Leon Trotsky

Stalin as a Theoretician

(March 1930)

Written: March 1930.
First published: Bulletin of the Left Opposition, No. 14, August 1930.
First published in English: The Militant, Vol. III No. 30, 15 Sept. 1930, p. 4, Vol. III No. 31, 1 Oct. 1930, p. 4, Vol. III No. 33, 15 Nov. 1930, p. 7 & Vol. III No. 34, 1 Dec., 1930, p. 7.
Source: The New International [New York], Vol. VII No. 9 (Whole No. 58), October 1941, pp. 247–254 & Vol. VII No. 10 (Whole No. 58), November 1941, pp. 280–283.
Republished: International Socialist Review, Vol. 17 No. 4, Fall 1956, pp. 131–136 & Vol. 18 No. 1, Winter 1957, pp. 26–33.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Damon Maxwell and David Walters, September 2008; Einde O’Callaghan, April 2009.
Public Domain: The Leon Trotsky Internet Archive, 2008. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.

Editor’s Note, New International

This issue of The New International begins the first of two installments of the above-titled article by Leon Trotsky, written more than eleven years ago. The background to the article was a new zig-zag carried out by Stalin in the field of domestic policy. The Stalinist bureaucracy, having annihilated the Left Opposition, with the aid of the Right Wing Bucharinist faction and the employment of the severest of police measures, then proceeded to borrow “chips” from the Left Opposition Program and to apply them in a distorted, unacceptable (to Marxists) way. Having denied the possibilities of a planned program of industrialization and collectivization of agriculture, the Stalinist regime proceeded to carry out “super-industrialization” at breakneck speed, without regard to economic norms, and 100 per cent collectivization. The following article is a discussion of some of the theoretical problems relating to the dispute and the problem.

Introduction, International Socialist Review

In his speeeh at the Twentieth Congress denouncing Stalin, Khrushchev, to prove Stalin’s ignorance and misleadership, cited as an outstanding example the late dictator’s role in agriculture.

“All those who interested themselves even a little in the national situation,” said Khrushchev, “saw the difficult situation in agriculture, but Stalin never even noted it. Did we tell Stalin about this? Yes, we told him, but he did not support us. Why? Because Stalin never traveled anywhere, did not meet city and collective farm workers; he did not know the actual situation in the provinces.”

Nevertheless Khrushchev coptinued to insist on the “correctness” of Stalin’s course in the 1924–1934 period when the bureaucracy was consolidating its position as a parasitic formation in the Soviet Union. Khrushchev particularly praised Stalin for his struggle against Leon Trotsky.

The following article by Trotsky, written in March 1930, is therefore of timely interest in straightening out the record cited by Khrushchev, for it was Trotsky who really “told” Stalin about “the difficult situation in agriculture,” while the Khrushchevs to a man were backing Stalin in his ignorance and misleadership. The section of Trotsky’s articIe, pulished in this issue of the International Socialist Review first appeared in English in The Militant of Sept. 16 and Oct. 1, 1930. The article will be concluded in our next issue.

*   *   *

The Peasants Balance Sheet of the Democratic and Socialist Revolutions

“... the appearance of Comrade Stalin at the conference of the Marxist agronomists was epochal in the history of the Communist Academy. As a consequence of what Stalin said, we had to review all our plans and revise them in the direction of what Stalin said. The appearance of Comrade Stalin gave a tremendous impetus to our work. – (Pokrovsky at the 16th Party Congress.)

IN HIS programmatic report to the conference of the Marxist agronomists (December 27, 1929), Stalin spoke at length about the “Trotsky-Zinoviev Opposition” considering “that the October Revolution, as a matter of fact, did not give anything to the peasantry.” It is probable that even to the respectful auditors, this invention seemed too crude. For the sake of clarity, however, we should quote these words more fully: “I have in mind,” said Stalin, “the theory that the October revolution gave the peasantry less (?) than the February revolution, that the October revolution, as a matter of fact, gave nothing to the peasantry.” The invention of this “theory” is attributed by Stalin to one of the Soviet statistical economists, Groman, a known former Menshevik, after which he adds: “But this theory was seized by the Trotsky-Zinoviev Opposition and utilized against the party.” Groman’s theory regarding the February and October revolutions is quite unknown to us. But Groman is of no account here altogether. He is dragged in merely to cover up the traces.

In what way could the February revolution give the peasantry more than the October? What did the February revolution give the peasant in general, with the exception of the superficial and therefore absolutely uncertain liquidation of the monarchy? The bureaucratic apparatus remained what it was. The land was not given to the peasant by the February revolution. But it did give him a continuation of the war and the certainty of a continued growth of inflation. Perhaps Stalin knows of some other gifts of the February revolution to the peasant? To us, they are unknown. The reason why the February revolution had to give way to the October is because it completely deceived the peasant.

The alleged theory of the Opposition on the advantages of the February revolution over the October is connected by Stalin with the theory “regarding the so-called scissors.” By this he completely betrays the sources and aims of his chicanery. Stalin polemicizes, as I will soon show, against me. Only for the convenience of his operations, for camouflaging his cruder distortions, he hides behind Groman and the anonymous “Trotsky-Zinoviev Opposition” in general.

The real essence of the question lies in the following. At the 12th congress of the (Communist) Party (in the spring of 1923) I demonstrated for the first time the threatening gap between industrial and agricultural prices. In my report, this phenomenon was for the first time called the “price scissors.” I warned that the continual lagging of industry would spread apart this scissors and that they might sever the threads connecting the proletariat and the peasantry.

Problem of the “Smytchka” and “Scissors”

In February, 1927, at the Plenum of the Central Committee, while considering the question of the policy on prices, I attempted for the one thousand and first time to prove that general phrases like “the face to the village” merely avoided the essence of the matter, and that from the standpoint of the “Smytchka” (alliance) with the peasant, the problem can be solved fundamentally by correlating the prices of agricultural and industrial products. The trouble with the peasant is that it is difficult for him to see far ahead. But he sees very well what is under his feet, he distinctly remembers the yesterdays, and he can draw the balance under his exchange of products with the city, which, at any given moment, is the balance-sheet of the revolution to him.

The expropriation of the landowners liberated the peasant from the payment of a sum amounting to from five to six hundred million rubles (about $275,000,000 – Ed.). This is a clear and irrefutable gain for the peasantry through the October – and not the February – revolution.

But alongside of this tremendous plus, the peasant distinctly discerns the minus which this same October revolution has brought him. This minus consists of the excessive rise in prices of industrial products as compared with those prevailing before the war. It is understood that it in Russia capitalism had maintained itself the price scissors would undoubtedly have existed – this is an international phenomenon. But in the first place the peasant does not know this. And in the second, nowhere did this scissors spread to the extent that it did in the Soviet Union. The great losses of the peasantry due to prices are of a temporary nature, reflecting the period of “primitive accumulation” of state industry. It is as though the proletarian state borrows from the peasantry in order to repay him a hundred-fold later on.

But all this relates to the sphere of theoretical considerations and historical predictions. The thoughts of the peasant, however, are empirical and based on facts as they appear at the moment. “The October revolution liberated me from the payment of a half a billion rubles in land rents,” reflects the peasant. “I am thankful to the Bolsheviks. But state industry takes away from me much more than the capitalists took. Here is where there is something wrong with the Communists.” In other words, the peasant draws the balance sheet of the October revolution through combining its two fundamental stages: the agrarian-democratic (“Bolshevik”) and the industrial-socialist (“Communist”). According to the first, a distinct and incontestable plus; according to the second, so far still a distinct minus, and to date a minus considerably greater than the plus. The passive balance of the October revolution, which is the basis of all the misunderstanding between the peasant and the Soviet power, is in turn most intimately bound up with the isolated position of the Soviet Union in world economy.

The Democratic and Socialist Revolution

Almost three years after the old disputes, Stalin, to his misfortune, returns to the question. Because he is fated to repeat what others have left behind them and at the same time to be anxious about his own “independence,” he is compelled to look back apprehensively at the yesterday of the “Trotskyist Opposition” and ... cover up the traces. At the time the “scissors” between the city and the village was first spoken of, Stalin completely failed to understand it for five years (1923–1928), he saw the danger in industry going too far ahead instead of lagging behind; in order to cover it up somehow, he mumbles something incoherent in his report about “bourgeois prejudices (!!!) regarding the so-called scissors.” Why is this a prejudice? Wherein is it bourgeois? But Stalin is under no obligation to answer these questions, for there is nobody who would dare ask them.

If the February revolution had given land to the peasantry the October revolution with its price scissors could not have maintained itself for two years. To put it more correctly: the October revolution could not have taken place if the February revolution had been capable of solving the basic, agrarian democratic problems by liquidating private ownership of land.

We indirectly recalled above that in the first years after the October revolution the peasant obstinately endeavored to contrast the Communists to the Bolsheviks. The latter he approved of – precisely because they made the land revolution with a determination never before known. But the same peasant was dissatisfied with the Communists, who, having taker into their own hands the factories and mills, supplied commodities at high prices. In other words, the peasant very resolutely approved of the agrarian revolution of the Bolshevik but manifested alarm, doubt and sometimes even open hostility toward the first steps of the socialist revolution. Very soon, however, the peasant had to understand that Bolshevik and Communist are one and the same party.

Land Taxes and Industrial Prices

In February, 1927, this question was raised by me at the Plenum of the Central Committee in the following manner:

The liquidation of the landowners opened up large credit for us with the peasants, political as well as economic. But these credits are not permanent and are not inexhaustible. The question is decided by the correlation of prices. Only the acceleration of industrialization on the one hand, and the collectivization of peasant economy on the other can produce a more favorable correlation of prices for the village. Should the contrary be the case, the advantages of the agrarian revolution will be entirely concentrated in the hands of the kulak, and the scissors will hurt the peasant poor most painfully. The differentiation in the middle peasantry will be accelerated. There can be but one result. The crumbling of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

“This year,” I said, “only eight billion rubles worth of commodities (in retail prices) will be released for the domestic market ... the village will pay for its smaller half of the commodities about four billion rubles. Let us accept the retail industrial index as twice the pre-war prices figure, as Mikoyan has reported ... The balance (of the peasant): The agrarian-democratic revolution brought me aside from everything else, five hundred million rubles a year (the liquidation of rents and lowering of taxes). The socialist revolution has more than covered this profit by a two billion ruble deficit. It is that the balance is reduced to a deficit of one and a half billion.”

Nobody objected by as much as a word at this session, but Yakovlev, the present People’s Commissar of Agriculture, though at that time only a clerk for special statistical assignments, was given the job of upsetting my calculations at all costs. Yakovlev did all he could. With all the legitimate and illegitimate corrections and qualifications, Yakovlev was compelled the following day to admit that the balance-sheet of the October revolution for the village is, on the whole, still reduced to a minus. Let us once more produce an actual quotation.

“... The gain from a reduction of direct taxes compared with the pre-war days is equal to approximately 630,000,000 rubles ... In the last year the peasantry lost around a billion rubles as a consequence of its purchase of manufactured commodities, not according to the index of the peasant income, but according to the retail index of these commodities. The unfavorable balance is equal to about 400,000,000 rubles.”

It is clear that Yakovlev’s calculations essentially confirmed my opinion: The peasant realized a big profit through the democratic revolution made by the Bolsheviks but so far he suffers a loss which far exceeds the profit. I estimated the passive balance at a billion and a half. Yakovlev – at less than half a billion. I still consider that my figure, which made no pretention to precision, was closer to reality than Yakovlev’s. The difference between the two figures is in itself very considerable. But it does not change my basic conclusion. The acuteness of the grain collecting difficulties was a confirmation of my calculations as the more disquieting ones. It is really absurd to think that the grain strike of the upper layers of the villages was caused by purely political motives, that is, by the hostility of the Kulak toward the Soviet power. The Kulak is incapable of such “idealism.” If he did not furnish the grain for sale, it was because the exchange became disadvantageous as a result of the price scissors. That is why the kulak succeeded in bringing into the orbit of his influence the middle peasant as well.

These calculations have a rough, so to speak, inclusive character. The component parts of the balance sheet can and should be separated in relation to the three basic sections of the peasantry: the kulaks, the middle peasants and the poor peasants. However, in that period – the beginning of 1927 – the official statistics, inspired by Yakovlev, ignored or deliberately minimized the differentiation in the village, and the policy of Stalin-Rykov-Bucharin was directed toward protecting the “powerful” peasant and fighting against the “shiftless” poor peasants. In this way, the passive balance was especially onerous upon the lower sections of the peasantry in the village.

Stalin and the Bourgeois Revolution

The reader will ask, nevertheless, where did Stalin get his contrasting of the February and October revolutions? It is a legitimate question. The contrast I made between the agrarian-democratic and the industrial-socialist revolutions, Stalin, who is absolutely incapable of theoretical, that is, of abstract thought, vaguely understood in his own fashion: He simply decided that the democratic-revolution means the February revolution. Here we must pause, because Stalin and his colleagues’ old, traditional failure to understand the mutual relations between the democratic and socialist revolutions, which lies at the basis of their whole struggle against the theory of the permanent revolution, has already succeeded in doing great damage, particularly in China and India, and remains a source of fatal errors to this day. The February, 1917, revolution was greeted by Stalin essentially as a Left democratic, and not as a revolutionary proletarian, internationalist. He showed this vividly by his whole conduct up to the time Lenin arrived. The February revolution to Stalin was and, as we see, still remains, a “democratic” revolution par excellence. He stood for the support of the first provisional government which was headed by the national liberal landowner. Prince Lvov, had as its war minister the national conservative manufacturer, Gutchkov, and the liberal, Miliukov, as minister of foreign affairs. Formulating the necessity of supporting the bourgeois landowning provisional government, at a party conference, March 29, 1917, Stalin declared:

“The power has been divided between two organs, not one of which has complete mastery. The roles have been divided. The Soviet has actually taken the initiative in revolutionary transformations; the Soviet is the revolutionary leader of the rebellious people, the organ which builds up the provisional government. The provisional government has actually taken the role of the consolidator of the conquests of the revolutionary people ... Insofar as the provisional government consolidates the advances of the revolution – to that extent we should support it.”

The “February” bourgeois, landowning and thoroughly counter-revolutionary government was for Stalin not a class enemy but a collaborator with whom a division of labor had to be established. The workers and peasants would make the “conquests,” the bourgeoisie would “consolidate” them. All of them together would make up the “democratic revolution.” The formula of the Mensheviks was at the same time also the formula of Stalin. All this was spoken of by Stalin a month after the February revolution when the character of the provisional government should have been clear even to a blind man, no longer on the basis of Marxist foresight but on the basis of political experience.

Stalin Prepares the Future

As the whole further course of events demonstrated, Lenin in 1917 did not really convince Stalin but elbowed him aside. The whole future struggle of Stalin against the permanent revolution was constructed upon the mechanical separation of the democratic revolution and socialist construction. Stalin has not yet understood that the October revolution was first a democratic revolution, and that only because of this was it able to realize the dictatorship of the proletariat. The balance between the democratic and socialist conquests of the October revolution which I drew was simply adapted by Stalin to his own conception. After this, he puts the question: “Is it true that the peasants did not get anything out of the October revolution?” And after saying that “thanks to the October revolution the peasants were liberated from the oppression of the landowners” (this was never heard of before, you see!) Stalin concludes that: “How can it be said after this that the October revolution did not give anything to the peasants?”

How can it be said that this – we ask – that this “theoretician” has even a grain of theoretical conscience?

The above-mentioned unfavorable balance of the October revolution for the village is, of course, temporary and transitory. The principal significance of the October revolution for the peasant lies in the fact that it created the pre-conditions for the socialist reconstruction of agriculture. But this is a matter of the future. In 1927, collectivization was still completely tabooed. So far as “complete” collectivization is concerned, nobody even thought of it. Stalin, however, includes it in his considerations after the fact. “Now, after the intensified development of the collectivization movement” – our theoretician transplants into the past what lies ahead in the future – “the peasants are able ... to produce a lot more than before with the same expenditure of labor.” And after this, once more: “How can one say, after all this (!) that the October revolution did not bring any gain to the peasant? Is it not clear that people saying such nonsense are obviously telling lies about the party and the Soviet power?” The reference to “nonsense” and “lies” is quite in place here, as may be seen. Yes, some people “are obviously telling lies” about chronology and common sense.

Stalin, as we see, makes his “nonsense” more profound by depicting matters as if the Opposition not only exaggerated the February revolution at the expense of the October, but even for the future refused the latter the capacity for improving the conditions of the peasant. For what fools, may we ask, is this intended? We beg the pardon of the honorable Professor Pokrovsky! ...

Incessantly advancing, since 1923, the problem of the economic scissors of the city and village, the Opposition pursued a quite definite aim, now incontestable by anyone: to compel the bureaucracy to understand that the struggle against the danger of disunity can be conducted not with sugary slogans like “Face to the Village,” etc., but through (a) faster tempo of industrial development and (b) energetic collectivization of peasant economy. In other words, the problem of the scissors, as well as the problem of the peasants’ balance of the October Revolution, was advanced by us not in order to “discredit” the October Revolution – what is the very “terminology” worth! – but in order to compel the self-contented and conservative bureaucracy by the whip of the Opposition to utilize those immeasurable economic possibilities which the October Revolution opened up to the country.

To the official kulak-bureaucratic course of 1923-1928, which had its expression in the everyday legislative and administrative work, in the new theory, and, above all, in the persecution of the Opposition, the latter opposed, from 1923 on, a course toward an accelerated industrialization, and from 1927 on, after the first successes of industry, the mechanization and collectivization of agriculture.

Let us once more recall that the Opposition platform, which Stalin conceals but from which he fetches in bits all of his wisdom, declares:

“The growth of private proprietorship in the village must be offset by a more rapid development of collective farming. It is necessary systematically and from year to year to subsidize the efforts of the poor peasants to organize in collectives” (page 68, English edition).

“A much larger sum ought to be appropriated for the creation of Soviet and collective farms. Maximum indulgence must be accorded to the newly organized collective farms and other forms of collectivization. People deprived of elective rights cannot be members of the collective estates. The whole work of the cooperatives ought to be penetrated with a sense of the problem of transforming small-scale production into large-scale collective production. The work of the land distribution must be carried on wholly at the expense of the state, and the first thing to be taken care of must be the collective farms and the farms of the poor, with a maximum protection of their interests” (page 71).

It the bureaucracy had not vacillated under the pressure of the petty bourgeoisie, but had executed the program of the Opposition since 1923, not only the proletarian but also the peasant balance of the revolution would be of an infinitely more favorable nature.

The Problem of the “Scissors”

The problem of the “smytchka” (alliance) is the problem of the mutual relations between city and village. It is com-posed of two parts, or more correctly, can be regarded from two angles: (a) the mutual relationship between industry and agriculture; (b) the mutual relationship between the proletariat and peasantry. On the basis of the market, these relations, assuming the form of commodity exchange, find their expression in the price movement. The harmony between the prices of bread, cotton, beets and so forth on the one hand, and calico, kerosene, plows and so forth on the other, is the decisive index for evaluating the mutual relations between the city and village, of industry and agriculture, between workers and peasants. The problem of the “scissors” of industrial and agricultural prices therefore remains, for the present period as well, the most important economic and social problem of the whole Soviet system. Now, how did the price scissors change between the last two congresses, that is, in the last two and a half years? Did they close, or, on the contrary, did they widen.

We look in vain for a reply to this central question in the ten hour report of Stalin to the Congress. Presenting piles of departmental figures, making a bureaucratic reference book out of the principal report, Stalin did not even attempt a Marxist generalization of the isolated and, by him, thoroughly undigested data given to him by the commissariats, secretariats and other offices.

Are the scissors of industrial and agricultural prices closing? In other words, is the balance of the socialist revolution, as yet passive for the present, being reduced? In the market conditions – and we have not yet liberated ourselves from them and will not for a long time to come – the closing or widening of the scissors is of decisive significance for an evaluation of the successes accomplished and for checking up on the correctness or incorrectness of economic plans and methods. That there is not a word about it in Stalin’s report is of itself an extremely alarming fact. Were the scissors closing, there would be plenty of specialists in Mikoyan’s department who would, without difficulty, give this process statistical and graphic expression. Stalin would only have to demonstrate the diagram, that is, show the Congress a scissors which would prove that the blades are closing. The whole economic section of the report would find its axis, but unfortunately this axis is not there. Stalin avoided the problem of the scissors.

The domestic scissors is not the final index. There is another, a “higher” one: the scissors of domestic and international prices. They measure the productivity of labor in Soviet economy with the productivity of labor in the world capitalist market. We received from the past, in this sphere as well as in others, an enormous heritage of backwardness. In practice, the task for the next few years is not immediately to “catch up with and outstrip” – we are unfortunately still very far from this – but planfully to close the scissors between domestic and world prices, which can be accomplished only through systematically approximating the labor productivity in the USSR to the labor productivity in the advanced capitalist countries. This in turn requires not statistically minimum but economically favorable plans. The oftener the bureaucrats repeat the bold formula “to catch up with and outstrip,” the more stubbornly they ignore exact comparative coefficients of socialist and capitalist industry or, in other words, the problem of the scissors of domestic and world prices. And on this question also not a word is to be found in Stalin’s report. The problem of the domestic scissors could have been considered liquidated only under the conditions of the actual liquidation of the market. The problem of the foreign scissors – with the liquidation of world capitalism. Stalin, as we know, was preparing, at the time of his agricultural report, to send the NEP “to the devil.” But he changed his mind within the six months that elapsed. As is always the case with him, his unaccomplished intention to liquidate the NEP is attributed by him in his report to the Congress to the “Trotskyists.” The white and yellow threads of this operation are so indiscreetly exposed that the report of this part of the speech does not dare to record the slightest applause.

What happened to Stalin with regard to the market and the NEP is what usually happens to empiricists. The sharp turn that took place in his own mind under the influence of external pressure, he took for a radical change in the whole situation. Once the bureaucracy decided to enter into a final conflict with the market and the kulak instead of its passive adaptation to them, then statistics and economy could consider them non-existent. Empiricism is most frequently the pre-condition for subjectivism and if it is bureaucratic empiricism it inevitably becomes the pre-condition for periodic “turns.” The art of the “general” leadership consists in this case of converting the turns into smaller turns and distributing them equally among the helots called executors. If, at the end, the general turn is attributed to “Trotskyism,” then the problem is settled. But this is not the point. The essence of the NEP, regardless of the sharp change in the “essence” of Stalin’s thoughts about it, lies as before in the determination by the market of the economic interrelations between the city and village. If the NEP remains then the scissors of agricultural and industrial prices remain the most important criterion of the whole economic policy.

A “Bourgeois Prejudice”

However, half a year before the Congress, we heard Stalin call the theory of the scissors a “bourgeois prejudice.” This is the simplest way out of the situation. If you tell a village quack that the temperature curve is one of the most important indices to the health or illness of an organism, he will hardly believe you. But if he grasps some sage words and, to make matters worse, learns to present his quackery as “proletarian medicine,” he will most certainly say that a thermometer is a bourgeois prejudice. If this quack has power in his hands he will, to avoid a scandal, smash the thermometer over a stone or, what is still worse, over somebody’s head. In 1925, the differentiation within the Soviet peasantry was declared to be a prejudice of panic-mongers. Yakovlev was sent to the central statistical department, from which he took away all the Marxist thermometers to be destroyed. But unfortunately, the changes in temperature do not cease when there are no thermometers. But for that, the appearance of hidden organic processes takes the healers and those being healed quite unawares. This is what happened in the grain strike of the kulaks, who unexpectedly appeared as the leading figure in the village and compelled Stalin, on February 15, 1928 (see Pravda of that date) to make a turn of 180 degrees. The price thermometer is of no less significance than the thermometer of differentiation within the peasantry. After the Twelfth Party Congress, where the term “scissors” was first used and explained, everybody began to understand its significance. In the three years that followed, the scissors were invariably demonstrated at the Plenums of the Central Committee, at conferences and congresses, as precisely the basic curve of the economic temperature of the country. But afterward they gradually began to disappear from usage and finally, at the end of 1929, Stalin declared them to be ... “a bourgeois prejudice.” Because the thermometer was smashed in time, Stalin had no reason to present the Sixteenth Congress of the Party with the curve of economic temperature. Marxist theory is the weapon of thought serving to clarify what has been, what is becoming and what lies ahead, and for the determination of what is to be done. Stalin’s theory is the servant of the bureaucracy. It serves to justify zig-zags after the event, to conceal yesterday’s mistakes and consequently to prepare tomorrow’s. The silence over the scissors occupies the central place in Stalin’s report. This may appear paradoxical, because silence is an empty space. But it is nevertheless a fact: in the center of Stalin’s report is a hole, consciously and premeditatedly bored.

Awaken, so that no harm shall come to the dictatorship out of this hole!

Stalin as a Theoretician – II

From International Socialist Review, Vol. 18 No. 1, Winter 1957, pp. 26–33.

Ground Rent, or, Stalin Deepens Marx and Engels

In the beginning of struggle against the “general secretary,” Bucharin declared in some connection that Stalin’s chief ambition is to compel his recognition as a “theoretician.” Bucharin knows Stalin well enough, on the one hand, and the ABC of communism, on the other, to understand the whole tragedy of this pretension. It was in the role of a theoretician that Stalin appeared at the conference of the Marxian agronomists. Among other things, ground rent did not come out unscathed.

Only very recently (1925) Stalin judged that it was necessary to strengthen the peasant holdings for scores of years, that is, the actual and juridical liquidation of the nationalization of the land. The People’s Commissar of Agriculture of Georgia, not without the knowledge of Stalin, it is understood, at that time introduced a legislative project for the direct abolition of the nationalization. The Russian Commissar of Agriculture worked in the same spirit. The Opposition sounded the alarm. In its platform it wrote: “The Party must give a crushing rebuff to all the tendencies directed towards the abolition or undermining of the proletariat.” Just as in 1922 Stalin had to give up his attempts on the monopoly of foreign trade, in 1926 he had to give up the attempt on the nationalization of land, declaring that “he was not correctly understood.”

After the proclamation of the Left course, Stalin not only became the defender of the nationalization of land, but he immediately accused the Opposition of not understanding the significance of this whole institution. Yesterday’s nihilism toward nationalization was immediately converted into a fetichism. Marx’s theory of ground rent was given a new administrative task: To justify Stalin’s complete collectivization.

Absolute Rent and Differential Rent

Here we must make a brief reference to theory. In his un-finished analysis on ground rent, Marx divides it into absolute and differential. Since the same human labor applied to different sections of the land yields different results, the surplus yield of the more fertile section will naturally be retained by the owner of the land. This is differential rent. But not one of the owners will give to a tenant free of charge even the worst section as long as there is a demand for it. In other words, from private ownership of land necessarily flows a certain minimum of ground rent, independent of the quality of the soil. This is what is called absolute rent. In conformity with this theory, the liquidation of private ownership of land leads to the liquidation of absolute ground rent. Only that rent remains which is determined by the quality of the land itself or, to state it more correctly, by the application of human labor to land of different quality. There is no need to elucidate that differential rent is not a relationship fixed by the section itself, but changes with the method of exploiting the land. These brief reminders are needed by us in order to reveal the whole paltriness of Stalin’s excursion into the realm of the theory of the nationalization of land.

Stalin begins by correcting and deepening Engels. This is not the first time with him. In 1926, Stalin explained to us that to Engels as well as to Marx, the ABC law of the unequal development of capitalism was unknown, and precisely because of this they both rejected the theory of socialism in one country which, in opposition to them, was defended by Vollmar, the theoretical forerunner of Stalin.

The question of the nationalization of the land, more correctly, the insufficient understanding of this problem by the old man Engels, is apparently approached by Stalin with greater caution. But in reality – just as lightly. He quotes from Engels’ work on the peasant question the famous phrase that we will in no way violate the will of the small peasant; on the contrary, we will in every way help him “in order to facilitate his transition into associations,” that is, to collectivized agriculture. “We will try to give him as much time as possible to consider it on his own piece of land.” These excellent words, known to every literate Marxist, give a clear and simple formula for the relation of the proletariat to the peasantry.

Stalin Makes a Muddle of Engels

Confronted with the necessity of justifying complete collectivization on a frenzied scale, Stalin underlines the exceptional, the even, “at first glance, exaggerated” caution of Engels with regard to conducting the small peasant on the road of socialist agricultural economy. What was Engels guided by in his “exaggerated” caution? “Stalin replies thus:

“It is evident that his point of departure was the existence of private ownership of land, the fact that the peasant has ‘his piece of land’ from which he, the peasant, will be parted with difficulty. Such is the peasantry in capitalist countries, where private ownership in land exists. It is understood that here (?) great caution is needed. Can it be said that here in the USSR there is such a situation? No, it cannot be said. It cannot, because we have no private ownership of land which binds the peasant to his individual economy.”

Such are Stalin’s observations. Can it be said that in these observations there is even a grain of sense? No, it cannot be said. Engels, it appears, had to be “cautious” because in the bourgeois countries private ownership of land exists. But Stalin needs no caution because we have established the nationalization of land. But did there not exist in bourgeois Russia private ownership of land along-side of the more archaic communal ownership? We did not acquire the nationalization of land ready made, we established it after the seizure of power. But Engels speaks about the policy the proletarian party will put into effect precisely after the seizure of power. What sense is there to Stalin’s condescending explanation of Engels’ indecision: The old man had to act in bourgeois countries where private ownership of land exists, while we were wise enough to abolish private ownership. But Engels recommends caution precisely after the seizure of power by the proletariat, consequently, after the abolition of private ownership of the means of production.

By contrasting the Soviet peasant policy with Engels’ advice, Stalin confuses the question m the most ridiculous manner. Engels promised to give the small peasant time to think on his own piece of land before he decides to enter the collective. In this transitional period of the peasant’s “deliberations,” the workers’ state, according to Engels, must separate the small peasant from the usurers, the tradesmen, etc., that is, to limit the exploiting tendencies of the kulak. The Soviet policy in relation to the main, that is, the non-exploiting, mass of all the peasantry, had precisely this dual character in spite of all its vacillations. In spite of all the statistical clatterings the collectivization movement is now, in the thirteenth year of the seizure of power, really going through the first stages. To the overwhelming mass of the peasants, the dictatorship of the proletariat has thus given twelve years for deliberation. It is doubtful if Engels had in mind such a long period, and it is doubtful if such a long period will be needed in the advanced countries of the West where, with the high development of industry, it will be incomparably easier for the proletariat to prove to the peasant by deed all the advantages of collective agriculture. If we, only twelve years after the seizure of power by the proletariat, begin a wide movement, so far very primitive in content, and very unstable, toward collectivization, it is to be explained only by our poverty and backwardness, in spite of the fact that we have the land nationalized, which Engels presumably did not think of, or which the Western proletariat will presumably be unable to establish after the seizure of power. In this contrasting of Russia with the West, and at the same time, Stalin with En-gels, the idolization of the national backwardness is glaringly apparent.

But Stalin does not stop at this: He immediately supplements economic incoherence with theoretical.

“Why,” he asks his unfortunate auditors, “do we succeed so easily (!!) in demonstrating, under the condition of nationalized land the superiority (of collectives) over the small peasant economies? This is where the tremendous revolutionary significance of the Soviet agrarian laws lies, which abolished absolute rent ... and which established the nationalization of land.”

And Stalin self-contentedly, and at the same time reproachfully, asks:

“Why is not this new (!?) argument utilized sufficiently by our agrarian theoreticians in their struggle against every bourgeois theory?”

And here Stalin makes reference – the Marxian agronomists are recommended not to exchange glances, not to blow their noses in confusion, and what is more, not to hide their heads under the table – to the third volume of Capital and to Marx’s theory of ground rent. What heights did this theoretician have to ascend before plunging into the mire with his “new argument.” According to Stalin, it would appear that the Western peasant is tied down to the land by nothing else than “absolute rent.” And since we “destroyed” this monster, that in itself caused to disappear the mighty “power of the land” over the peasant, so grippingly depicted by Gleb Ouspensky, and by Balzac and Zola in France.

What the Revolution Accomplished in Land

In the very first place, let us establish that absolute rent was not abolished by us, but was nationalized, which is not one and the same thing. Newmark valued the national wealth of Russia in 1914 at 140,000,000,000 gold rubles, including in the first place the price of all the land, that is, the capitalized rent of the whole country. If we should want to establish now the specific gravity of the national wealth of the Soviet Union within the wealth of humanity, we would of course have to include the capitalized rent, differential as well as absolute.

All economic criteria, absolute rent included, are reduced to human labor. Under the conditions of market economy, rent is determined by that quantity of products which can be extracted by the owner of the land from the products of the labor applied to it. The owner of the land in the USSR is the state. By that itself it is the bearer of the ground rent. As to the actual liquidation of absolute rent, we will be able to speak of that only after the socialization of the land all over the planet, that is, after the victory of the world revolution. But within national limits, if one may say. so without insulting Stalin, not only socialism can not be constructed, but even absolute rent cannot be abolished.

This interesting theoretical question has a practical significance. Ground rent finds its expression on the world market in the price of agricultural products. Insofar as the Soviet government is an exporter of the latter – and with the intensification of agriculture grain exports will increase greatly – to that extent, armed with the monopoly of foreign trade, the Soviet government appears on the world market as the owner of the land whose product it exports, and consequently, in the price of these products the Soviet government realizes the ground rent concentrated in its hands. If the technique of our agriculture were not inferior to that of the capitalists and at the same time the technique of our foreign trade, then precisely with us in the USSR absolute rent would appear in its clearest and most concentrated form. This moment will have to acquire the greatest significance in the future under the planned direction of agriculture and export. If Stalin now brags of our “abolition” of absolute rent, instead of realizing it on the world market, then a temporary right to such bragging is given him by the present weakness of our agricultural export and the irrational character of our foreign trade, in which not only is absolute ground rent sunk without a trace, but many other things as well. This side of the matter, which has no direct relation to the collectivization of peasant economy, nevertheless shows us by one more example that the idolization of economic isolation and economic backwardness is one of the basic features of our national-socialist philosopher.

Let us return to the question of collectivization. According to Stalin it would appear that the Western peasant is attached to this piece of land by the tie of absolute rent. Every peasant’s hen will laugh at his “new argument.” Absolute rent is a purely capitalist category. Dispersed peasant economy can have a taste of absolute rent only under episodic circumstances of an exceptionally favorable market conjuncture, as existed, for instance, at the beginning of the war. The economic dictatorship of finance capital over the diffused village is expressed on the market in unequal exchange. The peasantry generally does not issue out of the universal “scissors” regime. In the prices of grain and agricultural products in general, the overwhelming mass of the small peasantry does not realize the labor power, let alone the rent.

The Problems of Russian Agriculture

But if absolute rent, which Stalin so triumphantly “abolished,” says decidedly nothing to the brain or heart of the small peasant, differential rent, which Stalin so generously spared, has a great significance, precisely for the Western peasant. The tenant farmer holds on to his piece of land all the stronger the more he and his father spent strength and means to raise its fertility. This applies, by the way, and not only to the West, but to the East, for instance, to China, with its districts of intensified cultivation. Certain elements of the petty conservation of private ownership are inherent here, consequently not in an abstract category of absolute rent, but in the material conditions of a higher parcelized culture. If it is comparatively easy to break the Russian peasants away from a piece of land, it is not at all because Stalin’s “new argument” liberated them from absolute rent but for the very reason for which, prior to the October revolution, periodic repartition of land took place in Russia. Our Narodniki idolized these repartitions as such. Nevertheless, they were only possible because of our non-intensive economy, the three-field system, the miserable tilling of the soil, that is, once again, because of the backwardness idolized by Stalin.

Will it be more difficult for the victorious proletariat of the West to eliminate peasant conservation which flows from the greater cultivation of small holdings? By no means. For there, because of the incomparably higher state of industry and culture in general, the proletarian state will more easily be enabled to give the peasant entering collective farms an evident and genuine compensation for his loss of the “differential rent” on his piece of land. There can be no doubt that twelve years after the seizure of power the collectivization of agriculture in Germany, England or America will be immeasurably higher and firmer than ours.

Is it not strange that his “new argument” in favor of complete collectivization was discovered by Stalin twelve years after nationalization had taken place? Then, why did he, in spite of the existence of nationalization in 1923-1928, so stubbornly rely upon the powerful individual producer and not upon the collectives? It is clear: Nationalization of the land is a necessary condition for socialist agriculture but it is altogether insufficient. From the narrow economic point of view, that is, the one from which Stalin tackles the question, the nationalization of land is precisely of third-rate significance, because the cost of inventory required for rational, large-scale economy exceeds manifold the absolute rent.

Needless to say that nationalization of land is a necessary and most important political and juridical pre-condition for socialist reconstruction of agriculture. But the direct economic significance of nationalization at any given moment is determined by the action of factors of a material-productive character.

The Situation in the USSR

This is revealed with adequate clarity in the question of the peasant’s balance of the October Revolution. The state, as the owner of the land, concentrated in its hands the right to ground rent. Does it realize it from the present market in the prices of grain, lumber, etc.? Unfortunately, not yet. Does it realize it from the peasant? With the multiplicity of economic accounts between the state and the peasant, it is very difficult to reply to this question. It can be said – and this will by no means be a paradox – that the “scissors” of agricultural and industrial prices contains the ground rent in a concealed form. With the concentration of land, industry and transport in the hands of the state, the question of ground rent has for the peasant, so to speak, a bookkeeping and not an economic significance. But the peasant is little occupied with precisely this bookkeeping technique. He draws a wholesale balance to his relations with the city and state.

It would be more correct to approach this question from another angle. Because of the nationalization of land, factories and mills, the liquidation of the foreign debts and the planned economy, the workers’ state acquired the possibility to reach in a short period high speeds of industrial development. On this road there was undoubtedly created one of the most important premises for collectivization. But this premise is not a juridical, but a material-productive one; it expresses itself in a definite number of plows, binders, combines, tractors, grain elevators, agronomists, etc., etc. It is precisely from these real entities that the collectivization plan should proceed. This is when the plan will be real. But to the real fruits of nationalization we cannot always add nationalization itself, like some sort of a reserve fund out of which all the excesses of the “complete” bureaucratic adventures can be covered. This would be the same as if having deposited his capital in the bank, one would want to use his capital and the interest on it at the same time. This is the conclusion in general. But the specific, individual conclusion may be formulated more simply:

                “Tomfool, Tomfool,
It were better that you stayed in school”

than to leave for distant theoretical excursions.

Stalin as a Theoretician – II

From The New International, Vol. VII No. 10 (Whole No. 58), November 1941, pp. 280–283.

The Formulae of Marx and the Audacity of Ignorance

BETWEEN THE FIRST and third volumes of Capital there is a second. Our theoretician considers it his duty to commit an administrative abuse of the second volume, too. Stalin has to cover up quickly from criticism the present policy of compulsory collectivization. Since there are no necessary arguments in the material conditions of economy he looks for them in authoritative books with the result that he inevitably looks for them every time on the wrong page.

The advantages of large-scale economy over small, agriculture included, are proved by all capitalistic experiences. The possible advantages of large-scale collective economy over dispersed, small economy were established even before Marx by the Utopian socialists, and their arguments remain basically sound. In this sphere, the Utopians were great realists. Their Utopia began with the question of the historical road of collectivization. Here the direction was indicated by the Marxian theory of the class struggle in connection with the criticism of capitalist economy.

Capital gives an analysis and a synthesis of the processes of capitalist economy. The second volume examines the imminent mechanism of the growth of capitalist economy. The algebraic formulae of this volume prove how, from one and the same creative protoplasm – abstract human labor – the means of production are crystalized in the form of constant capital, wages – in the form of variable capital, and surplus value, which is afterward transformed into a source of additional constant and variable capital. This in turn permits the acquisition of greater surplus value. Such is the spiral of extended reproduction in its most general and abstract form.

In order to prove by what process the different material elements of the economic process, commodities, find each other inside of this unregulated whole, or more precisely, by what process constant and variable capital accomplish the necessary balance in the different branches of industry with the general growth of production and on the other – enterprises producing articles of consumption. The enterprises of the first category have to supply machines, raw materials and auxiliary materials to themselves as well as to the enterprises of the second category. In turn, the enterprises of the second category have to cover their own needs, as well as the needs of the enterprises of the first category with articles of consumption. Marx reveals the general mechanism of the accomplishment of this proportionality which creates the basis of the dynamic balance under capitalism. The question of agriculture in its mutual relation to industry therefore rests on an altogether different plane. Stalin evidently simply confused the production of articles of consumption with agriculture. With Marx, how-ever, enterprises of capitalist agriculture (only capitalist ) producing raw materials enter automatically into the first category. In so far as agricultural production has peculiarities that contrast it to industry as a whole, the analysis of these peculiarities begins in the third volume.

The Process of Extended Reproduction

Extended reproduction occurs in reality not only at the expense of surplus value created by the workers of industry itself and capitalist agriculture but also by the influx of fresh means from the outside: from the pre-capitalist village of backward countries, colonies, etc. The acquisition or surplus values from the village and colonies is conceivable once more, either in the form of unequal exchange or compulsory expropriation (primarily through taxes, or finally, in the credit form savings bank, loans, etc.) Historically, all these forms of exploitation combine in different proportions and play a no lesser role than the extortion of surplus value in its “pure” form; the deepening of capitalist exploitation always goes hand in hand with its broadening. But the formulae of Marx that interest us very carefully dissect the live process of economic development, clearing capitalist reproduction from all pre-capitalist elements and transitional forms which accompany it and which feed it, and at the expense of which it develops. Marx’s formulae dealt with a chemically pure capitalism which never existed and does not exist anywhere now. Precisely because of this, they revealed the basic tendencies of every capitalism, but precisely of capitalism and only capitalism.

To anybody having an understanding of Capital, it is obvious that neither in the first, second nor third volumes can an answer be found to the question of the tempo the dictatorship of the proletariat should adopt in collectivizing peasant economy. All these questions, as well as scores of others, were not solved in any books and could not be solved because of their very essence. In essence, Stalin in no way differs from the merchant who would seek guidance in Marx’s simplest formula M–C–M (money–commodity–money), as to what and when to buy and sell to obtain a bigger profit. Stalin simply confuses theoretical generalization with practical prescription, not to speak of the fact that the theoretical generalization itself is related by Marx to a completely different problem.

Stalin Refers to Marx

Why, then, did Stalin have to refer to the formulae of extended reproduction which he evidently does not under-stand? The explanations of Stalin himself in regard to this are so inimitable that we are compelled to quote them liter-ally: “The Marxist theory of reproduction teaches that contemporary (?) society cannot develop without annual accumulations, and it is impossible to accumulate without ex-tended reproduction year in and year out. This is clear and evident.” It cannot be clearer. But this is not taught by Marxist theory, for it is the general property of bourgeois political economy, its quintessence. “Accumulation” as a condition of development “of contemporary society” is precisely the great idea which vulgar political economy cleared of the elements of the labor theory of value which had their foundation in classical political economy. The theory which Stalin so bombastically proposes “to draw out of the treasure of Marxism” is a commonplace, uniting not only Adam Smith and Bastiat but also the latter with the American President Hoover. “Contemporary society” – not capitalist but “contemporary” – is used with the object of extending Marxist formulae also to “contemporary” socialist society. “This is clear and evident.” Right here Stalin continues: “Our large-scale centralized socialist industry develops according to the Marxist theory of extended reproduction (!) because (!!) it grows yearly in scale, has its accumulations and advances with seven league boots.” Industry develops according to the Marxist theory – an immortal formula – in absolutely the same way as oats grow dialectically, according to Hegel. To a bureaucrat, theory is the formula of administration. But the immediate essence of the matter does not lie in this. “The Marxist theory of reproduction” refers to the capitalist mode of production. But Stalin speaks of Soviet industry, which he considers socialist without any reservations. In this manner, according to Stalin, “socialist industry” develops according to the theory of capitalist reproduction. We see how incautiously Stalin slipped his hand into the “treasure of Marxism.” If two economic processes, anarchical and planned, are covered by one and the same theory of reproduction, which is built up on the laws of anarchical production, then this itself reduces to zero the planned, that is, the socialist beginning. However, these two are only the blossoms – the berries are still ahead.

The best gem extracted by Stalin from the treasure is the above-underlined (italicized) little word “because”: socialist industry develops according to the theory of capitalist industry, “because it grows yearly in scale, has its accumulations and advances with seven league boots.” Poor theory! Unfortunate treasure! Wretched Marx! Does it mean that the Marxian theory was created especially as a basis for the necessity of yearly advances and, at that, with seven league boots? But what about periods when capitalist industry develops at a “snail’s pace”? For those instances, apparently, Marx’s theory is rejected. But all capitalist production extends cyclically through prosperity and crises; it means that it not only does not advance with seven league or any other boots, but marks time and retreats. It appears that Marx’s schema is not suited to capitalist development, for the explanation of which it was created, but for that it completely answers the nature of the “seven league” advances of socialist industry. Aren’t these miracles? Not limiting himself to the teachings of angels with regard to the nationalization of land, and occupying himself at the same time with the basic correction of Marx, Stalin at any rate marches with ... seven league boots. In the mean-time, the formulae or “capital” crack under his hands like nuts.

But why did Stalin need all this? the puzzled reader will ask. Alas! We cannot jump over stages, especially when we can hardly keep up with our theoretician. A little patience and all will be revealed. Immediately after the point analyzed here, Stalin continues: “But our large-scale industry does not exhaust all of our national economy. On the contrary, in our national economy, small peasant holdings are still predominant. Can it be said that our small peasant holdings develop according to the principle (!) of extended reproduction? No, it cannot be said. Our small peasant holdings ... do not always have the possibility of realizing even simple reproduction. Can we move forward with an accelerated tempo our socialized industry, having such peasant economy as a basis? No, we cannot.” Further on, the conclusion follows: complete collectivization is necessary.

Stalin Discloses the Un-Marxian Village!

This point is still better than the preceding one. From the somnolent banality of exposition every now and then rockets of audacious ignorance explode. Does the peasant, that is, simple commodity economy, develop according to the laws of capitalist economy? No, our theoretician replies in terror. It is clear: the Village does not live according to Marx. This matter must be corrected. Stalin attempts, in his report, to reject the petty bourgeois theories on the stability of peasant economy. However, becoming entangled in the net of Marxian formulae, he gives this theory a most generalized expression. In reality, the theory of extended reproduction, according to the idea of Marx, embraces capitalist economy as a whole, not only industry but agriculture as well, only in its pure form, that is, without its pre-capitalist remnants. But Stalin, leaving aside, for some reason, handicraft and guild occupations, poses the question: “Can it be said that our small peasant holdings develop according to the principle (!) of extended reproduction?” “No,” he replies, “it cannot be said.” In other words, Stalin, in the most generalized form, repeats the assertions of the bourgeois economists that agriculture does not develop according to the “principle” of the Marxian theory of capitalist production. Wouldn’t it be better, after this, to keep still? After all, the Marxian agronomists kept still listening to his shameful abuse of the teachings of Marx. Yet, the softest of answers should have sounded thus: Get off the tribune immediately, and do not dare to deliberate on problems about which you know nothing!

But we shall not follow the example of the Marxian agronomists and keep still. Ignorance armed with power is just as dangerous as insanity armed with a razor.

The formulae of the second volume of Marx do not represent guiding “principles” of socialist construction, but objective generalizations of capitalist processes. These formulae, abstracted from the peculiarities of agriculture, not only do not contradict its development, but fully embrace it as capitalist agriculture.

The only thing that can be said about agriculture in the framework of the formulae of the second volume is that the latter pre-suppose the existence of a sufficient quantity of agricultural raw materials and agricultural products for consumption, for insuring extended reproduction. But what should be the correlation between agriculture and industry: as in England? or as in America? Both these types conform equally to Marxist formulae. England imports articles for consumption and raw materials. America exports them. There is no contradiction here with the formulae of extended reproduction, which are in no way limited by national boundaries, and are not adapted either to national capitalism or, even less, to socialism in one country.

If people should arrive at synthetic feeding, and at synthetic forms of raw material, agriculture would be completely reduced to nothing, being substituted by new branches of the chemical industry. What would then become of the formulae of extended reproduction? They would retain all their validity to the extent that the capitalist form of production and distribution would remain.

Agricultural bourgeois Russia, with the tremendous pre-dominance of the peasantry, not only covered the demands of the growing industries, but also created the possibility of large exports.

The processes were accompanied by the strengthening of the kulak top and the weakening of the peasant bottom, their growing proletarianization. In this manner, in spite of all its peculiarities, agriculture on capitalistic foundations developed within the framework of those very formulae with which Marx embraced the whole capitalist economy – and only capitalist economy.

Peasant Economy and “Socialist” Industry

Stalin wants to come to the conclusion that this is impossible “to base ... socialist construction on two different foundations: on the foundation of the greatest and most consolidated socialist industry and on the foundation of the most dispersed and backward small commodity peasant economy.” In reality, he proves something directly contrary. If the formulae of extended reproduction are equally applicable to capitalist and socialist economy – to “contemporary society” generally – then it is absolutely incomprehensible why it is impossible to continue the further development of economy on the very foundation of the contradictions between city and village, upon which capitalism reached an immeasurably higher level. In America, gigantic industrial trusts develop even today, side by side with the farmer regime in agriculture. The farmer economy created the foundation of American industry. It is precisely on the American type, by the way, that our bureaucrats, with Stalin at their head, orientated themselves openly until yesterday: the powerful farmer at the bottom, centralized industry at the top.

The ideal equivalent of exchange is the basic premise of the abstract formulae of the second volume. Nevertheless, planned economy of the transition period, even though based upon the law of value, violates it at every step and creates mutual relations between different branches of industry and primarily between industry and agriculture on the basis of unequal exchange. The decisive lever of compulsory accumulation and planned distribution is the government budget. With a further development, its role will have to grow. Financial credits regulate the mutual relations between compulsory accumulation of the budget and the processes of the market in so far as they retain their force. Not only the budgetary, but also the planned or semi-planned credit financing which insures the extension of reproduction in the USSR, can in no way he summed up in the formulae of the second volume, the whole force of which lies in the fact that they ignore budgets or plans or tariffs, and in general, all forms of governmentally planned influence that establish the necessary regulations over the play of blind forces of the market, which are disciplined by the law of value. No sooner would we “free” the internal Soviet market and abolish the monopoly of foreign trade than the exchange between the city and village would become in-comparably more equalized, accumulation in the village – it is understood kulak, farmer-capitalist accumulation – would take its course and it would soon reveal that Marx’s formulae apply also to agriculture. On this road, Russia would in a brief period be transformed into a colony upon which the industrial development of other countries would be based.

In order to motivate this same complete collectivization, the school of Stalin (there is such a thing) has made use of the stark comparisons between the tempo of development in industry and agriculture. Crudest of all, this operation is per-formed, as usual, by Molotov. In February, 1929, Molotov spoke at the Moscow district conference of the party:

6#8220;Agriculture in recent years has noticeably lagged behind industry in the tempo of development ... For the last three years, industrial production increased in value by more than 50 per cent and the products of agriculture – all in all – by 7 per cent.”

The comparison of these two tempos is economic illiteracy. By peasant economy they include, in reality, all branches of economy. The development of industry has always, and in all branches, taken place at the expense of the reduction of the specific gravity of agriculture. It is sufficient to recall that metallurgical production in the United States is almost equal to the production of farmer economy at a time when with us, it is one-eighteenth of agricultural production. This shows that in spite of the high tempos of recent years, our industry has not yet emerged from the period of infancy. In order to eliminate the contradictions between city and villages created by bourgeois development. Soviet industry must first surpass the village to an incomparably greater degree than bourgeois Russia did. The present breach between state industry and peasant economy did not proceed from the fact that industry surpassed agriculture too greatly – the advanced position of industry is an internationally historical fact and a necessary condition for progress – but from the fact that our industry is too weak, that is, it has gone ahead too little to have the possibility to raise agriculture to the necessary level. The aim, of course, is the elimination of the contradictions between the city and the village. But the roads and methods of this elimination have nothing in common with the equalization of tempos of agriculture and industry. The mechanization of agriculture and the industrialization of a series of its branches will be accompanied, on the contrary, by the reduction of the specific gravity of agriculture as such. The tempo of the mechanization we can accomplish is determined by the productive power of industry. What is decisive for collectivization is not the fact that metallurgy rose in recent years by a few score per cent, but the fact that our metal per capita is negligible. The growth of collectivization is only of equal significance to the growth of agriculture itself in so far as the first is based on the technical revolution of agricultural production. But the tempo of such a revolution is limited by the per cent specific gravity of industry. The tempo of collectivization must be combined with the material resources of the latter and not at all with abstract statistical tempos.

Capital and Socialist Reproduction

In the interests of theoretical clarity, it should be added to what has been said/that the elimination of the contradictions between city and village, that is, the raising of agricultural production to a scientific-industrial level, will mean the triumph not of Marx’s formulae in agriculture, as Stalin imagines, but, on the contrary, the elimination of their triumph in industry. Because socialist extended reproduction will not at all take place according to the formulae of Capital, the central point of which is the pursuit of profits. But all of this is too complicated for Stalin and Molotov.

Let us repeat in the conclusion of this chapter that collectivization is the practical task of eliminating capitalism and not the theoretical task of its development. That is why the Marxian formulae are not applicable here from any point of view. The practical possibilities of collectivization are deter-mined by the productive-technical resources at hand for large-scale agriculture and the degree of readiness of the peasantry to pass from individual to collective economy. In the long run, this subjective analysis is determined by the very same material-productive factor: the peasant can be attracted to socialism only by the advantage of collective economy, supported by advanced technique. But instead of a tractor, Stalin wants to present the peasant with the formulae of the second volume. But the peasant is honest and does not want to deliberate over what he does not understand.


Prinkipo, Turkey, March 1930

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Last updated on: 4.11.2012