Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

David Coolidge

Mass Action

(26 March 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 13, 26 March 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Reply to a Letter on Russia from a Reader

Labor Action has received a letter from a new subscriber in Detroit commenting on democracy and workers’ rights as experienced in the land of Stalin by two of his brothers who went there in 1936. Our new subscriber writes that his brothers found “state slavery” in Russia for over eighty-per cent of the people. As our correspondent puts it: the “Russian producing class did not have the opportunity to enjoy the wealth of Russia when my brothers were there. Only high-ranking politicians or a lousy police officer ... were entitled to enjoy the wealth such as better housing or to own an automobile.”

No Socialism in Russia

All of this has been said before many times and in various ways by Labor Action and the Workers Party. A large part of the writings of Leon Trotsky was concerned with this aspect of the “victory of socialism” under Stalin, his GPU and his whole bureaucratic clique.

Reduced to their simplest terms, however, all these articles and books on this subject mean exactly what these two workers discovered out of their own experience and the simple description of these experiences by their brother. They did not experience the practice of democracy of, for and by the working class. If this is not present, then certainly there is no socialism.

The writer of the letter emphasizes, with some penetration, that this condition existed even in peacetime. That is, there was no workers’ democracy even in a period when Russia was not confronted by attack from external imperialist enemies. It is necessary to mention that this was the period during which Stalin and his GPU instituted the monstrous frame-up trials of the Old Bolsheviks, organized the betrayal of the Spanish Revolution and initiated the hunt which ended in the murder of Trotsky by one of Stalin’s GPU agents.

Furthermore, the writer points out that it is a queer sort of socialism under which a hew class develops and consumes the wealth by virtue of its bureaucratic position, while the working class is virtually enslaved.

The writer of the letter also contrasts, the political status of the masses in Russia with that of the working class in the United States. He says:

“For instance, we here in the United States still are having a form of government ... which is called for the people and by the people. But in Russia, since the year of 1934, it is just the opposite way.”

A Long History

This tendency of which the writer of the letter speaks began long before 1934. It began, before the expulsion of Trotsky and the “Trotskyites” from the Communist Pasty in 1928. By 1934 Stalin had betrayed and wrecked the Chinese Revolution and made the deal with Chiang Kai-shek which resulted in the butchery of countless thousands of the best revolutionary workers in China.

Before 1934 Stalin had led and dragged the Communist parties of the world through all the twists and turns which landed these parties where they are today: to the most brazen support of the ruling class and imperialist war; to sapping the energies and the fighting spirit of the trades unions; and acting in every way to dampen the class struggle and deliver the working class bound hand and foot to the capitalist ruling class. What the writer of the letter is saying in the above quotation is that the political structure in Russia, being totalitarian is more reactionary than the political structure in the U.S., which is the political organization of capitalist democracy. Capitalist democracy, of course, is also reactionary in relation to workers’ democracy or socialism. The political regime of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia is politically of the same stripe as the Hitlerite Nazi regime in Germany. Both are totalitarian, oppressive, destructive to the organizations of the working class and the complete negation of freedom.

The chief symbol of both regimes is the secret police, the Gestapo and the GPU. In both countries the role of the secret police is to protect the reactionary, anti-working class bureaucracy. Every worker understands this in the case of the Gestapo, but is likely to become muddled when he thinks about the GPU. The GPU, as it history under Stalin demonstrates, is just as reactionary and anti-working class as the Gestapo.

In Germany the Nazi bureaucracy rests on capitalism and its function was and is to prolong the life of German capitalism. In Russia the

Stalinist bureaucracy is a new class which has arisen on the collectivized property, which of course is not capitalist property. The Workers Party characterizes Russia as bureaucratic collectivist state. It is not a capitalist nor a fascist state. The Stalin regime is a new class basing itself on the collectivized property. The complete position of the Workers Party is contained in The New International during the year 1941.

Capitalist “Democracy”

The claim made by the ruling class and its defenders that the government of the U.S. is of, by and for the people is as much of a myth as the claim of Stalin and his defenders that there is socialism in Russia. The government of the U.S. is a government of the capitalist ruling class. This class rules because it has social power.

Its social power results from its ownership of the materials of production: land, natural resources, raw materials, tools, machines, trans port, communications and money capital. This makes the ruling class a dictatorship. Its dictatorship is masked by the political parliamentary structure, which gives the impression that because of universal suffrage (millionaire and pauper alike have one vote) all the people are equal, and that the government is a non-class government.

We do have our trade unions and political parties; they have not been suppressed yet. In Germany there are no trade unions. In their place are the slave labor front and the concentration camp. In Russia there are no trade unions. There are organizations composed of workers which go by the name of trade unions. But they are in fact a labor front. Also the labor camps of Russia are no different from the concentration camps of Hitler.

While we in the United States are still free to have our trade unions and political parties, it would be foolish to maintain that this must always be so. There is nothing peculiar about the U.S. which guarantees continued “prosperity” for capitalist society. Workers who rest serene in such beliefs may wake up some morning in a native American concentration camp. The time to do something about concentration camps is now, while the workers’ organizations are alive, powerful and active.

Ernest Rice McKinney Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 17 April 2016