XLIV. SOCIALISM IN ONE COUNTRY
THE defeats of the Italian and German proletariats, accentuated by the events in Britain and China, left Soviet Russia isolated. The Communist International under Lenin had hoped that an international revolution would support the proletarian revolution in Russia. The international revolution, however, apparently was not immediate. The Russian working class found itself surrounded externally by a hostile capitalist world with which it had to deal, and internally with a vast peasantry composing the overwhelming majority of the population. The thin red line of Bolsheviks would now have an exceedingly hard time to hold the fort.
The difficulty necessarily was aggravated when the New Economic Policy was introduced. The NEP itself was a sign that a certain retreat was inevitable and that, to survive, the Russians had to make concessions to world capitalism. Under Lenin, the retreat was mainly an economic one. Foreign capital was sought, free trade was established, and domestic capitalism to a considerable extent was revived, but politically the proletariat kept firm control, so that capitalist competition served merely to stimulate the productivity of the country and to consolidate the hold of the working class dictatorship.
But eventually politics follows economics; the economic retreat under Lenin was to become a political retreat under Stalin. The NEP had accelerated production greatly, it was true, but it also greatly had increased the importance of the capitalist elements of economy. These capitalists could not overthrow the proletarian regime directly, but they could transform its apparatus and undermine the workers’ rule.
Technically, the Russian workers had been extremely backward. Far more than in industrial countries, they had to rely upon the specialists and the engineers of the Czar for the reconstitution of national economy. These specialists and intellectuals could be made to serve the proletariat only at a price, only by special privileges, higher salaries, certain control in the factories, etc. Furthermore, the need for such experts was so great that a moiety of the skilled workers and communist functionaries could be moved into this stratum of society relatively easily. Once ensconced in their exceptional positions, such workers tended to become bureaucrats and, with their special posts, could well become the connecting link between the old Czarist specialists and the trade unions, co-operatives, and Soviets. Simultaneously within the mass institutions a certain stratification was taking place. The trade unions no longer were engaged in a bitter day-to-day struggle against national capitalism. Not the capitalist, but the trade union official had the last say in the question of hiring and firing and negotiated the matter of hours and wages and working conditions. These trade union officials also obtained for themselves the salaries and privileges of the intellectual elements, and gradually separated themselves from the mass of workers. This deviation was still more sharply delineated in the Soviets, where the very nature of the government organs compelled them to admit large numbers of former white-collar workers, bookkeepers, accountants, office clerks, and specialists of one sort or another.
Theoretically, the Communist Party, being composed of the most advanced and courageous elements, should have been in a position to correct the growth of bureaucracy. However, since these bureaucrats temporarily were exceedingly necessary, a mass dismissal of them would have disorganized the whole plan for reconstruction. After the exhaustive World War, civil war, and famine periods, above all more production was imperative, and the Communist Party was forced to make many concessions to these functionaries in order to keep the economic machine going. But what was far more important, within the Communist Party itself bureaucracy was undergoing a mushroom growth. The stress of leading the world revolution could not be placed forever upon the Russian working class. If the Russians were not relieved by other sections of the world proletariat, they were bound to grow tired and to crack under the strain. This weariness of the Communist Party leaders was manifest in their disinterest in the world revolution, which had been disappointing in its delay, and in emphasis on national problems. The fact that world capitalism had not been able to overthrow the Soviet Union gave them a certain security which induced an attitude of rest and repose. They turned away from permanent revolution to economic problems of construction in which the class struggle no longer was felt directly to the same degree as before.
It should be borne in mind, too, that the victory of the Russian communists had given to the leadership enormous power and had attracted to this Party all sorts of careerists and adventurers who bowed down to the apparatus precisely in proportion as they hoped themselves to inherit this power for their own advantage. Had the Bolsheviks engaged in ruthless civil war internationally so as to be able constantly to test and to refresh their Party, such elements could have been minimized or even eliminated, but the animadversion from the world revolution denied the Russians the opportunity to prove all their new recruits. On the other hand, these new members, especially those who previously had been with the Social- Revolutionaries or the Mensheviks and who had entered into the Bolshevik Party by the thousands, were able to carry their old nationalist baggage with them and to accentuate the tendencies to nationalism and bureaucracy already growing among the Communists. Thus the isolation of the Russian proletariat and the failure of the world revolution to materialize in other countries led to a sort of vicious circle or, rather, to a downward spiral in which party degeneration and growing bureaucracy mutually aided each other.
To sum up the forces alien to the proletariat within the country: there were the kulaks on the countryside who still hired laborers; the middle peasants who wanted more land, high prices for goods, and free trade; the foreign capitalists and their agents in the cities; the merchants and traders who believed in free trade; and the small property elements who bought government bonds and wanted to live on their incomes. There were also the specialists, the intellectuals, and the bureaucratic functionaries.
The bureaucratic functionaries could be divided into several categories. Closest to the capitalist class were the old Czarist officials, specialists, experts, and engineers of all sorts. These worked in the factories and in the soviets. They supposedly were controlled by designated representatives of the workers and the peasants, but frequently these deputies found themselves closer to the specialists than to the workers; they soon formed a second layer of bureaucrats entrenched in the co-operatives, in the trade unions, and in the Soviets. Both of these two layers of functionaries tried desperately to enter the Communist Party and added their weight to the third element which controlled the Party and the International.
The situation was well expressed by the figures of the Communist Party given out for January 1, 1927. Out of approximately 1,200,000 members of the Communist Party at that time, only about one-third, or 430,000, were workers actually occupied in industry and transport; at the same time, the Party contained 462,000 officials, half of whom were formerly workers, and 303,000 peasants, of whom more than half were now governmental officials.
In the latter part of his life, Lenin began to recognize the seriousness of this situation. “In his speech at the last Party Congress he attended, Lenin said: ‘Here we have lived a year, with the state in our hands, and under the New Economic Policy has it operated our way? No. We don’t like to acknowledge this, but it hasn’t. And how has it operated? The machine isn’t going where we guide it, but where some illegal, or lawless, or God-knows-whence-derived speculators or private capitalistic businessmen either the one or the other, are guiding it. A machine doesn’t always travel just exactly the way, and it often travels just exactly not the way, that the man imagines who sits at the wheel.’ “ (*1)
Under the given conditions of a victorious proletarian revolution in a backward agrarian country, the capitalist classes and their agents within could not hope for a direct coup d’etat for the restoration of capitalism. Just as no class could have overthrown Czarism and established the power of the Soviets other than the proletariat, so was there no other class that could challenge the existing rule. Instead of a head-on collision with the proletarian party and the class, therefore, the growth of capitalism would have to take the form of steady triturition of that party, its slow corrosion and degeneration. Such degeneration had been known many times before in history. The kulak, the Nepman, the specialist and the bureaucrat represented the Thermidorean elements within Russia that were working for the restoration of capitalism.
Furthermore, if capitalism was to get a foothold in the Bolshevik Party it had to do so stealthily, not by open argument, certainly so long as Lenin was alive, but by secret organizational maneuvers. Those in the top layers of the Bolshevik Party who would capitulate the soonest would be naturally the officials who had never been abroad or subject to the direct influence of international experience, who were not the foremost intellectual leaders but rather those who had in their hands the power of appointments, removals and general organizational supervision.
In this respect the person who nearest represented the ideal was Stalin. Intellectually a mediocrity who had never played a theoretical role in the party but who per contra was a man of “action” and strong will, strongly influenced by reformism, having come from Georgia, (a territory that had always yielded a large per cent of social reformists due to the general backwardness of the country) and more than once clashed with the internationalism of Lenin, (*2) Stalin, who had been given the post of organizational secretary of the party, was precisely the man in exactly the position to accomplish the change. The illness of Lenin gave Stalin the needed opportunity and he steadily began to increase his influence by placing his men secretly in the important positions of the party. What was more, Stalin was at the head of the “Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection,” an institution intended to eradicate bureaucracy in the State organization, and, in that position, he had been able greatly to consolidate his hold. We already have noted Stalin’s vacillations during the revolution and his intrigue during the civil war leading directly to the loss of the Polish campaign. Now Stalin was to plot to drive Lenin himself from the leader’s position. (*3) His intrigue would culminate in the arrest, exile, and execution of all the old leading partners of Lenin. In 1937, Stalin would be supreme.
Already, in the early part of 1923, Lenin had taken steps for Stalin’s removal. At that time he proposed a complete reorganization of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection and, in March, 1923, from his sick bed, Lenin dictated a letter to Stalin breaking off all comradely relations with him. (*4) But Lenin was now mortally ill and, when his proposal was brought to the Political Bureau by Trotsky at Lenin’s request, Stalin, Bucharin, and others not only were hostile but actually proposed not to print the resolution in the press. Intrigue went so far, indeed, that “In view of the insistent demand of Lenin that the article should be shown him in print, Comrade Kuibishev, afterwards the head of the Rabkrin, proposed that one special number of Pravda should be printed with Lenin’s article and shown to him, while the article itself should be concealed from the party.” (*5)
Such circumstances as these induced Lenin to write his “Testament” to the Bolsheviks in which, having traced the instability of the Russian State to the fact that it rested not only upon the proletariat but also upon the peasantry, and having declared that, under such circumstances, a split in the Party was quite possible, and after having characterized the defects of both Stalin and of Trotsky, he stated: “Stalin is too rude and this fault, entirely supportable in relations among us Communists, becomes insupportable in the office of General Secretary. Therefore, I propose to the comrades to find a way to remove Stalin from that position and appoint to it another man who in all respects differs from Stalin only in superiority—namely, more patient, more loyal, more polite and more attentive to comrades, less capricious, and so on.” (*6)
The death of Lenin brought to light the terrific struggle within the Communist Party that had been brewing during his illness. While understanding well enough the two-class foundation of the Russian State, neither Lenin nor Trotsky had appreciated sufficiently the practical implications of this duality to the Communist Party; both failed to see soon enough that the class struggle would be waged within the ranks of the Bolsheviks themselves. Thus, they realized too late that, during the entire period beginning with the New Economic Policy, the anti-proletarian forces had been obtaining a firm foothold in the Party and, through Stalin, were working for its control. The struggle of the classes had gone on secretly for some time; in 1924 it burst into the open.
In Russia, the battle of the classes could find its expression in no other way than through formulations within the Communist Party. Both sides would be composed of sincere and tested communists of long standing and yet, ironically enough, it was only through such communists that capitalism could have an opportunity to express itself. In other words, only when capitalist pressure could reach the Communist Party could capitalist ideology come out in the open. Whatever class controlled the Party would be in a position to dictate terms. That this situation was not examined concretely enough by Lenin and by Trotsky could be seen from their permitting Stalin to act in the key, although at the time subordinate, post of organizational Secretary.
The struggle began on the question of bureaucracy in the Party and in the soviets, but behind this struggle loomed the wider and more basic interests of the proletariat. At the end of 1922, while Lenin was ill, the Central Committee already had adopted a resolution which would have meant the end of the State monopoly of foreign trade, and thus would have opened the doors wide to world capitalism, and transformed Russia sooner or later into an agrarian region at the mercy of industrial imperialism. Only through the monopoly of foreign trade could Russia begin rapid industrial reconstruction and supply for herself the sinews of war that adequately could defend her. Had Russia become simply part of the capitalist world division of labor, then her factories would have been rendered idle by the more efficient production of the West and, while the peasantry would have benefitted from cheaper goods, the proletarian power would have been liquidated. Thanks to the energy of Lenin and of Trotsky, this measure of the Central Committee was defeated.
Significant too, was the fact that Trotsky was able to convince Lenin of the necessity for an independent State Planning Commission (The Gosplan) that should devise a national plan of industrialization which in turn would supply the material basis for the growing and continuous power of the proletariat. The struggle that arose between Stalin and Trotsky was precisely over the deep questions of the building-up of Russian economy. These questions had to do with the relations of the proletariat to the peasantry, of industry to agriculture, with the relations between light and heavy industry, with the relations of Russia to the rest of the world.
The crushing defeat that the soviets had given to the counter-revolution and to foreign intervention had allowed the Russians a breathing space in which to concentrate upon building up a new economy from the ruins of the old. The victory of the proletariat, which ultimately would lead to a far better system of production than capitalism had developed, nevertheless had been consolidated only after the country was in utter ruin. It was necessary to obtain more products. The workers were demanding bread, the peasants were crying for shoes, clothing, finished goods. If the grain were seized from the peasants without any commensurate return, the alliance between the workers and their agrarian supporters would be broken, and a new civil war would result. On the other hand, the proletariat could not produce goods cheaply, when all the chief factories were in a ruined condition. Above all, it was necessary to throw all possible resources of the country into building up the industries.
Such a course, however, strenuously was resisted by the peasantry who knew that any building-up of industry would have to come from capital reserves obtained by selling peasant products on the open markets. The peasants would have preferred to have given up the monopoly of foreign trade and to have obtained cheap products directly from abroad. Thus the struggle opening up for the industrialization of Russia involved the question of the relation of the workers to the peasants.
From the beginning, the Central Committee, deprived of Lenin’s aid, tended to make great concessions to the peasantry. The most efficient producers were the kulaks and, in order to hold up their output as an example before the middle peasants, favors had to be granted to the wealthier group. Every effort was made by the Central Executive to show the peasants that the workers did not mean to behave unsympathetically to their problems. The communist leaders began to talk of building socialism at a snail’s pace; they raised the motto to the peasantry of “Enrich yourselves,” and adopted the slogan “Face to the village.” Bucharin believed that even the kulak would be able to grow into socialism.
Such a solution, however, only could aggravate the problem. The fact that taxation was so light on the kulak meant that very little surplus could be accumulated to throw into industry. With the growth of production on the countryside, the lack of finished goods in the city presented an ever greater contrast, and the peasants began to rebel at the lack of finished commodities under which they were suffering. But, more than that, the workers too were beginning to complain.
The opposition under Trotsky had urged the industrialization of the country in the speediest possible manner commensurate with the task of maintaining the alliance with the mass of peasantry. First of all they had enunciated the idea of the need for a national plan carefully regulating the amounts to be thrown into heavy industry for the manufacture of means of production and machinery, and the amounts to be thrown into light industry producing the means of consumption that would satisfy directly the needs of the masses. Trotsky pointed out that, hand in hand with the growth of economy, there would have to go the improved condition of the working class, which was also one of the productive forces, indeed the main productive force to be considered.
The Central Committee attacked these proposals as part of Trotsky’s tendencies to ignore the peasantry on the ground that his plan would lead to a break of the alliance between the workers and the peasants. The opposition was denounced as a group of super-industrialists who would ruin the Soviet Union. The Central Committee declared that to undertake such industrialization would mean that taxes would become so heavy on the peasantry that it would revolt under the leadership of the kulak.
It became clear enough, however, that behind the policy of the Central Committee actually were gathered all the kulak elements, the Nepmen and capitalist agents who feared the growth of industrialization as strengthening the hand of the proletariat in soviet economy. The workers themselves began to take a hand in the debate. If Russia was not industrialized rapidly, then there would be no economic basis for the sustaining of the proper kind of Red Army that adequately could defend the isolated Soviet Union. Without industrialization, it would be impossible for prices ever to become cheap without the breakdown of the monopoly of foreign trade, a step which the workers meant to resist to the end.
The platform of the opposition was worked out in this period. It pointed out that the whole taxation policy of the Soviet Union was becoming distorted in favor of the kulak, with the result that the poorer agrarians were bearing the burden and slowly bowing under it. In spite of the equalitarian confiscation of the land, 34 per cent of the poorest peasantry earned only 18 per cent of the total income, while 7 per cent of the top layers earned also 18 per cent. The taxation policy of the country was not taking into account this growing differentation, was not taxing the kulak sufficiently. Furthermore, because of free trade and the great dearth of goods, the disparity between wholesale and retail prices was enormous, leading to the wildest speculation on the part of the Nepmen and kulaks. On the other hand, real wages were not rising commensurately with the increased production, while the intensity of labor was becoming greater. Housing conditions were appalling, scarcely any funds being thrown into this phase of economy.
Concatinated with this lack of improvement in the workers’ standards went the fact that the trade unions were becoming reduced to mere shells. “In the staff of the elective executive organs of ten industrial unions, the percentage of workers from the shops and non-party militant workers is extremely small (12 to 13 per cent). The immense majority of the delegates to the trade-union conferences are people entirely disassociated from industry.” (*7) The opposition demanded that an end be made to these intolerable sacrifices on the part of the proletariat, and that the workers’ conditions immediately be improved. It also demanded a reform of the trade unions, cleaning out the bureaucrats and drawing into greater participation the non-party members. “At every trade-union congress (including the all-union congress) and in all the elective organs of the trade unions (including the All-Russian Council of Trade Unions) there must be a majority of workers directly engaged in industry. The percentage of non-party workers in these organs must be raised to at least one-third.” (*8) Moreover, the opposition incurred the deadly hatred of the trade union functionaries by proposing that “at regular intervals, a certain number of the officials of the trade-union apparatus must be drafted for industrial work.” (*9)
The agrarian program of the opposition contained far-reaching changes. It proposed that the State aid, with credits and machinery, only the village poor to whom would be allied the middle peasants. These two sections, together with the agricultural laborers, would comprise the heart of agrarian collective enterprise. A maximum sum should be appropriated for the creation of the soviet and collective farms.
The Central Committee finally, in 1926, had adopted a Five-Year Plan which had called for a rate of from 4 per cent to 9 per cent annual increase in production. This was far from enough, according to the opposition. "The gigantic advantage involved in the nationalization of the land, the means of production, the banks, and the centralized organs of administration—that is, the advantages derived from the socialist revolution—find almost no expression in the five-year plan." (*10) As a matter of fact, when the Committee began to put its Plan into operation, it had to revise it upward several times, so far had it diverged from the capacity of the toilers to achieve.
Finally, in the economic section of its program, the opposition considered the problem of resources for the rapid upbuilding of industrial economy of the Soviet Union, called for a far heavier tax upon the kulak and Nepman and for a strict regime of economy, including the dismissal of a considerable part of the army of bureaucrats. Every effort was to be made to increase the export of agricultural goods and the import of machinery and finished articles, and to obtain credits abroad. Finally, the government should terminate the sale of vodka in order to raise the material and spiritual resources of the country.
The views of the opposition split the Bolshevik Party into three distinct groups. To the Left was the faction of Trotsky to which soon adhered Zinoviev and Kamenev, representing the most important centers of Leningrad and of Moscow, although at the start they had fought the opposition. To the extreme Right were the communists representing the trade union officialdom and specialists, led by Bucharin, Tomsky, Rykov, and others. Between these two, representing the communist officialdom in the Party itself were the Stalinists, at the head of the Party apparatus, swinging from Right to Left as they were pushed now by one class and now by the other.
At first, the Stalin faction worked hand in glove with the Right Wing of Bucharin and united with it to defeat the Left. Only by defeating the Left could the apparatus itself live and grow. The communist apparatus was in a peculiar position. On the one hand, it was tiring of incessant revolution and was rapidly turning from the struggle, thus turning away from the position of the proletariat towards that of alien groups; on the other hand, it was functioning in a country where the proletarians had taken the power and, in a sense, was a prisoner of the revolution which had given it power.
In order to defeat the proletarian policy, of the Left opposition, Stalin was forced to take steps leading to the complete crushing of the Communist Party, nationally and internationally. For four years, from 1924 to 1928, no Congress of the International was held. Instead there were substituted periodic meetings of the top functionaries only. The theory was advanced that the Communist Party had to be a monolithic organization, of one piece, that no factional discussion could be tolerated. This was interpreted to mean that any criticism of the apparatus now was impossible, and, in order to enforce its decrees, all discussion was broken up in the most brutal manner; into the Party for the first time entered rowdyism. Secret soviet police began to sit in at the Party meetings themselves to make the arrests. Local secretaries were appointed from the top. Whole units and sections were dissolved. Thousands of Party members were arrested and sent to jail for Trotskyism. Others actually were condemned and put to death. Trotsky, himself, together with other leaders, was exiled to Siberia and then deported.
The mechanism which the apparatus used to control the Party was both internal and external. The following tricks were resorted to within the Party: 1. The drives. 2. The purges. 3. The frame-up. 4. The abolition of democracy. We shall discuss briefly these various features of Communist degeneration.
Just prior to the death of Lenin, when the struggle against Trotsky began, the apparatus had immediate need of drawing in as many henchmen as necessary in order to swing the votes. The leaders inaugurated what they called the “Lenin Drive,” which was supposed to draw hundreds of thousands of workers into the Party to replace the loss of Lenin and to strengthen the Party. Of this drive, Walter Duranty wrote: “Not long before Christmas it was announced that the Thirteenth Party Conference had decided that one hundred thousand ‘workers from the bench’ should be invited to join the Party without delay. The inference was obvious that this new membership, which amounted to nearly 20 per cent of the total strength of the Party at that time, would be hand-picked by the Secretariat, through its subordinate personnel in Moscow and the provinces. When it subsequently became known that the new members would have a right to vote for delegates to the next Party Congress (in May, 1924), the full import of the maneuver became clear; the Secretariat had boldly added 20 per cent of the total electorate to its own supporters in what bid fair to be an evenly divided contest. Several years later a veteran communist told me he thought this to have been the turning point in the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky. ‘Prior to that,’ he said, ‘the odds were in Trotsky’s favor.’ “ (*11)
Thus, the Party, instead of being strengthened, was filled with persons who had not professed communism during the stern period of the civil war, but who were trying to benefit, now that the Bolsheviks were in power. How well the apparatus succeeded can be seen from the following figures. “Following the death of Lenin, on January 21, 1924, the Party increased its membership from 440,000 to 741,000 in 1924, or a growth of 63.6 per cent. By 1925, there was a further increase of 39.7 per cent, and, in 1926, of 12.3 per cent.” (*12) “In 1926, however, over 85 per cent had entered since 1924. This means that they had not suffered for the party and their convictions under the Czar’s regime.” (*13) At the same time, the membership of the Youth League jumped from 500,700 in 1924 to 1,140,706 in 1925, and to 2,051,950 in 1926.
Simultaneously with the drives went the purges. It would be announced that the Party contained too many careerist and untested elements; these the apparatus would proceed to eradicate. Naturally, the brunt of the expulsions and suspensions that took place in wholesale fashion was borne by those in opposition to the center. Thus, by means of this double process of purges and drives, the Stalinist apparatus was creating an entirely new Communist Party made up of brand new material, the only stable element of which was the bureaucracy itself. Now, more than ever, the membership was not to be trusted in the eyes of the officials, because it was new and untried; now, more than ever, all the decisions of the Party were in the hands of the functionaries whose head was Stalin.
But all these measures still were not sufficient to drive out the Left opposition whose leaders had won enormous prestige in the trying days when communism had been forced to fight for its life in Russia. To discredit its enemies, Stalinism invented the peculiar Russian form of frame-up to which has been given the name of “Amalgam.” This process consisted of obtaining a notorious White-Guard or anti-communist agent and planting him among the oppositionists where his presence could prove that the opposition was a counter-revolutionary group plotting against the proletariat in the Soviet Union. Without this method, the apparatus never could have succeeded in removing such men as Trotsky from the Party. (*14) With this excuse, too, the OGPU agents began to sit in on all discussions of the Party, making criminal arrests of those who were suspected of being oppositionists.
These methods could succeed only when coupled with a complete denial of loyal inner party democracy. The opposition was not permitted to take the floor at factory nuclei meetings; their views were not allowed to appear in the press; Congresses were postponed until the opposition should be driven out and the elections made safe. When the opposition advanced its views in Party circles by means of a mimeograph, the Party center raided, and declared to the world that the opposition was conducting underground work through illegal printing presses, that it was plotting a counter-revolution. The final act came during an outdoor celebration, when thousands of workers had flocked to the platform where Trotsky and Zinoviev appeared, and cheered them. The Party was informed that now the opposition had taken to the streets; the whole faction brutally was dispersed. Trotsky was thrown out of the Party and finally deported from the country.
By the actions of the Stalinist functionaries, not only the Communist Party was destroyed as a democratic instrument to express the will of the proletariat, but with the destruction of the Party naturally went the destruction of the unions, the co-operatives, and finally the soviets. The victory of the bureaucracy of the Party over the members meant an even greater victory of the bureaucracy over the mass organizations. The unions became transformed from agencies representing the interests of the workers in the shop to agencies to speed up production under the direction of the mass of petty officials and experts, who pocketed a good portion of the collective produce for themselves. The unions became increasingly incorporated into the State apparatus itself, until finally the process was completed, and the workers were in fact forbidden to strike, on pain of being considered traitors to the cause and being arrested for sedition.
The co-operatives which were far more liable to be controlled by functionaries and petty officials suffered a similar fate, even more completely. They became no longer the real representative of the mass of consumers, but rather thoroughly were corroded with elements close to the capitalist tradespeople. The soviets also became a mere shell of their former selves. Meetings were but slightly attended, and the mass of work was left to the few officials who controlled the body. The ominously reactionary atmosphere could be seen in the diminution of the number of non-Party persons drawn into work, and in the falling off of such elements as the women, who were demonstrating by their absence that the Party was making no appeal to the broadest layers of the population.
Despite these processes, however, the economic development of the country to pre-War levels had compelled the proletariat to take up the question of State planning and of the proper relations to the peasantry. The adoption of the Five-Year Plan and its execution at an ever accelerated tempo was forced by the workers themselves. The Stalinist apparatus now was compelled to make concessions to the workers who, having gone through three revolutions and taken power, still knew how to make their will felt and how to whip the alien classes into line. A struggle opened up between the Right Wing, headed by Bucharin, and the Stalinists. The year 1928 that saw the inauguration of the Five-Year Plan also witnessed the Bucharin, Tomsky, Rykov group driven out of influence in the Party and threatened with the same treatment that was given the Trotsky-Zinoviev bloc. Matters, however, did not go too far. Neither faction felt it could survive as yet without the other. The Stalinists could not lose the support of the mass of officials and experts represented by the Right Wing, behind whom stood also the kulak and the Nepman. On the other hand, the Bucharin group felt that if they remained in the Party they might retain the final word, in molding the policy in their direction.
Besides, both Bucharin and Stalin understood that the fight with the opposition by no means was over. With the operation of the Five-Year Plan, new difficulties were bound to arise which might cause the working class to rebel. These would be provoked not merely by the immensity of the task and its unprecedented character, but by the nature of the methods of the bureaucracy. In the course of its victory by the crushing of proletarian democracy within the Soviet Union, the bureaucracy had destroyed the delicate social barometers and instruments by which the working class could check up on all the multifarious results of the operations of the Plan. The ways were reduced through which any deleterious effects could be detected and the necessary adjustments made. Bureaucratic guesswork took the place of collective co-operation of the masses. The result was an extremely zig-zag execution of the Five-Year Plan. Having just abandoned the catch phrase, “Socialism at a snail’s pace,” the Stalinists now could declare they would attain complete socialism in Russia by the end of the Five-Year Plan or, at most, of two Five-Year Plans. The Five-Year Plan would be completed in four years and even less. Such a reckless application of the Plan greatly threatened the relations of the workers to the peasants, since the latter were paying for the construction.
Instead of working out a careful balance between the light and the heavy industry, Stalin threw all the surplus goods possible into heavy industry. This led to a shortage of consumable goods such as clothing and shoes, and the result was a deep grumbling from the peasantry, and the breaking of the firm alliance between the city and the country. The peasant was taxed to the breaking point. He saw himself deprived of his stock and his produce, and receiving nothing in return but a “Plan.” He began to sabotage, to kill his stock and eat it himself. Before this move could be checked, in 1932 approximately half of all the live-stock in Russia had been destroyed! The peasant refused to till the soil. Hunger began to invade the cities.
Instead of proceeding at a steady, sure pace, Stalin had put the country on a war basis with the slogan of “The Five-Year Plan in Four Years.” The workers were forced to work harder than ever. All the bureaucrats began to try for “records.” Quality did not count, only quantity. Shoes and clothing unfit for use were produced. A dreadful waste prevailed in all factories. No control was placed over the bureaucrats, who were soon in alliance with groups of saboteurs all over the country. Thus, the workers not only worked harder, but the products they received in return for their labor were shoddy. Instead of the Five-Year Plan with its increase of production actually benefitting the workers, the working class was pushed down lower than before. The result was that the workers also began to sabotage. They refused to work. They began to move from factory to factory with the hope that the next place would prove better than the last. Thus the factories became handicapped by a terrific turnover of labor, and so great was the passenger congestion on the railroads that freight movements were hindered and sometimes stopped by it. Now the Stalinist bureaucracy was forced to take drastic steps against the workers to suppress their discontent. Measures were enacted to prevent their moving around freely. A rigid passport system was introduced.
An equally rash and unbalanced policy was carried out in agriculture. The peasants, instead of being induced through persuasion and example to enter the co-operatives were driven to join by force, many against their will. The plan of the opposition had been for a judicious and careful use of machinery given to the village poor and middle peasants who would be organized in collectives. In this way the kulaks could be met in economic competition and eventually beaten and liquidated. But the Russians had but few tractors and furthermore, the officials were opposed to the line of organizing the poor and middle peasant against the kulak. What actually took place, therefore, was the hasty formation of co-operatives, not on a machine basis, but by the simple joining of lands. In these co-operatives, the kulak, instead of being liquidated, was driven to join; once in the co-operative, he soon took a leading position.
There were elements of danger in such a situation. The producers’ co-operative, in and of itself, is not a Socialist enterprise but, in the case of peasants, can become simply a pooling of resources, similar to the formation of a joint stock company. The co-operative does not lead inevitably to the abolition of private property, but may lead also to the consolidation of that property. The hasty formation of the co-operatives organized the peasants hitherto unorganized, and strengthened their resistance to the workers, thus putting a strong weapon in the hands of the capitalistic groups.
Where the co-operative was organized along the lines of machine production, the State and the workers in the factories, through their control of the machinery, ultimately could lay down certain lines which the co-operative had to follow. But where, as in the immense majority of cases, the co-operative was formed simply by a pooling of land, then the rich peasant, who contributed far more land and material than the poorer elements and the landless, was bound to have considerable say in the workings of the co-operative. This might not be the case were the kulak isolated, but it must not be forgotten that the most numerous group in the Russian countryside was the middle peasant, and most of these envied the kulaks and wanted to attain their level of work and living. A firm and correct policy on the part of the workers would have won the middle peasant to the cause of socialism; a policy that pampered the kulak or gave him decisive economic leadership in the co-operative, inevitably drove the mass of middle peasants to his side.
The harsh measures which the State fuctionaries undertook to drive the peasants into the co-operative thus not only placed the kulak inside and tended to obliterate class distinction in the countryside, but at the same time, also allowed the kulak to take the lead within the entire collective. The kulak, instead of being isolated, now had his army organized for him. Soon whole collectives began to sabotage the plans of the government. This was one of the principal reasons for the terrible dearth of food in the Ukraine and Northern Caucasus in the winter of 1932-1933, which has been estimated to have cost over two million lives. The rich steppes became barren. Weeds grew everywhere. Actual civil war did not break out, but wholesale migrations from the rich land of the South took place.
To top the entire process, the State officials decided upon the ominous policy of inflation which, with one sweep, by raising all the prices of necessities, took away most of the advantages which had been promised the workers from increased production. Thus the boasted advance in real wages was but nominal and, although the seven-hour day had been inaugurated, the worker found that he had to work overtime steadily in order to make both ends meet. The artificially stimulated rise in prices of finished goods in the same way deprived the peasants of the reward of their labor.
Despite all the mistakes made by the apparatus, Russia took a remarkably great step forward economically during the course of the Five-Year Plan. The achievements made proved conclusively the great advantage of a socialistic regime over private capitalism. Immense plants began to spring up all over the land, and Russia rapidly was becoming transformed into a great industrial country. To speed up the process, the State adopted the policy of importing large numbers of foreign specialists to train the Russians in the use of their new machinery and technique. The relation of Russia to the outside world had changed considerably since the NEP. At that time, the State had been anxious to have foreigners build factories in Russia and invest their capital there. Now foreign capital was not asked to enter. Merely with the aid of foreign specialists, the Russians now could create their own factories and attempt to run them.
The opposition had believed that the adoption of the Five-Year Plan would strengthen considerably the hands of the proletariat, since numerically the workers would increase, and the roles of the city and of industry would be more preponderant than ever. With this growth of the proletariat, it was believed that the control of the bureaucrat would be diminished and that the Left Wing would be able to drive back the Right and put the Party on a correct line. However, while this might be the ultimate case, it was by no means the result of the Five-Year Plan. It is true that peasants were drawn into the ranks of the working class and became strengthened in socialist ideology. But it is also true that the standards of the masses did not improve. What was most important, the ranks of the specialists, of the functionaries, of the white-collar workers, of the skilled workers, of the bureaucrats, of the State officials, increased far more than ever in proportion to the increase in the proletariat. Thus the industrialization of Russia by no means proceeded concurrently with the increased power of the rank-and-file worker, but, on the contrary, diminished his political capacity still more and put even greater power in the hands of the experts and of the professional elements of all sorts. Moreover, the economic advance of the Workers’ State in Russia did not counterbalance the political defeats of the revolutionary workers internationally, but rather was accelerating those defeats.
The rise of the all-powerful bureaucracy within the Soviet Union led to serious political readjustments within Russia. In the days of Lenin, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat had taken the direct form whereby the proletariat was in actual control of the State apparatus and ruled through its own members. This situation was now changing. There still existed a Dictatorship of the Proletariat, in the sense that no other class had taken from the proletariat the ownership of the means of production. The direct control of the workers over the State, however, now was missing. The machinery of government was being run, not by the workers themselves, but by an officialdom no longer controlled directly by the workers.
None the less, this officialdom was not completely a free agent. It could not dispose of the fate of the country as it chose. Like every other State officialdom, it had to represent the interests of the economically dominant class which in Russia still remained the workers. The decisive aspect of the economy of the Soviet Union steadily has remained the fact that the industries are socialized, and that private ownership of the means of production is not a dominant factor in the economic life of the country. There is no class within Russia capable of taking the factories away from the workers. Thus the Russian Revolution has set a pattern of economic relations which no bureaucracy within Russia is capable of breaking down completely.
It is true, there has been a growth of capitalist forces within Russia. As we have pointed out, many of the collectives are no better than joint stock companies wherein the partners co-operate to produce goods more efficiently within the framework of commodity production. In the cities also private traders still flourish. In the sphere of finance, the issuance of government bonds has created a class of rentiers, or coupon-clippers, who live from their dividends. Within the industries, the bureaucracy draws to itself an exceptionally large and undue portion of the total product and thus robs the other groups. But all these factors are not comparable to the fact that the industries and means of production on the whole are socialized. No great bourgeoisie exists, but rather remnants of the old capitalist class and would-be agents of the new capitalist class which may be germinating. As yet, the number of people who are coupon-clippers is relatively insignificant. The amount of money borrowed by the government at interest rates when compared with the capital wealth of the country is trifling. The number of factories given over to concessionaries or worked for royalties is practically nil.
Despite the bureaucratic management of the means of production, the socialization of industry in Russia is entirely different from the nationalization of industry taking place in capitalist countries. In such countries, the nationalization of industries would be, not against the interests of the former owners, but on their behalf, to guarantee them their dividends regularly. The capitalist is not deprived of his property; on the contrary, he receives full security for it, and the State simply runs the industry on his behalf in its own way. The former owners draw vast incomes and use these to open up new industries and avenues of trade, in order to augment their accumulation. None of this is the case in the Soviet Union.
It cannot be said that the bureaucracy itself collectively makes up the real owners of the factories in the Soviet Union. The bureaucrats are simply the managers, not the owners, of industry. They may be receiving a higher salary than they should, they may be dreaming of a reconstituted capitalist Russia, they may be the germs of the new bourgeoisie, but they make no pretense of owning the particular factory to which they may be attached, or any section of the industry as a whole. State officials are not a class in and of themselves, but only the agents of a class.
We have seen as a rule of history that no ruling class has lost its economic power without a struggle amounting to civil war and revolution. Unless it were to be maintained that the workers never took the power over the industries in Russia, and that, from the beginning, Soviet Russia was a capitalist State (which argument would have absolutely no substantiation in fact and would make inexplicable the bitter civil war, intervention, blockade, and universal hostility by the capitalists to that country), then we can safely say that in Russia also the workers will not lose basic control over the industries without a civil war. Such a civil war has not taken place as yet. The Russian workers will protect their socialized industries with their lives.
Thus we have the following situation in Russia. On the one hand, the Workers’ State still exists, but in a different form than in the days of Lenin, in a form where the workers dictate their will, not directly, but indirectly, through a bureaucracy which in form has established its own dictatorship. Naturally, once the workers have lost direct control of the instruments of the government, once the workers’ Party, their unions, their cooperatives, and their Soviets have been destroyed as creative factors, and only the bureaucracy occupies the position of the historically active force, it is plain that the Worker’s State is in a sick condition.
The mere fact that the historic initiative no longer is contained within the masses but in the bureaucracy means that the revolution is in the greatest danger. All that is necessary for the capitalist world in launching its attack is to assassinate a half dozen key leaders, and the country will be thrown into confusion and chaos. Furthermore, just as the bureaucracy itself could not carry on a sure and steady policy in the Five-Year Plan, so will it be impossible for such a group efficiently to conduct a great war of defense. Systematic blunders and a mountain of dead will be the results.
It is possible that, should fascism launch a vigorous and sustained attack against the Soviet Union, large numbers of the bureaucracy will be glad to open the gates to fascism and to help to rebuild capitalism in Russia. Nationalist groups also will arise, peasant and Nepman elements that will protest against fighting fascism, that will call for peace and capitulation of Bolshevism. Given a devastating and prolonged war, the bureaucracy, too, will break down. Soviet economy will tend to crack and the smitchka (alliance) between workers and peasants will be destroyed.
But this will not be the only result of such a war. Up to now, the Russian workers have tolerated Stalinism in order not to weaken the Russian dictatorship in front of the enemy, in order not to provoke a war. But once war shall have been declared, there will be no limits within which the proletariat can be restrained. The workers will raise again the revolutionary banner and will impose the most ruthless terror upon any capitalist element that attempts to hinder the progress of the revolutionary war. In this process, the Stalinist bureaucracy itself will be wiped out. A new Communist Party, a new Soviet system, a new trade union movement, will shake off the bureaucratic parasitism.
We must bear in mind the important fact that, since the workers have not yet lost the power, a new civil war will not be necessary in order to oust the bureaucrats from their positions. Vigorous police action alone will suffice. If, in time of war, the workings of the bureaucracy endanger the life of the Soviet Union, as they must, the mere sending of a few regiments to the Kremlin will in all likelihood mean the end of the present regime. Whether the events are precipitated during war time by a move from the Right, or whether the Left removes Stalin and provokes a counter-action, it is almost inevitable that foreign intervention should coincide with a rejuvenation of the workers’ power and position.
The peculiar situation that has prevailed in the Soviet Union since the period f the NEP has led several of the communist groups in opposition to Stalinism to go somewhat astray. The German communist group, the Lenin Bund, headed by Urbahns, took the position that Russia was neither a Workers’ State nor a Capitalist State, but something in between, and unique. This also apparently is the position of the Italian Left Communist Faction led by Bordigha. But such a theoretical position leading to the conclusion that there could be a State without a dominant class violates all the fundamental precepts of Marxism. According to them, the State would be above classes and living its own life independent of them. Whatever the surface indications, the Revolution had definitely settled the question that the factories belonged to the producers.
Another view was put forth to the effect that the Communist Party was crushed completely and thus there was no Party at all in the Soviet Union. This would lead to the position that there could be a Workers’ State carrying forward a Five-Year Plan without a Workers’ Party. It is hardly possible to conceive of a proletarian dictatorship or even of a bourgeois democracy without any party whatever, since every class that comes to power must express and realize its interests through a political party. It is possible to have a democratic state with many parties. It is further possible, at certain periods, that no one party will be dominant, but that there will be temporarily a complete equilibrium of classes and of parties. Such a situation is likely to give rise to a personal dictatorship, to Bonapartism. The real situation in the Soviet Union was that there existed two parties, both included within the frame of the Communist Party. On the one hand there was the bureaucracy constituting the apparatus of the Communist Party; and on the other hand, there were the discontented elements of the working class, rallying to the views of the opposition and forming their own centers of resistance.
The Trotsky opposition has committed a different error. It has declared that “Thermidor” has been completed in Russia and the Stalinist rule constitutes a Bonapartist regime. With this theory, Trotsky can play only into the hands of the enemies of the Soviet Union. Trotsky attempts to prove his point by a play of words which is untenable in serious political analysis. In political science the term “Thermidor,” based upon the fall of Robespierre in the French Revolution in the month of Thermidor, has come to mean the moment when the revolutionary forces are stopped by counter-revolutionary elements. In his article on the subject, (*15) Trotsky wrote: “In the internal controversies of the Russian and the international Opposition we conditionally understood by Thermidor, the first stage of the bourgeois counter-revolution, aimed against the social basis of the workers’ State…. The overturn of the Ninth Thermidor did not liquidate the basic conquests of the bourgeois revolution; but it did transfer the power into the hands of the more moderate and conservative Jacobins, the better-to-do elements of the bourgeois society… . The smashing of the Left opposition implied in the most direct and immediate sense the transfer of power from the hands of the revolutionary vanguard into the hands of the more conservative elements among the bureaucracy and the upper crust of the working class. The year 1924—that was the beginning of the Soviet Thermidor.” In another place he declared: “In both cases the bureaucracy raised itself upon the backs of the plebeian democracy which had assured the victory for the new regime. The Jacobin clubs were strangled gradually. The revolutionists of 1793 died on the battlefields; they became diplomats and generals, they fell under the blows of repression . . or went underground. Subsequently, other Jacobins successfully transformed themselves into Napoleon’s prefects.”
Thus Trotsky’s modern views on the subject might be summed up as follows: First, the term, Thermidor, strictly speaking, does not mean the victory of counter-revolution, but means a reactionary manner of maintaining the revolution. This is the essence of Stalinism, and, therefore, the victory of Stalin over the forces led by Trotsky is the completion of Thermidor in the soviets. Second, analogically, Trotsky stands for Robespierre, and the Left opposition and resembles the genuine Jacobin revolutionaries. Robespierre was the leader of the French Revolution as Trotsky (with Lenin) was the leader of the Russian Revolution; the Jacobins were the leading party in the French Revolution, and the Bolshevik-Leninists of the Left opposition were the Jacobins of the Russian Revolution.
This whole analysis, however, is incorrect. Previously we have elaborated the role of Robespierre in the French Revolution and shown how he himself helped to put an end to the Leftward drift of the masses. Trotsky here puts himself indeed in an unenviable position as the executioner of the masses, which role Robespierre played just before his downfall. Strictly speaking, the real “Thermidor” of the French Revolution occurred prior to the execution of Robespierre, namely in the crushing of the Paris Commune and the executions of Hebert, Clootz, Chaumette, and their associates by Robespierre. If we may pursue the analogy, it is not Trotsky who represents the Russian Robespierre, but Stalin who has done to the Left opposition what Robespierre did to Hebert. Moreover, the fall of Stalin, when pushed from the Right, will coincide with the fall of the Russian Soviet Republic, whereas the fall of Trotsky had no such immediate significance.
Trotsky makes a similar mistake about the Jacobins. We can say of the Jacobins, as we said of Robespierre, that they were compelled to follow the masses up to a certain point, and thus agreed to take the leadership, but they had no desire to carry the revolution too far. The role of the Jacobins was to see that the revolution did not go beyond a bourgeois framework, hence they yielded to the pressure of the masses only in order to control and later to behead them when they threatened to go beyond capitalism. To call the Jacobins the revolutionary vanguard is to forget the Commune and the revolutionary masses whom the Jacobin clubs detested. It is to tell but half the truth, since the Jacobins were not merely the revolutionary vanguard of capitalism against the aristocracy—the Jacobins, under pressure, were forced to act at times even against the capitalists themselves—but they were also the counter-revolutionary vanguard of capitalism against the poor of the Commune, and they helped to pave the way for Bonaparte.
This role of the Jacobins generally has been overlooked by the numerous historians who have trembled at the mere thought of the Terror. However, in a certain sense, the prevailing faulty analysis of the position of the Jacobins has a certain justification, since their revolutionary role was far more important than their counter-revolutionary one. In being the instrument, often against their own will, to carry forward the bourgeois revolution so far and so ruthlessly against the old aristocratic regime, the Jacobins were fulfilling a necessary historical task. On the other hand, in crushing the plebeian communistic efforts, they were putting down a premature outburst, an abortive attempt to anticipate history.
Turning now to the Russian Revolution we can say that there, too, the revolution has not been completed. It has yet to be made international in scope. The individual proprietor giving birth to new capitalist forces by no means has been eliminated. However, and what is of the utmost importance for our comparison, the Russian Revolution has gone far beyond the stage of the French Revolution, and has reached the point where, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, the proletariat has actually taken over the power. It is true that, under Stalin, a portion of the Bolsheviks have turned into petty bourgeois revolutionaries of the Jacobin type and have stopped the revolution from going forward, but these people cannot restore capitalism. Thermidor does not mean, as Trotsky says, merely the transfer of power into the hands of conservatives from the hands of the radicals, but means a transfer of class basis, and the substitution of one class instead of another. Prior to Thermidor there existed the momentary domination of the Paris Commune marching to communism and anarchism. After that date, the people are crushed. Prior to the fall of Robespierre, the ultimate beneficiaries of the revolution were not firmly at the helm; after that moment, they took open and direct control. Such a situation as yet has not been established in the Soviet Union. Thermidor in terms of Russia would mean that the working class had been decisively defeated and capitalism was re-established.
Even conceding the most to Trotsky’s analysis, we would have to say that, in the French Revolution, before Thermidor, there was an essentially bourgeois revolution conducted against the will of that class which ultimately became the very beneficiary, while, after Thermidor, the bourgeoisie itself controlled the revolution. Thermidor appears as the point where the Jacobins ceased to be susceptible to the pressure of the proletarian and plebeian Commune, and went over to the bourgeoisie entirely. It was the “moment” when the bourgeois revolution which had been carried on against the wishes of the bourgeoisie and without their leadership, would now be carried on in a thoroughly bourgeois manner and under their direct leadership. It meant the decisive victory of the class that wished to keep the revolution bourgeois and to prevent the proletariat and plebeian mass from making their own revolution.
Even so, just the opposite prevails in the Russian case. If we were to pursue Trotsky’s analogy we would have to say that before 1924—the Russian Thermidor—the interests of the proletariat were being carried out by the Bolsheviks against its will and that, after 1924, the proletariat itself, the class whose interests were being subserved by the revolution, actually took over the reins. This of course is the very opposite of the truth and of what Trotsky himself means to say, for it was precisely before 1924, under Lenin, that the workers themselves had the power, while after 1924, their will was expressed for them by a bureaucracy.
To say with Trotsky that Thermidor means reaction, operating on the social foundation of the revolution, is to declare that the Paris Commune could have carried out the bourgeois revolution better than the Jacobins or better than Napoleon. From the historical standpoint, the later victory of Napoleon was not reactionary at all, but rather the only way in which the French Revolution could progress all over Europe. Napoleon was reactionary only in relation to the masses, but in those days the historic initiative of the masses was relatively secondary to that of the bourgeoisie. Had the Paris Commune taken the power, for example, it is impossible to imagine that they would have swept the ancien regime out of Europe, as did Napoleon.
In his article Trotsky declares that, not only has Thermidor been completed in Russia, but that Stalinism spells Bonapartism. Thus, we are given to understand now that we can have one Bonapartism in a framework of capitalism and another Bonapartism in a framework of a Workers’ State. This, of course, confuses the character of the Workers’ State with that of the capitalist State and assumes that, in spite of the enormous differences between them, the same social phenomena can prevail and can be designated in the same way. Such an attitude loses all sense of historic distinction. Trotsky here overlooks the class content of the term “Bonapartism” which hitherto always has been applied to governmental and class relations only in a capitalist state. Has it ever been heard that Bonapartists call themselves communists, raise as their goal the formation of a co-operative commonwealth, call for the abolition of private property, issue the scientific works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and others, and perform the work the Stalinists have done?
The fact that Stalin does these things shows that we have to deal here not with a capitalist but with a workers’ organism; with a Party, formerly communist, which has now become Centrist, based upon the privileges accorded to the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. In proportion as this bureaucracy is stable, in proportion is the pseudo-communist Centrism of the Stalinists lasting. Stalinist degeneration, then, is not a form of Bonapartism, but of Centrism. Should Stalin be overthrown by some strong man representing the kulak elements, then indeed we might speak of Bonapartism. The declaration that Stalinism is Bonapartism carries the implication that Russia is a capitalist State, and that the workers must wage a new civil war there in order to drive out the Stalinists.
The struggle of the Left Wing of the communists against the official leadership took the form of a struggle against the theory of Socialism in One Country which had been brought forward by Stalin in 1924 and was developed in the Communist Program issued by the Sixth World Congress of the Communist International in 1928.
In the beginning, the theory of Socialism in One Country was merely a negative reaction to the fact that the workers had succeeded in moving towards socialism in only one country. For the officialdom it was a form of whistling in the dark, a method of keeping up spirits during difficult moments. With the accentuation of reactionary tendencies, however, the theory of Socialism in One Country began to take on nationalistic accretions, and strongly to retard international solidarity. If Russia in her isolation was able, not merely to hold her own, but to become completely self-sufficient and to build up a socialist paradise in a capitalist world, then Russia’s interest in the international revolution was bound to become platonic and humanitarian and to lose the poignancy of self-interest.
The struggle for socialism for the Russians was reducing itself to a mere economic problem. The protracted equilibrium which had tolerated a Soviet Union in a capitalist environment had begun also to engender illusions that the soviets could coexist peacefully for an indefinite period with the rest of the world. All that was needed was for the soviets to leave other nations alone; they would return the compliment. International relations now assumed the form of seeking trade relations with capitalist nations. In line with this policy, the entire diplomacy of the Soviet Union was reconstructed. In the days of Lenin, who was the leader both of the Russian State and of the Third International, revolutionary communism and Russian diplomacy went hand in hand. Joffe, Karakhan, Litvinoff, Trotsky, all were primarily propagandists for the world revolution in their relationship with the diplomats of other countries. This was bound up with the belief that the welfare of Russia was dependent upon the development of the world revolution.
Under Stalin, and with the influence of the theory of Socialism in One Country, the Russian State became divorced from the International. No sooner had Lenin died and Trotsky been reduced to secondary influence than the capitalist countries began to recognize Russia and to enter into commercial relations with her. All of them stipulated that Russia must not engage in revolutionary propaganda, and increasingly it was borne home to Russian officialdom that they could do business better were they to become entirely divorced from the Third International. Accordingly, the diplomats now sent out by the Soviet no longer were eminent revolutionists, but rather keen businessmen with an eye to bargains and a love for bourgeois tastes.
The theory of Socialism in One Country also brought in its train the idea that nothing must be done by the Russians to jeopardize their chances for building socialism. Socialism in Russia was the bird in the hand, international revolution was the bird in the bush. If Russia could build up socialism, it could inspire all the world to emulate that country’s example. Thus the Russians abandoned the conception of revolution as a result of misery to take up the idealistic theory that people will revolt because of some utopia realized elsewhere. Marxism had taught that revolutions are made, not by the intellect, but by emotions and passions aroused by hunger and need. Stalinism began to teach that the world revolution could be attained simply by showing the world a perfect picture of the ideal.
The theory of Socialism in One Country also implied that the rest of the world would allow Russia to build socialism in that country. Thus the capitalist world was not so vicious after all and, if Russia behaved herself, she could manage to divide the capitalist forces, make business deals with some, and secure their aid. Essentially this was a theory of class collaboration because, in trying to obtain economic favors from world capitalism, the Russians would be forced to refuse to help the workers abroad in their struggle against their employers. This in turn would strengthen the power of the employers and increase their demands upon the Soviet Union.
The utopia of Socialism in One Country had appeared before in Russia in the ranks of the Narodniki and the social revolutionaries. These latter had believed that the Russians did not need international solidarity to obtain social justice. On the contrary, the Russian soul, through the institution of the Mir, had shown the whole western world how to live collectively, how to wipe out the individualism of capitalism. The victorious Stalinist functionaries apparently were reverting to a modification of these nationalist and racial theories. Bolsheviks alone had succeeded; the rest of the world had failed. Did this not show the exceptional character of the Russians? Was there anything that the Russians could not do? More and more the Russian functionaries began to regard foreign communists with contempt, especially the dependence of the international communist forces on the subsidies sent them from Russia.
Socialism could be built in one country alone as a task of mere economic construction only if Russia did not have to depend upon other countries for material resources, but had all the necessaries at its disposal. The Soviet provincial officials actually believed that they were not part of a world division of labor, which division was bound to increase commensurately with the restoration of Russian economy. The self-sufficiency of any country, of course, can be achieved only on a very low plane of economy, when the society is in the hunting or fishing stage, or in a primitive state of agrarian life. But to imagine that socialism, which is a stage of social development higher than capitalism, does not need the division of labor which capitalism itself has set up, but can dispense with the resources of the rest of the world, was greatly to exaggerate the forces within the Soviet Union and to reverse the real relations existing. This was a type of nationalist megalomania, possible for a camel driver from Tashkent or a Djugeshvili from the sheep hills of Georgia, who had come to Moscow and been impressed by its size but who had never seen the outside world, but impossible for a western industrial worker to conceive. Socialism without an increased world planning and world division of labor never could be anticipated by an English or a German revolutionist. It was for the Russians to develop this theory to ludicrous lengths.
The idea that Russia could gain far more from capitalist intercourse than from the world revolution was bound to affect the whole international movement. The various Communist Parties also began to make nationalist arrangements. This was seen first in China and then in Germany. It was to culminate in the Franco-Soviet pact and in the alliance of the American communists with the Roosevelt Administration. Naturally, this meant the end of the International as a world revolutionary force.
The belief that Russia, unaided, could build socialism within her own borders naturally led to an idealization of the peasant countries. It meant that socialism would come first, not from the industrial West, but from the Asiatic East, and that Russia, the most backward industrial country, would be permitted to catch up with and later to surpass the rest of the world. All that was necessary, evidently, was the proper relations with the peasantry.
At first, during the difficult days of 1924, when the memory of Lenin was still fresh, the idea of socialism’s being built in one country was not conceived as immediate but rather gradually. With the success of the Five-Year Plan, however, socialism was due to arrive within a very short time.
The Stalinists did not deny that socialism meant the liquidation of classes, not only of the kulak but of the peasantry as a whole. Socialism also meant the termination of the discrepancies between city and country. It meant a system of society wherein a far higher system of production was obtained than in any capitalist country. It meant the withering away of the State and the absence of prisons, police, armies. It meant the disappearance of the gap between hand and brain labor, and the elimination of the bureaucrat and the monopoly of specialists. But the Stalinists actually affirmed that all classes would be liquidated by the Second Five-Year Plan ending in 1937 or thereabouts. Just as the kulak was liquidated by sending him into the collective, however, so the peasantry was liquidated by the fiction that all those working in collective farms were now the same as agricultural laborers. Thus were hidden the fundamental differences between the country and the city while, at the same time, the basis was created for the end of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The myth that no more classes existed in Russia would be used to wipe out the special power of the proletariat.
Socialism in One Country was to be created by inducing the rest of the world to let Russia alone politically. Thus peace was essential. From now on, Russia was to take a decided pacifist tone and, in the peace conferences, to propose complete disarmament as the sole way to prevent war. Lenin’s dictum that universal disarmament was the negation of the principle of the class struggle, since the only way that the slaves could emancipate themselves was by militant use of arms, was forgotten.
Whereas Litvinoff in his disarmament proposals called for general and total disarmament as the only infallible solution of the war problem, (*16) Lenin, on the contrary, had affirmed: “An oppressed class which does not strive to learn to handle weapons, to possess weapons, would only deserve that it should be treated as slaves. We may not forget, without becoming converted into bourgeois pacifists or opportunists, that we are living in a class society and that there is not and cannot be any way out from that except by class struggle and the overthrow of the power of the ruling class… . And in the face of such a fact, the proposal is made to revolutionary social-democrats (*17) that they put forward the ‘demand’ for ‘disarmament’! This is equivalent to complete surrender of the point of view of the class struggle, renunciation of all thought of revolution. Our slogan must be: arming of the proletariat in order to conquer, to expropriate and to disarm the bourgeoisie. This is the sole possible tactics for a revolutionary class, tactics arising from the whole objective development of capitalist militarism and prescribed by this development.” (*18)
And in another place, Lenin stresses, “To put ‘disarmament’ as a point in the program means to say in general we are against the use of weapons. In this there is not a particle of Marxism any more than if we said. ‘We are against the use of force.’ … The Kautskian preaching of disarmament, addressed directly to the present governments of the big imperialist powers, is the most vulgar opportunism and bourgeois pacifism, serving in fact—in spite of the ‘good intentions’ of the sweet-spoken Kautsky—to draw the workers away from the revolutionary struggle. For by such preaching the idea is instilled into the workers that the present bourgeois governments of the imperialist powers are not enmeshed by the thousands of threads of finance-capital and by scores of hundreds of corresponding secret treaties among themselves.”
“Thus the chief defect of the demand for disarmament is exactly that it evades all the concrete questions of revolutions. Or do the supporters of disarmament stand for a completely new view of an unarmed revolution? … Disarmament is precisely a flight from nasty reality but not at all a struggle against it.”
At the disarmament conferences, of course, Litvinoff presented not only his ideal of total disarmament but his practical plan of disarmament, a plan which failed to include the disarmament of the State’s police force, including the troops in the colonial countries, but did incorporate the disarmament of independent colonial countries, such as China. Litvinoff was willing to tolerate the retention of small arms, the instruments with which the State meets the demonstrations of the proletariat. In their practical aspects, the proposals of Litvinoff differed little from the American proposals submitted by President Hoover.
As a matter of fact, Stalinist degeneration had placed the policies of the communists in such a light that the distinction between capitalism and communism was blurred. Capitalist leaders also brought forth plans for national socialism, or socialism in their country alone; they issued periodically practical proposals for the disarmament of all their enemies; they argued on the necessity and possibility of self-sufficiency and the liquidation of all classes within the country under the control of the State. This was, indeed, the ideology of the fascists, who learned much from the new tactics in Russia.
In a military sense, too, the pacifistic theories of the Russian diplomats wrought enormous damage upon the defense of the Soviet Union. Those theories compelled Stalin to declare that he was not concerned with what was occurring in the countries around him; Russia would worry only about its own physical borders. Thus the militarist and fascist enemies of Russia, such as Germany on the West and Japan on the East, were given ample opportunity to prepare their forces and to win important bases for attack. Japan has now consolidated her position on an immense front on the border of Siberia; Germany has been placed in a position where she can secure complete united action of all the Eastern European countries against Russia. Stalinism abandoned the foremost revolutionary principle that the best defense for a revolution is an offense. Russian misleadership has given to the superior forces of the enemy the opportunity of choosing both the time and the place for the future battle.
In this period the capitalist world began to praise the statesmanship of Stalin. Russia was invited to participate in the League of Nations and, to the surprise of the old communists who knew Lenin’s views on that subject, the Soviet Union accepted and, when joining that family of nations, pledged loyally to co-operate. Similarly, the Soviet Union signed the Kellogg Peace Pact which also brought it into confraternity with the capitalist world. Thus, in every country the Communist Parties controlled by the Russians were forced to change their attitude towards the League of Nations and to hail it as an instrument of peace and the way out for a bleeding world. Everywhere the Communist International became the mere diplomatic auxiliary for the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. Thus, under Lenin, Soviet diplomacy was united to the Communist International under the banner of world revolution; under Stalin, a new unity of the two was achieved, but this time Russian nationalism led and the Communist International withered away.
Under such circumstances, the struggle for Socialism in One Country became a struggle against socialism in more than one country. Since the whole Communist International was now reduced to serving the aims of one country and was turning its back to the world revolution, it is clear that revolutions could occur in other countries only by a struggle against the Communist Parties. Should a revolution break out in other countries, the proletariat of those lands would have to call for a revision of the program and policies of the Soviet Union. It would mean the end of Stalinism and the end of the leadership of the Russians. Against this development the Russian nationalists would have to fight. The Western revolutionists would have to form their own grouping—the Fourth International.
Under the theory of Socialism in One Country, the Communist International changed from an international organization to an appendage of a national organism; the program moved from “Workers of the World Unite” to “Defend the Soviet Union.” Militant struggle turned to pacifism; the goal of a better world division of labor was transformed to a plan for national self-sufficiency; the workers gave way to the peasants as the leaders of the world revolution; the West yielded to the East; class struggle surrendered to class collaboration; “destructive” politics gave place to “constructive” economics; within all the Parties, the members retreated in favor of the bureaucratic officials who appointed their supporters regardless of the expressed wish of the membership; communism became populism. Socialism in One Country finally made socialism simply ridiculous.
1. Given in L. D. Trotsky: The Real Situation in Russia, p. 23.
2. See the letters of Lenin on Stalin given in L. D. Trotsky: work cited, pp. 293 and following.
3. "In 1926 N. K. Krupskaya, who along with Zinoviev and Kamenev then adhered to the Left Opposition, said, ‘Were Lenin alive, he would most assuredly be in a G. P. U. prison.’" L. D. Trotsky: The Kirov Assassination, p. 24.
4. “Finally, the last letter which Lenin ever wrote in his life—or rather dictated—was a letter to Stalin breaking off all comradely relations with him… . The existence of the letter was confirmed in the stenographic copy of the testimony of M. I. Ulianova.” (Lenin’s sister.) L. D. Trotsky: work cited, p. 308.
5. The same, pp. 301-302.
6. Given in L. D. Trotsky: work cited, pp. 322-323. Also see Stalin’s recognition of Lenin’s letter in International Press Correspondence, Vol. VII, No. 64, p. 1428. (November 17, 1927.)
7. L. D. Trotsky: work cited, p. 51 giving Pravda, July 23, 1927 for authority.
8. The same, p. 57.
9. The same, p. 57.
10. The same, p. 80.
11. See W. Duranty: I Write as I Please, pp. 215-216.
12. J. Davis: Contemporary Social Movements, p. 300.
13. The same, p. 300.
14. For an account of how the OGPU (secret police) planted White-Guard agents who were in its pay, in the meetings of the oppositionists, see L. D. Trotsky: The Real Situation in Russia, Introduction by Max Eastman.
15. See The New International, periodical of the defunct Communist League of America and of the now defunct “Workers Party,” Vol. II, No. 4, pp. 118, 119 (July, 1935).
16. Speech at the Geneva Disarmament Conference, 1932.
17. Read Communists.
18. Lenin’s speech is printed in The Communist, Vol. XI, No. 3, p. 273. (March, 1932.)