Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Two articles from Swedish "Red Dawn" on the degeneration of the Soviet Union

First Published: The Workers’ Advocate Supplement, Vol. 5, No. 7, August 10, 1989.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Below we reprint two articles, translated from Rod Gryning (Red Dawn), journal of the Communist League of Norrkoping. The first article is from issue #7, 1988 and the second is from issue #9, 1988, Elsewhere in this issue of the Supplement we give our views on the important issues raised by these articles. We extend our thanks to Red Dawn for having provided us with these English translations, and we have made some minor grammatical changes.

Some remarks concerning the analysis of the degeneration of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the victory of the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union

The view of the Soviet Union (and also other states of the same kind, for instance the East European countries, China, and Cuba) is a question of decisive importance for the revolutionary, struggle. It not only concerns how to take a stand in various concrete situations of international politics, although that in and by itself is not something unimportant. No, above all it concerns which alternative we are to put forward as our goal, i.e., what kind of society we want, what we mean by socialism.

There could hardly be any, doubt about what enormous harm to the cause of socialism the degeneration of the USSR has caused. A long series of awful regimes of oppression, from Poland to Ethiopia, are dragging the banner of communism in the mud by posturing as "socialist". This is one of the main arguments of the class enemy against the revolution. It is also something which has not failed to influence the best elements’ of the working class towards an ambivalent and disillusioned attitude-many of them are for this very reason skeptical about the task of carrying out a proletarian revolution. They ask if all sacrifices would be in vain, if it is unavoidable that the oppressors of today would simply be replaced by new ones, as has happened in these countries.

Therefore, it could hardly be an exaggeration to say that the credibility of Marxist-Leninists, to a great extent, depends on the ability to in a clear way define the real character of the USSR, without being vague or hiding behind dogmatic phrases, and to give a concrete, scientific explanation of how those things that happened could happen.

The Marxist-Leninist movement’s traditional analysis of the Soviet Union

What usually is being referred to as the Marxist-Leninist movement began to take form on a world scale after Albania and China had broken with the USSR in the beginning of the 1960’s, The old communist parties had in most cases completely degenerated-they had been following the anti-Leninist "popular front" policy of the Comintern after 1935 with all its consequences, and when the 20th Soviet Party Congress in 1956 put forward an outright revisionist line, it was nothing but a programmatic confirmation of a policy which in fact had been implemented for years, before by the Russians as well as by most of the other "communist" parties.

The difference with the Stalin period is thus just a quantitative one, and it consisted mainly in throwing overboard the formal veil of "ideological orthodoxy" that had earlier been firmly upheld. The condemnation of Stalin, who until then had been the object of the most devout glorification, created much more of a shock as it took place simultaneously. A result of this was that Stalin was being identified with a correct policy quite contrary to the one which Khrushchev and company represented. A typical example of this is the Swedish communist Set Persson, one of the main leaders of the Communist Party, who at least since the mid-1940’s fought against the degeneration of the party, thereby putting forward a line which in the main was correct, but who despite that was not able to see the connection between, on one hand, the degeneration of the Swedish Communist Party and the world communist movement, and on the other hand, the 7th Congress of the CI and the Soviet policy under Stalin. After being expelled from the party in 1953 together with some adherents, shortly after the 20th Soviet Party Congress three years later he was the first one in the world openly taking up the struggle against modern Soviet revisionism. But at the same time as defending revolutionary Leninism, he in an almost mechanical way defended Stalin. With that he blocked his own way to understanding the roots of the evil, and thus his criticism could never be consistent enough.

The same thing can be said about the Party of Labor of Albania which objectively, never had been a Stalinist, i.e. revisionist, party. During World War II, the PLA did not carry out any real "popular front policy, e.g., it did not implement the liquidationist and opportunist schemes of the 7th Comintern congress (something which, on the contrary, many of the PLA’s sister parties at that time did do), but did all the time uphold the independent class interests of the workers and the toiling masses. This made possible the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the construction of socialism in Albania, in contrast to the other so-called "people’s democracies". But nevertheless, the PLA was not able to really emancipate itself from the Stalin tradition, but did in the same way get stuck into a dogmatic defense of Stalin and the Stalin period.

The Communist Party of China had already in the 1930’s developed their own hue of modern revisionism–"Mao Zedong Thought". The Chinese "People’s Republic" which was established in 1949 was a bourgeois state based on class collaboration of a typical social-democratic kind. Mao backed up Khrushchov at the beginning, but turned his coat about 1958-59 when the national interests of these "socialist" big powers collided with each other. The CPC now joined with the PLA and began to attack the Khrushchevites for "deviations from Marxism-Leninism", at first internally but later on also in public. And, of course, the Chinese had their own reasons for basing themselves on the Stalinist tradition and avoiding dealing closer with the revisionism that existed before the 20th Soviet Party Congress. Nevertheless, the polemics which were carried out by the CPC against the Soviets and their parrots–"the great polemic"–did in words contain a lot of good stands, which provided great inspiration and guidance to the growing Marxist-Leninist movement. That was a couple of years before the Chinese were to proclaim "Mao Zedong Thought" as being "the third and highest stage of Marxism-Leninism, Marxism-Leninism in the epoch when imperialism is heading for its final collapse and socialism is advancing towards its world-wide victory," and to force it down the throats of the Marxist-Leninist parties as the "general line of the world movement".

Thus, such was thus the ideological background of the formation of the Marxist-Leninist movement. Despite all shortcomings, it was a great step forward; it was a renaissance for revolutionary Leninism. Because it was there that the stress was put–nor would any other thing have been possible, either, since it was in outright confrontation with the theses of the 20th Party Congress. The various Marxist-Leninist parties were oriented towards a proletarian class stand, defending the scientific teachings on the class struggle, the class character of the state, the armed revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the class character of social-democracy and revisionism, differences between just and unjust wars, etc. Given the situation at that time, this was the main side, but one has to be clear about the fact that these correct stands were taken not because of sticking to Stalin, but rather despite that. (This was shown later on, when the emphasis was shifted over to the "popular front" line, something which made possible the "three worlds" theory as well as those rightist deviations being put forward today by the PLA)

The fact that a counterrevolution must have taken place in the Soviet Union, and that it had led to the establishment of a special kind of state monopoly capitalism, became clear early on to the PLA and the Marxist-Leninist movement. But because of the above mentioned inability to look further back than 1956 in the struggle against modern revisionism, it became a generally accepted axiom that this counterrevolution must have taken place after the death of Stalin. So wrote, to take an example, the First Secretary of the PLA, Comrade Enver Hoxha, in October, 1964:

"It is true that an historical turn started when the Khrushchev group took the reins of state in their hands, but this was a big retrogressive turn, a turn that flung the doors open to opportunism and revisionism, to treachery and degeneration, to the undermining of unity and beginning the rift in the communist movement, to approaches to, and unity with, the imperialists and other enemies of peoples and socialism, towards sabotage of the revolution and restoration of capitalism." (Hoxha, Speeches and Articles 1963-64, "8 Nentori" Publishing House, Tirana 1977, p. 241-242)

The Communist Party of China were, of course, those who went the furthest; their point of departure was not Marxist-Leninist, and in their case it was hardly a matter of failure and Inability to make a correct analysis, but rather of the idealist way in which Maoism derives class character from temporary political maneuvers (see the article "Some Comments on the Philosophy of Mao Zedong," in Red Dawn number 5 and 6, 1988). This is how the Chinese described the restoration of capitalism in the USSR:

"Being the first state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Soviet Union lacked experience in consolidating this dictatorship and preventing the restoration of capitalism. In these circumstances, and after Stalin’s death, Khrushchev, a capitalist-roader in power hiding in the Soviet Communist Party, came out with a surprise attack in his ’secret report’ viciously slandering Stalin and by every kind of treacherous maneuver usurped Party and government power in the Soviet Union. This was a counterrevolutionary coup d’etat, which turned the dictatorship of the proletariat into the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and which overthrew socialism and restored capitalism." ([Leninism or Social-Imperialism?, published by the Office of Culture and Information at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Stockholm 1970, in Swedish, page 9. [We have substituted the English language pamphlet version from China, 1970, p.13.– Supplement.])

This is not only anti-Marxist, but absurd too! As if a small clique of intrigue-makers–may they be "evil" and "cunning" or not–through a simple coup d’etat could be able to overthrow a whole social system! We for our part, can take such fairy tales for what they are, because reality is not like the scenario of a Peking opera. But if one considers the fact that Mao saw class struggle as independent of its material basis–production–then it is not too strange that he and his followers could see the question in such a way...

Sure, "analyses" were made of what could have led to the counterrevolution that was considered to have taken place during the 1950’s. But it is in the nature of the matter that these analyses could not be too deep-going even among Marxist-Leninists. In Albania, extensive discussions were held during the 1960’s and the first half of the 1970’s on what happened in the USSR and how a repeat of that was to be avoided. A series of practical measures were taken–measures which in their content were something quite different from the policy that was carried out in the USSR at the time of Stalin. The existing tendencies of a privileged and omnipotent bureaucracy were fought through mass mobilization and workers’ and peasants’ control. Class struggle was intensified and the level of political consciousness of the masses was elevated–the dictatorship of the proletariat was strengthened. But since the PLA was not able to see the fundamental difference with the USSR of Stalin, but saw the difference as important but nevertheless quantitative, it was considered as a merely tactical question of how far to go! During the last ten-year period, the mass movements and revolutionization campaigns seem to have faded away, while pragmatic considerations have come to dominate. That may have very serious consequences with regard to the ability of socialism to survive and develop in Albania.

Let us see how Comrade Enver looked upon the situation in the USSR under Stalin:

"After the Great Patriotic War (i.e. World War 11–Red Dawn’s remark) some negative phenomena appeared in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The difficult economic situation, the devastation and destruction, the great human losses which occurred in the Soviet Union, required a total mobilization of the cadres and the masses for its consolidation and progress. However, instead of this, a falling off in the character and morale of many cadres was noticed. On the other hand, through their conceit and boasting about the glory of the battles won, through their decorations and privileges, with their many vices and distorted views, the power-seeking elements were overwhelming the vigilance of the party and causing it to decay from within. A caste was created in the army which extended its despotic and arrogant domination to the party, too, altering its proletarian character. The party should have been the sword of the revolution, but this caste corroded it.

"I am of the opinion that even before the war, but especially after the war, signs of deplorable apathy appeared in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This party had a great reputation, and had achieved colossal successes in the course of its work, but at the same time it had started to lose the revolutionary spirit and was infected by bureaucracy and routine. The Leninist norms, the teachings of Lenin and Stalin had been transformed by the apparatchiki into stale platitudes and hackneyed slogans devoid of operative, worth. The Soviet Union was a vast country, the people worked, produced, created. It was said that industry was developing at the necessary rates and that the socialist agriculture was advancing. But this development was not at the level it should have been.

"It was not the ’wrong’ line of Stalin which held up the progress. On the contrary, this line was correct and Marxist-Leninist, but it was frequently applied badly and even distorted and sabotaged by enemy elements. Stalin’s correct line was distorted also by the disguised enemies in the ranks of the party and in the organs of the state, by the opportunists, liberals, trotskyites and revisionists..." (Hoxha, The Khrushchevites, Memoirs, "8 Nentori" Publishing House, Tirana 1980, pp. 42-44 [near the beginning of chapter 2].)

Comrade Enver did at least deal with the question in a serious way, contrary to the CPC, and did really try to come to an answer. But as we see, he did not reach very far: he could not see anything wrong with the Stalinist general line, and even less with Soviet society as such, but reasons as if it all was merely some psychological or moral problem.

The analysis is developing, deepening and changing

After the break with Maoism in the end of the 1970’s, the Marxist-Leninist movement was soon facing a crossroad. The "three worlds" theory, like the liquidationist tendencies that were in many cases intensifying, was nothing but the "people’s front" policy taken to its final conclusion. When the Maoists defended the "three worlds" theory, they often referred to the 7th Congress of the Comintern and the foreign policy of the Soviet Union during the 1930’s and World War II. Most Marxist-Leninists rejected, with indignation, such parallels, sincerely believing, that the USSR and the CI at that time had carried out a correct policy in the main aspects.

But soon it became obvious that the Maoists, on that point, in fact were right–something which, however, is not to the advantage of the "three worlds" theory but rather to the disadvantage of the "popular front"! What directly led to this understanding was that the PLA in about 1980 began to turn rightwards, something which was to have serious effects for the international movement. In earlier issues of Red Dawn we have discussed the deviations of the PLA (see for example the article Some views on the 9th Congress of the PLA in numbers 1 and 2, 1988), and are therefore not going to dwell on them here. Let us just draw attention to the fact that they are not in contradiction to Stalinist tradition–quite the contrary. Most of those Marxist-Leninist parties that today follow the Albanians justify–and rightly so–their line through pointing at the 7th Congress of the Comintern. This "shift" was possible because there was no clear understanding of Stalinism. What does that mean, then? It means nothing less than that what in the beginning of the emergence of the movement was of subordinate importance, today has become the main side in the contradiction. With that, the circle is closed! Thus, if the struggle against revisionism should continue, then it is necessary to go further, from the break with Maoism, and break with Stalinism too. That is a precondition for the unity, development and strengthening of the Marxist-Leninist movement. It is as well the task which has been put on the agenda by Marxist-Leninists around the world.

Of course this has its effect also on the analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet Union. As the policy of the Comintern, especially the "popular front" policy, is subject to renewed examination, then it is natural that the question is being put forward whether perhaps; the counterrevolution in the USSR may have taken place long before 1956.

Such an examination takes a lot of time. It is not as easy as simply "going back in history" with the earlier criterion as the point of departure. This because there has existed, as we have seen, no reliable criteria! CLN (the Communist League of Norrkoping) has hitherto not put in question that the qualitative leap really might have taken place in the 1950’s, but we have at the same time pointed out that a qualitative leap, according the laws of dialectics, can not take place if it is not preceded by a quantitative process. That is, the degeneration must in any case have begun far earlier–and by degeneration we do not simply mean such changes in the minds of some cadres, as comrade Enver is talking about. We prefer to keep to the method of class analysis rather than psycho-analysis! We, rather, regard degeneration as a regular class differentiation, i.e., the growing up of a privileged stratum which by degrees disenfranchises the working class of control of the means of production and state power. The final constitution of this stratum as an exploiting class is thus the victory of the counterrevolution. It is quite clear that this must be what happened. But when? Up until now, we have believed that this process begun sometime in the mid-1930’s, to later accelerate during the rest of the Stalin period. This is how we described our view in the article "Where is Gorbachev leading the Soviet Union?", in Red Dawn number 2, 1987: "...the degeneration of the Soviet Union began about the mid-1930’s, when the party leadership, headed by Stalin, began to retreat from a number of essential positions before the pressure from world capitalism. Thereby, a negative development began, which finally was to result in a counter-revolution by peaceful means, in the restoration of capitalism in a new form,"

And further:

"The Soviet leadership gave up the independent proletarian class stand and declared that the class struggle was over; instead of working for the strengthening and development of socialist Soviet democracy, securing and confirming the leading role of the working class, elevating the general level of political consciousness and fighting the expansion of the bureaucracy, the appearance of privileged groups was promoted with the pragmatic justification that ’it is necessary for the rapid development of the country’. Pure nationalism more and more appeared in the forefront as ideological motivation. Party democracy was entombed by branding opposition to the leadership’s line as ’sabotage’, ’undermining activity’ and even as ’a work of fascist agents.’ In short, the changes concerned all spheres of society. During the war, this process accelerated further. Eventually society lost all of its socialist features (except for the form). At least by the time of the takeover of power of the Khrushchevites in the mid-1950’s, the Soviet Union had become a state capitalist society."

As well, we wrote in Red Dawn number 3, 1988 (in the commentary by the staff to Part II of the Iranian article Trotsky and the Critique of the Socio-Economic Relations and State Power in the Soviet Union):

"We believe that the general line of the Bolshevik Party, which after the death of Lenin was represented foremost by Stalin, stood, in the main points, for a correct policy, let alone with some weaknesses, but that later on, in the beginning or middle of the 1930’s, it had a sharp turn rightwards (comparable with the ’popular front’ line of the Comintern from 1935), which was to pave the way to the growth of revisionism, the victory of counterrevolution and the restoration of capitalism."

A view resembling this has also been expressed by Marxist-Leninists in other countries. The organ of the central committee of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA, The Workers’ Advocate, writes in this way about the first five-year plan (1928-33):

"Our historical study so far leads us to believe that positive steps in socialist construction were taken in the period of the first five-year plan and that there were major accomplishments. At the same time, problems also emerged in this period. The rightward turn in the mid-30’s appears, in part, as an erroneous response to the difficulties of the preceding period-an attempt to resolve these difficulties through abandoning revolutionary principle." (from the article A Comment on Some Views of the Communist Party of Iran on Socialism, in the Supplement, number 4, 1988, also reprinted in Red Dawn number 5, 1988)

It is clear that this is a considerable step forward in the analysis of the degeneration of the USSR. But one may ask if it is enough! We do not think so. Sure, it is true that a number of changes took place within Soviet society about 1934-36. Phenomena like, for example, "the Stakhanovite movement", appeared. In the Red Army, the old czarist officers’ hierarchy which had been abolished in 1917 was reinstated. The new "Stalin constitution" put an end to the earlier system of councils based on production units, combining legislative and executive power, and replaced this by a kind of pseudo-parliamentary version (despite the one-party system!), at the same time giving the right to vote and to be fleeted back the former exploiters’ classes. Abortion was prohibited by law and divorces were made more difficult, things which hardly could have strengthened the position of the Soviet woman. Yes, even the textbooks in the schools were rewritten in order to glorify old czars and the expansion of the great-Russian empire!

Since these changes mainly concerned the superstructure of the society, and thus were not enough to replace one kind of relations of production by another, i.e. fundamentally change the base of the society, it is of course quite correct to characterize them as quantitative and not qualitative. But the question still is what this was a reflection of. Could it have been the case that these changes reflected, were the product of, a fundamental change in the base of the society shortly before? i.e. that a counterrevolution had taken place only just before in the Soviet Union and that the above-mentioned changes were an expression of the "new order" of the new ruling class?

What actually confirms that, is that these changes were so drastic and far-reaching. Could it really be supposed that they would have taken place in a society that is carrying on the construction of socialism? Now, if the first five-year plan really had been socialist, would it then not have been an enormous triumph to the toiling people and a strengthening and confirming of the proletarian dictatorship? Problems might have appeared, and perhaps there would have been unclear views on how to overcome them; and maybe such things, in combination with pressure from outside as well as other factors, could have given rise to pragmatism and a short-sighted way of thinking which could have resulted in violating revolutionary principles–but how on earth would something like that lead to such reactionary changes, and so fast at that?

As well there are facts, which we will present further on in this article, which do show that already during the first five-year plan, great changes were carried out of a much more deep-going kind~if not to say a fundamental kind: changes which had to do with the very relations of production. With other words–it is obvious that we have to look for the qualitative leap not after the death of Stalin or at all after those above-mentioned changes in the superstructure, but on the contrary, before them. But in order to have some understanding of the background, let us begin our study at the time of the revolution, in 1917.

From the October Revolution to the first five-year plan

The Great October Socialist Revolution was a work by the industrial proletariat in alliance with the masses of millions of peasants. Beyond any doubt, such allegations, which can from time to time be heard from various directions, not the least from social-democracy, that the working class played a small or no role and that Lenin seized power with an autocratically-run party, without the workers or over their heads, are nothing but lies and slanders. As one of the most prominent opponents of the Bolsheviks, the Menshevik leader Martov, admitted at the time: "Understand, please, what we have before us after all is a victorious uprising of the proletariat-almost the entire proletariat supports Lenin and expects its social liberation from the uprising..." (Letter from Martov to Axelrod, November 19, 1917, quoted from Israel Getzler, Martov, Cambridge 1967)

At that time, the Bolshevik Party was already a mass party; the number of members at the time of the takeover of power has been estimated to be about 200,000. As there were a mere two million workers employed then, something approaching 10% of the class must have been members of this party. As regards inner-party democracy, free debate, in which the whole party participated-and on occasion even workers outside the party-was an integral feature of the work of the party. And the revolution which overthrew the social-democratic-liberal "provisional government", replaced it by a government freely chosen by the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies which assembled at the Second Congress of the Soviets, A congress which by the way did not only consist of Bolsheviks at all.

Ten years later, little remained of the proletarian democracy of 1917. But this could hardly be blamed on those who took power in the October Revolution. For during a long and bitter struggle against counterrevolution and the invasion of fourteen capitalist states, the working class which had made the revolution was itself decimated. By 1920, industrial production had fallen to about 18% of what it had been in 1916, while the number of workers employed was about half of the 1916 figure. The civil war had cut off industry from a supply of raw materials and spare parts. The workers could not keep alive on what their collective product would buy, and many of them had to resort to direct barter with peasants-exchanging their products, yes, even parts of their machines, for food. Large numbers of workers were at the front, where they, dispersed over a vast urea, in an army consisting mainly of peasants, hardly were able to exercise immediate and direct control over the Soviet apparatus in the cities. The best and most militant among the workers were in the front rank in the bloody struggle for the defense of the revolution, and many of them gave their lives. Those who survived would return from the army not as workers but as political commissars and administrators in the new Soviet state. Their place in the factories would be taken over by raw peasants from the countryside without socialist traditions and aspirations, dreaming about their own plot of land and with often quite hazy concepts of politics,

The Bolshevik Party had come to power as the most conscious section of the working class; three years later the party still was in possession of power and had led the Red Army to victory in the civil war-but the working class itself hardly existed any more. The revolutionary gains of 1917 were saved but their class basis undermined. Of course, the regime still remained socialist, but now not because of its class basis, but through the fact that the government, the party holding power, in its activities represented the objective class interests of the working class and worked in the direction of a socialist construction. In the absence of the proletariat, there was no alternative than that the dictatorship of the class under the leadership of the party instead became the dictatorship of the party itself. This was a substitutionist situation.

In order to hold together the country after the decimation and to reconstruct it, the Bolshevik Party was forced to resort to certain bureaucratic methods. They had no choice but to do their best to build up a reliable state apparatus. In order to be able to do that, they had to utilize what in many cases were the only qualified administrators, i.e. members of the old czarist bureaucracy. But these of course did not share the revolutionary aspirations of 1917, and were accustomed to diametrically opposed methods in dealing with their tasks, compared with what the soviets stood for. Such methods and attitudes were bound to "influence" Bolshevik party members working alongside them. Lenin himself was acutely aware of this: "Let us look at Moscow. Who is leading whom? The 4700 responsible communists, the mass of bureaucrats, or the other way around? I do not seriously think you can say the communists are leading this mass.

To be honest they are not the leaders but the led." (Lenin, Selected Works vol. III, Swedish edition, Moscow 1975, page 604.)

As Lenin was dying, it became obvious that not even the top leadership of the party was immune to these distortions. Lenin’s last political act was to recommend the removal of Stalin from his office as general secretary of the central committee to some other task, since he had shown a crude bureaucratism in carrying out his duties as well as in his behavior in relation to other party members. In the years that followed, the authoritarian methods which had entered the party from its environment were used to eliminate from the leadership those who challenged the bureaucratic approach.

The decimation of the working class in the civil war had thus left power with the Bolshevik Party alone. In absence of the class which the party represented, there was no choice but to call into being a massive bureaucracy. And it was soon it which de facto controlled the state, and thereby the state-owned means of production. But the party still remained revolutionary, communist; the decisions taken and the policies implemented still was based on its subjective, Marxist-Leninist intentions. It was based on a proletarian class stand, which served as a compass. However, these subjective intentions were undermined by the objective situation. As the party and the bureaucracy more and more merged, the very structure of the party changed. Free discussion, criticism and self-criticism, etc. was more and more suppressed, while elections from below to various organs often were replaced by appointments from above. A rule of the "apparatchiki" was extending at the cost of the activity of the rank-and-file members. The factional struggles in the party during the 1920’s were not only a struggle between different lines, but also a struggle between those who ran the central bureaucratic apparatus and those who had led the party through the revolution. In this struggle, those who represented the apparatus began to define their own interests in opposition to the revolutionary tradition of October. In a series of key confrontations they broke with this tradition and forced physically out of its ranks all those who adhered, however inconsistently, to this tradition. By the end of the 1920’s most of those who had been part of the party which had led the revolution, had been removed from real influence over politics. They were replaced by men whose role in the revolution had been insignificant: the second-order functionaries who had manned the apparatus of the party, such ones who had passed over to the Bolsheviks from the Mensheviks after the revolution and, in many cases, even after the civil war, the new bureaucracy which had multiplied during the 1920’s.

The bureaucracy–both the old czarist civil servants and the new "communist" bosses-were from around 1923 in possession of the initiative and the real power. Their chief characteristic was inertia and complacency, and they more and more feared and fought against any perspective which might disturb their positions. At home it meant acquiescing to pressures from the NEP-men and kulaks; abroad subordinating foreign communist parties to the need to ensure international security for the Soviet Union. But despite the fact that the Soviet state in this period no longer was something like that "state of the type of the Paris Commune" which the Bolshevik Party had fought for and which Lenin described in his book State and Revolution, it nevertheless did not yet represent aims and goals being in a diametrical contradiction to those of the toiling masses. The Soviet state was still by definition a workers’ state, although a workers’ state with a "bureaucratic deformation", as Lenin pointed out already in 1920. Although the bureaucracy more and more began to form a "class in itself." i.e. a collection of individuals occupying a similar relationship to the means of production, it nevertheless had not yet constituted itself as a "class for itself," i.e. a group aware of its common interests and acting together as an independent historical force to achieve them. The degeneration process was going on, it had not yet reached its completion, it had not yet resulted in the establishment of a state capitalist’ system. What happened during the period from 1923 to 1928 was a quantitative process in the direction towards a counterrevolution-in other words, precisely what we hitherto have thought took place between about 1934 and 1956!

In 1928, the policies of the Soviet party and state leadership suddenly underwent a dramatic reversal. For several years Stalin and the bureaucracy, in alliance with the right wing of the party (the Bukharinites), had been arguing against the Trotskyites and the united left opposition, who held that the industrialization was too slow and that the policy towards the countryside was helping to strengthen the kulaks, who they feared would try to use their strength in order to, in alliance with the NEP-men and the bureaucracy, carry out a counterrevolution ("thermidor"). What now happened was that the kulaks and a big part of the middle peasantry on a mass scale in big parts of the country refused to sell the ordered part of their harvest to the state. The cities were soon threatened by hunger, and ration cards were introduced. In this situation, the bureaucracy had no choice but to strike back and use methods of force. Stalin now broke off with the Bukharinites, declared NEP finished and raised the slogan of "liquidating the kulaks as a class" and collectivization of agriculture. Troops were sent out to the countryside in order to collect what was needed to feed the growing population in the cities, to arrest and deport not just kulaks but in fact all peasants who tried to resist, and in order to "encourage" as many peasants as possible to get together in kolkhozes [collective farms]. This was done at a very fast speed: while the first five-year plan at its inauguration planned a collectivization of 20% of the land, the actual figure at the end of the plan was no less than 60%! Even Stalin himself had, at least one moment (in 1930), to check this somewhat before the risk of peasant uprisings and civil war.

The aim of the enforced collectivization–which is estimated to have been the death for millions of peasants–not only kulaks-was to eliminate the economic power of the peasantry and to pump foodstuffs and raw materials into the town for the industrialization, without having to give the peasants manufactured goods in return. Even though the collectivization did not lead to an increase in the) total agricultural production (still in the early 1950’s it was hardly higher than before the First World War) and led to a catastrophic decline in the production of many foodstuffs it nevertheless enabled the bureaucracy to get more grain from the peasants than earlier. This was what made the USSR the number one exporter of wheat in the world, at the same time as the peasants did not always have enough to eat.

Of course, this does not mean that we agree with the Bukharinites, who in 1928-30 formed a right opposition within the party, and who aimed at continuing the NEP-policy as before and even developing and deepening it. Such a policy would also have led to a counterrevolution, although in another way–in that way which, the left opposition had predicted. That would have been a situation which perhaps, to a certain extent, could be compared with the Nicaragua of today, with the Bolshevik Party in the same position and with about the same policy as the Sandinistas. The NEP-men and the kulaks would then have beep [picked] up by imperialism, something which would have led to the restoration of capitalism, but not state capitalism-rather some kind of "mixed economy." (It should be added that the metaphor has a shortcoming, namely, the fact that Nicaragua is not and has not been a workers’ state.) What alternative would there have been? Establishing a planned economy, industrialization and agricultural collectivization would have been unavoidable in a socialist construction. The wrong point with the five-year plan was that it was carried out by the bureaucracy, against the working class and the peasantry. A correct policy would have been to much earlier base the policy on a proletarian class stand, basing it on the poor peasants and the main parts of the middle peasants, sharpen the class struggle in the countryside against the kulaks, and thus develop the tiny:collectivization movement which in fact did exist. But the bureaucracy instead made concessions to the kulaks, held back the poor peasants and neglected their interests, thus helping to drive many middle peasants under the influence of the kulaks-and because of that, later the bureaucracy was forced to turn right-about, smash the kulaks and, through force instead of mass mobilization, carry through a collectivization. When the left opposition in the mid-1920’s advocated an industrial growth of about 20%; per year and a gradual collectivization of agriculture, it was accused by Stalin (and, of course, by Bukharin, too) of aiming at "super-industrialization", "plundering the peasantry", etc. In 1930, the same Stalin spoke about an annual growth rate of 40!

This cannot be excused as just a clumsy policy on Stalin’s part. As we already have pointed out, there were class reasons for this line. But what does that mean? It means that as the Soviet state bureaucracy took over the control of all the main means of production, it became accurately a "class for itself, i.e. a ruling class. The first five-year plan created a completely new base of society–and this base was not socialist except in form. The first five-year plan was a qualitative leap–a counterrevolution. Instead of the workers’ state with bureaucratic deformations, there appeared the social-fascist dictatorship of the new bureaucrat bourgeoisie.

Let us have a look at the administrative measures that were taken during the first five-year plan-measures which manifested the new socio-economic relations.

In 1929, the "khozrashchof principle ["financial autonomy" or "business accounting"] was introduced at Soviet enterprises, which meant that the enterprises got economic autonomy and became juridical persons. The enterprises were to have their own balance account with profit and loss, on which the incomes normally were supposed to meet the expenses and therefore also give "profitability." The principle of and striving for cash limit and profit is thus nothing new in the Soviet economy, but was quite the contrary a cornerstone in the planning system already from the first five-year plan on.

Before this five-year plan, the enterprises had been headed by a "troika," consisting of a technical director, a trade union official and a political commissar from the party. According to a decision by the central committee of the party in 1929, this system was abolished and replaced by one-man management. According to the Central Committee resolution, the orders of the director should thereafter be "unconditionally ’ binding on his subordinate administrative staff and on all workers." The CC also declared that the workers’ committees in the enterprises "may not intervene directly in the running of the plant or endeavor in any way to replace plant administration; they shall by all means help to secure one-man management, increase production, plant development, and thereby, improvement of the material conditions of the working class." Of course, strikes were prohibited at the same time.

The wages were now established through central decisions, instead of through negotiations with the trade unions, which up until then had been the case. And what decisions! The workers were subordinated to the world’s most comprehensive and studied piece-work system. In 1930,29% of the industrial workers worked under piece-work systems; in 1932 68% and in 1934 as much as 75%. Also within transport and public service branches, yes, everywhere where it was possible to do so, piece-work was introduced. And there was not a question of the usual, proportional payment, but a progressive, piece-work system! At the same time, a job classification system was introduced, which stated more than ten times higher wages for skilled workers than for "unqualified" ones-differences which later were to be increased even more through the "Stakhanovite movement." That all this meant a rate of exploitation which would make any western private capitalist pale with envy, and as well a considerable lowering of the living standard for the huge majority of the population, is shown by the fact that the average wage was less than half of the wages of the best paid workers, and that this average was lowered by as much as 50% during the seven years from 1929 on, without any lowering of the prices on food-stuffs and consumer goods. Really a belt-tightening policy!

Meanwhile, a number of various emoluments in kind were introduced, besides considerable wage raises, for the new bureaucrat bourgeoisie: special shops filled with

luxury goods, special schools, hospitals, rest homes, etc., as well as allotment of plush villas, cars and other things. But in order to make possible also big incomes in ready money, the "party maximum" was modified in 1929 and totally abolished a couple of years later. This rule had meant that a party member could not earn more than a skilled professional worker, and had initially been established in order to avoid formation of a privileged stratum within the party of the working class. Yes, even the regulations on inheritances were changed. The victorious October Revolution had in 1918 by decree confiscated all inheritances of more than 10,000 rubles. This regulation was modified when the NEP was introduced in 1921, but despite the fact that the NEP was concluded in 1928, a law was issued in 1929 on taxation and inheritances above 500,000 rubles, and the tax did not go beyond 10%.

The class differences which were established during the first five-year plan were however to increase even more later on. As we have mentioned, earlier in this article, a lot of changes were taking place in the superstructure of the society during the 1930’s, something which made the differences widen more. As an example there might be mentioned that during World War II a Soviet colonel earned 240 times as much as a private soldier, while the corresponding difference in the American army was "only" six and a half times! But more about that in further articles.

Self-evidently, as the new system of exploitation was established, the working class was subject to political and administrative oppression to a considerable degree. Let us take some examples.

Until the first five-year plan, the Labor Code of 1922 was in force, in which it was stated that employees could not be transferred from one job to another without the consent of those employees concerned. As late as in 1930, the Small Soviet Encyclopedia wrote that "the custom of internal passports, instituted by the autocracy as an instrument of police oppression of the toiling masses, was suppressed by the October Revolution," But in 1932 the Labor Code was revised, and the internal passport system reintroduced. With that, workers were forbidden to change their employment or place of residence without permission.

All industrial enterprises were prohibited to employ workers who had left their former place of work without permission. In 1931, Labor Books were introduced for industrial and transport workers. They had to be presented to the director of the enterprise when a job is first taken on, and in those books the directors were to note all disciplinary measures taken against the workers in question, from a warning to dismissal, and specify the reasons. An effective way of blacklisting "trouble-making" workers! And according to the new Labor Code, it was quite easy to get fired: one day’s absence without good reason could be enough for that, as well as "carelessness in work" or "carelessness with machines and materials." In case of dismissal, the worker would also loose his social benefits–pension, illness insurance and work accident insurance–and could as well in many cases be evicted from his home, since apartments often were tied to the place of employment.

These regulations were to be sharpened, too, during the following years, by the drawing up of a completely new set of laws, which were to replace earlier Soviet civil codes.

We hope that we, by this article have been able to provide a surveyable explanation for our reconsideration of the reasons for, and point of time of, the degeneration of the Soviet Union. However, the last word about this issue, as well as about what political conclusions are to be drawn from it, is far from being said yet. We would be grateful for criticisms and views from our readers.

On the question of the Stalinist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union

Below is the second of the two articles from Red Dawn on Soviet history that we are reprinting in this issue of the Supplement.

In the article Some Remarks Concerning the Analysis of the Degeneration of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Victory of the Counterrevolution in the Soviet Union (Red Dawn, number 7, 1988), we discussed the view of the Marxist-Leninist movement on this issue and explained the path of reasoning which has led us to the view that the qualitative leap into state capitalism can not have taken place in 1956, but much earlier, during the first five-year plan, which was inaugurated in 1928. We briefly dealt with the situation in the Soviet Union after the civil war–how the already backward country was severely devastated; how the working class was decimated in number and nearly atomized; how a substitutionist situation thereby appeared which forced the Bolsheviks not only to make use of the old czarist state apparatus but also to lean on it, etc. We described how the growing party bureaucracy melted together with the old bureaucracy and formed a privileged stratum which, to an ever increasing extent, existed above any democratic control, and how it, with the first five-year plan, took possession of all the, means of production in the society, thereby turning into a ruling class. Finally, we gave a few examples of the reactionary measures which were taken in connection with that.

In this article, we are going to follow this up through having a closer look on what happened in the Soviet Union during the 1930’s, when the state capitalist system was consolidated.

The Party

The emancipation of the working class is the work of the working class itself, and if the communist party is its conscious vanguard and staff of struggle, then communists of|course cannot have any interests deviating from those of this class. Thus, the party cannot be monolithic and totalitarian without losing its revolutionary character.

Without painting up the Bolshevik Party as allegedly free from fault, one nevertheless has to establish that before the civil war, it differed much from what Stalin later on was to define as "Bolshevik Party spirit". Despite difficult illegal circumstances under the czarist autocracy, and a complicated situation during the year of revolution, 19l7, democratic centralism worked. There are even several examples of how Lenin himself was in minority at party conferences and central committee plenums. Perhaps the most well-known examples are how he had to fight hard to win the party for his line on the so-called April theses at the spring of 1917, or on the peace negotiations with Germany in the beginning of 1918. There is no doubt at all about who was right, but the interesting point here is that it shows quite clearly that there was a free discussion and that one man or a clique did not dictate the political line arbitrarily. It is also a significant example that while Lenin put forward his proposal at the 10th party congress for prohibition of factionalism, he at the same time rejected a proposed amendment that the prohibition should be extended to putting forward platforms at elections within the party:

"The present congress cannot in any way bind the elections to the next congress. Supposing we are faced with a question like, say, the conclusion of the Brest peace. Can you guarantee that no such question will arise? No, you cannot. In the circumstances, the elections may have to be based on platforms." (Lenin, Collected Works, English, Moscow, vol. 32, page 261.)

There lies no contradiction in this. The Bolsheviks showed during their history a great flexibility concerning organizational forms of the party. They were not static, but were put in relation to the situation of the class struggle and its tasks. During periods of upsurge in the mass movements, the party could accept a greater inflow of new members from the ranks of working class militants, while during times of ebb in the struggle and offensive oh the part of the class enemy tighten and carry out purges within the party in order to strengthen it. The skillful combination of open, legal work in the Duma [czarist parliament] and in mass organizations, and an effective, underground organization of professional revolutionaries, was in fact a precondition for the ability of the Bolsheviks to be oriented in different, often quickly changing, situations. In the same way, one must look dialectically at Lenin’s proposal of prohibiting factions in 1921, according to the then prevailing conditions. The party was forced to uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat in the absence of the. proletariat, and at the same time make concessions to both capital (the NEP-policy) and to the old czarist bureaucracy. Obviously, there was no choice but to tighten the reins hard, since a possible split of the party would have had grave consequences. But exactly the above quoted distinction that Lenin made, indicates very clearly that he saw disagreements as a natural and unavoidable thing within a revolutionary party, and the suppression of factions–something that was not done even during the civil war–was to him not an abstract principle, but a tactic, a measure considered because of necessity. It may be noted also that the Bolsheviks themselves constituted a faction within the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ party during a long period, from 1903 to 1912 when it finally split. Stalin’s well-known transformation of the prohibition of factions into a principle of universal application through stating that "the party is, as a united will, irreconcilable with the existence of factions", reflected a completely different thing, i.e. the total control, on the part of the bureaucratic party apparatus, of the inner life of the party.

Here it should be added, that we by this do not at all aim to advocate some permanent factionalism as something self-evident and normal within a communist party. Absolutely not! What we are trying to point out is that the Stalinist party concept is a crude distortion of the Leninist one, and that the very essence of the term "democratic centralism" was changed completely. That was, however, logical since the party was transformed from having been a tool of the working class to become a tool of the counterrevolution, of the new bureaucrat bourgeoisie which grew up and took over power in the society.

According to the party statutes, the congress was the supreme organ of the party, and congresses were to be held annually. That was actually applied until the 14th congress, which took place in 1925. But after that, there were two years until the next one, and between the 15th and 16th congresses 2 1/2 years passed. Then 3 1/2 years passed until the 17th congress, and between that one and the 18th–5 years. After that, as much as 13 1/2 years (!) passed until the 19th party congress took place.

According to the statutes, the central committee was to be the supreme body of the party between the congresses. It was to meet four times a year at least. In reality, these meetings were, however, held more and more irregularly. For example, not at all during World War II (while during the civil war, even party congresses took place, completely according to the statutes). After the war, there was no plenum before 1947, and after that one 5 years passed until the next one. Worth noting is also the fact that between the 17th and 18th congresses, an overwhelming majority of the CC were purged; of 71 ordinary CC members elected in 1934, only 16 remained until the end of the congress period, and only 8 out of 68 candidate members.

As regards the social composition of the party, all publication of survey statistics about that was stopped in 1930–quite characteristically. But there are other figures, which also provide some hint about the matter.

For example, in 1939 only 5% of the Soviet citizens had gone through secondary school, but 29% of the party members. That had been the case with somewhat above 11% of the members in 1927. 31.5% of the delegates to the party congress in 1939 had university education, and as much as 41.8% of the delegates to the party conference in 1941, while the corresponding figure about the delegates to the party congresses in 1930 and 1924 were 7.2% and 6.5% respectively. As regards the number of congress delegates being industrial or agricultural workers, we only possess figures from 1934, but that one is nevertheless quite obvious: 9.3%.

Further, In 1923, 29% of the factory directors were party members; while already in 1925 the-figure reached 95%. In 1936, it was reported to be 99.1%. The same kind of figures appear also regarding higher officials,.army commanders, etc. On that, one must keep in mind that the number of people with such occupations increased a lot, so the number of persons from these groups that were members of the party increased much more than the percentage figures.

Thus, it is obvious that the social composition of the party indeed did change considerably. That must also have been strengthened by the disappearance of the old guard. In 1939, the party had 1,588,852 members; thereof only 1.3% (20,655) since the revolution, 1917, and 8.3% (131,875) since the end of the civil war in 1920. But just a short while before the October Revolution, the membership amounted to 200,000, and in March 1921 to 730,000. This means that only about 10% and 18% of them respectively were still in the party in 1939! What happened with the others, what was their fate? In fact, the majority of all members were quite young. As late as in 1927, only 2.8%. of the members were above 50 years of age.

The State

The workers’ state which was born out of the flames of the October Revolution, based itself on workers, soldiers, and peasants councils, elected directly in the factories, at the army and navy units and in the villages. Since the working class constituted a minority of the population, the proletarian character of the state was secured through the implementation of a system that gave the workers’ councils the largest amount of deputies to the all-Russian (after 1922, all-Union) Soviet congresses. One important principle was that the councils were not based on territorial units, but on production units, and that (contrary to a parliamentary system) there was no division into legislative and executive power. Another important principle, which however there was no possibility to put into practice, was the abolition of the bureaucracy and the standing army. But this did not hinder the implementation of principles as egalitarian as. the conditions allowed. As an example there can be mentioned that, despite the fact that the Red Army could not be organized as a popular militia, but had to be a standing army and even take many former czarist officers in service, nevertheless ranks, batmen, special officers’ messes, etc. were abolished. The same thing with the state apparatus-many officials were in possession of some material privileges, but they were clearly limited, they were not for party members, and the main parts of the bureaucracy did actually gain salaries which were about the same level as what a skilled worker could earn.

But all that was changed. The councils, the soviets, got lesser and lesser importance as the domination of the bureaucracy became more and more total. It was, on the whole, difficult to uphold a properly working council’s democracy in a situation in which workers’ power did not have the same firm ground socially. Parallel with that, the soviet congresses began to meet more and more seldom, and for a shorter and shorter time every time. They were reduced to voting machines. It became usual that candidates at elections were nominated by the party bureaucracy and consisted of party and state bureaucrats. Since the end of the 1920’s, there no longer occurred any debates and all decisions were taken unanimously. Many of these decisions were even taken after they had been put into practice!

That was the case with e.g. both the first five year-plan and the following ones. The purely ceremonial nature of this body could hardly appear in a more obvious way! In 1936 the "Stalin Constitution" was introduced, which meant a reorganization of the very structure of the system of councils. Thereby those forms which were introduced by the revolution were abolished even formally, and replaced by "parliamentary" forms of organization: the councils were transformed into territorial units and the bourgeois principles of division of power were copied. Direct election to a "parliament", the Supreme Soviet, which replaced the Soviet Congress, were introduced. The unique position of the working class was abolished, and those who had been deprived of the right to vote at the time of the revolution now got that back again. Had it not been for the one-party system, this would have been a completely bourgeois-parliamentary system. But significantly the one-party system was stated in the new constitution–there had never been such a thing before, although in reality of course there only had existed a single party since the end of the civil war.

In our earlier article on the Soviet Union, we described how wage differences, piece-work systems and job classifications were introduced on a large scale for the workers during the first five-year plan. This was combined, as we mentioned, with the abolition of the income ceiling for party members and with an inheritance tax that made it possible to inherit a lot of wealth. Let’s have a look at what the salaries and benefits for the bureaucrat bourgeoisie were as its positions were secured and strengthened.

In 1926, the average annual income of the workers was 465 rubles, counted at the pre-war rate. The maximum for "specialists" of various kinds was 1811 rubles, but there were only 114,000 people who earned so much. They consisted of only 0.3% of all incomes in the entire country, and their incomes, put together, would not exceed 1% of the national income. But by "the victorious construction of socialism", this was changed. At the Soviet Congress in 1935, Molotov declared:

"Bolshevik policy demands a resolute struggle against egalitarians as accomplices of the class enemy, as elements hostile to socialism." (Quoted by Chernomordik, The Economic Policy of the USSR, Russian, Moscow-Leningrad 1936, page 240.)

In 1934, figures relating to the divisions of various groups and professions by income ceased to be published. Only the average income of all workers and employees together were reported after that. The minimum wage in industry in 1937 was 110 rubles a month. That many workers did not earn more than that is shown by the fact that; when a new law on minimum wages was instituted the next year, it led to a budget grant of 600,000,000 rubles extra. At the same time it was established in law that the four top-ranked place holders in the Supreme Soviet were to have an annual wage of 300,000 rubles (about 227 times as much!). The presidents of the various Soviet republics were to have 150,000 a year, while the "MP’s" of the Supreme Soviet got 1000 rubles a month and a remuneration of 150 rubles for each day of session.

But let’s go back to industry. Educated professional workers earned about 500 rubles a month, but the average wage was much lower–231 rubles–and since this average figure includes everyone, one can understand that the huge majority earned very little. The elite workers, the Stakhanovites, could on the other hand earn up to 2,000 rubles. In the beginning there was a rule stating that the work norms (for piecework) should be set in such a way that they were in accordance with the aim of keeping the workers’ health at an acceptable level. But in 1936, this rule was abolished, and the norms were raised considerably. In the coal industry by about 25%, in the iron and steel industry by 13-20%, in the non-iron metallurgical industry by 30-35%, in the machine-building industry by 30-40%, in the construction industry by 54-80%. Later they were raised even more. As well, the norms themselves were divided into part-norms in order to make the piece-work systems even more effective; for example, in 1939 there existed as much as 2,026,000 different work norms within only those branches administered by the Commissariat of General Machine and Vehicle Construction.

For officials and higher position-holders, various kinds of bonuses were introduced besides the already high salaries. In 1936, the Directors’ funds were introduced. To those, 4% of the planned profit of the enterprises and 50% of all profits beyond it were to be transferred. It could be large sums; for example the funds within the oil industry in 1937 were equivalent to 345 rubles per worker, in the meat industry 753 rubles per worker and in the liquor industry 1175 rubles per worker. If was the director who had to decide about what to do with the funded money, and although it officially was supposed to be used for social welfare, etc., it nevertheless seems to have gone, straight into the pockets of the rich: at a factory in Kharkov, the funded sum of 60,000 rubles in 1937 was shared so that the director himself got 22,000, the secretary of the party committee 10,000, the chief engineer 8,000, the chief treasurer 6,000 and the chairman of the local union and the overseer 5,000 rubles each. But also the salaries themselves carried real "carrots": if a high-ranked manager fulfilled the plan for 1948, he got an increment of 30% for that and then up to 4% for each per cent unit with which the plan was over-fulfilled. For a department chief it was 25% and 3% respectively, and for shop chiefs 20% and 3%.

The bureaucrat bourgeoisie also had an extra source of income in the state prizes. In 1939, the Stalin prize was introduced on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the "fatherly leader’s" birthday. From the beginning, the maximum prize sum was 100,000 rubles (tax-free), but later it was raised to 300,000. Each year about 1,000 such prizes were awarded at about 50,000-300,000 rubles. With regard to all this, it’s not strange at all that some Soviet citizens became millionaires in the 1930’s. During the war, there were often reports in the newspapers about citizens buying war obligations for 1,000,000 rubles or even more.

As regards the wage differences in the army, they were considerably bigger after 1935, when the bourgeois officers’ hierarchy was re-established in all its magnificence and dazzle, and with that as well the separate officers’ messes, batmen and other benefits belonging to the rank. During World War II, a private got 10 rubles a month, a lieutenant 1,000 and a colonel 2,400. (Just for comparison, in the U.S. army, which actually never even claimed to be socialist, the corresponding wages were 50, 140 and 333 dollars respectively.) In order to keep up the appearance of superior breeding, officers were not permitted to carry large parcels in the street, and privates and commanders of lower rank were obliged to give up their seats to men of superior rank when traveling on public transport; however, high officers were not at all allowed to go by local bus, tramcar or underground or to sit at table with other ranks in public. Comradely relations between privates and superiors were condemned as undermining discipline, discussions among subordinates were prohibited as well as group grievances, for which an officer got the right to shoot a soldier on the spot for insubordination! For the sake of clearness, it may be added that the last-mentioned principle, as well as the other rules, can not even be explained away as an excess in a war situation–it was introduced in 1936.

Naturally, the counterrevolution was accompanied by a very reactionary and repressive criminal code. In our earlier article, we briefly discussed the labor laws which were introduced with the new conditions of exploitation. Let’s now see how the subordination of the workers to property and to the needs of capital accumulation, also corresponded to legislation which covered all spheres of society, being quite well comparable with that which existed during the childhood of capitalism in the western industrial nations.

In 1932, a law was adopted "On the Protection of the Property of State Enterprises, Collective Farms and Cooperatives and Institutions of Socialist Property", specifying capital punishment for theft of such property or, in extenuating circumstances, not less than 10 years of imprisonment and confiscation of all personal property. Stalin called this law "the foundation of revolutionary legality". But since this law usually was not applied in cases of larceny and minor theft, other laws were passed later, specifying 5-10 years of imprisonment in a labor camp if it occurred for the first time, and 8-25 years if it was repeated or committed by an organized group or on a large scale. In 1935 it was specified that children from 12 years of age would be punishable according to the penal code, and the special juvenile courts, which until than had existed for youngsters below 18 years of age, were abolished. The apologia for that was that the number of cases of juvenile delinquency only in Moscow had doubled between 1931 and 1934. There were reports about executions of very young delinquents, and according to witnesses, a lot of children were to be found in Siberian labor camps, where they had to work in factories and mines. In 1941, a decree was passed stating that knowledge of a crime and negligence about it would be regarded as being an accomplice. In 1943, the Soviet government issued an order about establishment of special reformatory colonies for confinement without juridical procedure for children from 11 to 16 years of age who had committed vagrancy.

Education, Culture, Ideology

One of the first measures, of the October Revolution was to separate the school from the church and to abolish chastise [corporal punishment?] and religious indoctrination in teaching. Despite civil war and scarce material resources, the building up of a 4-year compulsory school all over the country was carried out successfully. The 1920’s was also a period of radical pedagogical experiments, aiming at breaking down the traditional grinding, stimulating collectivism and independent thinking and providing the toilers’ sons and daughters with as fair possibilities as the situation allowed. As well, a quota system was established, which reserved the majority of places at institutions of higher education for children of workers and peasants.

But during the first five-year plan a marked change took place. In 1930, a new curriculum was passed, which meant an end to the radical aim and direction. Theoretical and practical education was now separated from each other, the quotas were removed and the old pre-revolutionary mark and examination system was restored. Soon the result appeared. In 1938, as much as 47.3% of the students were children of civil servants and intellectuals–stratas constituting only 6% of the population of the country. Then all figures of the social composition of students ceased to be published. In 1940, fees were introduced for all education from middle schools upwards. At universities, the term fees were 150-250 rubles, which as we already have seen was much money for an ordinary worker. In the same year, a law was passed on the draft of between 800,000 and 1,000,000 boys annually from 14 to 17 years of age into compulsory vocational education. Since middle school pupils were exempt from that it was obviously first and foremost children from poor families which were drafted. It seems that the discipline for those apprentices was very harsh; for example, one year of confinement in a reformatory was stipulated for anyone leaving without permission!

According to a government decree issued in 1932, the text-books in history, literature, etc. were re-written in order to glorify the growth–and expansion!–of the Russian empire as a "progressive" development. This tendency was soon to dominate the official propaganda as a whole. Old czars and tyrants like Ivan the Terrible or Peter the Great were hailed in a tone which reminds one of how the Swedish bourgeoisie used to boast about Gustav Vasa, Gustav II Adolph or Charles XII (old Swedish kings, governing 1523-1560,1611-1632 and 1697-1718 respectively, alleged "heroes" and "fathers of the nation"–translator’s note by Red Dawn), while leaders of peasant uprisings, the "the false Dimitri", Stenka Razin or Pugachev, now were said to have been agents of foreign powers! The view held by Bolsheviks, revolutionaries and progressive Russian democrats on the czarist empire as "a prison to the peoples", was now swept away-why, they even went so far as to portray the 19th century annexation of e.g., the Caucasus or Central Asia as something bringing these peoples "liberation", "protection" and "represented the only path of socio-economic and cultural development"! All this was accompanied by a great-Russian chauvinist campaign, suppressing the national traditions of the non-Russian Soviet Republics in so far as they contradicted "the leading role of the Russian people". A result was the nomination of Russians to the important positions within the party and state apparatus and economy of these republics. Sometimes it happens that these events are explained with arguments like that the country was facing the outbreak of World War II and that, therefore, it was necessary to appeal to "the patriotism of the masses". If so, then one may wonder how it was possible for the Soviet power to stand firm against intervention of fourteen imperialist powers soon after revolution! Was perhaps the uncompromising internationalism of the Bolsheviks a mistake? Hardly so. It’s quite obvious that this social-chauvinism reflected the restoration of Russia by the new bureaucrat bourgeoisie as an imperialist big power. Let’s illustrate this with a couple of quotations–the first one from the pan-Slavic (!) committee which was established in Moscow during the war, and the second one from Stalin when commenting on the capitulation of Japan in 1945.

"The friendship between the Slavs is no occasional phenomenon. It is nourished by blood-bonds between the numerous Slav peoples, by the common goals and by the noble strivings of all Slavs for progress, peace and friendship... These blood-bonds express themselves in everything: language, culture, morals, habits and belief... Linguistic connection would have been impossible without common physiological and psychological features among the Slavs... The kinship of the Slavonic languages is a durable proof of the spiritual unity of the Slays." (Slaviany, journal of the pan-Slavic committee, August issue, 1942)

"... the defeat of the Russian troops in 1904, in the Russo-Japanese war, left bitter memories among our people. It was a dark spot on our country. Our people waited with confidence for the day when Japan would be defeated and the spot would be washed off. In forty years we, the elder generation, have waited for this day to come. And now it has come." (Stalin, The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, Swedish, Moscow 1954, page 198)

In one sphere after the other, one can see how the Stalinists revised Marxism-Leninism, distorting it into a bourgeois ideology. We have in earlier issues of Red Dawn discussed the "popular front" line which was introduced in the communist movement in 1934-35. It was possible precisely because of the bureaucratization of the Comintern and its transformation into an appendix to the needs of the Soviet foreign policy–a gradual process which, at least, can be dated back to the mid-1920’s and which then manifested itself as deviations from a generally correct line–for example, the catastrophic policy for China which to a great extent was a predecessor of the "popular front," or the fatal theory on "social fascism". The period after the 6th Congress of the CI in 1928 was in itself a tremendous contradiction–on one hand a revolutionary policy and a continued struggle against social-democracy and opportunism, but on the other hand also a diehard support for the Soviet Union, which at that time went through its counterrevolution covered with "left"-sounding phrases. This contradiction, which undermined the world communist movement, was finally "resolved" through the breakthrough and victory of revisionism at the 7th CI congress in 1935. Ah alternative solution would have been if the communist parties, emphasizing the proletarian class stand which they in fact stood for at home, would have got rid of the rigid, sectarian deviations which were nothing but an expression of the counterrevolutionary Soviet state interests, exposed the reality behind the five-year plan and taken up the struggle against the "popular front" policy. But that was not possible just because of the changes the Comintern went through.

Another example is the question of the Soviet state. Sometimes it is said that Khrushchev was a pioneer in revising the Leninist view with his theory of "the state of the entire people". But in reality, Stalin had already previously completely distorted the Marxist-Leninist theory on the dictatorship of the proletariat. According to what he said at the 17th party congress in 1934, socialism had nothing to do with equality-the Marxist idea of equality should allegedly mean simply the abolition of private property in the means of production, thus making everyone equal, in juridical terms, in relation to them. Here we have the heart of the matter! Sure, it’s true that he, during the first five-year plan, e.g. in the struggle against Bukharin, did talk about the continuation and even sharpening of the class struggle during the period of socialist construction- but what he meant by that was the struggle against NEP-men and kulaks, a struggle which was carried out from above, by administrative means. That theory thus served as a "left"-sounding argument for what in reality was the establishment of a state-capitalist base in society. Later he claimed that since the antagonistic classes had been expropriated, there were no class contradictions left anymore. This picture was painted in, for example, Stalin’s speech on the constitution (1936) or at the 18th party congress (1939). The term "the dictatorship of the proletariat" was kept, but was now motivated by the need of defense against external enemies and against individuals carrying out espionage or committing violence, theft, etc. When Stalin did talk about "class struggle under socialism"– like in his well-known speech before the central committee in 1937 on "the struggle against the fascist agents of Trotskyism"–then actually it was all reduced to such things. At the same time, Stalin said (at the 18th party congress) that the state would not wither away but be strengthened also during the, as he claimed, approaching "construction of communism", with the reasoning that that would take place in one country, too.

So, Stalin’s theory didn’t differ too much from Khrushchev’s–the latter one did just make a small amendment to it, through re-baptizing what Stalin called the "dictatorship of the proletariat" into "the state of the entire people" with the reasoning that now the "class struggle" in the USSR had been concluded. The reason for that seems to have been that the state capitalist development in the country had matured and reached a new stage, in which it became necessary to ease the repression somewhat and to try to loosen the central reins of the economy. For the same reasons, during the 1950’s and 1960’s the biggest wage differences were narrowed and the fees for higher education removed, etc.

Well, what about the class struggle in a genuine socialist society then, does it continue? Does a proletarian dictatorship remain right until communism? Yes, without doubt. In the communist society there will not exist any classes, and therefore not any state, either. Communism in a single country is an absurdity just as a "state of the entire people" is. Socialism, on the contrary, is not a separate social system but a transitional society, in which remnants from capitalism still exist, like e.g. bourgeois right in distribution ("to each according to work"). Thus there is an objective danger of degeneration still after the expropriation of private property. But the proletarian dictatorship is strengthened just through taking steps in the direction towards its own withering away, something which begins immediately after the revolution although it for various reasons may extend over a long historical period.

Such is our view on the question of the Stalinist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union. More articles will appear in Red Dawn on this theme.