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Martin Abern

Industrialization and the Peasantry

(April 1929)

From The Militant, Vol. II No. 7, 1 April 1929, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In the unscrupulous falsification of the history of the Russian Revolution by the Stalin clique, the distortions and total misrepresentation of the views of comrade Trotsky and the Russian Opposition on the peasant question stand out in bold relief. On this question, the position of Trotsky coincided with that of Lenin.

Lenin, replying to rumors of differences between him and Trotsky, wrote:

“The rumors of disagreements between him and and me are a monstrous lie, propagated by the landlords and capitalists or their conscious or unconscious servitors. I, upon my part, fully confirm this statement of comrade Trotsky. There arc no disagreements between him. and me, and in regard to the middle peasants there are no disagreements not only between Trotsky and me, but in general in the Communist Party of which we are both members.

“... I subscribe with both hands to everything Trotsky wrote.” (Lenin, Pravda, No. 35, February, 1919)

The falsification of the views of Trotsky is attempted both for the period when Trotsky was Lenin’s closest co-worker, and also for the general historical position of Trotsky. Trotsky “underestimates the peasantry”; “he does not accord them the proper attention”; he “pays no attention to the peasant at all” – every conceivable idea is attributed to Trotsky on the peasant question. All the distorters of Trotsky’s ideas have one thing in common. They never quote or state his actual views which differ in nowise from Lenin and the Bolshevik position. The procedure of Trotsky is completely Marxist, as even casual investigation would show.

From a revolutionary standpoint, in any relations with other social groups, the Marxist puts forward the unquestioned domination of the proletariat. To see the peasant in any other light fundamentally than as an ally of the proletariat under the leadership of the latter is to undermine the foundations of proletarian revolutionary rule; for example, such “defenders of the U.S.S.R.” as Arthur Rhys Williams who extolls the peasant above all other groups. The peasant cannot be the leader, and driving force comes from the city. Hence, the theory of the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution is accepted naturally by the Communist from historical, political and social reasons.

Trotsky wrote,

“Once in power, the proletariat will appear before the peasantry as its liberator.” From Our Revolution, Henry Holt & Co., p. 98 (written in 1906).

While the proletariat maintains hegemony once it achieves political supremacy, nevertheless, “The proletariat will be able to hold this position under one condition; if it broadens the base of the revolution.” (Ibid., p. 96, our emphasis)

But in what manner shall this base be broadened and for what groups and classes? Are the class differentiations, for instance, among the peasantry to be ignored? Is only volume of commodity production in agriculture to be the main guide in the attitude of the proletarian dictatorship and the U.S.S.R. toward the various peasant groupings: the hired worker, poor and middle peasants and the rich Kulak? The Right Wing, as an instance, lead by Rykov, as Trotsky pointed out long ago and which the Stalin regime today repeats without understanding, bases its policies primarily upon increased productivity by the Kulak with his use of hired labor, perhaps some horses and other means of production which the poor peasants do not have. But the encouragement of Kulak production as against development of Soviet and collective farms hinders the socialist development of agriculture, as well as the productivity of the rest of the peasantry.

“The Kulaks and their ideological defenders, hide all their ambitions under a pretense of worrying about the development of their productive forces, about increasing the volume of commodity production ‘in general’, etc. As a matter of fact, Kulak development of the productive forces, a kulak increase of commodity production, represses and checks the development of the productive forces of the entire remaining mass of the peasant industry.” (From the Platform of the Opposition)

This means, further, the development along capitalist roads, as the Russian Opposition declared, along the direction of Thermidor, for saying which the Opposition are imprisoned, persecuted and exiled. But now, at a time when the Right Wing, nurturing for so long the Kulak, Nepmen and bourgeois ideologies, has grown rapidly and strong the shocked and distressed Stalin regime, shouts the words of Trotsky but finds itself actually only puttering around with a program it does not understand and feel sure about,

But in words, Molotov, Stalin henchman, can say, among other things, at the March 1929 Moscow Party Conference:

“The Right deviation, in the question of the mode of development of agriculture, takes a different, openly anti-Party position, ... the essence of the Right deviation culminates in the following: Less expenditure of money on collective economics and state economics, caution in the development of advance payment for harvests, in the organization of tractor colonies, in the development of an agricultural economy based on agricultural machinery and tractors. Hence, the Right deviation means, in the first place, a loosening of the fetters binding the Kulak economy, which would lead in the last analysis to a victory of the bourgeois elements and to the restoration of capitalism.”

To develop agriculture along the line of soviet and collectivist farms, there must be an industrial development along socialist lines. Without a policy and plan which works toward electrification and the development of big scale production in industry, and a use of the resources of the country with this aim in view, agriculture will remain on the low basis of independent production by tens of millions of small peasants, producing virtually in a barbaric manner. Industry must produce the machinery which can transform agriculture into socialist agriculture production. “The sole material basis for socialism is a vast machine industry, capable of reorganising agriculture,” said Lenin. Today, this strikes root more strongly than ever. Only a high development of the means of production and electrification is able to overcome the technical backwardness of millions of small industries. However, this process of industrialisation, must be along socialist roads if the working masses in the city and country are to be the gainers thereby.

It would be incorrect to say that the Stalin regime has no policy on industrialisation. It is in particular contrast with the policy of the Bukharin-Rykov group. The latter has no faith in the possibility of a swift industrialisation development in the U.S.S.R., and hence bases its major policy on agricultural production, especially in the development of the productive forces of the Kulak. This situation, in their view, will continue for years, while the U.S.S.R. slowly, at a “snail’s pace” develops industry. This policy dooms socialist construction in the U.S.S.R. and inevitably draws upon capitalist elements for sustenance. Bukharin’s writings, Notes of An Economist contain the arguments for this line.

The Stalin regime now has, on the contrary, an industrialization policy. Unfortunately, it leads also to capitalist domination by another road. The Stalin regime says: Industrialize! and it calls upon foreign capitalists to enter and build industries along modern lines. True, the U.S.S.R. will become industrialized thereby, indeed, along Ford methods, if you please. But it will be capitalist industrialization and not socialist industrialisation. The Stalin plan of industrialisation, may yet lead to a Dawes plan of development and “cure” for the U.S.S.R. These are the signs to be noted in the agreement with the International General Electrical Company of the United States, the plans of Colonel Cooper for electrification, etc., and the “freer” foreign relations that are being indicated in the present foreign policy of the U.S.S.R. (Kellogg pact, etc.) Both Stalin’s and Bukharin’s way lead away from the Revolution and the proletarian dictatorship.

The program of the Opposition is the way of industrial and agrarian socialization with an absolute assurance of the retention of the foundation of proletarian rule: the dictatorship of the proletariat. That policy has as it basis the absolute maintenance of the foreign trade monopoly, a redistribution of the national income by means of a correct use of the budget, credit and prices, and a correct use of the bonds with the world economy, There are sufficient resources for a socialist policy for agriculture and industry in the U.S.S.R., as against the Stalin “capitalist industrialisation” policy on the one hand and the “Kulak” hope of Bukharin on the other. What is needed is the correct policy.

The Stalin-Bukharin regime jointly for these past years is responsible for the loosening of the control of the village by the Party and the proletariat. When Kulaks are told, as Bukharin told them, to “enrich themselves” and Stalin says, “Create non-party peasant active centers by revivifying

the Soviets” without mentioning the matter of which “class” is to dominate in the Soviets thus set up, the Kulaks enrich themselves not only in an economic sense but also take the opportunity to establish political rights, i.e., privilege of voting, etc.

“If the dominant party should be guilty of one mistake after another, in politics as well as in economics, if it should retard the growth of industry, ... if it should relinquish its grasp of the control over the political and economic processes in the village, of course, the cause of socialism would be lost in the country.” (Leon Trotsky, Whither Russia, International Publishers, pp. 13–14.)

The persistent crisis and confusion of policy these past years in the C.P.S.U. under the Stalin-Bukharin regime attests eloquently to the warnings of Trotsky uttered already in 1925.

The Stalin-Bukharin regime, contrary protestations now notwithstanding, saw the “Peasant problem” true enough, but they did not see it correctly, as Trotsky saw it, namely, that:

“In the class struggle now going on in the country, the party must stand, not in words but in deeds, at the head of the farm-hands, the poor peasants, and the basic mass of the middle peasants, and organize them against the exploitative aspirations of the Kulak.” (From the Platform of the Opposition. Our emphasis)

For those who wish to know the detailed program of the Russian Opposition on this and other questions, there should be read the Platform of the Opposition published in The Real Situation in Russia, the article on the July Plenum and the Right Danger by L.D. Trotsky printed in The Militant, etc.

Meanwhile, the grain crisis in the C.P.S.U. is not solved, and the Stalinites, now “cleansing” the Party of the Bukharin wing, still zig-zags in all directions. The fight against the Right Wing is three-fourths a sham battle. The Russian Opposition is cut off in the Stalinist way, the way of ruin, division and disintegration of the Communist forces. But still the Opposition remains and points out the correct line of action for the C.P.S.U., the U.S.S.R. and the International Communist movement. Stalin falsifies history today. But history will correct Stalin. And that will yet bring the victory of the Opposition under the leadership of Leon D. Trotsky.

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