Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Road to Reaction III

Ignorant and opportunist attack on Stalin

First Published: The Worker, Vol 11, No 9, May 24, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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– A continuation of the critique of PLP’s “general line – Road to Revolution III” (RTR III)

* * *

If RTR III was sharply critical of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, they were downright hostile to Stalin. Listen to the pundits who wrote RTR III:

Over the years the Stalin leadership committed wholesale errors:

1. Making concessions to the old Russian ruling class.

2. Introduction of material incentives instead of political-moral incentives...

Probably the most important error Stalin and others made was not winning masses of people to Marxism-Leninism. So an elite held power without much participation by workers and peasants. Socialism was for the party leaders. The masses were only involved in carrying out this or that policy.

Point One: “Making concessions to the old Russian ruling class.” There is a hasty sloppiness in this formulation. The old Russian ruling class, the nobility and the big capitalists, as well as their political representatives, were physically liquidated or driven into exile, never to return. Concessions were made to the petty-bourgeoisie, the rich peasants, the small traders and the small manufacturers, as well as engineers, managers, administrators, officers, teachers and the like. This class was never part of the old ruling structure in Tzarist Russia and in the main sided with the working class as against the counter-revolution during the Civil War.

If the help of this middle sector was useful in the Civil War, it was absolutely essential in the period of economic reconstruction. Furthermore, the stringent measures of the war-time period could not continue in peace time. Concessions were necessary in the NEP period to gain the cooperation of this middle section in order to avoid famine. The concessions were ended once the economy was functioning again and the threat of starvation passed.

Point Two: Once again sloppy formulations in RTR III’s unseemly haste to attack the Bolsheviks. Neither Stalin nor Lenin introduced material incentives. These were a product of the capitalist era and, indeed, were present since the dawn of commodity production. For better than 1,000 years the Russian people were acquainted with material incentives. Lenin’s and Stalin’s task was to lay the basis for ending this historical dependence. If the anarchists were capable of looking at history in a materialist fashion, they would understand the difficulties and complexity in abolishing economic relations that took more than 1,000 years to develop.

But anarchists are idealists. They believe it was in the capacity of a man like Stalin to abolish at once with a stroke of the pen all material incentives. Because material incentives were not abolished, it had to be because Stalin “committed wholesale mistakes.” It is not for the idealist to consider that perhaps objective conditions were not ripe.

In fact, the historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat, under Stalin’s leadership, shows that political-moral incentives gained steady ground against material incentives during the whole period. At times, to be sure, depending on objective need, the Party relied on material incentives to get a particular job done, because building a modern economy and a productive capacity capable of eliminating scarcity is a precondition to 100 per cent reliance on political incentives. Even so, the great leaps forward in Soviet history, the collectivization movement, the Five-Year Plans, the Stakhanovite Movement, World War II, were accomplished by mainly relying on the political understanding of the working class. In all these great battles an historically increasing reliance on political incentives as opposed to material incentives was clearly evident. Millions of workers and peasants were deeply involved in the leadership of sharp political struggles against the kulaks during the collectivization, against the capitalist-minded factory managers during the Stakhanovism campaign and the struggles for the five-year plans. Moreover, there was very widespread Marxist education and study, as evidenced by the full discussion of the 1936 constitution, and earlier the sharp debate with Trotskyism, which was carried out in the factories themselves, where representatives of the Central Committee debated members of Trotsky’s faction in person.

The “elitism” shoe won’t fit the Bolsheviks. Perhaps the PLP leaders should try it on themselves for size; their antipathy to Marxist study is well known. Of course PLP is embarrassed to give the source of their anti-Stalin charges, which are a rehash of Mao’s “theories,” but by this time PLP was already faulting Mao for not being sufficiently Maoist.

More in a later column.