to tread years later. It is not hard to find, in the polemics of some fifteen years ago, significant hints from the Stalinists that if the “workers’ power” had to be abandoned, the restoration of the bourgeoisie would not necessarily follow, because “we can retreat” to the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry,” that is, to their own unalloyed dictatorship.

To rationalize, and then to nurture the conservative moods in the country, the bureaucracy adopted without hesitation the Stalinist theory of “socialism in a single country.” It would be hard to think up an apter theoretical and ideological formulation of the bureaucracy’s aspirations. It corresponded to its provincial nationalism that was to become nationalist chauvinism, as well as to the nationalist reaction among the backward elements of the land; to its desire to appease the world bourgeoisie by assurances of non-revolutionary intentions; to its need of appeasing the socialist aspirations and traditions of the masses while it developed a “socialist” paradise for itself, for the bureaucracy, in one country. The epic struggle of Trotsky and his comrades of the Opposition for workers’ democracy – that is, for a genuine workers’ state – and for socialist internationalism as the only means of preserving and fructifying that state, will always remain richly instructive as well as inspiring. What was decisive in that struggle was not the tactical errors in fighting that may have been made, or the inadequacy or error that may be found in the political appraisal of the Stalin faction, or even in the persistency shown to the end in designating modern Russia as a workers’ state. Towering high above all this is the fact that the Trotskyist Opposition continued without a break the struggle for the proletarian revolution, for the principles of October, and for world socialism. However that may be, the fact is that the efforts of the Opposition did not suffice to prevent the consolidation of the Stalinist reaction.

The world revolution did not come in time to save the Russian Revolution. The Stalinist counter-revolution came to suppress the world revolution, and thereby it strengthened its own stranglehold on the Russian state.

What does it signify, this Stalinist counter-revolution? In facing honestly and courageously the prospect of defeat of the revolution, Lenin of course had in mind the restoration of capitalism. That is entirely understandable. Equally understandable is the fact that in launching the struggle against the growing reaction in the party, Trotsky saw in the bureaucracy the carrier of the germ of capitalist restoration. But there are no compelling reasons to repeat these formulae today, twenty or more years later, and in the light of all that has happened.

Before his expulsion from the Bolshevik Party, and for a long time after, Trotsky characterized the ruling regime as a Right-Center bloc, the former element represented by Rykov, Tomsky and Bukharin, the latter by Stalin and his immediate entourage. The Right wing, he said, is the principal channel through which the bourgeois restoration is infiltrating the party and the country as a whole. Without deliberation, to be sure, it is nevertheless the representative of the social aspirations of the bourgeois counter-revolution. The Opposition represents the aspirations of the proletariat and bases itself upon it. The Center, Stalin? It is not a serious force. It has not firm class bases. It represents essentially the bureaucracy, which appears powerful but is actually of little social significance. In the approaching showdown, only the Right wing and the Left wing will be serious political factors. Stalinist Centrism, which oscillates between the two, will capitulate to the Right wing, a small section of it perhaps fighting on the side of the Left. As a distinctive current, it will dissolve in the heat of the class struggle between bourgeois restoration and the proletariat.

Trotsky proceeded from the doctrine that in Russia, as elsewhere, the proletariat can rule or the bourgeoisie – no one else. The result was the systematic understimation of the significance of the Stalinist bureaucracy, of its social and political course, of its durability. It is only necessary to scan the main writings of the Opposition, particularly of Trotsky, to arrive firmly at that conclusion. A favorite phrase of the Opposition was, “The Right wing tail will hit the Center over the head and crush it.” A repeated prediction of the Opposition was that Stalin is preparing to restore private property, is undermining nationalized property, is weakening the monopoly of foreign trade – is facilitating the restoration of capitalism. The Right wing is marching that way steadily, and Stalin, although he may make a brief zig-zag to the Left, makes the moves that count to the Right. Stalin is capitulating to the kulak, to the Nepman.

But that is not what happened. To keep on saying that it did happen is sheer stupidity, at best blindness. To acknowledge that it did not happen without a critical reexamination of the old analysis is, again at best, theoretical slothfulness.

The Stalinist bureaucracy did of course march hand in hand with the Right wing throughout the fight against the proletarian Left Opposition. Against the latter, it showed not the slightest hesitation in mobilizing and even encouraging the bourgeois and semi-bourgeois elements in the country. This was, from the very beginning of the struggle in Soviet Russia, one of the indications that the Stalinist bureaucracy is closer, politically and socially, to the bourgeoisie and its class position, than it is to the proletariat. Time and again it united with the bourgeoisie against the proletariat and its most consistent spokesman, the Trotskyists, At no time, however, even during its fiercest battles with the bourgeoisie at home or abroad, did the bourgeoisie find it possible to unite with the Trotskyists. The social significance of these facts should escape no thinking person.

But once it had completed the crushing of the Left Opposition, which meant the crushing of the last traces of workers’ democracy and workers’ rule, it turned savagely not only upon the Right wing, which it annihilated just as thoroughly as it did the Left wing. Above all it proceeded ruthlessly and systematically to crush every bourgeois element in the country. The Five Year Plans did not prove to be a brief zigzag to the Left, to be followed by a movement to the Right, that is, to favoring the bourgeois elements in economy and politics. Contrary to expectations, the campaign continued until the kulak elements were decisively decimated (at least in their old form and on their old basis), the NEP and the Nepmen completely wiped out, and the sector of state economy expanded beyond anybody’s original calculations. A new bureaucracy took shape in the country – the managers and directors of the state factories, of the state and collective farms – and ended by fusing integrally with the party and state bureaucracy into a new ruling class.

The new ruling class had crushed the Left or proletarian party in the country. But not to the benefit of the Right wing! That section of the old Bolshevik Party it crushed with no less violence and thoroughness. It removed the workers from all control or influence over the productive forces of the country. But virtually at the same time it chopped off the grasping hands of the incipient bourgeoisie that were reaching for that control, then chopped off its head, and then chopped away the ground from under its feet. In a word, it did anything but capitulate to the bourgeois and incipient bourgeois elements in the country. It followed this by smashing the possibility, at least for a long period of time, of its rule being replaced by the rule of an outright military-Bonapartist dictatorship, represented by reactionary Praetorians like Tukhachevsky, and as usual it was not particularly scrupulous about the way it framed up and disposed of this threat to its power. Simultaneously it legalized its monopolistic power-position in the new constitution.

This was the road along which this new class took shape, and its own social order, which may be called bureaucratic collectivism, a reactionary, exploitive, slave state, was established.

Trotsky could not reconcile himself to such a conception, and even attacked it sharply, although in his study on USSR in War he left sort of theoretical door open to it. Yet there is nothing in the Marxian conception of history, of the evolution of society, of the nature of the state, and above all, there is nothing in the reality of Russian developments, which rules out the coming into existence of the bureaucratic collectivist state and its eventual disappearance from the scene. Trotsky himself once derided as “pseudo-Marxism” the point of view “which confines itself to historical mechanisms, formal analogies, converting historic epochs into a logical succession of inflexible social categories (feudalism, capitalism, socialism, autocracy, bourgeois republic, dictatorship of the proletariat ...)” (History of the Russian Revolution, Vol. I, p. 464) Marxists, especially those educated by Lenin and Trotsky, will readily admit that classes and nations can leap forward in history, can leap over stages, can be hurled backward along the main line of historical development. But in speaking of Stalinist Russia they will obdurately refuse to acknowledge that history “permits” side-leaps, mongrel social formations, unique combinations. Leap forward? Yes! Thrust backward? Yes! Leap sideways? No! – that is strictly prohibited by the party statutes!

What is the social or historical basis of this new class? The answer is to be found in the peculiar position of the Russian revolution, and the class relations prevailing in it.

A country so inseparably connected with the stormy world of imperialism must develop its productive forces or perish as a country, that is, as an independent nation. That is true, even “separated from” the question of what class rules. In Trotsky’s brilliant analysis of Russia’s evolution under Czarism, he brings out this fact with incisive clarity. To defend its position, its power, its privilege, ultra-reactionary Czarism found itself driven to develop the productive forces of the country on a vast scale. For historical reasons, the miserable Russian bourgeoisie could not perform this task. Czarism, to save itself from the assaults of more powerful and technologically more advanced outlanders, and in addition to acquire some loot for itself, built up industry, developed transportation, a communications system, a merchant marine, central banking, etc. In the course of this work, it did not allow the young bourgeoisie to get much closer to the political power of the state which the Czarist bureaucracy mobilized. But the building of capitalist economy nevertheless strengthened the social power and position of the bourgeoisie – that is what must be borne in mind.

The coming to power of the workers in 1917 did not diminish but rather enhanced the need of developing the productive forces of still backward Russia. First, and obviously, the war-ruined country demanded reconstruction if any kind of economic or social life was to be possible. Secondly, the economic ambitions of European capitalism to control Russia were now multiplied by a class antagonism to the new regime which, if merely translated into a military threat to the country, urgently demanded the development of the productive forces. This demand was only emphasized by the fact that in the intense crisis of post-war world imperialism, Russia offered one of the few remaining fields for capitalist relief.

But it is precisely here that the dilemma arose.

The demand for the expansion of the productive forces could not be solved by the Russian bourgeoisie. Were it strong enough to establish a new and independent bourgeois-democratic Russia, it might have been possible. But due to its peculiar historical development – that is, its historical impotence – the Russian bourgeoisie was capable of overthrowing the workers’ power only as a servant of world imperialism. All it could hope to enact was the role of a compradore bourgeoisie, not essentially different from the Chinese national bourgeoisie. But in that capacity, neither it nor its foreign imperialist masters would expand Russia’s productive forces. Under those conditions, Russia would be depressed to the level of an exploited colonial, more or less agricultural, hinterland of imperialism, pretty much like China or India. Under the best circumstances conceivable, it would not get beyond the low and fairly stagnant position of Poland, which under the Czar was the most advanced industrial section of the Empire, and under the Polish bourgeoisie experienced no development – certainly no sensational development – of its productive forces.

If the bourgeoisie of Russia was ruled out as organizer and developer of the productive forces, why then was not the proletariat able to fill that role? Is it not true, after all, that capitalism has reached the point where only the proletariat can end society’s stagnation and release the last fetters on the development of production? Yes, entirely true, but only on an all-European scale or, more accurately, on a world scale! But in Russia two reservations had to be kept in mind:

  1. The proletariat develops the productive forces in a fundamentally different sense than does the bourgeoisie, namely, socialistically, and that is the only way it can develop them; but,
  2. “The authentic rise of a socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the most important countries of Europe,” as Trotsky wrote in 1922, and “The work of construction depends entirely upon how soon the revolution is victorious in the most important countries of Europe. Only after this victory can we seriously undertake the business of construction,” as Lenin said three years earlier.

These two “reservations” put the whole problem, the whole dilemma, the whole secret of what has happened in Russia, in a nutshell. A real rise of a socialist economy in Russia is not possible if the proletariat is in power in Russia alone.

Yet Russian society’s urgent demand for development now brooked even less delay than in the early days of Czarism. To be more concrete, the bureaucracy’s elemental urge to protect and expand its power and privilege necessitated the development of the productive forces. The bourgeoisie could not accomplish this task by developing them along capitalist lines. The proletariat could not accomplish this task by developing them along socialist lines. In the course of the struggle – “Classes are the product of struggle,” said Lenin – a new class took shape which could and did develop the productive forces on a tremendous scale! The new class, the collectivist bureaucracy, did not stop to inquire if the party program or statutes, or predictions, gave it permission to develop into a class and to establish its class rule. Truly a pity!

The new class did not develop the productive forces capitalistically, unless one wants to redefine capitalism the way it never was and the way it nowhere is, just to make it possible to put Stalinist Russia into that category, as a sort of literary punishment visited upon it for its crimes. Under its aegis, with its planning, with its directing and organizing, with its absolute control of the state that owns the means of production, Russian economy experienced an “authentic rise,” even though the revolution did not come in the West. Doesn’t this refute Trotsky of 1922 and Lenin of 1919? Not at all. If anything, they are confirmed, even if in a unique way. Trotsky spoke of an “authentic rise of a socialist economy.” And of that there is no sign in Russia!

There, by the way, you have sufficient indication of the difference between the Stalinist breaucracy and, let us say, the old Czarist bureaucracy. In developing the productive forces, the latter developed them capitalistically and – political power aside – strengthened enormously the social position and power of the bourgeoisie. The Stalinist bureaucracy, however, though developing the productive forces collectivistically, reduced the social position of the proletariat to the level of imprisoned slaves and wiped out its social power altogether. To speak of Russia now as a workers’ state is anachronistic at best and an apology for Stalinism at worst. Russia is a workers’ prison-for-lifers, not a workers’ state. To prove that it is a workers’ state it must first be disproved that it is a workers’ prison. And that, alas, is precisely what nobody can do.

If our analysis of the specific origins of this new ruling class and this new, mongrel exploitive state is essentially tenable – and since abuse is not an argument, we cannot allow that it has been refuted – the conclusion as to the future of this historical incubus follows pretty clearly. It came into being and performed its reactionary function on the basis of the peculiar national position of the Russian revolution. There is no serious ground for believing that the same tragedy will be enacted following the socialist revolution in other, more advanced countries, for it is precisely the spread of the socialist revolution that spells death-a-borning to bureaucratic collectivism. It is not for nothing that Stalinist fears and detests the proletarian revolution like the devil does holy water.

The Russian proletariat faces its second great working class revolution. To overthrow the new ruling class in Russia is a task just as closely linked with the international revolution as was the overthrow of the buurgeoisie in 1917. They and their leaders, the Bolsheviks, will never be moved from the top of the list of honor: Pioneers of World Socialism and Freedom.

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