J. V. Stalin

Letter to Comrade Zaitsev

Source: Works, Vol. 9, December-July, 1927, pp. 167-170
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

I am late in replying about Comrade Zhirov’s article. But better late than never.

I objected to Comrade Zhirov’s article on the uneven development of the capitalist countries being published in the Bolshevik for the following reasons.

1) The article, in my opinion, is schoolboyish. It is evident that the author has not mastered the subject and has no idea of its complexity. Such articles may conveniently be printed in school magazines, where people can practise with a view to one day becoming mature writers. But the Bolshevik is a journal of leadership; it is expected to give guidance on fundamental questions of theory and policy, and therefore to print Comrade Zhirov’s article in the Bolshevik means, firstly, to confuse the mind of the reader, and, secondly, to damage the reputation of the Bolshevik as a journal of leadership.

2) Comrade Zhirov is clearly mistaken when he puts on a par the political aspect of the law of uneven development of the capitalist countries and its economic aspect. That these two aspects constitute the substance of the law of uneven development is, of course, true. But that political unevenness does not just now constitute an urgent question for us from the standpoint of our present disputes with the opposition in the C.P.S.U.(B.) is not open to the slightest doubt. What is to be regarded as the most glaring expression of political unevenness at the present time from the angle of world development? The fact that we have an advanced form of government, proletarian government, Soviet government, whereas the most technically and culturally developed countries have a backward form of government, that is, bourgeois government. Does the opposition deny the possibility or the existence of this political unevenness? No, it does not. On the contrary, it considers that the seizure of power by the proletariat in one country is quite possible.

Hence, it is not in this field that our disagreements lie.

Our disagreements begin with the question—is it possible to defeat the bourgeoisie economically, that is, is it possible, given the existence of Soviet power, to build socialism in one country that is encircled by capitalist countries? Consequently, the disagreements lie in the economic field. That is why we give prominence to the economic aspect of the law of uneven development of the capitalist countries. Comrade Zhirov’s mistake is that he has overlooked this specific feature of our disputes with the opposition, and has taken the prominence given to the economic aspect of the law of uneven development as a negation of the political aspect of this law.

In brief, Comrade Zhirov has failed to see the point of our disputes with the opposition.

This is apart from the fact that the economic aspect of the law of uneven development is, in itself, the basis of all the catastrophes, including political catastrophes, in the sphere of the development of capitalist world economy.

3) Comrade Zhirov fails to see the full profundity of the difference between pre-imperialist and imperialist capitalism. For him, the law of uneven development becomes a more matter of “disproportion and disharmony” in the development of world capitalism. But if that is so, whence the difference between capitalism whose development is on the upgrade and moribund capitalism, the development of which is on the downgrade? Whence the difference between capitalism which is smoothly evolving and capitalism whose development is a process of decay, of spasmodic leaps and catastrophes? Why is it that the victory of socialism in separate countries was impossible formerly, but has become possible now? Can we disregard such facts as the dominance of finance capital, the gigantic advance of technology, the levelling tendency, the division of the world into spheres of influence, the impetuous and spasmodic development of capitalist countries, accompanied by catastrophes and periodic redivisions of the already divided world and by the possibility of the victory of socialism in separate countries?

In what way does Comrade Zhirov’s attitude differ in this instance from that of our opposition, and why indeed, on what grounds, is he quarrelling with the opposition?

Comrade Zhirov evidently does not realise that, unlike sociological laws, which are applicable to all phases of social development, the laws of development of capitalism may and must change. Under pre-imperialist capitalism, the law of uneven development bad one form, with corresponding consequences; under imperialist capitalism, the law assumes a different form, and its consequences are accordingly different. That is why one can, and should, speak of uneven development of the capitalist countries under imperialism, in contrast to the uneven development under the old capitalism. How the laws of capitalism alter at different stages of capitalist development, how their action becomes more limited or more powerful depending on the changing conditions—this is a question of special theoretical interest, to which a man who undertakes to write a special article on the law of uneven development should first of all have given consideration. Comrade Zhirov’s misfortune (not his fault) is that he completely fails to see this aspect of the question.

4) I shall not deal with other questions touched upon in Comrade Zhirov’s article and on which, in my opinion, he himself is not clear—such as the “non-subjectivity of the world capitalist system,” and so on. It is evident to me that Comrade Zhirov is itching to say something distinctive and startling. 5) As to the suggested editorial note to Comrade Zhirov’s article, I consider that such editorial notes are out of place in so responsible a journal as the Bolshevik. To declare that the editorial board “is not in agreement with some of the author’s propositions,” and not to say what those propositions are, would be to evade the issue and perplex the reader. I think that notes of that kind should not be given in the Bolshevik.

With communist greetings,
J. Stalin
January 28, 1927

Published for the first time