Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

John Ericson

Moscow Gold in Private Hands: Origins of Revisionism in the USSR

First Published: Progressive Labor Vol. 5, No. 5, October-November 1966
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Developments in the Soviet Union during the past decade have a great importance for socialist movements in all countries. There are lessons to be learned. But what precisely are those lessons? In this paper it is assumed that the wing of the Communist Party that gained control by 1955 was the petty bourgeois wing. Admittedly, this is something that should be documented. Other people have documented this proposition, to their satisfaction at least.[1] There are a sufficient number of people convinced of this proposition at the present time, to justify a discussion of the question of how such a development could have come about.

A large number of people have expressed their chagrin and lack of comprehension with regard to this development. For instance in the Monthly Review article of May, 1963, the editors, Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman, said: “We can ask what other possible causes (besides a labor aristocracy) there may be for revisionism in the Soviet Union.” (Pg. 17)

How is it that after these other non-proletarian classes have mostly been abolished[2] (functionally speaking), that you still have substantial numbers of people with the mentality of these classes? Why doesn’t the mentality of people immediately adjust to correspond to the reality of social relations? Why “the dictatorship of a single class (the proletariat) is necessary not only for class society in general, not only for the proletariat which has overthrown the bourgeoisie, but for the entire historical period between capitalism and classless society – communism?[3]

Lenin implies in the above quotation that non-proletarian classes continue to exist until a communist society is achieved. He must mean then, that for all practical purposes, during this historical phase, the existence of non-proletarian mentalities means the existence of those classes.

You cannot have communism until the state has withered away. You cannot have the withering away of the state until society has become classless. The state machinery is composed of instruments of coercion such as bodies of armed men, prisons, etc. The Soviet Union cannot dispense with instruments of coercion until capitalism has disappeared entirely from the world. As long as capitalism exists anywhere in the world it will attempt to gain allies wherever it can, both inside and outside the Soviet Union. Consequently, other classes exist in the Soviet Union at the present time, and will continue to exist for a long time. The most important of these classes is the petty bourgeois.[4]

How do you build a socialist society without allowing the petty bourgeois, the opportunist, the careerist, etc., the opportunity to gain control of the party? Or, how do you prevent the perpetuation of the petty bourgeois mentality? This is one lesson that must be learned from the experience of the Soviet Union. To answer this question, it is necessary to know what the petty bourgeois mentality is, and what leads to its maintenance and perpetuation. In this discussion, no attempt will be made to give a full description of the petty bourgeois mentality. Only so much of this mentality will be discussed as will be directly applicable to those aspects of recent development in the Soviet Union as are dealt with here.

The petty bourgeois mentality is that mentality which is consistent with the individualist outlook.[5] There is really a range of characteristics that goes under the label of petty bourgeois. He can be an advocate of any one of a number of idealist philosophies. Logical positivism, existentialism, Freudianism, Frommism, and several combinations of these are the most popular philosophies at the present time with this group. These philosophies stand in opposition to proletarian philosophy, dialectical materialism.

The petty bourgeois is a product and advocate of privilege. He advocates in one form or another privilege, status, or invidious distinctions, first for himself and secondarily for others like himself. It seems natural that people should think of themselves first and other people second. He does not believe that individualism is a socially created product.

A third characteristic of the petty bourgeois, and it follows from his being an idealist, is the conviction that truth is a matter of opinion. Truth is always relative and never absolute. People who insist that truth is absolute are “dogmatic” and “ inflexible.” Consequently truth is what you want it to be or what it is convenient for it to be. Wishful thinking is quite common among the petty bourgeois. Since there is no absolute truth, there is no objective standard for determining it.

Fourthly, freedom is conceived in the purely negative Rousseauean sense. That is, freedom is the absence of restraint. This is the individualist concept of man, as originally an individual, who agrees for reasons of personal advantage to enter a social arrangement. Man is not the product of society, but rather society is the product of the coming together of individual men. And if man, the individual, is not primarily the product of society, then his ideas are largely independent of that society or that part of society from which the particular individual comes. Ideas are a matter of opinion or of logic, not a matter of circumstance or of fact. An individual petty bourgeois, however, may not be subject to all of these notions. In other words, there are many petty bourgeois who hold contradictory opinions, who are not intellectually integrated.

There are certain corollaries or logical consequences of the intellectual position of the petty bourgeois. The first and most important one has to do with class. As has already been mentioned, the petty bourgeois is philosophically an idealist, i.e., he thinks that ideas are primary.

Therefore, he thinks that material circumstances, social configurations, etc., are secondary.[6] It follows then that the most important and ultimately prime causative factors are ideas. Ideas cause things; things do not cause ideas.

Now the petty bourgeois who believes he is a Marxist will firmly and confidently affirm his belief and advocacy of the concept that all the principle societies of today are class societies. There is no observable difference between the real Marxist and the petty-bourgeois Marxist at this level of abstraction. The difference appears when conclusions have to be drawn about the consequences of society being split up into classes.

To the true Marxist, the division of society into classes is the basic fact concerning society and consequently the basis of all social analysis. Class antagonisms are not mistakes, but are fundamental and irreconcilable.[7] To the petty bourgeois Marxist, class antagonisms are not really basic. Admittedly, they exist. But they are reconcilable. After all, there is no real reason why these class antagonisms should continue to exist. They are really the result of past mistakes in the development of society, lack of knowledge, lack of the use of intelligence. Consequently, they can be overcome by an increase in knowledge or the increased use of reason or intelligence, i.e., by ideas. This, of course, is the stand of the philosophical idealist. If the consequences of class antagonisms are serious enough,[8] then reason will overcome and reconcile them. The only obstacles to this felicitous development are wrong, inflexible, dogmatic ideas. To the petty bourgeois, class collaboration, the peaceful coexistence of classes, class reconciliation, is in no way in conflict with their idea of a class society. Even though economic classes may exist in a society, they do not, or need not, or should not, exercise a primary influence on the development of that society. The influence on society of economic classes can be no more important than people grouped by eye color, height, or weight.

Another example of the peculiar results of this idealist inability to comprehend the nature of economic classes is that of freedom. Earlier it was mentioned that for the petty bourgeois, the individualist, freedom is conceived of as the absence of restraint. As Christopher Caudwell[9] has demonstrated, this definition of freedom implies that the wild animal has the most freedom, while the person living in an industrial society has relatively little freedom.

When Lenin or other Marxists begin talking about bourgeois freedom and proletarian freedom, about any increase in bourgeois freedom in an industrial society, being thereby, automatically a decrease in proletarian freedom, the petty bourgeois confesses his complete lack of comprehension. Why?

Since freedom is the absence of restraint, a positive program by government to suppress one type of idea, or the ideas representing the viewpoint of a certain economic class, represents to the petty bourgeois a reduction in freedom not only for members of that class but for all members of that society. This is the view of the petty bourgeois. They do not recognize that freedom is dependent on class in a class society. This is just another way of saying that society is not a class society. There is more or less freedom for all classes. Freedom is not capable of being broken down into compartments or classes, dispensing more here, less there.

Why does the petty bourgeois feel that all ideas have a right to be heard? It is because he believes that truth is relative, never absolute. Since truth is relative, there is no objective standard by which the truth or falsity of ideas can be determined. To the idealist, truth is subjectively determined. This is merely another way of saying that ideas are determined or formulated by individuals and are independent of classes. This is a restatement of the petty bourgeois position that ideas are primary and that material circumstances, including social organizations (including economic classes) are secondary.

To the petty bourgeois it is impossible to identify petty bourgeois ideas, theory, novels, art, etc. It is impossible because (1) there is no such thing and (2) even if there were, there is no objective standard by which such an identification can be made. Therefore, any effort to suppress petty bourgeois art and encourage proletarian art, for example, will result in a reduction of freedom for society as a whole.

What is the difference between the bourgeois and the petty bourgeois point of view? The point of view of the petty bourgeois is the point of view of the capitalist in the competitive industrially small-scale stage of capitalism. This is the period when the small industrialist was the ruling class. The petty bourgeois mentality was appropriate to the interests of this class when it was a ruling class. In this situation, when the ruling class was made up of such large numbers and most types of government action was specifically rejected, it was possible to imagine that there was no ruling class, and that economic and social classes were not basic.

The bourgeois attitude, mentality, or point of view is decidedly different from that of the petty bourgeois. The bourgeois, or large-scale capitalist, is the ruling class in the era of large-scale or monopoly capitalism. Even though the bourgeois mentality has many characteristics in common with the petty bourgeois mentality, it differs in others, especially in their attitudes toward freedom and class.

The freedom of the bourgeois grows with the growth of technology. It grows with the increasing complexity of social organization. And society must of necessity grow more complex in order to accommodate the more advanced and more complicated technology. The more advanced technology becomes, the greater the amount of division of labor and specialization. The more minutely society is fragmented by this technology, the greater the necessity for a mechanism to coordinate their activities. That is to say, the more complex society grows, the more coordination of the activities of individuals and groups is necessary for its proper operation. In such a society, run for the benefit of a shrinking but more powerful ruling class, more and more coercion and restraint is necessary in order to achieve this coordination.

Thus the big bourgeois conceives its freedom to be bound up with complex social organization, social restraint, and if necessary, coercion. Both parliamentary capitalism and fascism are compatible with and expressions of bourgeois rule. The system runs more efficiently when the coercion is at a minimum. So the bourgeois prefers parliamentary capitalism.

In order for parliamentary capitalism to work, most of the population must have false notions about their economic interests. Petty bourgeois illusions about freedom, economic classes, etc., play an important role in the falsification of the picture of the real world and the nature of social relations. If, however, this false picture breaks down and the population begins to acquire some notion of their real economic interests, then the bourgeois sees no objection to ruling by naked coercion, to instituting a fascist regime. Since, as Veblen has said, modern day capitalism is an enterprise of “force and fraud,” it is merely a matter of convenience to shift the emphasis from fraud to force.

The big bourgeois has no illusions about class relations. Since his very existence as a ruling class requires positive action to protect, enlarge, and realize his interests, he has the reality of class society drilled into his very bones. On the question of class and the nature of freedom, the big bourgeois is no idealist. He is an avowed oligarch and glories in it (at least when he is among his own). It is this lack of illusion with regard to class relations and freedom that gives the bourgeois such an advantage when dealing with the petty bourgeois or those with a petty bourgeois mentality whether of the capitalist or socialist variety. But the bourgeois is an idealist and individualist and is subject to most of the other intellectual vagaries in common with the petty bourgeois. In concluding this section it is well to notice that some bourgeois as well as some individuals of other classes are unfortunate enough to be afflicted with the petty bourgeois mentality.


What were the developments that were particularly favorable to the perpetuation of the petty bourgeois mentality in the Soviet Union? First of all, there was the great reservoir of petty bourgeois and former petty bourgeois who were still in Russia after the revolution. These were the small businessmen, retailers, peasants, kulaks, etc. Secondly, there were the members of other classes (of the wage and salary group for instance) who had a petty bourgeois mentality. Most civil servants, military officers, school teachers, academicians, clerks, technicians, managerial personnel and other white collar workers generally were in this group, The abolition of private property would not change their outlook to any great degree. Most of them remained (or will remain) individualists to the end of their days.

Up to 1929, capitalism, along with increasing class differentiation was allowed to flourish in the country. The Soviets allowed this development because the revolution and division of lands had converted most peasants into middle peasants. Hence these peasants were still enamored of the possibilities of private property. The inevitable social differentiation would disillusion the majority of these peasants. By 1929, a majority had been disillusioned. But the petty bourgeois mentality had been intensified in the kulaks and their supporters in the village.

The conversion of the land in the village from de facto private ownership to cooperatively owned lands was the major step toward eliminating the social relationships which bred the petty bourgeois mentality. Nevertheless, until the land and the equipment for its use is converted to ownership by the whole people, the institutional arrangements encourage the co-operator to look after the economic interests of the co-op first and the whole society second. At the time of the collectivization movement, it was thought that this next step would be taken when the village population had been weaned further away from petty bourgeois sentiments.

Another source is the population at large. As mentioned by Marx, in a revolutionary society which was born out of a society based on differential privileges (such as Capitalist Russia), practically all members of that society are contaminated to a greater or lesser degree by an individualistic outlook. This is so because individuals are a product of society, not the other way around. Obviously, there’ll be differences as between classes. Proletarians will be contaminated to a smaller extent by an individualist outlook than the petty bourgeois, bourgeois, and land-owning classes. Those individuals who were formed by this capitalist society will retain at least a portion of this contaminated outlook, all of their lives. But what of their children and their children’s children?

In the Soviet Union the children’s outlook is influenced most by two social institutions, the school system and the family. The school system could most quickly be converted into an institution purveying principally a proletarian viewpoint. But even here, for many years school teachers had to be used who were petty bourgeois in orientation. On the other hand, the family could not be rapidly changed in its orientation.

The family is one of the principal institutions responsible for the maintenance and perpetuation of the petty bourgeois mentality. Petty bourgeois parents need not institute a special program to indoctrinate their children with their special brand of individualism. Their every day actions and utterances will in the majority of cases have a strong influence in imbuing their children with petty bourgeois attitudes. The schools, pioneer clubs, newspapers, and all the organs of socialist society may moderate or even overwhelm its influence. This, on the average, is a question of how great an effort the state institutions are making to overcome the influence of petty bourgeois families.

This is a separate question from the influence of the family, even a proletarian family, as a social institution. Anthropologists have found that the family as we know it was the product of the development of private property;[10] As an institution it was developed to fit the administration, care, and perpetuation of private property. On top of this historical origin of the family, it emphasizes the individual care of children rather than social or collective care. Thus it seems probable that as long as the family is the basic unit in society a certain amount of individualism (in its anti-social sense) will be generated.

Another institution perpetuating the petty bourgeois mentality is religion. The reason religion feeds this mentality is that it is necessary to be an idealist in order to believe in religion. It is not just that a religious person must believe in supernatural beings but he must believe that the world and what happens in it are the result of the actions of ideas. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[11] And in the modern world, most of the petty bourgeois illusions follow from the idealist position.

Now the Soviet government took reasonable measures to eliminate religion up until World War II. But during the war when the very existence of the Soviet regime was threatened, the government made large concessions to religious adherents in order to build as much loyalty to the Soviet regime as possible. This development, though necessary, gave a temporary boost to petty bourgeois sentiments both during and immediately after the war.

There were a number of other developments during the war that lent support to individualist ideology. The government knew it could count on the loyalty and unflinching support of a majority of the population of Russia. But there was a substantial minority who were not sympathetic to socialism. In an attempt to gain the loyalty and support of the petty bourgeois and other non-proletarians in the Soviet Union, the government not only made concessions to organized religion, but through all the mediums of communication poured a flood of nationalistic propaganda.[12] The term “Mother Russia” began to be heard again, along with the implication that any “Russian” regime was better than a “German” one.

Also, under the fear that a substantial part of the officer corps was petty bourgeois, feudal, or some other retrograde entity, the regime began granting the officer corps a number of special privileges. Gold braid, saluting, extra high pay, greater separation of officers and men, etc. Whether this measure was necessary is debatable. It is one that was settled on pragmatic grounds. But even if it was necessary for the survival of the Soviet Union, it helped to revive a taste for privilege on the part of the officer corps. It gave a shot in the arm to petty bourgeois tendencies in this group. These differential privileges are still in force. And thus the petty bourgeois mentality is still being nourished by these arrangements in the officer corps.

In capitalist society the professional class is intensely petty bourgeois in sentiment. Since they have for various reasons acquired more of relatively scarce skills, they receive higher wages than other workers. Some of these professionals are co-opted into ownership positions in business. Though very few (almost an infinitesimal number) are taken into a position of owner, most of those professionals who are in “management,” believe that they have a good chance of doing the same. Therefore, they identify sympathetically with the ownership or with “management.” In other words, they have the illusion of ’individual’ advancement. As for the professionals who are “technical,” they acquire an individualist orientation through a similar illusion. They believe that their monopoly of the community’s technical knowledge is not a social phenomenon but a product of their “own” superior talents. They therefore are entitled to a privileged position in society because they, through their superior talents, have contributed more to society than have other people. Their above average knowledge is primarily the result of individual effort, not the result of a class monopoly of a social product (the technical knowledge of that society).

Since socialist societies, in most cases, developed out of capitalist societies, this traditional way of looking at knowledge was and is still strong among professionals in the Soviet Union At the close of the revolution, many managerial and technical personnel were induced to stay by the offer of much higher wages than those given to regular blue collar workers or to managerial and technical personnel who were members of the party. Up to the mid-thirties very few managerial and technical personnel were members of the party. There was the definite suspicion among party members that the majority of those people were hostile to the regime. To say the least, they were strongly petty bourgeois. These people created an atmosphere in which the new technicians and managerial personnel operated and were broken in. This was so even though “bourgeois” descent was an obstacle to top managerial positions until about 1935.

As time went on the influence of managerial and technical personnel became increasingly important in the party. Since 1929, more and more of the technical and managerial personnel were party members. The following table[13] gives evidence of their growing importance.

Year...Professionals as a % of Total Party Membership...% of all Employed Professionals who were Party Members

To a great extent these statistics represent the increase in the professional group as a proportion of the population due to the economic development of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, there has been a growth in the relative importance in the C.P.S.U. of a group which is particularly susceptible to petty bourgeois attitudes.

Returning to WW II, it had some other unfortunate results with regard to the spread of petty bourgeois sentiments among the population at large. In the first place, the Germans overran a large part of the most heavily populated part of the Soviet Union. In all areas which they occupied they spread their fascist ideology. They also shot all Communist Party members, Komsomols, or activists.

When the Germans occupied an area, particularly in the Ukraine, they found no dearth of Ukrainians ready and anxious to volunteer to be the police to keep the local population in order. These were people who hated the Soviet regime and felt the closest possible kinship with the Nazi regime. These people were the remnants of the petty bourgeois and feudal elements of 1929 and before.

These collaborators and class-kin of the Nazis dedicated themselves to pointing out to the Nazis, and assisting in the elimination of those members of the population who were the most dedicated, proletarian, and socialist. This was a labor of love to those who hated the class enemies who had triumphed over them previously. The story of the extermination of a large section of the very best elements in the Ukraine by these contemptible petty bourgeois collaborators is told graphically by Alexander Fadeyev in his novel, “The Young Guard.”[14] Thus not only did the Nazi occupation lead to a spread of fascist ideology but led also to a sizeable diminution in that part of the population (and particularly in the party) most thoroughly socialist.

In the crucial battles of the war, the Soviet Union felt justified in calling on their most dedicated troops. The battle of Stalingrad is one such example. During the battle in the city it was necessary that the Soviets both hold the city and hold down the German troops while the counter offensive was built up. From August to November the Soviet troops held on and took a dreadful toll on the Nazis. Up to November, the Nazis suffered about 750,000 casualties.

During this battle the Soviets committed division after division made up exclusively of Komsomols, the cream of the new generation. The government knew that they could be depended upon and would never retreat. Most of the personnel of those divisions perished;[15] in honor of their preeminent contribution to the victory of Stalingrad, the main street in the rebuilt Stalingrad was named Komsomol Street. The sad result of these great contributions to mankind is that the cream of the party, the most self-sacrificing, proletarian, non- individualistic element in the CPSU was greatly diminished. This opened the door and left openings for those who were less dedicated. This was one of the major contributing factors to the current strength of the petty bourgeois wing of the party.

When the Soviet armies moved west, they overran a number of countries. Some of those countries, such as Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Albania, welcomed the Soviet forces as liberators. These countries had been conquered by the Germans. Finland, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria were allies of Germany. With the exception of Czechoslovakia, all of these countries were either feudal, or fascist, or in most cases a combination of both. These reactionary governments did everything in their power to eliminate opposition. The socialist and liberal elements were either killed, imprisoned, or driven into exile. In any event, their members were greatly reduced.

In some of these countries, such as Poland and Hungary which had been militantly fascist since 1919, this process had been going on for a long time.

With the exception of Czechoslovakia, these countries had to form governments, so-called socialist governments, with personnel that was predominantly petty bourgeois. In a fascist society, the petty bourgeois represent the far left, rather than the center as they would in a parliamentary capitalist economy. The true socialist left had been mostly eliminated. Consequently, Russian influence held the new government in line, while a true socialist left was developed from the rising generation. At the same time as the Soviet Union was flooding these countries with a socialist proletarian influence, there was a strong counter-flow of petty bourgeois influence into the Soviet Union.[16] This influence still exists.

The generalization does not apply to Czechoslovakia. Even though they had been subjected to a fascist purge for seven years, the socialists and communists formed a majority of the people at the end of the war. Further, this was largely because the Czechoslovaks had fought through a successful revolution and war of national liberation against the Germans. At the time, the Nazis were the representatives of the ruling capitalist class. Capitalism was thoroughly discredited among a majority of the people. Hence the Czechoslovak capitalist class never regained their position as ruling class. The votes in 1945 and 1948 merely put the stamp of formality on what the revolutionary war had already accomplished.[17] Of course Czechoslovakia, being a newly coined socialist country, had a much stronger bourgeois and petty bourgeois element than did the Soviet Union at this time.


There is one cause for the growth of petty bourgeois influence in the C.P.S.U. which is of great importance and is of a different order from those already discussed. This cause was the decision to allow party members to earn higher wages than those earned by some grade of blue collar workmen. Party members were also allowed to share in other special privileges. This development has been reserved for special discussion.

There is some doubt as to when this decision took place. But that it did occur there can be no doubt. Anna Louise Strong described the operation of the old situation in 1930-31 when the Communist Party member received an income no higher than that of a blue collar worker. This is the party maximum.

A spirit of energetic devotion pervaded our early staff. When Ogonek offered me six hundred rubles salary with extra pay for every article, I scornfully turned it down.... Make mine party maximum, three hundred and seventy-five rubles; that covers everything I write. Led by me, the entire staff made the same decision and put it down in a ’shock-brigade pledge’–never to take more than party maximum.

My cherished staff, who had responsible jobs in their own countries, were getting about one-third the pay of translators.[18]

A recent description of the fact that Communist Party members can and do receive in comes that are higher than that of a blue collar worker, is given by Marina Fiveiskaya.

The Communist has no privileges except those that derive from his official position, if he holds one. If two citizens, one a member of the Communist Party and the other not, hold similar positions, their salaries are the same and their retirement pensions depend only on seniority and their former earnings.

Most of the people holding the responsible and hence the better paid jobs are Communists.[19]

The Chinese seem to think that the change occurred in the 1945-50 period, the period Soviet economic rehabilitation.[20] But it may have been adopted earlier, in the late thirties.

It has already been established that the petty bourgeois is an individualist, idealist, relativist, etc. In actual fact, he is also a careerist. Being an individualist, his world centers around himself. The world is interpreted from the point of view of how developments in this world affect him. This being so, he is interested first and foremost in his own development. He is interested in only a secondary way in the development of other entities, individuals, or organizations.

It is for these reasons that it is said that the petty bourgeois is a careerist, an opportunist, etc. He is interested primarily in personal advancement. In order to do this, he will adapt himself to the norms of whatever social organization he happens to be born into. He will, by definition, be seeking to be a success, reach the top.

And having succeeded and reached the top, will the individualist be willing to sacrifice what he considers to be his own interests and forego all the rewards and outward trappings which have traditionally gone to the people who have “succeeded”? Certainly not. Whenever and wherever it is safe to do so, the petty bourgeois can be counted on to plumb for privileges and perquisites of all kinds. He wants the symbols of success. He wants “status.” Otherwise, his career would have been for nothing, his life would have been wasted.

Remember the individualist is by definition concerned primarily with himself. He is not concerned with principles, other people, society, mankind or anything else, except insofar as it will in the short or long run lead to his own advancement.[21] The petty bourgeois is on principle in favor of privileges of various kinds for himself.

In conformity with the advice given by Marx in the “Critique of the Gotha Program” the Soviets gave differential material rewards for economic incentive to the majority of the population which had been contaminated by the previous society. Differential economic rewards are necessary for people who are individualists and who consequently are not socialists.

But members of the Communist Party are by definition the vanguard, the most advanced section, of the proletariat. They are the least contaminated by the previous society. They are the ones, above all, who do not require differential material rewards for meeting their social obligations.

But aside from this, it is important to avoid giving privileges to party members on the ground that although they may be uncorrupted in the beginning, the receipt of privileges will gradually develop a taste for them among its recipients. Lenin issued a very specific warning on this subject.

In this connection the measures adopted by the Commune and emphasized by Marx are particularly noteworthy, viz., the abolition of all representation allowances, and of all monetary privileges in the case of officials, the reduction of the remuneration of all servants of the state[22] to the level of “workmen’s wages”. This shows more clearly than anything else the turn from bourgeois democracy, from the democracy of the oppressors to the democracy of the oppressed classes, from the state as a “special force” for the suppression of a given class to the suppression of the oppressors by the general force of the majority of the people–the workers, and the peasants. And it is precisely on this most striking point, perhaps the most important as far as the problem of the state is concerned, that the teachings of Marx have been most completely forgotten.[23]

If party members are without privileges, they will have every incentive to see these privileges abolished for the rest of the population as soon as possible. If the party members participate in these privileges, we might expect theoretically, and it appears to be true as a matter of fact in the Soviet Union, that they try to perpetuate these privileges for themselves and for those that have them among the rest of the population. Thus we see the spectacle of the vanguard of the proletariat fighting for the perpetuation of bourgeois privilege.

This is no new discovery of Marx or Lenin. Most practicing lower class revolutionaries soon find that economic privilege and revolution are incompatible. To give a practicing revolutionary an economic privilege during some stage of the development of the revolution, amounts to giving him a vested interest in the perpetuation of that particular stage of the revolution. It gives him a vested interest in fighting against the further development and therefore the completion of the revolution. Even the revolutionary Christ insisted that well-to-do recruits give up their property before they could be accepted in the organization.[24] This measure was necessary in order to prevent a dual allegiance. Otherwise the recruit would have an allegiance to his wealth, i.e., to himself, as well as to the movement.

Consequently, party members, regardless of occupation, received no more income than the average blue collar worker. Any professional, whether managerial or technical, who was accepted into the party, would find as one of his rewards a sharp reduction in wages and other perquisites. As a result the petty bourgeois found party membership somewhat unattractive. Then, inexplicably, the decision was taken to allow wage differentials to apply to party members as well. If ever the Stalinist wing of the party can be criticized for a fundamental error, this was it.

It is essential to keep the petty bourgeois mentality out of the party. This is obvious enough. But how as a practical matter can this be accomplished?

The position of status, that belonging to the party which has the leadership of the country as its function, will undoubtedly prove attractive to the petty bourgeois. If the attraction of status is combined with a differential material reward, the attraction will be absolutely irresistible. However, if a material penalty, or moral incentive, instead of a material reward could be coupled with party membership then a positive repulsive force would be introduced into the relation of party to petty bourgeois. The C.P.S.U. had such an arrangement in Russia until sometime in the mid-thirties. And presumably they were relatively successful in keeping these elements in a minority position up to this time.

Additionally, there should be a consistent program of education leading to greater ideological growth. Criticism and self-criticism should follow from close ties to the masses. The material penalty or moral incentives should help to keep the petty bourgeois element in a definite minority position in the party. Since the petty bourgeois is interested primarily in personal advancement, he will display more energy and adaptability in learning all the phrases that are necessary to prove one’s fitness for admittance and advancement. The non-petty bourgeois, since he is not interested primarily in personal advancement, will not spend his time in memorizing phrases, but in trying to understand ideas and in trying to help the organization and will be much less willing to repeat phrases he does not understand.[25] Thus by natural selection, if the petty bourgeois is in the party in fairly large numbers (it need not be over half), the majority of higher positions in the party should fall to them. This result is highly probable since he is the one who dedicates himself to personal advancement. Therefore, if the petty bourgeois is to be kept in a minority position in the higher positions of the party, he must be kept to an extremely small proportion of the party membership. And one of the principal weapons for achieving this goal, is the strict separation of party and privilege.

In conclusion, since 1955 the petty bourgeois wing has gained temporary control of the C.P.S.U. Some of the reasons for the rise of the petty bourgeois wing have been discussed. The description of the petty bourgeois mentality is far from complete, and was not meant to be complete. Only some aspects of the petty bourgeois mentality that had a bearing on the rise of the petty bourgeois wing of the C.P.S.U. were mentioned. The experience of the Soviet Union should be carefully studied by all serious socialists.[26] Such study should yield valuable results. If experience is fruitfully used, each succeeding Communist government should have less and less trouble with the petty bourgeois element.

It is essential to note that the triumph of the petty bourgeois element is anything but inevitable. This is the prime value of the Soviet unfortunate experience in this. With normal precautions based on these experiences, no other country should experience the same development. China, for example, is already taking measures based on this experience. The Chinese army following the Soviet example, had introduced differential privileges in their ranks. Recently, all such differential privileges were abolished. This is only one instance. It is evident that China is taking measures all along the line.

Nor should a pessimistic attitude be taken toward the Soviet Union. The revisionist wing is able to perpetuate its control only by phrasemongering and falsehood. The Bolsheviks did their work too well. The great majority of the Soviet people are socialist.

The revisionists will not be able to disguise themselves for long. Since their view of the world is false (as a result of their petty bourgeois illusions), their foreign and domestic policies will be palpably wrong and costly. It has already been so. Khruschov has been deposed because he was too obvious. He revealed himself. (For example, Goulash is better than revolution.) The remains of this group is more circumspect. But this won’t save them. The United States won’t let them maintain their false positions. Intensified imperialist aggressions, principally by the United States, is cutting the ground from under their feet and will continue to do so more and more, as the world revolutionary forces advance. World affairs are entering a critical phase, and from the point of view of the United States government, what is the good of having a revisionist or ’Western-oriented’ clique in Moscow if one can’t take advantage of it. So in the process of ’taking advantage of it’, the United States government will be doing yeoman work in helping the revisionists out and the Marxist-Leninists in. These are some of the contradictions in which the petty bourgeois wing cannot help embroiling themselves.

One further point can be made. Since Soviet libraries, groups, and individuals may receive some periodicals of Socialist and Communist parties and groups throughout the world, these parties and groups could help the Soviet people find out the truth about the world situation and their leaders by speaking plainly in their periodicals. The criticism of the C.P.U.S.A. by the French Communist Party in the Duclos article is a fine example of this. As Lenin said, it is possible to compromise about everything but principle. On principles one must never compromise, and one must never be silent.[27]


[1] The Chinese have done so. Most of the relevant documents are included in a summary volume entitled, “The Polemic on the General Line of the International Communist Movement.”

[2] The members of agriculture cooperatives still have some elements of economic interests that are different from society as a whole.

[3] V.I. Lenin, “State and Revolution,” Selected Works, Vol. VIII, Pg. 34.

[4] The term ’petty bourgeois’ is used in its traditional Marxist-Leninist sense. The petty bourgeois class is composed of the small businessmen, independent farmers, independent professionals (including most artists and writers), skilled craftsmen, and white collar workers. Included in the white collar workers are sales and clerical workers, lower and middle managerial personnel, technicians, professionals, civil servants, and academicians.

[5] i.e., individualist in its 18th and 19th century sense.

[6] Frederick Engels, “Feuerbach.”

[7] See Lenin’s, “State and Revolution.”

[8] When there is a danger of a nuclear war, for example.

[9] Christopher Caudwell, “Studies in a Dying Culture”.

[10] Frederick Engels, “Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.” Lewis H. Morgan, “Ancient Society.”

[11] John, I:I.

[12] The film “Alexander Nevsky” is an example.

[13] Nicholas DeWitt, “Education and Professional Employment in the U.S.S.R.,” (Washington: National Science Foundation, 1961), pp. 533-34.

[14] These collaborators are now heroes, having been freed from ’Stalin’s tyranny’ along with a small minority of those truly innocent people who were unjustly imprisoned.

[15] A. Chuikov, “The Beginning of the Road.”

[16] One has only to look through copies of the Polish Monthly through those years to gain some idea of the type of material that flowed into the Soviet Union in the official publications of these countries.

[17] There are some people who are under the illusion that the transition from capitalism to socialism in Czechoslovakia was accomplished by the vote and not by revolutionary class war.

[18] Anna Louise Strong, I Change Worlds (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1935), pp. 304 & 307.

[19] Marina Fiveiskaya, “Your Questions on Communism,” Soviet Life, Feb., 1966, p. 15.

[20] Editorial Departments of Renmin Ribao and Hongqi, “On Khrushchov’s Phoney Communism,”etc. (Peking: Foreign Languages Press; 1964), p. 25.

[21] Several actions of Nikita Khrushchov as representative of the individualist wing of the C.P.S.U. illustrate this. (1) When the criticism of the petty bourgeois wing of the C.P.S.U. by the Chinese was being given to the Soviet technicians, Khrushchov withdrew the technicians. He preferred to sabotage the Chinese economic development rather than chance losing his high position. (2) When the Chinese kept up their criticism and the threat to his position became greater, he, in effect, encouraged the United States to attack China. After all the welfare of one fourth of the world population was insignificant as compared to the relative status of Khrushchov and his fellow individualists.

[22] Party members can all be considered state officials regardless of their occupation.

[23] V.I. Lenin, “State and Revolution,” Selected Works, Vol. VTI, p. 41.

[24] Mark, 10: 17-31.

[25] The utterances of some members of the petty bourgeois wing such as Khrushchov and Suslov, show that they have a great facility with socialist phraseology but a complete lack of understanding of even the most elementary tenets of Marxism- Leninism.

[26] “More on historical experience of proletarian dictatorship. ” Peking People’s Daily, Dec. 29, 1956. This piece gives a balanced evaluation of the Soviet development –its errors and strengths. It discusses Stalin’s strengths and excesses.

[27] V.I. Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 47. Also, Vol. XI, pp. 762-63, Vol. V, p. 168, 172, 209, etc.