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Labor Action, 25 July 1949



On Apologetics


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 30, 25 July 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Last week Labor Action ran a page of documentary material giving the raw facts on anti-labor legislation and practices in Stalinist Russia. There are a couple of comments we want to add. They deal with the type of rationalizations with which such disclosures are met by the Stalinist Faithful.

Some of the decrees here listed and illustrated were put into effect by the Stalin government after the Second World War had started. During the war, when these particular laws were pointed out, a favorite line of Stalinist defense was:

“Well, what do you expect? There’s a war on. The USSR is engaged in a life-and-death struggle. Such laws are needed to prosecute the war, because in wartime even a very small minority can disrupt resistance,” etc., etc.

Even during the war, one had to point out:

  1. The wartime decrees were of the same character and a continuation along the same lines as the increasingly harsh penal laws passed before the war.
  2. Wartime necessity may be used to justify some increased harshness in certain kinds of cases directly involving national security; but (for example) can it really be used to justify forced-labor penalties for 20-minute lateness at work? The mentality that can accept such reasoning is not that of a worker but of a fascist capitalist turned inside out.

But today – the war is over. All of these laws are still on the books. The war, it turns out, was not the reason for them; it was the pretext for them.

Here’s another gag that a sophisticated CP apologist may pull about the material presented:

“Most people in Russia are so happy that they wouldn’t think of committing crimes. It is only against the intransigent minority that these laws are directed. The penalties must be severe in order to wipe out the last vestiges of crime in what is otherwise a vast sea of happiness ...”

The stupidity of this line is evident: When do governments get worried about passing new and tougher laws against crime or against a given crime? When it is dwindling away to nothing? When (as is the Stalinist claim) the very causes of crime in poverty and oppression have been done away with?’ In such a case, the recalcitrant elements become more and more merely psychopathic cases, to be treated more than ever by hospitalization, rather than by draconic penalties harsher than in any civilized country on earth.

When Jean Valjean (in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables) is sentenced to the galleys for stealing a loaf of bread, one does not need a sociological treatise on the times to understand that les miserables are the masses of people. When a Russian worker is sentenced to ten years for stealing “various household articles” or cookies, it does not require the reading of a fat book to understand that the Stalinist regime has reduced the people to the misery and desperation of a century ago.

Just as a scientist may reconstruct the anatomy of an unknown animal from a single thighbone, so – from this one fact – the anatomy of the Stalinist society in Russia may be seen.

It is not a “socialist paradise.” It is a prison-state for the masses. It is not any kind of “workers’ state.” The masses of people are cruelly exploited for the benefit of the ruling group, the bureaucratic masters of the prison-state. It is not any kind of alternative to capitalism, just as capitalist exploitation is no alternative for the horrors of Stalinism.

Independent socialism exposes and fights against the oppression and misery which arises from both of these exploiting systems, in the name of the struggle for a real socialist democracy: the democratic alternative to capitalism, the socialist alternative to Stalinism.

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