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The revolution betrayed

Saturday 3 May 2008

The Purpose of the Present Work

The bourgeois world at first tried to pretend not to notice the economic successes of the soviet regime – the experimental proof, that is, of the practicability of socialist methods. The learned economists of capital still often try to maintain a deeply cogitative silence about the unprecedented tempo of Russia’s industrial development, or confine themselves to remarks about an extreme “exploitation of the peasantry”. They are missing a wonderful opportunity to explain why the brutal exploitation of the peasants in China, for instance, or Japan, or India, never produced an industrial tempo remotely approaching that of the Soviet Union.

Facts win out, however, in the end. The bookstalls of all civilized countries are now loaded with books about the Soviet Union. It is no wonder; such prodigies are rare. The literature dictated by blind reactionary hatred is fast dwindling. A noticeable proportion o the newest works on the Soviet Union adopt a favorable, if not even a rapturous, tone. As a sign of the improving international reputation of the parvenu state, this abundance of pro-soviet literature can only be welcomed. Moreover, it is incomparably better to idealize the Soviet Union than fascist Italy. The reader, however, would seek in vain on the pages of this literature for a scientific appraisal of what is actually taking place in the land of the October revolution.

The writings of the “friends of the Soviet Union” fall into three principal categories:

A dilettante journalism, reportage with a more or less “left” slant, makes up the principal mass of their articles and books.
Alongside it, although more pretentious, stand the productions of a humanitarian, lyric and pacifistical “communism”.
Third comes economic schematization, in the spirit of the old-German Katheder-Sozializmus.

Louis Fischer and Duranty are sufficiently well-known representatives of the first type. The late Barbusse and Romain Rolland represent the category of “humanitarian” friends. It is not accidental that before ever coming over to Stalin the former wrote a life of Christ and the latter a biography of Gandhi. And finally, the conservatively pedantic socialism has found its most authoritative representation in the indefatigable Fabian couple, Beatrice and Sidney Webb.

What unifies these three categories, despite their differences, is a kowtowing before accomplished fact, and a partiality for sedative generalizations. To revolt against their own capitalism was beyond these writers. They are the more ready, therefore, to take their stand upon a foreign revolution which has already ebbed back into its channels. Before the October revolution, and for a number of years after, no one of these people, nor any of their spiritual forebears, gave a thought to the question how socialism would arrive in the world. That makes it easy for them to recognize as socialism what we have in the Soviet Union. This gives them not only the aspect of progressive men, in step with the epoch, but even a certain moral stability. And at the same time it commits them to absolutely nothing. This kind of contemplative, optimistic, and anything but destructive, literature, which sees all unpleasantness in the past, has a very quieting effect on the nerves of the reader and therefore finds a ready market. Thus there is quietly coming into being an international school which might be described as Bolshevism for the Cultured Bourgeoisie, or more concisely, Socialism for the Radical Tourists.

We shall not enter into a polemic with the productions of this school, since they offer no serious grounds for polemic. Questions end for them where they really only begin. The purpose of the present investigation is to estimate correctly what is, in order the better to understand what is coming to be. We shall dwell upon the past only so far as that helps us to see the future. Our book will be critical. Whoever worships the accomplished fact is incapable of preparing the future.

The process of economic and cultural development in the Soviet Union has already passed through several stages, but has by no means arrived at an inner equilibrium. If you remember that the task of socialism is to create a classless society based upon solidarity and the harmonious satisfaction of all needs, there is not yet, in this fundamental sense, a hint of socialism in the Soviet Union. To be sure, the contradictions of soviet society are deeply different from the contradictions of capitalism. But they are nevertheless very tense. They find their expression in material and cultural inequalities, governmental repressions, political groupings, and the struggle of factions. Police repression hushes up and distorts a political struggle, but does not eliminate it. The thoughts which are forbidden exercise an influence on the governmental policy at every step, fertilizing or blocking it. In these circumstances, an analysis of the development of the Soviet Union cannot for a minute neglect to consider those ideas and slogans under which a stifled but passionate political struggle is being waged throughout the country. History here merges directly with living politics.

The safe-and-sane “left” philistines love to tell us that in criticising the Soviet Union we must be extremely cautious lest we injure the process of socialist construction. We, for our part, are far from regarding the Soviet state as so shaky a structure. The enemies of The Soviet Union are far better informed about it than its real friends, the workers of all countries. In the general staffs of the imperialist governments an accurate account is kept of the pluses and minuses of the Soviet Union, and not only on the basis of public reports. The enemy can, unfortunately, take advantage of the weak side of the workers’ state, but never of a criticism of those tendencies which they themselves consider its favorable features. The hostility to criticism of the majority of the official “friends” really conceals a fear not of the fragility of the Soviet Union, but of the fragility of their own sympathy with it. We shall tranquilly disregard all fears and warnings of this kind. It is facts and not illusions that decide. We intend the face and not the mask.

August 4, 1936

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