The betrayed revolution, Leon Trotsky
Friday 12 September 2008
INTRODUCTION: The Purpose of the Present Work
I. – WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED
The Principal Indices of Industrial Growth
Comparative Estimates of These Achievements
Production per Capita of the Population
II. – ECONOMIC GROWTH AND THE ZIGZAGS OF THE LEADERSHIP
“Military Communism”, “The New Economic Policy” (NEP) and the Course Toward the Kulak
A Sharp Turn: “The Five-Year Plan in Four Years” and “Complete Collectivization”
III. – SOCIALISM AND THE STATE
The Transitional Regime
Program and Reality
The Dual Character of the Workers’ State
“Generalized Want” and the Gendarme
The “Complete Triumph of Socialism” and the “Reinforcement of the Dictatorship”
IV. – THE STRUGGLE FOR THE PRODUCTIVITY OF LABOR
Money and Plan
The Rehabilitation of the Ruble
The Stakhanov Movement
V. – THE SOVIET THERMIDOR
Why Stalin Triumphed
The Degeneration of the Bolshevik Party
The Social Roots of Thermidor
VI. – THE GROWTH OF INEQUALITY AND SOCIAL ANTAGONISMS
Want, Luxury and Speculation
The Differentiation of the Proletariat
Social Contradictions in the Collective Village
The Social Physiognomy of the Ruling Stratum
VII. – FAMILY, YOUTH AND CULTURE
Thermidor in the Family
The Struggle against the Youth
Nationality and Culture
VIII. – FOREIGN POLICY AND THE ARMY
From “World Revolution” to Status Quo
The League of Nations and the Communist International
The Red Army and Its Doctrines
The Abolition of the Militia and the Restoration of Officers’ Ranks
The Soviet Union in a War
IX. – SOCIAL RELATIONS IN THE SOCIAL UNION
Is the Bureaucracy a Ruling Class?
The Question of the Character of the Soviet Union Not Yet Decided by History
X. – THE SOVIET UNION IN THE MIRROR OF THE NEW CONSTITUTION
Work “According to Ability” and Personal Property
The Soviets and Democracy
Democracy and the Party
XI. – WHITHER THE SOVIET UNION?
Bonapartism as a Regime of Crisis
The Struggle of the Bureaucracy with “the Class Enemy”
The Inevitability of a New Revolution
APPENDIX: “SOCIALISM IN ONE COUNTRY”
The “Friends” of the Soviet Union
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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
This book was completed and sent to the publishers before the “terrorist” conspiracy trial of Moscow was announced. Naturally, therefore, the proceedings at the trial could not be evaluated in its pages. Its indication of the historic logic of this “terrorist” trial, and its advance exposure of the fact that its mystery is deliberate mystification, is so much the more significant.
1. Why Stalin Triumphed
The historians of the Soviet Union cannot fail to conclude that the policy of the ruling bureaucracy upon great questions has been a series of contradictory zigzags. The attempt to explain or justify them “by changing circumstances” obviously won’t hold water. To guide means at least in some degree to exercise foresight. The Stalin faction have not in the slightest degree foreseen the inevitable results of the development; they have been caught napping every time. They have reacted with mere administrative reflexes. The theory of each successive turn has been created after the fact, and with small regard for what they were teaching yesterday. On the basis of the same irrefutable facts and documents, the historian will be compelled to conclude that the so-called “Left Opposition” offered an immeasurably more correct analysis of the processes taking place in the country, and far more truly foresaw their further development.
This assertion is contradicted at first glance by the simple fact that the fiction which could not see ahead was steadily victorious, while the more penetrating group suffered defeat after defeat. That kind of objection, which comes automatically to mind, is convincing, however, only for those who think rationalistically, and see in politics a logical argument or a chess match. A political struggle is in its essence a struggle of interests and forces, not of arguments. The quality of the leadership is, of course, far from a matter of indifference for the outcome of the conflict, but it is not the only factor, and in the last analysis is not decisive. Each of the struggling camps moreover demands leaders in its own image.
The February revolution raised Kerensky and Tsereteli to power, not because they were “cleverer” or “more astute” than the ruling tzarist clique, but because they represented, at least temporarily, the revolutionary masses of the people in their revolt against the old regime. Kerensky was able to drive Lenin underground and imprison other Bolshevik leaders, not because he excelled them in personal qualifications, but because the majority of the workers and soldiers in those days were still following the patriotic petty bourgeoisie. The personal “superiority” of Kerensky, if it is suitable to employ such a word in this connection, consisted in the fact that he did not see farther than the overwhelming majority. The Bolsheviks in their turn conquered the petty bourgeois democrats, not through the personal superiority of their leaders, but through a new correlation of social forces. The proletariat had succeeded at last in leading the discontented peasantry against the bourgeoisie.
The consecutive stages of the great French Revolution, during its rise and fall alike, demonstrate no less convincingly that the strength of the “leaders” and “heroes” that replaced each other consisted primarily in their correspondence to the character of those classes and strata which supported them. Only this correspondence, and not any irrelevant superiorities whatever, permitted each of them to place the impress of his personality upon a certain historic period. In the successive supremacy of Mirabeau, Brissot, Robespierre, Barras and Bonaparte, there is an obedience to objective law incomparably more effective than the special traits of the historic protagonists themselves.
It is sufficiently well known that every revolution up to this time has been followed by a reaction, or even a counterrevolution. This, to be sure, has never thrown the nation all the way back to its starting point, but it has always taken from the people the lion’s share of their conquests. The victims of the first revolutionary wave have been, as a general rule, those pioneers, initiators, and instigators who stood at the head of the masses in the period of the revolutionary offensive. In their stead people of the second line, in league with the former enemies of the revolution, have been advanced to the front. Beneath this dramatic duel of “coryphées” on the open political scene, shifts have taken place in the relations between classes, and, no less important, profound changes in the psychology of the recently revolutionary masses.
Answering the bewildered questions of many comrades as to what has become of the activity of the Bolshevik party and the working class – where is its revolutionary initiative, its spirit of self-sacrifice and plebian pride – why, in place of all this, has appeared so much vileness, cowardice, pusillanimity and careerism – Rakovsky referred to the life story of the French revolution of the 18th century, and offered the example of Babuef, who on emerging from the Abbaye prison likewise wondered what had become of the heroic people of the Parisian suburbs. A revolution of the heroic people of the Parisian suburbs. A revolution is a mighty devourer of human energy, both individual and collective. The nerves give way. Consciousness is shaken and characters are worn out. Events unfold too swiftly for the flow of fresh forces to replace the loss. Hunger, unemployment, the death of the revolutionary cadres, the removal of the masses from administration, all this led to such a physical and moral impoverishment of the Parisian suburbs that they required three decades before they were ready for a new insurrection.
The axiomatic assertions of the Soviet literature, to the effect that the laws of bourgeois revolutions are “inapplicable” to a proletarian revolution, have no scientific content whatever. The proletarian character of the October revolution was determined by the world situation and by a special correlation of internal forces. But the classes themselves were formed in the barbarous circumstances of tzarism and backward capitalism, and were anything but made to order for the demands of a socialist revolution. The exact opposite is true. It is for the very reason that a proletariat still backward in many respects achieved in the space of a few months the unprecedented leap from a semi-feudal monarchy to a socialist dictatorship, that the reaction in its ranks was inevitable. This reaction has developed in a series of consecutive waves. External conditions and events have vied with each other in nourishing it. Intervention followed intervention. The revolution got no direct help from the west. Instead of the expected prosperity of the country an ominous destitution reigned for long. Moreover, the outstanding representatives of the working class either died in the civil war, or rose a few steps higher and broke away from the masses. And thus after an unexampled tension of forces, hopes and illusions, there came a long period of weariness, decline and sheer disappointment in the results of the revolution. The ebb of the “plebian pride” made room for a flood of pusillanimity and careerism. The new commanding caste rose to its place upon this wave.
The demobilization of the Red Army of five million played no small role in the formation of the bureaucracy. The victorious commanders assumed leading posts in the local Soviets, in economy, in education, and they persistently introduced everywhere that regime which had ensured success in the civil war. Thus on all sides the masses were pushed away gradually from actual participation in the leadership of the country.
The reaction within the proletariat caused an extraordinary flush of hope and confidence in the petty bourgeois strata of town and country, aroused as they were to new life by the NEP, and growing bolder and bolder. The young bureaucracy, which had arisen at first as an agent of the proletariat, began ow to feel itself a court of arbitration between classes. Its independence increased from mouth to mouth.
The international situation was pushing with mighty forces in the same direction. The Soviet bureaucracy became more self-confident, the heavier blows dealt to the working class. Between these two facts there was not only a chronological, but a causal connection, and one which worked in two directions. The leaders of the bureaucracy promoted the proletarian defeats; the defeats promoted the rise of the bureaucracy. The crushing of the Bulgarian insurrection in 1924, the treacherous liquidation of the General Strike in England and the unworthy conduct of the Polish workers’ party at the installation of Pilsudski in 1926, the terrible massacre of the Chinese revolution in 1927, and, finally, the still more ominous recent defeats in Germany and Austria – these are the historic catastrophes which killed the faith of the Soviet masses in world revolution, and permitted the bureaucracy to rise higher and higher as the sole light of salvation.
As to the causes of the defeat of the world proletariat during the last thirteen years, the author must refer to his other works, where he has tried to expose the ruinous part played by the leadership in the Kremlin, isolated from the masses and profoundly conservative as it is, in the revolutionary movement of all countries. Here we are concerned primarily with the irrefutable and instructive fact that the continual defeats of the revolution in Europe and Asia, while weakening the international position of the Soviet Union, have vastly strengthened the Soviet bureaucracy. Two dates are especially significant in this historic series. In the second half of 1923, the attention of the Soviet workers was passionately fixed upon Germany, where the proletariat, it seemed, had stretched out its hand to power. The panicky retreat of the German Communist Party was the heaviest possible disappointment to the working masses of the Soviet Union. The Soviet bureaucracy straightway opened a campaign against the theory of “permanent revolution”, and dealt the Left Opposition its first cruel blow. During the years 1926 and 1927 the population of the Soviet Union experienced a new tide of hope. All eyes were now directed to the East where the drama of the Chinese revolution was unfolding. The Left Opposition had recovered from the previous blows and was recruiting a phalanx of new adherents. At the end of 1927 the Chinese revolution was massacred by the hangman, Chiang Kai-shek, into whose hands the Communist International had literally betrayed the Chinese workers and peasants. A cold wave of disappointment swept over the masses of the Soviet Union. After an unbridled baiting in the press and at meetings, the bureaucracy finally, in 1928, ventured upon mass arrests among the Left Opposition.
To be sure, tens of thousands of revolutionary fighters gathered around the banner of the Bolshevik-Leninists. The advanced workers were indubitably sympathetic to the Opposition, but that sympathy remained passive. The masses lacked faith that the situation could be seriously changed by a new struggle. Meantime the bureaucracy asserted:
“For the sake of an international revolution, the Opposition proposes to drag us into a revolutionary war. Enough of shake-ups! We have earned the right to rest. We will build the socialist society at home. Rely upon us, your leaders!”
This gospel of repose firmly consolidated the apparatchiki and the military and state officials and indubitably found an echo among the weary workers, and still more the peasant masses. Can it be, they asked themselves, that the Opposition is actually ready to sacrifice the interests of the Soviet Union for the idea of “permanent revolution”? In reality, the struggle had been about the life interests of the Soviet state. The false policy of the International in Germany resulted ten years later in the victory of Hitler – that is, in a threatening war danger from the West. And the no less false policy in China reinforced Japanese imperialism and brought very much nearer the danger in the East. But periods of reaction are characterized above all by a lack of courageous thinking.
The Opposition was isolated. The bureaucracy struck while the iron was hot, exploiting the bewilderment and passivity of the workers, setting their more backward strata against the advanced, and relying more and more boldly upon the kulak and the petty bourgeois ally in general. In the course of a few years, the bureaucracy thus shattered the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat.
It would be naive to imagine that Stalin, previously unknown to the masses, suddenly issued from the wings full armed with a complete strategical plan. No indeed. Before he felt out his own course, the bureaucracy felt out Stalin himself. He brought it all the necessary guarantees: the prestige of an old Bolshevik, a strong character, narrow vision, and close bonds with the political machine as the sole source of his influence. The success which fell upon him was a surprise at first to Stalin himself. It was the friendly welcome of the new ruling group, trying to free itself from the old principles and from the control of the masses, and having need of a reliable arbiter in its inner affairs. A secondary figure before the masses and in the events of the revolution, Stalin revealed himself as the indubitable leader of the Thermidorian bureaucracy, as first in its midst.
The new ruling caste soon revealed soon revealed its own ideas, feelings and, more important, its interests. The overwhelming majority of the older generation of the present bureaucracy had stood on the other side of the barricades during the October revolution. (Take, for example, the Soviet ambassadors only: Troyanovsky, Maisky, Potemkin, Suritz, Khinchuk, etc.) Or at best they had stood aside from the struggle. Those of the present bureaucrats who were in the Bolshevik camp in the October dys played in the majority of cases no considerable role. As for the young bureaucrats, they have been chosen and educated by the elders, frequently from among their own offspring. These people could not have achieved the October revolution, but they were perfectly suited to exploit it.
Personal incidents in the interval between these two historic chapters were not, of course, without influence. Thus the sickness and death of Lenin undoubtedly hastened the denouement. Had Lenin lived longer, the pressure of the bureaucratic power would have developed, at least during the first years, more slowly. But as early as 1926 Krupskaya said, of Left Oppositionists: “If Ilych were alive, he would probably already be in prison.” The fears and alarming prophecies of Lenin himself were then still fresh in her memory, and she cherished no illusions as to his personal omnipotence against opposing historic winds and currents.
The bureaucracy conquered something more than the Left Opposition. It conquered the Bolshevik party. It defeated the program of Lenin, who had seen the chief danger in the conversion of the organs of the state “from servants of society to lords over society.” It defeated all these enemies, the Opposition, the party and Lenin, not with ideas and arguments, but with its own social weight. The leaden rump of bureaucracy outweighed the head of the revolution. That is the secret of the Soviet’s Thermidor.
2. The Degeneration of the Bolshevik Party
The Bolshevik party prepared and insured the October victory. It also created the Soviet state, supplying it with a sturdy skeleton. The degeneration of the party became both cause and consequence of the bureaucratization of the state. It is necessary to show at at least briefly how this happened.
The inner regime of the Bolshevik party was characterized by the method of democratic centralism. The combination of these two concepts, democracy and centralism, is not in the least contradictory. The party took watchful care not only that its boundaries should always be strictly defined, but also that all those who entered these boundaries should enjoy the actual right to define the direction of the party policy. Freedom of criticism and intellectual struggle was an irrevocable content of the party democracy. The present doctrine that Bolshevism does not tolerate factions is a myth of epoch decline. In reality the history of Bolshevism is a history of the struggle of factions. And, indeed, how could a genuinely revolutionary organization, setting itself the task of overthrowing the world and uniting under its banner the most audacious iconoclasts, fighters and insurgents, live and develop without intellectual conflicts, without groupings and temporary factional formations? The farsightedness of the Bolshevik leadership often made it possible to soften conflicts and shorten the duration of factional struggle, but no more than that. The Central Committee relied upon this seething democratic support. From this it derived the audacity to make decisions and give orders. The obvious correctness of the leadership at all critical stages gave it that high authority which is the priceless moral capital of centralism.
The regime of the Bolshevik party, especially before it came to power, stood thus in complete contradiction to the regime of the present sections of the Communist International, with their “leaders” appointed from above, making complete changes of policy at a word of command, with their uncontrolled apparatus, haughty in its attitude to the rank and file, servile in its attitude to the Kremlin. But in the first years after the conquest of power also, even when the administrative rust was already visible on the party, every Bolshevik, not excluding Stalin, would have denounced as a malicious slanderer anyone who should have shown him on a screen the image of the party ten or fifteen years later.
The very center of Lenin’s attention and that of his colleagues was occupied by a continual concern to protect the Bolshevik ranks from the vices of those in power. However, the extraordinary closeness and at times actual merging of the party with the state apparatus had already in those first years done indubitable harm to the freedom and elasticity of the party regime. Democracy had been narrowed in proportion as difficulties increased. In the beginning, the party had wished and hoped to preserve freedom of political struggle within the framework of the Soviets. The civil war introduced stern amendments into this calculation. The opposition parties were forbidden one after the other. This measure, obviously in conflict with the spirit of Soviet democracy, the leaders of Bolshevism regarded not as a principle, but as an episodic act of self-defense.
The swift growth of the ruling party, with the novelty and immensity of its tasks, inevitably gave rise to inner disagreements. The underground oppositional currents in the country exerted a pressure through various channels upon the sole legal political organization, increasing the acuteness of the factional struggle. At the moment of completion of the civil war, this struggle took such sharp forms as to threaten to unsettle the state power. In March 1921, in the days of the Kronstadt revolt, which attracted into its ranks no small number of Bolsheviks, the 10th Congress of the party thought it necessary to resort to a prohibition of factions – that is, to transfer the political regime prevailing in the state to the inner life of the ruling party. This forbidding of factions was again regarded as an exceptional measure to be abandoned at the first serious improvement in the situation. At the same time, the Central Committee was extremely cautious in applying the new law, concerning itself most of all lest it lead to a strangling of the inner life of the party.
However, what was in its original design merely a necessary concession to a difficult situation, proved perfectly suited to the taste of the bureaucracy, which had then begun to approach the inner life of the party exclusively from the viewpoint of convenience in administration. Already in 1922, during a brief improvement in his health, Lenin, horrified at the threatening growth of bureaucratism, was preparing a struggle against the faction of Stalin, which had made itself the axis of the party machine as a first step toward capturing the machinery of state. A second stroke and then death prevented him from measuring forces with this internal reaction.
The entire effort of Stalin, with whom at that time Zinoviev and Kamenev were working hand in hand, was thenceforth directed to freeing the party machine from the control of the rank-and-file members of the party. In this struggle for “stability” of the Central Committee, Stalin proved the most consistent and reliable among his colleagues. He had no need to tear himself away from international problems; he had never been concerned with them. The petty bourgeois outlook of the new ruling stratum was his own outlook. He profoundly believed that the task of creating socialism was national and administrative in its nature. He looked upon the Communist International as a necessary evil would should be used so far as possible for the purposes of foreign policy. His own party kept a value in his eyes merely as a submissive support for the machine.
Together with the theory of socialism in one country, there was put into circulation by the bureaucracy a theory that in Bolshevism the Central Committee is everything and the party nothing. This second theory was in any case realized with more success than the first. Availing itself of the death of Lenin, the ruling group announced a “Leninist levy.” The gates of the party, always carefully guarded, were now thrown wide open. Workers, clerks, petty officials, flocked through in crowds. The political aim of this maneuver was to dissolve the revolutionary vanguard in raw human material, without experience, without independence, and yet with the old habit of submitting to the authorities. The scheme was successful. By freeing the bureaucracy from the control of the proletarian vanguard, the “Leninist levy” dealt a death blow to the party of Lenin. The machine had won the necessary independence. Democratic centralism gave place to bureaucratic centralism. In the party apparatus itself there now took place a radical reshuffling of personnel from top to bottom. The chief merit of a Bolshevik was declared to be obedience. Under the guise of a struggle with the opposition, there occurred a sweeping replacement of revolutionists with chinovniks.  The history of the Bolshevik party became a history of its rapid degeneration.
The political meaning of the developing struggle was darkened for many by the circumstances that the leaders of all three groupings, Left, Center and Right, belonged to one and the same staff in the Kremlin, the Politburo. To superficial minds it seemed to be a mere matter of personal rivalry, a struggle for the “heritage” of Lenin. But in the conditions of iron dictatorship social antagonisms could not show themselves at first except through the institutions of the ruling party. Many Thermidorians emerged in their day from the circle of the Jacobins. Bonaparte himself belonged to that circle in his early years, and subsequently it was from among former Jacobins that the First Consul and Emperor of France selected his most faithful servants. Times change and the Jacobins with them, not excluding the Jacobins of the twentieth century.
Of the Politburo of Lenin’s epoch there now remains only Stalin. Two of its members, Zinoviev and Kamenev, collaborators of Lenin throughout many years as émigrés, are enduring ten-year prison terms for a crime which they did not commit. Three other members, Rykov, Bukharin and Tomsky, are completely removed from the leadership, but as a reward for submission occupy secondary posts. 
And, finally, the author of these lines is in exile. The widow of Lenin, Krupskaya, is also under the ban, having proved unable with all her efforts to adjust herself completely to the Thermidor.
The members of the present Politburo occupied secondary posts throughout the history of the Bolshevik party. If anybody in the first years of the revolution had predicted their future elevation, they would have been the first in surprise, and there would have been no false modesty in their surprise. For this very reason, the rule is more stern at present that the Politburo is always right, and in any case that no man can be right against Stalin, who is unable to make mistakes and consequently cannot be right against himself.
Demands for party democracy were through all this time the slogans of all the oppositional groups, as insistent as they were hopeless. The above-mentioned platform of the Left Opposition demanded in 1927 that a special law be written into the Criminal Code “punishing as a serious state crime every direct or indirect persecution of a worker for criticism.” Instead of this, there was introduced into the Criminal Code an article against the Left Opposition itself.
Of party democracy there remained only recollections in the memory of the older generation. And together with it had disappeared the democracy of the soviets, the trade unions, the co-operatives, the cultural and athletic organizations. Above each and every one of them there reigns an unlimited hierarchy of party secretaries. The regime had become “totalitarian” in character several years before this word arrived from Germany.
“By means of demoralizing methods, which convert thinking communists into machines, destroying will, character and human dignity,” wrote Rakovsky in 1928, “the ruling circles have succeeded in converting themselves into an unremovable and inviolate oligarchy, which replaces the class and the party.”
Since these indignant lines were written,the degeneration of the regime has gone immeasurably farther. The GPU has become the decisive factor in the inner life of the party. If Molotov in March 1936 was able to boast to a French journalist that the ruling party no longer contains any factional struggle, it is only because disagreements are now settled by the automatic intervention of the political police. The old Bolshevik party is dead and no force will resurrect it.
* * *
Parallel with the political degeneration of the party, there occurred a moral decay of the uncontrolled apparatus. The word “sovbour” – soviet bourgeois – as applied to a privileged dignitary appeared very early in the workers’ vocabulary. With the transfer to the NEP bourgeois tendencies received a more copious field of action. At the 11th Congress of the party, in March 1922, Lenin gave warning of the danger of a degeneration of the ruling stratum. It has occurred more than once in history, he said, that the conqueror took over the culture of the conquered, when the latter stood on a higher level. The culture of the Russian bourgeoisie and the old bureaucracy was, to be sure, miserable, but alas the new ruling stratum must often take off its hat to that culture. “Four thousand seven hundred responsible communists” in Moscow administer the state machine. “Who is leading whom? I doubt very much whether you can say that the communists are in the lead ...” In subsequent congresses, Lenin could not speak. But all his thoughts in the last months of his active life were of warning and arming the workers against the oppression, caprice and decay of the bureaucracy. He, however, saw only the first symptoms of the disease.
Christian Rakovsky, former president of the soviet of People’s Commissars of the Ukraine, and later Soviet Ambassador in London and Paris, sent to his friends in 1928, when already in exile, a brief inquiry into the Soviet bureaucracy, which we have quoted above several times, for it still remains the best that has been written on this subject.
“In the mind of Lenin, and in all our minds,” says Rakovsky, “the task of the party leadership was to protect both the party and the working class from the corrupting action of privilege, place and patronage on the part of those in power, from rapprochement with the relics of the old nobility and burgherdom, from the corrupting influence of the NEP, from the temptation of bourgeois morals and ideologies ... We must say frankly, definitely and loudly that the party apparatus has not fulfilled this task, that it has revealed a complete incapacity for its double role of protector and educator. It has failed. It is bankrupt.”
It is true that Rakovsky himself, broken by the bureaucratic repressions, subsequently repudiated his own critical judgments. But the 70-year-old Galileo too, caught in the vise of the Holy Inquisition, found himself compelled to repudiate the system of Copernicus – which did not prevent the earth from continuing to revolve around the sun. We do not believe in the recantation of the 60-year-old Rakovsky, for he himself has more than once made a withering analysis of such recantations. As to his political criticisms, they have found in the facts of the objective development a far more reliable support than in the subjective stout-heartedness of their author.
The conquest of power changes not only the relations of the proletariat to other classes, but also its own inner structure. The wielding of power becomes the speciality of a definite social group, which is the more impatient to solve its own “social problem”, the higher its opinion of the own mission.
“In a proletarian state, where capitalist accumulation is forbidden to the members of the ruling party, the differentiation is at first functional, but afterward becomes social. I do not say it becomes a class differentiation, but a social one ...”
Rakovsky further explains:
“The social situation of the communist who has at his disposition an automobile, a good apartment, regular vacations, and receives the party maximum of salary, differs from the situation of the communist who works in the coal mines, where he receives from 50 to 60 rubles a month.”
Counting over the causes of the degeneration of the Jacobins when in power – the chase after wealth, participation in government contracts, supplies, etc., Rakovsky cites a curious remark of Babeuf to the effect that the degeneration of the new ruling stratum was helped along not a little by the former young ladies of the aristocracy toward whom the Jacobins were very friendly. “What are you doing, small-hearted plebians?” cries Babeuf. “Today they are embracing you and tomorrow they will strangle you.” A census of the wives of the ruling stratum in the Soviet Union would show a similar picture. The well-known Soviet journalist, Sosnovsky, pointed out the special role played by the “automobile-harem factor” in forming the morals of the Soviet bureaucracy. It is true that Sosnovsky, too, following Rakovsky, recanted and was returned from Siberia. But that did not improve the morals of the bureaucracy. On the contrary, that very recantation is proof of a progressing demoralization.
The old articles of Sosnovsky, passed about in manuscript from hand to hand, were sprinkled with unforgettable episodes from the life of the new ruling stratum, plainly showing to what vast degree the conquerors have assimilated the morals of the conquered. Not to return, however, to past years – for Sosnovsky finally exchanged his whip for a lyre in 1934 – we will confine ourselves to wholly fresh examples from the Soviet press. And we will not select the abuses and co-called “excesses”, either, but everyday phenomena realized by official social opinion.
The director of a Moscow factory, a prominent communist, boasts in Pravda of the cultural growth of the enterprise directed by him. “A mechanic telephones: ‘What is your order, sir, check the furnace immediately or wait?’ I answer: ‘Wait.’”  The mechanic addresses the director with extreme respect, using the second person plural, while the director answers him in the second person singular. And this disgraceful dialogue, impossible in any cultures capitalist country, is related by the director himself on the pages of Pravda as something entirely normal! The editor does not object because he does not notice it. The readers do not object because they are accustomed to it. We are also not surprised, for at solemn sessions in the Kremlin, the “leaders” and People’s Commissars address in the second person singular directors of factories subordinate to them, presidents of collective farms, shop foremen and working women, especially invited to receive decorations. How can they fail to remember that one of the most popular revolutionary slogans in tzarist Russia was the demand for the abolition of the use of the second person singular by bosses in addressing their subordinates!
These Kremlin dialogues of the authorities with “the people”, astonishing in their lordly ungraciousness, unmistakably testify that, in spite of the October Revolution, the nationalization of the means of production, collectivization, and “the liquidation of the kulaks as a class”, the relations among men, and that at the very heights of the Soviet pyramid, have not only not yet risen to socialism, but in many respects are still lagging behind a cultured capitalism. In recent years enormous backward steps have been taken in this very important sphere. And the source of this revival of genuine Russian barbarism is indubitably the Soviet Thermidor, which has given complete independence nd freedom from control to a bureaucracy possessing little culture, and has given to the masses the well-known gospel of obedience and silence.
We are far from intending to contrast the abstraction of dictatorship with the abstraction of democracy, and weight their merits on the scales of pure reason. Everything is relative in this world, where change alone endures. The dictatorship of the Bolshevik party proved one of the most powerful instruments of progress in history. But here too, in the words of the poet, “Reason becomes unreason, kindness a pest.” The prohibition of oppositional parties brought after it the prohibition of factions. The prohibition of factions ended in a prohibition to think otherwise than the infallible leaders. The police-manufactured monolithism of the party resulted in a bureaucratic impunity which has become the sources of all kinds of wantonness and corruption.
3. The Social Roots of Thermidor
We have defined the Soviet Thermidor as a triumph of the bureaucracy over the masses. We have tried to disclose the historic conditions of this triumph. The revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat was in part devoured by the administrative apparatus and gradually demoralized, in part annihilated in the civil war, and in part thrown out and crushed. The tired and disappointed masses were indifferent to what was happening on the summits. These conditions, however, are inadequate to explain why the bureaucracy succeeded in raising itself above society and getting its fate firmly into its own hands. Its own will to this would in any case be inadequate; the arising of a new ruling stratum must have deep social causes.
The victory of the Thermidorians over the Jacobins in the 18th century was also aided by the weariness of the masses and the demoralization of the leading cadres, but beneath these essentially incidental phenomena a deep organic process was taking place. The Jacobins rested upon the lower petty bourgeoisie lifted by the great wave. The revolution of the 18th century, however, corresponding to the course of development of the productive forces, could not but bring the great bourgeoisie to political ascendancy in the long run. The Thermidor was only one of the stages in this inevitable process. What similar social necessity found expression in the Soviet Thermidor? We have tried already in one of the preceding chapters to make a preliminary answer to the question why the gendarme triumphed. We must now prolong out analysis of the conditions of the transition from capitalism to socialism, and the role of the state in this process. Let us again compare theoretic prophecy with reality.
“It is still necessary to suppress the bourgeoisie and its resistance,” wrote Lenin in 1917, speaking of the period which should begin immediately after the conquest of power, “but the organ of suppression here is now the majority of the population, and not the minority as had heretofore always been the case.... In that sense the state is beginning to die away.”
In what does this dying away express itself? Primarily in the fact that “in place of special institutions of a privileged minority (privileged officials, commanders of a standing army), the majority itself can directly carry out” the functions of suppression. Lenin follows this with a statement axiomatic and unanswerable:
“The more universal becomes the very fulfillment of the functions of the state power, the less need is there of this power.”
The annulment of private property in the means of production removes the principal task of the historic state – defense of the proprietary privileges of the minority against the overwhelming majority.
The dying away of the state begins, then, according to Lenin, on the very day after the expropriation of the expropriators – that is, before the new regime has had time to take up its economic and cultural problems. Every success in the solution of these problems mens a further step in the liquidation of the state, its dissolution in the socialist society. The degree of this dissolution is the best index of the depth and efficacy of the socialist structure. We may lay down approximately this sociological theorem: The strength of the compulsion exercised by the masses in a workers’ state is directly proportional to the strength of the exploitive tendencies, or the danger of a restoration of capitalism, and inversely proportional to the strength of the social solidarity and the general loyalty to the new regime. Thus the bureaucracy – that is, the “privileged officials and commanders of the standing army” – represents a special kind of compulsion which the masses cannot or do not wish to exercise, and which, one way or another, is directed against the masses themselves.
If the diplomatic soviets had preserved to this day their original strength and independence, and yet were compelled to resort to repressions and compulsions on the scale of the first years, this circumstance might of itself give rise to serious anxiety. How much greater must be the alarm in view of the fact that the mass soviet have entirely disappeared from the scene, having turned over the function of compulsion to Stalin, Yagoda and company. And what forms of compulsion! First of all we must ask ourselves: What social cause stands behind its policification The importance of this question is obvious. In dependence upon the answer, we must either radically revise out traditional views of the socialist society in general, or as radically reject the official estimates of the Soviet Union.
Let us now take from the latest number of a Moscow newspaper a stereotyped characterization of the present Soviet regime, one of those which are repeated throughout the country from day to day and which school children learn by heart:
“In the Soviet Union the parasitical classes of capitalists, landlords and kulaks are completely liquidated, and thus is forever ended the exploitation of man by man. The whole national economy has become socialistic, and the growing Stakhanov movement is preparing the conditions for a transition from socialism to communism.” (Pravda, April 4, 1936)
The world press of the Communist International, it goes without saying, has no other thing to say on this subject. But if exploitation is “ended forever”, if the country is really now on the road from socialism, that is, the lowest stage of communism, to its higher stage, then there remains nothing for society to do but throw off at last the straitjacket of the state. In place of this – it is hard even to grasp this contrast with the mind! – the Soviet state has acquired a totalitarian-bureaucratic character.
The same fatal contradiction finds illustration in the fate of the party. Here the problem may be formulated approximately thus: Why, from 1917 to 1921, when the old ruling classes were still fighting with weapons in the hands, when they were actively supported by the imperialists of the whole world, when the kulaks in arms were sabotaging the army and food supplies of the country, – why was it possible to dispute openly and fearlessly in the party about the most critical questions of policy? Why now, after the cessation of intervention, after the shattering of the exploiting classes, after the indubitable successes of industrialization, after the collectivization of the overwhelming majority of the peasants, is it impossible to permit the slightest word of criticism of the unremovable leaders? Why is it that any Bolshevik who should demand a calling of the congress of the party in accordance with its constitution would be immediately expelled, any citizen who expressed out loud a doubt of the infallibility of Stalin would be tried and convicted almost as though a participant in a terrorist plot? Whence this terrible, monstrous and unbearable intensity of repression and of the police apparatus?
Theory is not a note which you can present at any moment to reality for payment. If a theory proves mistaken we must revise it or fill out its gaps. We must find out those real social forces which have given rise to the contrast between Soviet reality and the traditional Marxian conception. In any case we must not wander in the dark, repeating ritual phrases, useful for the prestige of the leaders, but which nevertheless slap the living reality in the face. We shall now see a convincing example of this.
In a speech at a session of the Central Executive Committee in January 1936, Molotov, the president of the Council of People’s Commissars, declared:
“The national economy of the country has become socialistic. (applause) In that sense [?] we have solved the problem of the liquidation of classes.” (applause)
However, there still remain from the past “elements in their nature hostile to us,” fragments of the former ruling classes. Moreover, among the collectivized farmers, state employees and sometimes also the workers, spekulantiki [“petty speculators”] are discovered, “grafters in relation to the collective and state wealth, anti-Soviets gossip, etc.” And hence results the necessity of a further reinforcement of the dictatorship. In opposition to Engels, the workers’ state must not “fall asleep”, but on the contrary become more and more vigilant.
The picture drawn by the head of the Soviet government would be reassuring in the highest degree, were it not murderously self-contradictory. Socialism completely reigns in the country: “In that sense” classes are abolished. (If they are abolished in that sense, they they are in every other.) To be sure, the social harmony is broken here and there by fragments and remnants of the past, but it is impossible to think that scattered dreamers of a restoration of capitalism, deprived of power and property, together with “petty speculators” (not even speculators!) and “gossips” are capable of overthrowing the classless society. Everything is getting along, it seems, the very best you can imagine. But what is the use then of the iron dictatorship of the bureaucracy.
Those reactionary dreamers, we must believe, will gradually die out. The “petty speculators” and “gossips” might be disposed of with a laugh by the super-democratic Soviets.
“We are not Utopians,” responded Lenin in 1917 to the bourgeois and reformist theoreticians of the bureaucratic state, and “by no means deny the possibility and inevitability of excesses on the part of individual persons, and likewise the necessity for suppressing such excesses. But ... for this there is no need of a special machine, a special apparatus of repression. This will be done by the armed people themselves, with the same simplicity and ease with which any crowd of civilized people even in contemporary society separate a couple of fighters or stop an act of violence against a woman.”
Those words sound as though the author has especially foreseen the remarks of one of his successors at the head of the government. Lenin is taught in the public schools of the Soviet Union, but apparently not in the COuncil of People’s Commissars. Otherwise it would be impossible to explain Molotov’s daring to resort without reflection to the very construction against which Lenin directed his well-sharpened weapons. The flagrant contradictions between the founder and his epigones is before us! Whereas Lenin judged that even the liquidation of the exploiting classes might be accomplished without a bureaucratic apparatus, Molotov, in explaining why after the liquidation of classes the bureaucratic machine has strangled the independence of the people, finds no better pretext than a reference to the “remnants” of the liquidated classes.
To live on these “remnants” becomes, however, rather difficult since, according to the confession of authoritative representatives of the bureaucracy itself, yesterday’s class enemies are being successfully assimilated by the Soviet society. Thus Postyshev, one of the secretaries of the Central Committee of the party, said in April 1936, at a congress of the League of Communist Youth: “Many of the sabotagers ... have sincerely repented and joined the ranks of the Soviet people.” In view of the successful carrying out of collectivization, “the children of kulaks are not to be held responsible for their parents.” And yet more: “The kulak himself now hardly believes in the possibility of a return to his former position of exploiter in the village.”
Not without reason did the government annul the limitations connected with social origins! But if Postyshev’s assertion, wholly agreed to by Molotov, makes any sense it is only this: Not only has the bureaucracy become a monstrous anachronism, but state compulsion in general has nothing whatever to do in the land of the Soviets. However, neither Molotov nor Postyshev agrees with that immutable inference. They prefer to hold the power even at the price of self-contradiction.
In reality, too, they cannot reject the power. Or, to translate this into objective language: The present Soviet society cannot get along without a state, nor even – within limits – without a bureaucracy. But the case of this is by no means the pitiful remnants of the past, but the mighty forces and tendencies of the present. The justification for the existence of a Soviet state as an apparatus of compulsion lies in the fact that the present transitional structure is still full of social contradictions, which in the sphere of consumption – most close nd sensitively felt by all – are extremely tense, nd forever threaten to break over into the sphere of production. The triumph of socialism cannot be called either final or irrevocable.
The basis of bureaucratic rule is the poverty of society in objects of consumption, with the resulting struggle of each against all. When there is enough goods in a store, the purchasers can come whenever they want to. When there is little goods, the purchasers are compelled to stand in line. When the lines are very long, it is necessary to appoint a policeman to keep order. Such is the starting point of the power of the Soviet bureaucracy. It “knows” who is to get something and how has to wait.
A raising of the material and cultural level ought, at first glance, to lessen the necessity of privileges, narrow the sphere of application of “bourgeois law”, and thereby undermine the standing ground of its defenders, the bureaucracy. In reality the opposite thing has happened: the growth of the productive forces has been so far accompanied by an extreme development of all forms of inequality, privilege and advantage, and therewith of bureaucratism. That too is not accidental.
In its first period, the Soviet regime was undoubtedly far more equalitarian and less bureaucratic than now. But that was an equality of general poverty. The resources of the country were so scant that there was no opportunity to separate out from the masses of the population any broad privileged strata. At the same time the “equalizing” character of wages, destroying personal interestedness, became a brake upon the development of the productive forces. Soviet economy had to lift itself from its poverty to a somewhat higher level before fat deposits of privilege became possible. The present state of production is still far from guaranteeing all necessities to everybody. But it is already adequate to give significant privileges to a minority, and convert inequality into a whip for the spurring on of the majority. That is the first reason why the growth of production has so far strengthened not the socialist, but the bourgeois features of the state.
But that is not the sole reason. Alongside the economic factor dictating capitalist methods of payment at the present stage, there operates a parallel political factor in the person of the bureaucracy itself. In its very essence it is the planter and protector of inequality. It arose in the beginning as the bourgeois organ of a workers’ state. In establishing and defending the advantages of a minority, it of course draws off the cream for its own use. Nobody who has wealth to distribute ever omits himself. Thus out of a social necessity there has developed an organ which has far outgrown its socially necessary function, and become an independent factor and therewith the source of great danger for the whole social organism.
The social meaning of the Soviet Thermidor now begins to take form before us. The poverty and cultural backwardness of the masses has again become incarnate in the malignant figure of the ruler with a great club in his hand. The deposed and abused bureaucracy, from being a servant of society, has again become its lord. On this road it has attained such a degree of social and moral alienation from the popular masses, that it cannot now permit any control over wither its activities or its income.
The bureaucracy’s seemingly mystic fear of “petty speculators, grafters, and gossips” thus finds a wholly natural explanation. Not yet able to satisfy the elementary needs of the population, the Soviet economy creates and resurrects at every step tendencies to graft and speculation. On the other side, the privileges of the new aristocracy awaken in the masses of the population a tendency to listen to anti-Soviet “gossips” – that is, to anyone who, albeit in a whisper, criticizes the greedy and capricious bosses. It is a question, therefore, not of spectres of the past, not of the remnants of what no longer exists, not, in short, of the snows of yesteryear, but of new, mighty, and continually reborn tendencies to personal accumulation. The first still very meager wave of prosperity in the country, just because of its meagerness, has not weakened, but strengthened, these centrifugal tendencies. On the other hand, there has developed simultaneously a desire of the unprivileged to slap the grasping hands of the new gentry. The social struggle again grows sharp. Such are the sources of the power of the bureaucracy. But from those same sources comes also a threat to its power.
1. Professional governmental functionaries.
2. TRANSLATOR’S NOTE – Zinoviev and Kamenev were executed in August 1936 for alleged complicity in a “terrible plot” against Stalin; Tomsky committed suicide or was shot in connection with the same case; Rykov was removed from his post in connection with the plot; Bukharin, although suspected, is still at liberty.
3. TRANSLATOR: It is impossible to convey the flavor of this dialogue in English. The second person singular is used either with intimates in token of affection, or with children, servants and animals in token of superiority.
1. From “World Revolution” to Status Quo
Foreign policy is everywhere and always a continuation of domestic policy, for it is conducted by the same ruling class and pursues the same historic goals. The degeneration of the governing stratum in the Soviet Union could not but be accompanied by a corresponding change of aims and methods in Soviet diplomacy. The “theory” of socialism in one country, first announced in the autumn of 1924, already signalized an effort to liberate Soviet foreign policy from the program of international revolution. The bureaucracy, however, had no intention to liquidate therewith its connection with the Communist International. That would have converted the latter into a world oppositional organization, with resulting unfavorable consequences in the correlation of forces within the Soviet Union. On the contrary, the less the policy of the Kremlin preserved of its former internationalism, the more firmly the ruling clique clutched in its hands the rudder of the Communist International. Under the old name it was now to serve new ends. For the new ends, however, new people were needed. Beginning with the autumn of 1923, the history of the Communist International is a history of the complete renovation of its Moscow staff, and the staffs of all the national sections, by way of a series of palace revolutions, purgations from above, expulsions, etc. At the present time, the Communist International is a completely submissive apparatus in the service of Soviet foreign policy, ready at any time for any zigzag whatever.
The bureaucracy has not only broken with the past, but has deprived itself of the ability to understand the most important lessons of that past. The chief of these lessons was that the Soviet power could not have held out for 12 months without the direct help of the international – and especially the European – proletariat, and without a revolutionary movement of the colonial peoples. The only reason the Austro-German military powers did not carry their attack upon Soviet Russia through to the end was that they felt behind their back the hot breath of the revolution. In some three quarters of a year, insurrections in Germany and Austro-Hungary put an end to the Brest-Litovsk treaty. The revolt of the French sailors in the Black Sea in April 1919 compelled the government of the Third Republic to renounce its military operations in the Soviet South. The British government, in September 1919, withdrew its expeditionary forces from the Soviet North under direct pressure from its own workers. After the retreat of the Red Army from the vicinity of Warsaw in 1920, only a powerful wave of revolutionary protests prevented the Entente from coming to the aid of Poland and crushing the Soviets. The hands of Lord Curzon, when he delivered his threatening ultimatum to Moscow in 1923, were bound at the decisive moment by the resistance of the British workers’ organizations. These clear episodes are not peculiar. They depict the whole character of the first and most difficult period of Soviet existence. Although the revolution triumphed nowhere outside the limits of Russia, the hopes of its triumph were far from being fruitless.
During those years, the Soviet government concluded a series of treaties with bourgeois governments: the Brest-Litovsk peace in 1918; a treaty with Estonia in 1920; the Riga peace with Poland in October 1920; the treaty of Rapallo with Germany in April 1922; and other less important diplomatic agreements. It could never have entered the mind of the Soviet government as a whole, however, nor any member of it, to represent its bourgeois counteragents as “friends of peace”, and still less to invite the communist parties of Germany, Poland, or Estonia, to support with their votes the bourgeois governments which had signed these treaties. It is just this question, moreover, which is decisive for the revolutionary education of the masses. The Soviets could not help signing the Brest-Litovsk peace, just as exhausted strikers cannot help signing the most cruel conditions imposed by the capitalists. But the vote cast in favor of this peace by the German Social Democrats, in the hypothetical form of “abstention”, was denounced by the Bolsheviks as a support of brigandage and brigands. Although the Rapallo agreement with democratic Germany was signed four years later on a formal basis of “equal rights” for both parties, nevertheless if the German communist party had made this a pretext to express confidence in the diplomacy of its country, it would have been forthwith expelled from the International. The fundamental line of the international policy of the Soviets rested on the fact that this or that commercial, diplomatic, or military bargain of the Soviet government with the imperialists, inevitable in the nature of the case, should in no case limit or weaken the struggle of the proletariat of the corresponding capitalist country, for in the last analysis the safety of the workers’ state itself could be guaranteed only by the growth of the world revolution. When Chicherin, during the preparations for the Geneva Conference, proposed for the benefit of “public opinion” in America to introduce certain “democratic” changes in the Soviet Constitution, Lenin, in an official letter of January 23, 1922, urgently recommended that Chicherin be sent immediately to a sanatorium. If anybody had dared in those days to propose that we purchase the good favor of “democratic” imperialism by adhering, let us say, to the false and hollow Kellog Pact, or by weakening the policy of the Communist International, Lenin would indubitably have proposed that the innovator be sent to an insane asylum – and he would hardly have met any opposition in the Politburo.
The leaders of those days were especially implacable in relation to all kinds of pacifist illusions – League of Nations, collective security, courts of arbitration, disarmament, etc. – seeing in them only a method of lulling the toiling masses in order to catch them unawares when a new war breaks out. In the program of the party, drafted by Lenin and adopted at the Congress of 1919, we find the following unequivocal lines on this subject:
“The developing pressure of the proletariat, and especially its victories in individual countries, are strengthening the resistance of the exploiters and impelling them to new forms of international consolidation of the capitalists (League of Nations, etc.) which, organizing on a world scale the systematic exploitation of all the peoples of the Earth, are directing their first efforts toward the immediate suppression of the revolutionary movements of the proletariat of all countries. All this inevitably leads to a combination of civil wars within the separate states with revolutionary wars, both of the proletarian countries defending themselves, and of the oppressed peoples against the yoke of the imperialist powers. In these conditions the slogans of pacifism, international disarmament under capitalism, courts of arbitration, etc., are not only reactionary utopias, but downright deceptions of the toilers designed to disarm the proletariat and distract it from the task of disarming the exploiters.”
These lines, from the Bolshevik program, constitute an advance estimate, and moreover a truly devastating one, of the present Soviet foreign policy and the policy of the Communist International, with all its pacifistic “friends” in every corner of the Earth.
After the period of intervention and blockade, the economic and military pressure of the capitalist world on the Soviet Union did, to be sure, prove considerably weaker than might have been feared. Europe was still thinking of the past and not the future war. Then came the unheard of economic world crisis, causing prostrations in the ruling classes of the whole world. It was only thanks to this that the Soviet Union could survive the trials of the first five-year plan, when the country again became an arena of civil war, famine, and epidemic. The first years of the second five-year plan, which have brought an obvious betterment of internal conditions, have coincided with the beginning of an economic revival in the capitalist world, and a new tide of hopes, appetites, yearnings and preparations for war. The danger of a combined attack on the Soviet Union takes palpable form in our eyes only because the country of the Soviets is still isolated, because to a considerable extent this “one-sixth of the Earth’s surface” is a realm of primitive backwardness, because the productivity of labor in spite of the nationalization of the means of production is still far lower than in capitalist countries, and, finally – what is at present most important – because the chief detachments of the world proletariat are shattered, distrustful of themselves, nd deprived of reliable leadership. Thus the October revolution, in which its leaders saw only a prelude to world revolution, but which in the course of things has received a temporary independent significance, reveals in this new historic stage its deep dependence upon world development. Again it becomes obvious that the historic question, who shall prevail? cannot be decided within national boundaries, that interior successes and failures only prepare more or less favorable conditions for its decision on the world arena.
The Soviet bureaucracy – we must do it this justice – has acquired a vast experience in directing popular masses, in lulling them to sleep, dividing and weakening them, or deceiving them outright for the purpose of unlimited domination over them. But for this very reason it has lost every trace of the faculty of revolutionary education of the masses. Having strangled independence and initiative in the lower ranks of the people at home, it naturally cannot provoke critical thought and revolutionary daring on the world arena. Moreover, as a ruling and privileged stratum, it values infinitely more the help and friendship of those who are kin to it in social type in the West – bourgeois radicals, reformist parliamentarians, trade-union bureaucrats – than of the rank-and-file workers who are separated from it by social chasms. This is not the place for a history of the decline and degeneration of the Third International, a subject to which the author has dedicated a series of independent investigations published in almost all the languages of the civilized world. The fact is that in its capacity as leader of the Communist International, the nationally limited and conservative, ignorant and irresponsible Soviet bureaucracy has brought nothing but misfortunes to the workers’ movement of the world. As though in historic justice, the present international position of the Soviet Union is determined to a far higher degree by the consequences of the defeat of the world proletariat, than by the successes of an isolated Socialist construction. It is sufficient to recall that the defeat of the Chinese revolution in 1925-27, which untied the hands of Japanese militarism in the East, and the shattering of the German proletariat which led to the triumph of Hitler and the mad growth of German militarism, are alike the fruits of the policy of the Communist International.
Having betrayed the world revolution, but still feeling loyal to it, the Thermidorean bureaucracy has directed its chief efforts to “neutralizing” the bourgeoisie. For this it was necessary to seem a moderate, respectable, authentic bulwark of order. But in order to seem something successfully and for a long time, you have to be it. The organic evolution of the ruling stratum has taken care of that. Thus, retreating step-by-step before the consequences of its own mistakes, the bureaucracy has arrived at the idea of insuring the inviolability of the Soviet Union by including it in the system of the European-Asiastic status quo. What could be finer, when all is said and done, than an eternal pact of non-aggression between socialism and capitalism? The present official formula of foreign policy, widely advertised not only by the Soviet diplomacy, which is permitted to speak in the customary language of its profession, but by the Communist International, which is supposed to speak the language of revolution, reads: “We don’t want an inch of foreign land, but we will not surrender an inch of our own.” As though it were a question of mere quarrels about a bit of land, and not of the world struggle of two irreconcilable social systems!
When the Soviet Union considered it more sensible to surrender the Chinese-Eastern Railroad to Japan, this act of weakness, prepared by the collapse of the Chinese revolution, was celebrated as a manifestation of self-confident power in the service of peace. In reality, by surrendering to the enemy an extremely important strategic highway, the Soviet government promoted Japan’s further seizures in North China and her present attempts upon Mongolia. That forced sacrifice did not mean a “neutralization” of the danger, but at the best a short breathing spell, and at the same time a mighty stimulus to the appetites of the ruling military clique in Tokyo.
The question of Mongolia is already a question of the strategic positions to be occupied by Japan in a future war against the Soviet Union. The Soviet government found itself this time compelled to announce openly that it would answer the intrusion of Japanese troops into Mongolia with war. Here, however, it is no question of the immediate defense of “our land”: Mongolia is an independent state. A passive defense of the Soviet boundaries seemed sufficient only when nobody was seriously threatening them. The real method of defense of the Soviet Union is to weaken the positions of imperialism, and strengthen the position of the proletariat and the colonial peoples throughout the Earth. An unfavorable correlation of forces might compel us to surrender many “inches” of land, as it did at the moment of the Brest-Litovsk peace, the Riga peace, and in the matter of the handing over of the Chinese-Eastern Railroad. At the same time, the struggle for a favorable change in the correlation of world forces puts upon the workers’ state a continual obligation to come to the help of the liberative movements in other countries. But it is just this fundamental task which conflict absolutely with the conservative policy of the status quo.
2. The League of Nations and the Communist International
The rapprochement and subsequent outright military treaty with France, the chief defender of the status quo – a policy which resulted from the victory of German National Socialism – is infinitely more favorable to France than to the Soviets. The obligation to military from the side of the Soviets is, according to the treaty, unconditional; French help, on the contrary, is conditioned upon a preliminary agreement with England and Italy, which opens an unlimited field for hostile machinations against the Soviet Union. The events connected with the Rhineland demonstrated that, with a more realistic appraisal of the situation, and with more restraint, Moscow might have gotten better guarantees from France – if indeed treaties can be considered “guarantees” in an epoch of sharp changes of set-up, continued diplomatic crises, rapprochements and breaks. But this is not the first time it has become evident that the Soviet bureaucracy is far more firm in its struggles against the advanced workers of its own country, than in negotiation with the bourgeois diplomats.
The assertion that help from the side of the Soviet Union is of little consequence in view of the fact that it has no common boundary with Germany, is not to be taken seriously. In case Germany attacks the Soviet Union, the common boundary will obviously be found by the attacking side. In the case of an attack by Germany on Austria, Czechoslovakia, and France, Poland cannot remain neutral for a day. If she recognizes her obligations as an ally of France, she will inevitably open the road to the Red Army; and if she breaks her treaty of alliance, she will immediately become a helpmate of Germany. In the latter case, the Soviet Union will have no difficulty in finding a “common boundary.” Moreover, in a future war, the sea and air “boundaries” will play no less a role than those on land.
The entrance of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations – represented to the Russian population, with the help of a stage management worthy of Goebbels, as a triumph of socialism and a result of “pressure” from the world proletariat – was in reality acceptable to the bourgeoisie only as a result of the extreme weakening of the revolutionary danger. It was not a victory of the Soviet Union, but a capitulation of the Thermidorean bureaucracy to this hopelessly compromised Geneva institution, which, according to the above-quoted words of the Bolshevik program, “will direct its future efforts to the suppression of revolutionary movements.” What has changed so radically since the days of the Magna Carta of Bolshevism: the nature of the League of Nations, the function of pacifism in a capitalist society, or – the policy of the Soviets? To ask the question is to answer it.
Experience quickly proved that participation in the League of Nations, while adding nothing to those practical advantages which could be had by way of agreements with separate bourgeois states, imposes at the same time serious limitations and obligations. These the Soviet Union is performing with the most pedantic faithfulness in the interest of its still unaccustomed conservative prestige. The necessity of accommodation within the League not only to France, but also to her allies, compelled Soviet diplomacy to occupy an extremely equivocal position in the Italian-Abyssinian conflict. At the very time when Litvinov, who was nothing at Geneva but a shadow of Laval, expressed his gratitude to the diplomats of France and England for their efforts “in behalf of peace”, efforts which so auspiciously resulted in the annihilation of Abyssinia, oil from the Caucausus continued to nourish the Italian fleet. Even if you can understand that the Moscow government hesitated openly to break a commercial treaty, still the trade unions were not obliged to take into consideration the undertakings of the Commissariat of Foreign Trade. An actual stoppage of exports to Italy by a decision of the Soviet trade unions would have evoked a world movement of boycott incomparably more real than the treacherous “sanctions”, measured as they were in advance by diplomatists and jurists in agreement with Mussolini. And if the Soviet trade unions never lifted a finger this time, in contrast with 1926, when they openly collected millions of rubles for the British coal strike, it is only because such an initiative was forbidden by the ruling bureaucracy, chiefly to curry favor with France. In the coming world war, however, no military allies can recompense the Soviet Union for the lost confidence of the colonial peoples and of the toiling masses in general.
Can it be that this is not understood in the Kremlin?
The fundamental aim of German fascism” – so answers the Soviet official newspaper – “is to isolate the Soviet Union ... Well, and what of it? The Soviet Union has today more friends in the world than ever before.” (Izvestia, 17/9/35)
The Italian proletariat is in the chains of fascism; the Chinese revolution is shattered, and Japan is playing the boss in China; the German proletariat is so crushed that Hitler’s plebiscite encounters no resistance whatever; the proletariat of Austria is bound hand and foot; the revolutionary parties of the Balkans are trampled in the earth; in France, in Spain, the workers are marching at the tail of the radical bourgeoisie. In spite of all this, the Soviet government from the time of its entrance into the League of Nation has had “more friends in the world than ever before”! This boast, so fantastic at first glance, has a very real meaning when you apply it not to the workers’ state, but to its ruling group. Was it not indeed the cruel defeats of the world proletariat which permitted the Soviet bureaucracy to usurp the power at home and earn a more or less favorable “public opinion” in the capitalist countries? The less the Communist International is capable of threatening the positions of capital, the more political credit is given to the Kremlin government in the eyes of French, Czechoslovak, and other bourgeoisies. Thus the strength of the bureaucracy, both domestic and international, is in inverse proportion to the strength of the Soviet Union as a socialist state and a fighting base of the proletarian revolution. However, that is only one side of the medal. There is another.
Lloyd George, in whose jumps and sensations there is often a glimmer of shrewd penetration, warned the House of Commons in November 1934 against condemning fascist Germany, which, according to his words, was destined to be the most reliable bulwark against communism in Europe. “We shall yet greet her as our friend.” Most significant words! The half-patronizing, half-ironical praise addressed by the world bourgeoisie to the Kremlin is not of itself in the slightest degree a guarantee of peace, or even a simple mitigation of the war danger. The evolution of the Soviet bureaucracy is of interest to the world bourgeoisie in the last analysis from the point of view of possible changes in the forms of property. Napoleon I, after radically abandoning the traditions of Jacobinism, donning the crown, and restoring the Catholic cult, remained nevertheless an object of hatred to the whole of ruling semi-feudal Europe, because he continued to defend the new property system created by the revolution. Until the monopoly of foreign trade is broken and the rights of capital restored, the Soviet Union, in spite of all the services of its ruling stratum, remains in the eyes of the bourgeoisie of the whole world an irreconcilable enemy, and German National Socialism a friend, if not today, at least of tomorrow. Even during the negotiations of Barthou and Laval with Moscow, the big French bourgeoisie, in spite of the critical danger from the side of Hitler, and the sharp turn of the French Communist Party to patriotism, stubbornly refused to stake its game on the Soviet card. When he signed the treaty with the Soviet Union, Laval was accused from the Left of frightening Berlin with Moscow, while seeking in reality a rapprochement with Berlin and Rome against Moscow. This judgment was perhaps a little premature, but by no means in conflict with the natural development of events.
However one may judge the advantages of disadvantages of the Franco-Soviet pact, still, no serious revolutionary statesman would deny the right of the Soviet state to seek supplementary supports for its inviolability in temporary agreements with this or that imperialism. It is only necessary clearly and openly to show the masses the place of these partial and tactical agreements in the general system of historic forces. In order to make use particularly of the antagonism between France and Germany, there is not the slightest need of idealizing the bourgeois ally, or that combination of imperialists which temporarily hides behind the screen of the League of Nations. Not only Soviet diplomacy, however, but in its steps the Communist International systematically paints up the episodical allies of Moscow as “friends of peace”, deceives the workers with slogans like “collective security” and “disarmament”, and thus becomes in reality a political agent of the imperialists among the working classes.
The notorious interview given by Stalin to the president of the Scripps-Howard newspapers, Roy Howard, on March 1, 1936, is a precious document for the characterization of bureaucratic blindness upon the great questions of world politics, and of that false relation which has been established between the leaders of the Soviet Union and the world workers’ movement. To the question, Is war inevitable?, Stalin answers:
“I think that the position of the friends of peace is growing stronger; the friends of peace can work openly, they rely upon the strength of public opinion, they have at their disposal such instruments, for instance, as the League of Nations.”
In these words, there is not a glimmer of realism. The bourgeois states do not divide themselves into “friends” and “enemies” of peace – especially since “peace” as such does not exist. Each imperialist country is interested in preserving its peace, and the more sharply interested, the more unbearable this peace may be for its enemies. The formula common to Stalin, Baldwin, Leon Blum, and others, “peace would be really guaranteed if all states united in the League for its defense”, means merely that peace would be guaranteed if there existed no causes for its violation. The thought is correct, if you please, but not exactly weighty. The great powers who are nonmembers of the League, like the United States, obviously value a free hand above the abstraction of “peace.” For just what purpose they need these free hands they will show in due time. Those states which withdraw from the League, like Japan and Germany, or temporarily take a “leave of absence” from it, like Italy, also have sufficiently material reasons for what they do. Their break with the League merely changes the diplomatic form of existent antagonisms, but not their nature and not the nature of the League. Those virtuous nation which swear eternal loyalty to the League compel themselves the more resolutely to employ it in support of their peace. But even so, there is no agreement. England is quite ready to extend the period of peace – at the expense of France’s interests in Europe or in Africa. France, in her turn, is ready to sacrifice the safety of the British naval routes – for the support of Italy. But for the defense of their own interests, they are both ready to resort to war – to the most just, it goes without saying of all wars. And, finally, the small states, which for the lack of anything better seek shelter in the shadow of the League, will show up in the long run not on the side of “peace”, but on the side of the strongest combination in the war.
The League in its defense of the status quo is not an organization of “peace”, but an organization of the violence of the imperialist minority over the overwhelming majority of mankind. This “order” can be maintained only with the help of continual wars, little and big – today in the colonies, tomorrow between the great powers. Imperialist loyalty to the status quo has always a conditional, temporary, and limited character. Italy was yesterday defending the status quo of Europe, but not in Africa. What will be her policy in Europe tomorrow, nobody knows. But already the change of boundaries in Africa finds its reflection in Europe. Hitler made bold to lead his troops into the Rhineland only because Mussolini invaded Abyssinia. It would be hard to number Italy among the “friends” of peace. However, France values her friendship with Italy incomparably more than her friendship with the Soviet Union. England on her side seeks a friendship with Germany. The groupings change; the appetites remain. The task of the so-called partisans of the status quo is in essence to find in the League the most auspicious combination of forces, and the most advantageous cover for the preparation of a future war. Who will begin it and how, depends upon circumstances of secondary importance. Somebody will have to begin it, because the status quo is a cellarful of explosives.
A program of “disarmament”, while imperialist antagonisms survive, is the most pernicious of fictions. Even if it were realized by way of general agreement – an obviously fantastic assumption! – that would by no means prevent a new war. The imperialists do not make war because there are armaments; on the contrary, they forge arms when they need to fight. The possibilities of a new, and, moreover, very speedy, arming lie in contemporary technique. Under no matter what agreements, limitations and “disarmaments”, the arsenals, the military factories, the laboratories, the capitalist industries as a whole, preserve their force. Thus Germany, disarmed by her conquerors under the most careful control (which, by the way, is the only real form of “disarmament”!) is again, thanks to her powerful industries, becoming the citadel of European militariam. She intends, in her turn, to “disarm” certain of her neighbors. The idea of a so-called “progressive disarmament” means only an attempt to cut down excessive military expenses in time of peace. But that task, too, remains unrealized. In consequence of differences of geographic position, economic power and colonial saturation, any standards of disarmament would inevitably change the correlation of forces to the advantage of some and to the disadvantage of others. Hence the fruitlessness of the attempts made in Geneva. Almost 20 years of negotiations and conversations about disarmament have led only to a new wave of armaments, which is leaving far behind everything that was ever seen before. To build the revolutionary policy of the proletariat on a program of disarmament means to build it not on sand, but on the smoke screen of militarism.
The strangulation of the class struggle in the cause of an unhindered progress of imperialist slaughter can be ensured only with the mediation of the leaders of the mass workers’ organizations. The slogans under which this task was fulfilled in 1914: “The last war”, “War against Prussian militarism”, “War for democracy”, are too well discredited by the history of the last two decades. “Collective security” and “general disarmament” are their substitutes. Under the guise of supporting the League of Nations, the leaders of the workers’ organizations of Europe are preparing a new edition of the “sacred union”, a thing no less necessary for war than tanks, aeroplanes, and the “forbidden” poison gases.
The Third International was born of an indignant protest against social patriotism. But the revolutionary charge placed in it by the October revolution is long ago expended. The Communist International now stands under the banner of the League of Nations, as does the Second International, only with a fresher store of cynicism. When the British Socialist, Sir Stafford Cripps, called the League of Nations an international union of brigands, which was more impolite than unjust, the London Times ironically asked: “In that case, how explain the adherence of the Soviet Union to the League of Nations?” It is not easy to answer. Thus the Moscow bureaucracy brings its powerful support to that social patriotism, to which the October revolution dealt a crushing blow.
Roy Howard tried to get a little illumination on this point also. What is the state of affairs – he asked Stalin – as to plans and intentions in regard to world revolution?
“We never had any such plans or intentions.” But, well ... “This is the result of a misunderstanding.”
Howard: “A tragic misunderstanding?”
Stalin: “No, comic, or, if you please, tragi-comic.” The quotation is verbatim. “What danger,” Stalin continued, “can the surrounding states see in the ideas of the Soviet people if these states really sit firmly in the saddle?”
Yes, but suppose – the interviewer might ask – they do not sit so firm? Stalin adduced one more quieting argument:
“The idea of exporting a revolution is nonsense. Every country if it wants one will produce its own revolution, and if it doesn’t, there will be no revolution. Thus, for instance, our country wanted to make a revolution and made it ...”
Again, we have quoted verbatim. From the theory of socialism in a single country, it is a natural transition to that of revolution in a single country. For what purpose, then, does the International exist? – the interviewer might have asked. But he evidently knew the limits of legitimate curiosity. The reassuring explanations of Stalin, which are read not only by capitalists but by workers, are full of holes. Before “our country” desired to make a revolution, we imported the idea of Marxism for other countries, and made use of foreign revolutionary experience. For decades we had our émigrés abroad who guided the struggle in Russia. We received moral and material aid from the workers’ organizations of Europe and America. After our victory we organized, in 1919, the Communist International. We more than once announced the duty of the proletariat of countries in which the revolution had conquered to come to the aid of oppressed and insurrectionary classes, and that not only with ideas but if possible with arms. Nor did we limit ourselves to announcements. We in our own time aided the workers of Finland, Latvia, Estonia, and Georgia with armed force. We made an attempt to bring aid to the revolting Polish proletariat by the campaign of the Red Army against Warsaw. We sent organizers and commanders to the help of the Chinese in revolution. In 1926, we collected millions of rubles for the aid of the British strikers. At present, this all seems to have been a misunderstanding. A tragic one? No, it is comic. No wonder Stalin has declared that to live, in the Soviet Union, has become “gay.” Even the Communist International has changed from a serious to a comic personage.
Stalin would have made a more convincing impression upon his interviewer if, instead of slandering the past, he had openly contrasted the policy of Thermidor to the policy of October.
“In the eyes of Lenin,” he might have said, “the League of Nations was a machine for the preparation of a new imperialist war. We see in it an instrument of peace. Lenin spoke of the inevitability of revolutionary wars. We consider the idea of exporting revolution nonsense. Lenin denounced the union of the proletariat with the imperialist bourgeoisie as treason. We with all our power impel the international proletariat along this road. Lenin slashed the slogan of disarmament under capitalism as a deceit of the workers. We build our whole policy upon this slogan. Your tragi-comic misunderstand” – Stalin might have concluded – “lies in your taking us for the continuers of Bolshevism, when we are in fact its gravediggers.”
3. The Red Army and Its Doctrines
The old Russian soldier, brought up in the patriarchal conditions of the rural commune, was distinguished above all by a blind herd instinct. Suvorov, the generalissimo of Catherine II and Paul, was the unexcelled master of an army of feudal slaves. The great French revolution shelved forever the military act of the old Europe and of tzarist Russia. The empire, to be sure, still continued to add gigantic territorial conquests, but it won no further victories over the armies of civilized nations. A series of external defeats and inward disturbances was needed in order to transmute the national character in their fires. The Red Army could only have been formed on a new social and psychological basis. That long-suffering herd instinct and submissiveness to nature were replaced in the younger generations by a spirit of daring and the cult of technique. Together with the awakening of individuality went a swift rise of the cultural level. Illiterate recruits became fewer and fewer. The Red Army does not let anybody leave its ranks who cannot read and write. All sorts of athletic sports developed tumultuously in the Army and around it. Among the workers, officials and students in the badge of distinction for marksmanship enjoyed great popularity. In the winter months, skis gave the regiments a hitherto unknown mobility. Startling successes were achieved in the sphere of parachute-jumping, gliding, and aviation. The arctic flights into the stratosphere are know to everybody. These high points speak for a whole mountain chain of achievements.
It is unnecessary to idealize the standard of the Red Army in organization or operation during the years of the civil war. For the young commanding staff, however, those were years of a great baptism. Rank-and-file soldiers of the tzar’s army, underofficers and corporals, disclosed the talents of organizers and military leaders, and tempered their wills in a struggle of immense scope. These self-made men were more than once beaten, but in the long run they conquered. The better among them studied assiduously. Among the present higher chiefs, who went clear through the school of the civil war, the overwhelming majority have also graduated from academies or special courses. Among the senior officers, about half received a higher military education; the rest a cadet course. Military theory gave them the necessary discipline of thought, but did not destroy the audacity awakened by the dramatic operations of the civil war. This generation is now about 40 to 50 years old, the age of equilibrium of physical and spiritual forces, when a bold initiative relies upon experience and is not yet quenched by it.
The party, the Communist Youth, the trade unions – even regardless of how they fulfill their socialist mission – the administration of the nationalized industries, the co-operatives, the collective farms, the Soviet farms – even regardless of how they fulfill their economic tasks – are training innumerable cadres of young administrators, accustomed to operate with human and commodity masses, and to identify themselves with the state. They are the natural reservoir of the commanding staff. The high pre-service preparation of the student creates another independent reservoir. The students are grouped in special training battalions, which in case of mobilization can successfully develop into emergency schools of the commanding staff. To measure the scope of this source, it is sufficient to point out that the number of those graduated from the higher educational institutions has now reached 800,000 a year, the number of college and university students exceeds half-a-million, and that the general number of students in all the scholastic institutions is approaching 28,000,000.
In the sphere of economics, and especially industry, the social revolution has provided the enterprise of national defense with advantages of which the old Russia could not dream. Planning methods mean, in the essence of the matter, a continual mobilization of industry in the hands of the government, and make it possible to focus on the interests of defense even in building and equipping new factories. The correlation between the living and mechanical forces of the Red Army may be considered, by and large, as on a level with the best armies of the West. In the sphere of artillery re-equipment, decisive successes were obtained already in the course of the first five-year plan. Immense sums are being expended in the production of trucks and armored cars, tanks, and aeroplanes. There are at present about half-a-million tractors in this country. In 1936, 160,000 are to be put out, with a total horsepower of 8.5 million. The building of tanks is progressing at a parallel rate. The mobilization plans of the Red Army call for 30 to 45 tanks per kilometre of the active front. As a result of the Great War, the navy was reduced from 548,000 tons in 1917 to 82,000 in 1928. Here we had to begin almost from the beginning. In January 1936, Tukhachevsky announced at a session of the Central Executive Committee: “We are creating a powerful navy. We are concentrating our forces primarily upon the development of a submarine fleet.” The Japanese naval staff is well-informed, we may assume, as to the achievements in this sphere. No less attention is now being given to the Baltic. Still, in the coming years, the navy can pretend only to an auxiliary role in the defense of the coastal front.
But the air fleet has advanced mightily. Over two years ago, a delegation of French aviation engineers was, in the words of the press, “astonished and delighted by the achievements in this sphere.” They had an opportunity in particular to convince themselves that the Red Army is producing in increasing numbers heavy bombing planes for action on a radius of 1,200 to 1,500 kilometres. In case of a war in the Far East, the political and military centres of Japan would be subject to attack from the Soviet coast. According to data appearing in the press, the five-year plan of the Red Army for 1935 contemplated 62 air regiments capable of bringing simultaneously 5,000 aeroplanes into the line of fire. There is hardly a doubt that the plan was fulfilled, and probably more than fulfilled.
Aviation is closely bound up with a branch of industry, almost nonexistent in tzarist Russia, but lately advancing by leaps and bounds – chemistry. It is no secret that the Soviet government – and, incidentally, the other governments of the world – does not believe for a second in the oft-repeated “prohibitions” of the use of poison gas. The work of the Italian civilizers in Abyssinia has again plainly shown what these humanitarian limitations of international brigandage are good for. We may assume that against any catastrophic surprises whatever in the sphere of military chemistry or military bacteriology, these most mysterious and sinister enterprises, the Red Army is as well-equipped as the armies of the West.
As to the quality of the articles of military manufacture, there may be a legitimate doubt. We have noted, however, that instruments of production are better manufactured in the Soviet Union than objects of general use. Where the purchasers are influential groups of the ruling bureaucracy, the quantity of the product rises considerably above the average level, which is still very low. The most influential client is the war department. It is no surprise if the machinery of destruction is of better quality, not only than the objects of consumption, but also than the instruments of production. Military industry remains, however, a part of the whole industry and, although to a lesser degree, reflects its inadequacies. Voroshilov and Tukhachevsky lose no opportunity publicly to remind the industrialists: “We are not always fully satisfied with the quality of the products which you supply to the Red Army.” In private sessions, the military leaders express themselves, we may assume, more categorically. The commissary supplies are, as a general rule, of lower quality than the munitions. The shoe is poorer than the machine gun. But also the aeroplane motor, notwithstanding indubitable progress, still considerably lags behind the best Western types. In the matter of military equipment as a whole, the old task is still there: to catch up as soon as possible to the standard of the future enemy.
It stands worse with agriculture. In Moscow, they often say that since the income from industry has already exceeded that from agriculture, the Soviet Union has ipso facto changed from an agrarian-industrial to an industrial-agrarian country. In reality, the new correlation of incomes is determined not so much by the growth of industry, significant as that is, as by the extraordinarily low level of agriculture. The unusual lenience of Soviet diplomacy for some years toward Japan was caused, among other things, by serious food-supply difficulties. The last three years, however, have brought considerable relief, and permitted in particular the creation of serious military food-supply bases in the Far East.
The sorest spot in the army, paradoxical as it may seem, is the horse. In the full blast of complete collectivization, about 55 per cent of the country’s horses were killed. Moreover, in spite of motorization, a present-day army needs, as during the time of Napoleon, one horse every three soldiers. During the last year, however, things have taken a favorable turn in this matter: the number of horses in the country is again on the increase. In any case, even if war broke out in the coming months, a state with 170 million population will always be able to mobilize the necessary food resources and horses for the front – to be sure, at the expense of the rest of the population. But the popular masses of all countries in the case of war can, in general, hope for nothing but hunger, poison gas, and epidemics.
* * *
The great French Revolution created its army by amalgamating the new formations with the royal battalions of the line. The October revolution dissolved the tzar’s army wholly and without leaving a trace. The Red Army was built anew from the first brick. A twin of the Soviet regime, it shared its fate in great things and small. It owed its incomparable superiority over the tzar’s army wholly to the great social revolution. It has not stood aside, however, from the processes of degeneration of the Soviet regime. On the contrary, these have found their most finished expression in the army. Before attempting to describe the possible role of the Red Army in a future military cataclysm, it is necessary to dwell a moment upon the evolution of its guiding ideas and structures.
The decree of the Soviet of People’s Commissars of January 12, 1918, which laid the foundation for the regular armed forces, defined their objective in the following words:
“With the transfer of power to the toiling and exploited classes, there has arisen the necessity to create a new army which shall be the bulwark of the Soviet power ... and will serve as a support for the coming socialist revolutions in Europe.”
In repeating on the 1st of May the Socialist Oath – still retained since 1918 – the young Red Army soldier binds himself
“before the eyes of the toiling classes of Russia and the whole world” in the struggle “for the cause of Socialism and the brotherhood of nations, not to spare his strength nor even his life itself.”
When Stalin now describes the international character of the revolution as a “comic misunderstanding” and “nonsense”, he displays, besides all the rest, an inadequate respect for basic decrees of the Soviet power that are not annulled even to this day.
The army naturally was nourished by the same ideas as the party and the state. Its printed laws, journalism, oral agitation, were alike inspired by the international revolution as a practical task. Within the walls of the War Department, the program of revolutionary internationalism not infrequently assumed an exaggerated character. The late S. Gussev, once head of the political administration in the army and subsequently a close ally of Stalin, wrote in 1921, in the official military journal:
“We are preparing the class army of the proletariat ... not only for defense against the bourgeois-landed counter-revolution, but also for revolutionary wars (both defensive and offensive) against the imperialist powers.”
Moreover, Gussev directly blamed the then head of the War Department for inadequately preparing the Red Army for its international tasks. The author of these lines, answering Gussev in the press, called his attention to the fact that foreign military powers fulfill in a revolutionary process, not a fundamental, but an auxiliary role. Only in favorable circumstances can they hasten the denouement and facilitate the victory.
“Military intervention is like the forceps of the physician. Applied in season, it can lighten the birth pains; brought into operation prematurely, it can only cause a miscarriage.” (December 5, 1921.)
We cannot, unfortunately, expound here with sufficient completeness the history of this not unimportant problem. We remark, however, that the present marshal, Tukhachevsky, addressed to the Communist International in 1921 a letter proposing to create under his presidency an “international general staff.” That interesting letter was then published by Tukhachevsky in a volume of his articles under the expressive title: The War of the Classes. The talented, but somewhat too impetuous, commander ought to have known from printed explanations that
“an international general staff could arise only on the basis of the national staff of several proletarian states; so long as that is impossible, an international staff would inevitably turn into a caricature.”
If not Stalin himself – who in general avoids taking a definite position upon questions of principle, especially new ones – at least many of his future close associates stood in those years to the “left” of the leadership of the party and the army. There was no small amount of naive exaggeration, or, if you prefer, “comic misunderstanding”, in their ideas. Is a great revolution possible without such things? We were waging a struggle against these left “caricatures” of internationalism long before it became necessary to turn our weapons against the no less extreme caricature involved in the theory of “socialism in a single country.”
Contrary to the retrospective representations of it, the intellectual life of Bolshevism at the very heaviest period of the civil war was boiling like a spring. In all the corridors of the party and the state apparatus, including the army, discussion was raging about everything, and especially about military problems. The policy of the leaders underwent a free, and frequently a fierce, criticism. On the question of certain excessive military censorships, the then head of the War Department wrote in the leading military journal:
“I willingly acknowledge that the censorship has made a mountain of errors, and I consider it very necessary to show that respected personage a more modest place. The censorship ought to defend military secrets ... and it has no business interfering with anything else.” (February 23, 1919.)
The question of an international general staff was only a small episode in an intellectual struggle which, while kept within bounds of the discipline of action, led even to the formation of something in the nature of an oppositional faction within the army, at least within its upper strata. A school of “proletarian military doctrine” to which belonged or adhered Frunze, Tukhachevsky, Gussev, Voroshilov, and others, started from the a priori conviction that, not only in its political aims but in its structure, strategy and tactic, the Red Army could have nothing in common with the national armies of the capitalist countries. The new ruling class must have in all respects a distinct military system; it remained only to create it. During the civil war, the thing was limited, of course, chiefly to protests in principle against the bringing into service of the “generals” – former officers, that is, of the tzar’s army – and back-kicking against the high command in its struggle with local improvisations and particular violations of discipline. The extreme apostles of the new word tried in the name of strategic principles, of “maneuverism” and “offensivism” pushed to that absolute, to reject even the centralized organization of the army, as inhibiting revolutionary initiative on future international fields of battle. In its essence, this was an attempt to extend the guerilla methods of the first period of the civil war into a permanent and universal system. A good many of the revolutionary commanders came out the more willingly for the new doctrine, since they did not want to study the old. The principal centre of these moods was Tzaritzyn (now Stalingrad), where Budenny, Voroshilov, and afterward Stalin, began their military work.
Only after the war ended was a more systematic attempt made to erect these innovations into a finished doctrine. The initiator was one of the outstanding commanders of the civil war, the late Frunze, a former political hard-labor prisoner, and he was supported by Voroshilov, and to some extent by Tukhachevsky. In essence, the proletarian military doctrine was wholly analogous to the doctrine of “proletarian culture”, completely sharing its metaphysical schematism. In certain works left by the advocates of this tendency, this or that practical prescription, usually far from new, was arrived at deductively from the standard characteristics of the proletariat as an international and aggressive class – that is, from motionless psychological abstraction, and not from real conditions of time and place. Marxism, although acclaimed in every line, was in reality replaced by pure idealism. Notwithstanding the sincerity of these thought wanderings, it is not difficult to see in them the germ of the swiftly developing self-complacence of a bureaucracy which wanted to believe, and make others believe, that it was able in all spheres without special preparation and even without the material prerequisites to accomplish historic miracles.
The then-head of the War Department answered Frunze in the press:
“I also do not doubt that if a country with a developed socialist economy found itself compelled to wage war with a bourgeois country, the picture of the strategy of the socialist country would be wholly different. But this gives no basis for an attempt today to suck a ’proletarian strategy’ out of our fingers ... By developing socialist, raising the cultural level of the masses ... we will undoubtedly enrich the military art with new methods.”
But for this it is necessary assiduously to learn from the advanced capitalist countries, and not to try to
“infer a new strategy by speculative methods from the revolutionary nature of the proletariat.” (April 1, 1922.)
Archimedes promised to move the Earth if they would give him a point of support. That was not badly said. However, if they offered him the needed point of support, it would have turned out that he had neither the lever nor the power to bring it into action. The victorious revolution gave us a new point of support, but in order to move the Earth it is still necessary to build the levers.
“The proletarian military doctrine” was rejected by the party, like its elder sister, “the doctrine of proletarian culture.” However, in sequel, at least so it appears, their destinies diverged. The banner of “proletarian culture” was raised by Stalin and Bukharin, to be sure without visible results, in the course of the seven-year period between the proclamation of “socialism in one country” and of the abolition of all classes (1924-31). The “proletarian military doctrine”, on the contrary, notwithstanding that its former advocates soon stood at the helm of state, never had any resurrection. The external difference in the fates of these two so-closely-related doctrines is of profound significance in the evolution of Soviet society. “Proletarian culture” had to do with imponderable matters, and the bureaucracy was the more magnanimous about granting this moral compensation to the proletariat, the more rudely it pushed the proletariat from the seats of power. Military doctrine, on the contrary, goes to the quick, not only of the interests of defense, but of the interests of the ruling stratum. Here there was no place for ideological pamperings. The former opponents of the enlistment of the “generals” had themselves meantime become “generals.” The prophets of an international general staff had quieted down under the canopy of the general staff of a “single country.” The “war of the classes” was replaced by the doctrine of “collective security.” The perspective of world revolution gave place to the deification of the status quo. In order to inspire confidence in possible allies, and not overirritate the enemies, the demand now was to differ as little as possible, no matter what the cost, from capitalist armies. Behind these changes of doctrine and repaintings of facade, social processes of historic import were taking place. The year 1935 was for the army a kind of two-fold state revolution – a revolution in relation to the militia system and to the commanding staff.
4. The Abolition of the Militia and the Restoration of Officers’ Ranks
In what degree do the Soviet armed forces, at the end of the second decade of their existence, correspond to the type which the Bolshevik party inscribed upon its banner?
The army of the proletarian dictatorship ought to have, according to the program,
“an overtly class character – that is, to be composed exclusively of the proletariat and the semi-proletariat layers of the peasantry close to it. Only in connection with the abolition of classes will such a class army convert itself into a national socialist militia.”
Although postponing to a coming period the all-national character of the army, the party by no means rejected the militia system. On the contrary, according to a resolution of the 8th Congress (March 1919): “We are shifting the militia to a class basis and converting it into a Soviet militia.” The aim of the military work was defined as the gradual creation of an army “as far as possible by extra-barrackroom methods – that is, in a set-up close to the labor conditions of the working class.”
In the long run, all the divisions of the army were to coincide territorially with the factories, mines, villages, agricultural communes, and other organic groupings, “with a local commanding staff, with local stores of arms, and of all supplies.” A regional, scholastic, industrial, and athletic union of the youth was to more than replace the corporative spirit instilled by the barracks, and inculcate conscious discipline without the elevation above the army of a professional officers’ corps.
A militia, however, no matter how well corresponding to the nature of the socialist society, requires a high economic basis. Special circumstances are built up for a regular army. A territorial army, therefore, much more directly reflects the real condition of the country. The lower the level of culture and the sharper the distinction between village and city, the more imperfect and heterogeneous the militia. A lack of railroads, highways, and water routes, together with an absence of autoroads and a scarcity of automobiles, condemns the territorial army in the first critical weeks and months of war to extreme slowness of movement. In order to ensure a defense of the boundaries during mobilization, strategic transfers and concentrations, it is necessary, along with the territorial detachments, to have regular troops. The Red Army was created from the very beginning as a necessary compromise between the two systems, with the emphasis on the regular troops.
In 1924, the then-head of the War Department wrote:
“We must always have before our eyes two circumstances: If the very possibility of going over to the militia system was first created by the establishment of a Soviet structure, still the tempo of the change is determined by the general conditions of the culture of the country – technique, means of communications, literacy, etc. The political premises for a militia are firmly established with us, whereas the economic and cultural are extremely backward.”
Granted the necessary material conditions, the territorial army would not only not stand second to the regular army, but far exceed it. The Soviet Union must pay dear for its defense, because it is not sufficiently rich for the cheaper militia system. There is nothing here to wonder at. It is exactly because of its poverty that the Soviet society has hung around its neck the very costly bureaucracy.
One and the same problem, the disproportion between economic base and social superstructure, comes up with remarkable regularity in absolutely all the spheres of social life, in the factory, the collective farm, the family, the school, in literature, and in the army. The basis of all relations is the contrast between a low level of productive forces, low even from a capitalist standpoint, and forms of property that are socialist in principle. The new social relations are raising up the culture. But the inadequate culture is dragging the social forms down. Soviet reality is an equilibrium between these two tendencies. In the army, thanks to the extreme definiteness of its structure, the resultant is measurable in sufficiently exact figures. The correlation between regular troops and militia can serve as a fair indication of the actual movement toward socialism.
Nature and history have provided the Soviet state with open frontiers 10,000 kilometres apart, with a sparse population, and bad roads. On the 15th of October, 1924, the old military leadership, then in its last month, once more urged that this not be forgotten:
“In the next few years, the creation of a militia must of necessity have a preparatory character. Each successive step must follow from the carefully verified success of the preceding steps.”
But with 1925 a new era began. The advocates of the former proletarian military doctrine came to power. In its essence, the territorial army was deeply contradictory to that ideal of “offensivism” and “maneuverism” with which this school had opened its career. But they had now begun to forget about the world revolution. The new leaders hoped to avoid wars by “neutralizing” the bourgeoisie. In the course of the next few years, 74 per cent of the army was reorganized on a militia basis!
So long as Germany remained disarmed, and moreover “friendly”, the calculations of the Moscow general staff in the matter of western boundaries were based on the military forces of the immediate neighbors: Rumania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia, Finland, with the probably material support of the most powerful of the enemies, chiefly France. In that far-off epoch (which ended in 1933), France was not considered a providential “friend of peace.” The surrounding states could put in the field together about 120 divisions of infantry, approximately 3,500,000 men. The mobilization plans of the Red Army tried to insure on the western boundary an army of the first class amounting to the same number. In the Far East, under all conditions in the theatre of war, it could be a question only of hundreds of thousands, and not millions. Each hundred fighters demands, in the course of a year, approximately 75 men to replace losses. Two years of war would withdraw from the country, leaving aside those who return from hospitals to active service, about 10 to 12 million men. The Red Army up to 1935 numbered in all 562,000 men – with the troops of the GPU, 620,000 – with 40,000 officers. Moreover, at the beginning of 1935, 74 per cent, as we have already said, were in the territorial divisions, and only 26 per cent in the regular army. Could you ask a better proof that the socialist militia had conquered – if not by 100 per cent, at least by 74 per cent, and in any case “finally and irrevocably”?
However, all the above calculations, conditional enough in themselves, were left hanging in the air after Hitler came to power. Germany began feverishly to arm, and primarily against the Soviet Union. The prospect of a peaceful cohabitation with capitalism faded at once. The swift approach of military danger impelled the Soviet government, besides bringing up the numbers of the armed forces to 1,300,000, to change radically the structure of the Red Army. At the present time, it contains 77 per cent of regular, or so-called “kadrovy” divisions, and only 23 per cent of territorials! This shattering of the territorial divisions looks too much like a renunciation of the militia system – unless you forgot that an army is needed not for times of peace, but exactly for the moments of military danger. Thus, historic experience, starting from that sphere which is least of all tolerant of jokes, has ruthlessly revealed that only so much has been gained “finally and irrevocably” as is guaranteed by the productive foundation of society.
Nevertheless, the slide from 74 per cent to 23 per cent seems excessive. It was not brought to pass, we may assume, without a “friendly” pressure from the French general staff. It is still more likely that the bureaucracy seized upon a favorable pretext for this step, which was dictated to a considerable degree by political considerations. The divisions of a militia through their very character come into direct dependence upon the population. This is the chief advantage of the system from a socialist point of view. But this also is its danger from the point of view of the Kremlin. It is exactly because of this undesirable closeness of the army to the people that the military authorities of the advanced capitalist countries, where technically it would be easy to realize, reject the militia. The keen discontent in the Red Army during the first five-year plan undoubtedly supplied a serious motive for the subsequent abolition of the territorial divisions.
Our proposition would be unanswerably confirmed by an accurate diagram of the Red Army previous to and after the counterreform. We have not such data, however, and if we had we should consider it impossible to use them publicly. But there is a fact, accessible to all, which permits of no two interpretations: at the same time that the Soviet government reduced the relative weight of the militia in the army to 51 per cent, it restored the cossack troops, the sole militia formation in the tzar’s army! Cavalry is always the privileged and most conservative part of an army. The cossacks were always the most conservative part of the cavalry. During the war and the revolution, they served as a police force – first for the tzar, and then for Kerensky. Under the Soviet power, they remained perpetually Vendean. Collectivization – introduced among the cossacks, moreover, with special measures of violence – has not yet, of course, changed their traditions and temper. Moreover, as an exceptional law, the cossacks have been restored the right to possess their own horse. There is no lack, of course, of other indulgences. Is it possible to doubt that these riders of the steppes are again on the side of the privileged against the oppressed? Upon a background of unceasing repressions against oppositional tendencies among the workers’ youth, the restoration of the cossack stripe and forelock is undoubtedly one of the clearest expressions of the Thermidor!
* * *
A still more deadly blow to the principles of the October revolution was struck by the decree restoring the officers’ corps in all its bourgeois magnificence. The commanding staff of the Red Army, with its inadequacies, but also with its inestimable merits, grew out of the revolution and the civil war. The youth, to whom independent political activity is closed, undoubtedly supply no small number of able representatives to the Red Army. On the other hand, the progressive degeneration of the state apparatus could not fail in its turn to reflect itself in the broad circles of the commanding staff. In one of the public conferences, Voroshilov, developing truisms in regard to the duty of commanders to be models to their men, thought it necessary just in that connection to make this confession: “Unfortunately, I cannot especially boast”; the lower ranks are growing while “often the commanding cadres lag behind.” “Frequently the commanders are unable to answer in a suitable manner” new questions, etc.
A bitter confession from the most responsible – at least formally – leader of the army, a confession capable of evoking alarm but not surprise. What Voroshilov says about the commanders is true of all bureaucrats. Of course the orator himself does not entertain the thought that the ruling upper circles might be numbered among those who “lag behind.” No wonder they are always and everywhere shouting at everybody, and angrily stamping their feet, and giving order to be “at your best.” In simple fact, it is that uncontrolled corporation of “leaders” to whom Voroshilov himself belongs which is the chief cause of backwardness and routine, and of much else.
The army is a copy of society and suffers from all its diseases, usually at a higher temperature. The trade of war is too austere to get along with fictions and imitations. The army needs the fresh air of criticism. The commanding staff needs democratic control. The organizers of the Red Army were aware of this from the beginning, and considered it necessary to prepare for such a measure as the election of the commanding staff.
“The growth of internal solidarity of the detachments, the development in the soldier of a critical attitude to himself and his commanders ...” says the basic decision of the party on military questions, “will create favorable conditions in which the principle of electivity of the commanding personnel can receive wider and wider application.”
Fifteen years after this decision was adopted – a span of time long enough, it would seem, for the maturing of inner solidarity and self-criticism – the ruling circles have taken the exactly opposite turn.
In September 1935, civilized humanity, friends and enemies alike, learned with surprise that the Red Army would now be crowned with an officers’ hierarchy, beginning with lieutenant and ending with marshal. According to Tukhachevsky, the actual head of the War Department,
“the introduction by the government of military titles will create a more stable basis for the development of commanding and technical cadres.”
The explanation is consciously equivocal. The commanding cadres are reinforced above all by the confidence of the soldiers. For that very reason, the Red Army began by liquidating the officers’ corp. The resurrection of hierarchical caste is not in the least demanded by the interests of military affairs. It is the commanding position, and not the rank, of the commander that is important. Engineers and physicians have no rank, but society finds the means of putting each in his needful place. The right to a commanding position is guaranteed by study, endowment, character, experience, which need continual and moreover individual appraisal. The rank of major adds nothing to the commander of a battalion. The elevation of the five senior commanders of the Red Army to the title of marshal, gives them neither new talents nor supplementary powers. It is not the army that really thus receives a “stable basis”, but the officers’ corps, and that at the price of aloofness from the army. The reform pursues a purely political aim: to give a new social weight to the officers. Molotov thus in essence defined the meaning of the decree: “to elevate the importance of the guiding cadres of our Army.” The thing is not limited, either, to a mere introduction of titles. It is accompanied with an accelerated construction of quarters for the commanding staff. In 1936, 47,000 rooms are to be constructed, and 57 per cent more money is to be issued for salaries than during the preceding year. “To elevate the importance of the guiding cadres” means, at a cost of weakening the moral bonds of the army, to bind the officers closer together with the ruling circles.
It is worthy of note that the reformers did not consider it necessary to invent fresh titles for the resurrected ranks. On the contrary, they obviously wanted to keep step with the West. At the same time, they revealed their Achilles’ heel in not daring to resurrect the title of general, which among the Russian people has too ironical a sound. In announcing the elevation to marshals of the five military dignitaries – choice of the five was made, to be it remarked, rather out of regard for personal loyalty to Stalin than for talents or services – the Soviet press did not forget to remind its readers of the tzar’s army, its “caste and rank worship and obsequiousness.” Why then such a slavish imitation of it? In creating new privileges, the bureaucracy employs at every step the arguments which once served for the destruction of the old privileges. Insolence takes turns with cowardice, nd is supplemented with increasing doses of hypocrisy.
However surprising at first glance the official resurrections of “caste and rank worship and obsequiousness”, we must confess that the government had little freedom of choice left. The promotion of commanders on a basis of personal qualification can be realized only under conditions of free initiative and criticism in the army itself, and control over the army by the public opinion of the country. Severe discipline can get along excellently with a broad democracy and even directly rely upon it. No army, however, can be more democratic than the regime which nourishes it. The source of bureaucratism, with its routine and swank, is not the special needs of military affairs, but the political needs of the ruling stratum. In the army, these needs only receive their most finished expression. The restoration of officers’ castes 18 years after their revolutionary abolition testifies equally to the gulf which already separated the rules from the ruled, to the loss by the Soviet army of the chief qualities which gave it the name of “Red”, and to the cynicism with which the bureaucracy erects these consequences of degeneration into law.
The bourgeois press has appraised this counterreform as it deserves. The French official paper, Le Temps, wrote on September 25, 1935:
“This external transformation is one of the signs of a deep change which is now taking place through the Soviet Union. The regime, now definitely consolidated, is gradually becoming stabilized. Revolutionary habits and customs are giving place within the Soviet family and Soviet society to the feelings and customs which continue to prevail within the so-called capitalist countries. The Soviets are becoming bourgeoized.”
There is hardly a word to add to that judgment.
5. The Soviet Union in a War
Military danger is only one expression of the dependence of the Soviet Union upon the rest of the world, and consequently one argument against the utopian idea of an isolated socialist society. But it is only now that this ominous “argument” is brought forward.
To enumerate in advance all the factors of the coming dogfight of the nations would be a hopeless task. If such an a priori calculation were possible, conflicts of interest would always end in a peaceful bookkeeper’s bargain. In the bloody equation of war, there are too many unknown quantities. In any case, there are on the side of the Soviet Union immense favorable factors, both inherited from the past and created by the new regime. The experience of intervention during the civil war proved once more that Russia’s greatest advantage has been and remains her vast spaces. Foreign imperialism overthrew Soviet Hungary, though not, to be sure, without help from the lamentable government of Bela Kun, in a few days. Soviet Russia, cut off from the surrounding countries at the very start, struggled against intervention for three years. At certain moments, the territory of the revolution was reduced almost to that of the old Moscow principality. But even that proved sufficient to enable her to hold out, and in the long run triumph.
Russia’s second greatest advantage is her human reservoir. Having grown almost 3,000,000 per year, the population of the Soviet Union has apparently now passed 170,000,000. A single recruiting class comprises about 1,300,000 men. The strictest sorting, both physical and political, would throw out not more than 400,000. The reserves, therefore, which may be theoretically estimated at 18 to 20 million, are practically unlimited.
But nature and man are only the raw materials of war. To so-called military “potential” depends primarily upon the economic strength of the state. In this sphere, the advantages of the Soviet Union by comparison with the old Russia are enormous. The planned economy has up to this time, as we have said, given its greatest advantages from the military point of view. The industrialization of the outlying regions, especially Siberia, has given a wholly new value to the steppe and forest spaces. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union still remains a backward country. The low productivity of labor, the inadequate quality of the products, the weakness of the means of transport, are only to a certain degree compensated by space and natural riches and the numbers of the population. In times of peace, the measuring of economic might between the two hostile social systems can be postponed – for a long time, although by no means forever – with the help of political devices, above all the monopoly of foreign trade. During a war the test is made directly upon the field of battle. Hence the danger.
Military defeats,although they customarily entail great political changes, do not always of themselves lead to a disturbance of the economic foundations of society. A social regime which guarantees a higher development of riches and culture, cannot be overthrown by bayonets. On the contrary, the victors take over the institutions and customs of the conquered, if these are beyond them in evolution. Forms of property can be overthrown by military force only when they are sharply out of accord with the economic basis of the country. A defeat of Germany in a war against the Soviet Union would inevitably result in the crushing, not only of Hitler, but of the capitalist system. On the other hand, it is hardly to be doubted that a military defeat would also prove fatal, not only for the Soviet ruling stratum, but also for the social bases of the Soviet Union. The instability of the present structure in Germany is conditioned by the fact that its productive forces have long ago outgrown the forms of capitalist property. The instability of the Soviet regime, on the contrary, is due to the fact that its productive forces have far from grown up to the forms of socialist property. A military defeat threatens the social basis of the Soviet Union for the same reason that these bases require in peaceful times a bureaucracy and a monopoly of foreign trade – that is, because of their weakness.
Can we, however, expect that the Soviet Union will come out of the coming great war without defeat? To this frankly posed question, we will answer as frankly: If the war should remain only a war, the defeat of the Soviet Union would be inevitable. In a technical, economic, and military sense, imperialism in incomparably more strong. If it is not paralyzed by revolution in the West, imperialism will sweep away the regime which issued from the October revolution.
It may be answered that “imperialism” is an abstraction, for it too is torn by contradictions. That is quite true, and were it not for those contradictions, the Soviet Union would long ago have disappeared from the scene. The diplomatic and military agreements of the Soviet Union are based in part upon them. However, it would be a fatal mistake not to see the limits beyond which those contradictions must subside. Just as the struggle of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties, from the most reactionary to the Social Democratic, subsides before the immediate threat of a proletarian revolution, so imperialist antagonisms will always find a compromise in order to block the military victory of the Soviet Union.
Diplomatic agreements, as a certain chancellor with some reason once remarked, are only “scraps of paper.” It is nowhere written that they must survive even up to the outbreak of war. Not one of the treaties with the Soviet Union would survive the immediate threat of a social revolution in any part of Europe. Let the political crisis in Spain, to say nothing of France, enter a revolutionary phase, and the hope propounded by Lloyd George in savior-Hitler would irresistibly take possession of all bourgeois governments. On the other hand, if the unstable situation in Spain, France, Belgium, etc., should end in a triumph of the reaction, there would again remain not a trace of the Soviet pacts. And, finally, if the “scraps of paper” should preserve their validity during the first period of military operations, there is not a doubt that groupings of forces in the decisive phase of the war would be determined by factors of incomparably more powerful significance than the oaths of diplomats, perjurers as they are by profession.
The situation would be radically different, of course, if the bourgeois allies received material guarantees that the Moscow government stands on the same side with them, not only of the war trenches, but of the class trenches, too. Availing themselves of the difficulties of the Soviet Union, which will be placed between two fires, the capitalist “friends of peace" will, of course, take all measures to drive a breach into the monopoly of foreign trade and the Soviet laws on property. The growing “defensist” movement among the Russian white émigrés in France and Czechoslovakia feeds wholly upon such calculations. And if you assume that the world struggle will be played out only on a military level, the Allies have a good chance of achieving their goal. Without the interference of revolution, the social bases of the Soviet Union must be crushed, not only in the case of defeat, but also in the case of victory.
More than two years ago, a program announcement, The Fourth International and War, outlined this perspective in the following words:
“Under the influence of the critical need of the state for articles of prime necessity, the individualistic tendencies of the peasant economy will receive a considerable reinforcement, and the centrifugal forces within the collective farms will increase with every month ... In the heated atmosphere of war, we may expect ... the attracting of foreign allied capital, a breach in the monopoly of foreign trade, a weakening of state control of the trusts, a sharpening of competition between the trusts, conflicts between the trusts and the workers, etc. ... In other words, in the case of a long war, if the world proletariat is passive, the inner social contradictions of the Soviet Union not only might, but must, lead to a bourgeois Bonapartist counterrevolution.”
The events of the last two years have redoubled the force of this prognosis.
The preceding considerations, however, by no means lead to so-called “pessimistic” conclusions. If we do not want to shut our eyes to the immense material preponderance of the capitalist world, nor the inevitable treachery of the imperialist “allies”, nor the inner contradictions of the Soviet regime, we are, on the one hand, in no degree inclined to overestimate the stability of the capitalist system, either in hostile or allied countries. Long before a war to exhaustion can measure the correlation of economic forces to the bottom, it will put to the test the relative stability of the regimes. All serious theoreticians of future slaughters of the people take into consideration the probability, and even the inevitability, of revolution among its results. The idea, again and again advanced in certain circles, of small “professional” armies, although little more real than the idea of individual heroes in the manner of David and Goliath, reveals in its very fantasticness the reality of the dread of an armed people. Hitler never misses a chance to reinforce his “love of peace” with a reference to the inevitability of a new Bolshevik storm in case of a war in the West. The power which is restraining for the time being the fury of war is not the League of Nations, not mutual security pacts, not pacifist referendums, but solely and only the self-protective fear of the ruling classes before the revolution.
Social regimes like all other phenomena must be estimated comparatively. Notwithstanding all its contradictions, the Soviet regime in the matter of stability still has immense advantages over the regimes of its probable enemies. The very possibility of a rule of the Nazis over the German people was created by the unbearable tenseness of social antagonisms in Germany. These antagonisms have not been removed, and not even weakened, but only suppressed, by the lid of fascism. A war will bring them to the surface. Hitler has far less chances than had Wilhelm II of carrying a war to victory. Only a timely revolution, by saving Germany from war, could save her from a new defeat.
The world press portrayed the recent bloody attack of Japanese officers upon the ministers of the government as the imprudent manifestation of a too flaming patriotism. In reality, these attacks, notwithstanding the difference of ideology, belong to the same historic type as the bombs of the Russian Nihilists against the tzarist bureaucracy. The population of Japan is suffocated under the combined yoke of Asiatic agrarianism and ultramodern capitalism. Korea, Manchukuo, China, at the first weakening of the military pincers, will rise against the Japanese tyranny. A war will bring the empire of the Mikado the greatest of social catastrophes.
The situation of Poland is but little better. The regime of Pilsudski, least fruitful of all regimes, proved incapable even of weakening the land slavery of the peasants. The western Ukraine (Galacia) is living under a heavy national oppression. The workers are shaking the country with continual strikes and rebellions. Trying to insure itself by a union with France and a friendship with Germany, the Polish bourgeoisie is incapable of accomplishing anything with its maneuvers except to hasten the war and find in it a more certain death.
The danger of war and a defeat of the Soviet Union is a reality, but the revolution is also a reality. If the revolution does not prevent war, then war will help the revolution. Second births are commonly easier than first. In the new war, it will not be necessary to wait a whole two years and a half for the first insurrection. Once it is begun, moreover, the revolution will not this time stop half way. The fate of the Soviet Union will be decided in the long run not on the maps of the general staffs, but on the map of the class struggle. Only the European proletariat, implacably opposing its bourgeoisie, and in the same camp with them the “friends of peace”, can protect the Soviet Union from destruction, or from an “allied” stab in the back. Even a military defeat of the Soviet Union would be only a short episode, in case of a victory of the proletariat in other countries. And on the other hand, no military victory can save the inheritance of the October revolution, if imperialism holds out in the rest of the world.
The henchmen of the Soviet bureaucracy say that we “underestimate” the inner forces of the Soviet Union, the Red Army, etc., just as they have said that we “deny” the possibility of socialist construction in a single state. These arguments stand on such a low level that they do not even permit a fruitful exchange of opinions. Without the Red Army, the Soviet Union would be crushed and dismembered like China. Only her stubborn and heroic resistance to the future capitalist enemy can create favorable conditions for the development of the class struggle in the imperialist camp. The Red Army is thus a factor of immense significance. But this does not mean that it is the sole historic factor. Sufficient that it can give a mighty impulse to the revolution. Only the revolution can fulfill the chief task; to that the Red Army alone is unequal.
Nobody demands of the Soviet government international adventures, unreasonable acts, attempts to force by violence the course of world events. On the contrary, insofar as such attempts have been made by the bureaucracy in the past (Bulgaria, Esthonia, Canton, etc.), they have only played into the hands of the reaction, and they have met a timely condemnation from the Left Opposition. It is a question of the general direction of the Soviet state. The contradiction between its foreign policy and the interests of the world proletariat and the colonial peoples, finds its most ruinous expression in the subjection of the Communist International to the conservative bureaucracy with its new religion of inaction.
It is not under the banner of the status quo that the European worker and the colonial peoples can rise against imperialism, and against that war which must break out and overthrow the status quo almost as inevitably as a developed infant destroys the status quo of pregnancy. The toilers have not the slightest interest in defending existing boundaries, especially in Europe – either under the command of their bourgeoisies, or, still less, in a revolutionary insurrection against them. The decline of Europe is caused by the very fact that it is economically split up among almost 40 quasi-national states which, with their customs, passports, money systems, and monstrous armies in defense of national particularism, have become a gigantic obstacle on the road of the economic and cultural development of mankind.
The task of the European proletariat is not the perpetuation of boundaries but, on the contrary, their revolutionary abolition, not the status quo, but a socialist United States of Europe!
Not Yet Decided by History
IN THE INDUSTRIES state ownership of the means of production prevails almost universally. In agriculture it prevails absolutely only in the Soviet farms, which comprise no more than 10 per cent of the tilled land. In the collective farms, co-operative or group ownership is combined in various proportions with state and private ownership. The land, although legally belonging to the state, has been transferred to the collectives for “perpetual” use, which differs little from group ownership. The tractors and elaborate machinery belong to the state; the smaller equipment belongs to the collectives. Each collective farmer moreover carries on individual agriculture. Finally, more than 10 per cent of the peasants remain individual farmers.
According to the census of 1934, 28.1 per cent of the population were workers and employees of state enterprises and institutions. Industrial and building-trades workers, not including their families, amounted in 1935 to 7.5 millions. The collective farms and co-operative crafts comprised, at the time of the census, 45.9 per cent of the population. Students, soldiers of the Red Army, pensioners, and other elements directly dependent upon the state, made up 3.4 per cent. Altogether, 74 per cent of the population belonged to the “socialist sector”, and 95.8 per cent of the basic capital of the country fell to the share of this 74 per cent. Individual peasants and craftsmen still comprised, in 1934, 22.5 per cent, but they had possession of only a little more than 4 per cent of the national capital!
Since 1934 there has been no census; the next one will be in 1937. Undoubtedly, however, during the last two years the private enterprise sector has shrunk still more in favor of the “socialist.” Individual peasants and craftsmen, according to the calculations of official economists, now constitute about 10 per cent of the population – that is, about 17 million people. Their economic importance has fallen very much lower than their numbers. The Secretary of the Central Committee, Andreyev, announced in April 1936: “The relative weight of socialist production in our country in 1936 ought to reach 98.5 per cent. That is to say, something like an insignificant 1.5 per cent still belongs to the non-socialist sector.” These optimistic figures seem at first glance an unanswerable proof of the “final and irrevocable” victory of socialism. But woe to him who cannot see social reality behind arithmetic!
The figures themselves are arrived at with some stretching: it is sufficient to point out that the private allotments alongside the collective farms are entered under the “socialist” sector. However, that is not the crux of the question. The enormous and wholly indubitable statistical superiority of the state and collective forms of economy, important though it is for the future, does not remove another and no less important question: that of the strength of bourgeois tendencies within the “socialist” sector itself, and this not only in agriculture but in industry. The material level already attained is high enough to awaken increased demands in all, but wholly insufficient to satisfy them. Therefore, the very dynamic of economic progress involves an awakening of petty bourgeois appetites, not only among the peasants and representatives of “intellectual” labor, but also among the upper circles of the proletariat. A bare antithesis between individual proprietors and collective farmers, between private craftsmen and state industries, does not give the slightest idea of the explosive power of these appetites, which imbue the whole economy of the country, and express themselves, generally speaking, in the desire of each and every one to give as little as possible to society and receive as much as possible from it.
No less energy and ingenuity is being spent in solving money-grubbers’ and consumers’ problems than upon socialist construction in the proper sense of the word. Hence derives, in part, the extremely low productivity of social labor. While the state finds itself in continual struggle with the molecular action of these centrifugal forces, the ruling group itself forms the chief reservoir of legal and illegal personal accumulations. Masked as they are with new juridical norms, the petty bourgeois tendencies cannot, of course, be easily determined statistically. But their actual predominance in economic life is proven primarily by the “socialist” bureaucracy itself, that flagrant contradictio in adjecto, that monstrous and continually growing social distortion, which in turn becomes the source of malignant growths in society.
The new constitution – wholly founded, as we shall see, upon an identification of the bureaucracy with the state, and the state with the people – says: “... the state property – that is, the possessions of the whole people.” This identification is the fundamental sophism of the official doctrine. It is perfectly true that Marxists, beginning with Marx himself, have employed in relation to the workers’ state the terms state, national and socialist property as simple synonyms. On a large historic scale, such a mode of speech involves no special inconveniences. But it becomes the source of crude mistakes, and of downright deceit, when applied to the first and still unassured stages of the development of a new society, and one moreover isolated and economically lagging behind the capitalist countries.
In order to become social, private property must as inevitably pass through the state stage as the caterpillar in order to become a butterfly must pass through the pupal stage. But the pupa is not a butterfly. Myriads of pupae perish without ever becoming butterflies. State property becomes the property of “the whole people” only to the degree that social privilege and differentiation disappear, and therewith the necessity of the state. In other words: state property is converted into socialist property in proportion as it ceases to be state property. And the contrary is true: the higher the Soviet state rises above the people, and the more fiercely it opposes itself as the guardian of property to the people as its squanderer, the more obviously does it testify against the socialist character of this state property.
“We are still far from the complete abolition of classes,” confesses the official press, referring to the still existing differentiation of city and country, intellectual and physical labor. This purely academic acknowledgment has the advantage that it permits a concealment of the income of the bureaucracy under the honorable title of “intellectual” labor. The “friends” – to whom Plato is much dearer than the truth – also confine themselves to an academic admission of survivals of the old inequality. In reality, these much put-upon “survivals” are completely inadequate to explain the Soviet reality. If the differences between city and country have been mitigated in certain respects, in others they have been considerably deepened, thanks to the extraordinarily swift growth of cities and city culture – that is, of comforts for an urban minority. The social distance between physical and intellectual labor, notwithstanding the filling out of the scientific cadres by newcomers from below, has increased, not decreased, during recent years. The thousand-year-old caste barriers defining the life of every man on all sides – the polished urbanite and the uncouth muzhik, the wizard of science and the day laborer – have not just been preserved from the past in a more or less softened form, but have to a considerable degree been born anew, and are assuming a more and more defiant character.
The notorious slogan: “The cadres decide everything”, characterizes the nature of Soviet society far more frankly than Stalin himself would wish. The cadres are in their very essence the organs of domination and command. A cult of “cadres” means above all a cult of bureaucracy, of officialdom, an aristocracy of technique. In the matter of playing up and developing cadres, as in other matters, the soviet regime still finds itself compelled to solve problems which the advanced bourgeoisie solved long ago in its own countries. But since the soviet cadres come forward under a socialist banner, they demand an almost divine veneration and a continually rising salary. The development of “socialist” cadres is thus accompanied by a rebirth of bourgeois inequality.
From the point of view of property in the means of production, the differences between a marshal and a servant girl, the head of a trust and a day laborer, the son of a people’s commissar and a homeless child, seem not to exist at all. Nevertheless, the former occupy lordly apartments, enjoy several summer homes in various parts of the country, have the best automobiles at their disposal, and have long ago forgotten how to shine their own shoes. The latter live in wooden barracks often without partitions, lead a half-hungry existence, and do not shine their own shoes only because they go barefoot. To the bureaucrat this difference does not seem worthy of attention. To the day laborer, however, it seems, not without reason, very essential.
Superficial “theoreticians” can comfort themselves, of course, that the distribution of wealth is a factor secondary to its production. The dialectic of interaction, however, retains here all its force. The destiny of the state-appropriated means of production will be decided in the long run according as these differences in personal existence evolve in one direction or the other. If a ship is declared collective property, but the passengers continue to be divided into first, second and third class, it is clear that, for the third-class passengers, differences in the conditions of life will have infinitely more importance than that juridical change in proprietorship. The first-class passengers, on the other hand, will propound, together with their coffee and cigars, the thought that collective ownership is everything and a comfortable cabin nothing at all. Antagonisms growing out of this may well explode the unstable collective.
The Soviet press relates with satisfaction how a little boy in the Moscow zoo, receiving to his question, “Whose is that elephant?” the answer: “The state’s”, made the immediate inference: “That means it’s a little bit mine too.” However, if the elephant were actually divided, the precious tusks would fall to the chosen, a few would regale themselves with elephantine hams, and the majority would get along with hooves and guts. The boys who are done out of their share hardly identify the state property with their own. The homeless consider “theirs” only that which they steal from the state. The little “socialist” in the zoological garden was probably the son of some eminent official accustomed to draw inferences from the formula: “L’etat – c’est moi.”
If we translate socialist relations, for illustration, into the language of the market, we may represent the citizen as a stockholder in a company which owns the wealth of the country. If the property belonged to all the people, that would presume an equal distribution of “shares”, and consequently a right to the same dividend for all “shareholders.” The citizens participate in the national enterprise, however, not only as “shareholders”, but also as producers. On the lower stage of communism, which we have agreed to call socialism, payments for labor are still made according to bourgeois norms – that is, in dependence upon skill, intensity, etc. The theoretical income of each citizen is thus composed of two parts, a + b – that is, dividend + wages. The higher the technique and the more complete the organization of industry, the greater is the place occupied by a as against b, and the less is the influence of individual differences of labor upon standard of living. From the fact that wage differences in the Soviet Union are not less, but greater than in capitalist countries, it must be inferred that the shares of the Soviet citizen are not equally distributed, and that in his income the dividend as well as the wage payment is unequal. Whereas the unskilled laborer receives only b, the minimum payment which under similar conditions he would receive in a capitalist enterprise, the Stakhanovist or bureaucrat receives 2a + b, or 3a + b, etc., while b also in its turn may become 2b, 3b, etc. The differences in income are determined, in other words, not only by differences of individual productiveness, but also by a masked appropriation of the products of the labor of others. The privileged minority of shareholders is living at the expense of the deprived majority.
If you assume that the Soviet unskilled worker receives more than he would under a similar level of technique and culture in a capitalist enterprise – that is to say, that he is still a small shareholder – it is necessary to consider his wages as equal to a + b. The wages of the higher categories would be expressed with the formula: 3a + 2b, 10a + 15b, etc. This means that the unskilled worker has one share, the Stakhanovist three, the specialist ten. Moreover, their wages in the proper sense are related as 1:2:15. Hymns to the sacred socialist property sound under these conditions a good deal more convincing to the manager or the Stakhanovist, than to the rank-and-file worker or collective peasant. The rank-and-file workers, however, are the overwhelming majority of society. It was they, and not the new aristocracy, that socialism had in mind.
“The worker in our country is not a wage slave and is not the seller of a commodity called labor power. He is a free workman.” (Pravda) For the present period this unctuous formula is unpermissible bragging. The transfer of the factories to the state changed the situation of the worker only juridically. In reality, he is compelled to live in want and work a definite number of hours for a definite wage. Those hopes which the worker formerly had placed in the party and the trade unions, he transferred after the revolution to the state created by him. But the useful functioning of this implement turned out to be limited by the level of technique and culture. In order to raise this level, the new state resorted to the old methods of pressure upon the muscles and nerves of the worker. There grew up a corps of slave drivers. The management of industry became superbureaucratic. The workers lost all influence whatever upon the management of the factory. With piecework payment, hard conditions of material existence, lack of free movement, with terrible police repression penetrating the life of every factory, it is hard indeed for the worker to feel himself a “free workman.’’ In the bureaucracy he sees the manager, in the state, the employer. Free labor is incompatible with the existence of a bureaucratic state.
With the necessary changes, what has been said above relates also to the country. According to the official theory, collective farm property is a special form of socialist property. Pravda writes that the collective farms “are in essence already of the same type as the state enterprises and are consequently socialistic,” but immediately adds that the guarantee of the socialist development of agriculture lies in the circumstance that “the Bolshevik Party administers the collective farms.” Pravda refers us, that is, from economics to politics. This means in essence that socialist relations are not as yet embodied in the real relations among men, but dwell in the benevolent heart of the authorities. The workers will do very well if they keep a watchful eye on that heart. In reality the collective farms stand halfway between individual and state economy, and the petty bourgeois tendencies within them are admirably helped along by the swiftly growing private allotments or personal economies conducted by their members.
Notwithstanding the fact that individual tilled land amounts to only four million hectares, as against one hundred and eight million collective hectares – that is, less than 4 per cent – thanks to the intensive and especially the truck-garden cultivation of this land, it furnishes the peasant family with the most important objects of consumption. The main body of horned cattle, sheep and pigs is the property of the collective farmers, and not of the collectives. The peasants often convert their subsidiary farms into the essential ones, letting the unprofitable collectives take second place. On the other hand, those collectives which pay highly for the working day are rising to a higher social level and creating a category of well-to-do farmers. The centrifugal tendencies are not yet dying, but on the contrary are growing stronger. In any case, the collectives have succeeded so far in transforming only the juridical forms of economic relations in the country – in particular the methods of distributing income but they have left almost without change the old hut and vegetable garden, the barnyard chores, the whole rhythm of heavy muzhik labor. To a considerable degree they have left also the old attitude to the state. The state no longer, to be sure, serves the landlords or the bourgeoisie, but it takes away too much from the villages for the benefit of the cities, and it retains too many greedy bureaucrats.
For the census to be taken on January 6, 1937, the following list of social categories has been drawn up: worker; clerical worker; collective farmer; individual farmer; individual craftsman; member of the liberal professions; minister of religion; other non-laboring elements. According to the official commentary, this census list fails to include any other social characteristics only because there are no classes in the Soviet Union. In reality the list is constructed with the direct intention of concealing the privileged upper strata, and the more deprived lower depths. The real divisions of Soviet society, which should and might easily be revealed with the help of an honest census, are as follows: heads of the bureaucracy, specialists, etc., living in bourgeois conditions; medium and lower strata, on the level of the petty bourgeoisie; worker and collective farm aristocracy – approximately on the same level; medium working mass; medium, stratum of collective farmers; individual peasants and craftsmen; lower worker and peasant strata passing over into the lumpenproletariat; homeless children, prostitutes, etc.
When the new constitution announces that in the Soviet Union “abolition of the exploitation of man by man” has been attained, it is not telling the truth. The new social differentiation has created conditions for the revival of the exploitation of man in its most barbarous form – that of buying him into slavery for personal service. In the lists for the new census personal servants are not mentioned at all. They are, evidently, to be dissolved in the general group of “workers.” There are, however, plenty of questions about this: Does the socialist citizen have servants, and just how many (maid, cook, nurse, governess, chauffeur)? Does he have an automobile at his personal disposal? How many rooms does he occupy? etc. Not a word in these lists about the scale of earnings! If the rule were revived that exploitation of the labor of others deprives one of political rights, it would turn out, somewhat unexpectedly, that the cream of the ruling group are outside the bounds of the Soviet constitution. Fortunately, they have established a complete equality of rights ... for servant and master! Two opposite tendencies are growing up out of the depth of the Soviet regime. To the extent that, in contrast to a decaying capitalism, it develops the productive forces, it is preparing the economic basis of socialism. To the extent that, for the benefit of an upper stratum, it carries to more and more extreme expression bourgeois norms of distribution, it is preparing a capitalist restoration. This contrast between forms of property and norms of distribution cannot grow indefinitely. Either the bourgeois norm must in one form or another spread to the means of production, or the norms of distribution must be brought into correspondence with the socialist property system.
The bureaucracy dreads the exposure of this alternative. Everywhere and all the time in the press, in speeches, in statistics, in the novels of its litterateurs, in the verses of its poets, and, finally, in the text of the new constitution – it painstakingly conceals the real relations both in town and country with abstractions from the socialist dictionary. That is why the official ideology is all so lifeless, talentless and false.
1. State Capitalism
We often seek salvation from unfamiliar phenomena in familiar terms. An attempt has been made to conceal the enigma of the Soviet regime by calling it “state capitalism.” This term has the advantage that nobody knows exactly what it means. The term “state capitalism” originally arose to designate all the phenomena which arise when a bourgeois state takes direct charge of the means of transport or of industrial enterprises. The very necessity of such measures is one of the signs that the productive forces have outgrown capitalism and are bringing it to a partial self-negation in practice. But the outworn system, along with its elements of self-negation, continues to exist as a capitalist system.
Theoretically, to be sure, it is possible to conceive a situation in which the bourgeoisie as a whole constitutes itself a stock company which, by means of its state, administers the whole national economy. The economic laws of such a regime would present no mysteries. A single capitalist, as is well known, receives in the form of profit, not that part of the surplus value which is directly created by the workers of his own enterprise, but a share of the combined surplus value created throughout the country proportionate to the amount of his own capital. Under an integral “state capitalism”, this law of the equal rate of profit would be realized, not by devious routes – that is, competition among different capitals – but immediately and directly through state bookkeeping. Such a regime never existed, however, and, because of profound contradictions among the proprietors themselves, never will exist – the more so since, in its quality of universal repository of capitalist property, the state would be too tempting an object for social revolution.
During the war, and especially during the experiments in fascist economy, the term “state capitalism” has oftenest been understood to mean a system of state interference and regulation. The French employ a much more suitable term for this etatism. There are undoubtedly points of contact between state capitalism and “state-ism”, but taken as systems they are opposite rather than identical. State capitalism means the substitution of state property for private property, and for that very reason remains partial in character. State-ism, no matter where in Italy, Mussolini, in Germany, Hitler, in America, Roosevelt, or in France, Leon Blum – means state intervention on the basis of private property, and with the goal of preserving it. Whatever be the programs of the government, stateism inevitably leads to a transfer of the damages of the decaying system from strong shoulders to weak. It “rescues” the small proprietor from complete ruin only to the extent that his existence is necessary for the preservation of big property. The planned measures of stateism are dictated not by the demands of a development of the productive forces, but by a concern for the preservation of private property at the expense of the productive forces, which are in revolt against it. State-ism means applying brakes to the development of technique, supporting unviable enterprises, perpetuating parasitic social strata. In a word, state-ism is completely reactionary in character.
The words of Mussolini: “Three-fourths of Italian economy, industrial and agricultural, is in the hands of the state” (May 26, 1934), are not to be taken literally. The fascist state is not an owner of enterprises, but only an intermediary between their owners. These two things are not identical. Popolo d’Italia says on this subject: “The corporative state directs and integrates the economy, but does not run it (‘dirige e porta alla unita l’economia, ma non fa l’economia, non gestisce’), which, with a monopoly of production, would be nothing but collectivism.” (June 11, 1936) Toward the peasants and small proprietors in general, the fascist bureaucracy takes the attitude of a threatening lord and master. Toward the capitalist magnates, that of a first plenipotentiury. “The corporative state,” correctly writes the Italian Marxist, Feroci, “is nothing but the sales clerk of monopoly capital ... Mussolini takes upon the state the whole risk of the enterprises, leaving to the industrialists the profits of exploitation.” And Hitler in this respect follows in the steps of Mussolini. The limits of the planning principle, as well as its real content, are determined by the class dependence of the fascist state. It is not a question of increasing the power of man over nature in the interests of society, but of exploiting society in the interests of the few. “If I desired,” boasts Mussolini, “to establish in Italy – which really has not happened – state capitalism or state socialism, I should possess today all the necessary and adequate objective conditions.” All except one: the expropriation of the class of capitalists. In order to realize this condition, fascism would have to go over to the other side of the barricades – “which really has not happened” to quote the hasty assurance of Mussolini, and, of course, will not happen. To expropriate the capitalists would require other forces, other cadres and other leaders.
The first concentration of the means of production in the hands of the state to occur in history was achieved by the proletariat with the method of social revolution, and not by capitalists with the method of state trustification. Our brief analysis is sufficient to show how absurd are the attempts to identify capitalist state-ism with the Soviet system. The former is reactionary, the latter progressive.
2. Is the Bureaucracy a Ruling Class?
Classes are characterized by their position in the social system of economy, and primarily by their relation to the means of production. In civilized societies, property relations are validated by laws. The nationalization of the land, the means of industrial production, transport and exchange, together with the monopoly of foreign trade, constitute the basis of the Soviet social structure. Through these relations, established by the proletarian revolution, the nature of the Soviet Union as a proletarian state is for us basically defined.
In its intermediary and regulating function, its concern to maintain social ranks, and its exploitation of the state apparatus for personal goals, the Soviet bureaucracy is similar to every other bureaucracy, especially the fascist. But it is also in a vast way different. In no other regime has a bureaucracy ever achieved such a degree of independence from the dominating class. In bourgeois society, the bureaucracy represents the interests of a possessing and educated class, which has at its disposal innumerable means of everyday control over its administration of affairs. The Soviet bureaucracy has risen above a class which is hardly emerging from destitution and darkness, and has no tradition of dominion or command. Whereas the fascists, when they find themselves in power, are united with the big bourgeoisie by bonds of common interest, friendship, marriage, etc., the Soviet bureaucracy takes on bourgeois customs without having beside it a national bourgeoisie. In this sense we cannot deny that it is something more than a bureaucracy. It is in the full sense of the word the sole privileged and commanding stratum in the Soviet society.
Another difference is no less important. The Soviet bureaucracy has expropriated the proletariat politically in order by methods of its own to defend the social conquests. But the very fact of its appropriation of political power in a country where the principal means of production are in the hands of the state, creates a new and hitherto unknown relation between the bureaucracy and the riches of the nation. The means of production belong to the state. But the state, so to speak, “belongs” to the bureaucracy. If these as yet wholly new relations should solidify, become the norm and be legalized, whether with or without resistance from the workers, they would, in the long run, lead to a complete liquidation of the social conquests of the proletarian revolution. But to speak of that now is at least premature. The proletariat has not yet said its last word. The bureaucracy has not yet created social supports for its dominion in the form of special types of property. It is compelled to defend state property as the source of its power and its income. In this aspect of its activity it still remains a weapon of proletarian dictatorship.
The attempt to represent the Soviet bureaucracy as a class of “state capitalists” will obviously not withstand criticism. The bureaucracy has neither stocks nor bonds. It is recruited, supplemented and renewed in the manner of an administrative hierarchy, independently of any special property relations of its own. The individual bureaucrat cannot transmit to his heirs his rights in the exploitation of the state apparatus. The bureaucracy enjoys its privileges under the form of an abuse of power It conceals its income; it pretends that as a special social group it does not even exist. Its appropriation of a vast share of the national income has the character of social parasitism. All this makes the position of the commanding Soviet stratum in the highest degree contradictory, equivocal and undignified, notwithstanding the completeness of its power and the smoke screen of flattery that conceals it.
Bourgeois society has in the course of its history displaced many political regimes and bureaucratic castes, without changing its social foundations. It has preserved itself against the restoration of feudal and guild relations by the superiority of its productive methods. The state power has been able either to co-operate with capitalist development, or put brakes on it. But in general the productive forces, upon a basis of private property and competition, have been working out their own destiny. In contrast to this, the property relations which issued from the socialist revolution are indivisibly bound up with the new state as their repository. The predominance of socialist over petty bourgeois tendencies is guaranteed, not by the automatism of the economy – we are still far from that – but by political measures taken by the dictatorship. The character of the economy as a whole thus depends upon the character of the state power.
A collapse of the Soviet regime would lead inevitably to the collapse of the planned economy, and thus to the abolition of state property. The bond of compulsion between the trusts and the factories within them would fall away. The more successful enterprises would succeed in coming out on the road of independence. They might convert or they might find some themselves into stock companies, other transitional form of property – one, for example, in which the workers should participate in the profits. The collective farms would disintegrate at the same time, and far more easily. The fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, if it were not replaced by a new socialist power, would thus mean a return to capitalist relations with a catastrophic decline of industry and culture.
But if a socialist government is still absolutely necessary for the preservation and development of the planned economy, the question is all the more important, upon whom the present Soviet government relies, and in what measure the socialist character of its policy is guaranteed. At the 11th Party Congress in March 1922, Lenin, in practically bidding farewell to the party, addressed these words to the commanding group: “History knows transformations of all sorts. To rely upon conviction, devotion and other excellent spiritual qualities – that is not to be taken seriously in politics.” Being determines consciousness. During the last fifteen years, the government has changed its social composition even more deeply than its ideas. Since of all the strata of Soviet society the bureaucracy has best solved its own social problem, and is fully content with the existing situation, it has ceased to offer any subjective guarantee whatever of the socialist direction of its policy. It continues to preserve state property only to the extent that it fears the proletariat. This saving fear is nourished and supported by the illegal party of Bolshevik-Leninists, which is the most conscious expression of the socialist tendencies opposing that bourgeois reaction with which the Thermidorian bureaucracy is completely saturated. As a conscious political force the bureaucracy has betrayed the revolution. But a victorious revolution is fortunately not only a program and a banner, not only political institutions, but also a system of social relations. To betray it is not enough. You have to overthrow it. The October revolution has been betrayed by the ruling stratum, but not yet overthrown. It has a great power of resistance, coinciding with the established property relations, with the living force of the proletariat, the consciousness of its best elements, the impasse of world capitalism, and the inevitability of world revolution.
3. The Question of the Character of the Soviet Union
Not Yet Decided by History
In order better to understand the character of the present Soviet Union, let us make two different hypotheses about its future. Let us assume first that the Soviet bureaucracy is overthrown by a revolutionary party having all the attributes of the old Bolshevism, enriched moreover by the world experience of the recent period. Such a party would begin with the restoration of democracy in the trade unions and the Soviets. It would be able to, and would have to, restore freedom of Soviet parties. Together with the masses, and at their head, it would carry out a ruthless purgation of the state apparatus. It would abolish ranks and decorations, all kinds of privileges, and would limit inequality in the payment of labor to the life necessities of the economy and the state apparatus. It would give the youth free opportunity to think independently, learn, criticize and grow. It would introduce profound changes in the distribution of the national income in correspondence with the interests and will of the worker and peasant masses. But so far as concerns property relations, the new power would not have to resort to revolutionary measures. It would retain and further develop the experiment of planned economy. After the political revolution – that is, the deposing of the bureaucracy – the proletariat would have to introduce in the economy a series of very important reforms, but not another social revolution.
If – to adopt a second hypothesis – a bourgeois party were to overthrow the ruling Soviet caste, it would find no small number of ready servants among the present bureaucrats, administrators, technicians, directors, party secretaries and privileged upper circles in general. A purgation of the state apparatus would, of course, be necessary in this case too. But a bourgeois restoration would probably have to clean out fewer people than a revolutionary party. The chief task of the new power would be to restore private property in the means of production. First of all, it would be necessary to create conditions for the development of strong farmers from the weak collective farms, and for converting the strong collectives into producers’ cooperatives of the bourgeois type into agricultural stock companies. In the sphere of industry, denationalization would begin with the light industries and those producing food. The planning principle would be converted for the transitional period into a series of compromises between state power and individual “corporations” – potential proprietors, that is, among the Soviet captains of industry, the émigré former proprietors and foreign capitalists. Notwithstanding that the Soviet bureaucracy has gone far toward preparing a bourgeois restoration, the new regime would have to introduce in the matter of forms of property and methods of industry not a reform, but a social revolution.
Let us assume to take a third variant – that neither a revolutionary nor a counterrevolutionary party seizes power. The bureaucracy continues at the head of the state. Even under these conditions social relations will not jell. We cannot count upon the bureaucracy’s peacefully and voluntarily renouncing itself in behalf of socialist equality. If at the present time, notwithstanding the too obvious inconveniences of such an operation, it has considered it possible to introduce ranks and decorations, it must inevitably in future stages seek supports for itself in property relations. One may argue that the big bureaucrat cares little what are the prevailing forms of property, provided only they guarantee him the necessary income. This argument ignores not only the instability of the bureaucrat’s own rights, but also the question of his descendants. The new cult of the family has not fallen out of the clouds. Privileges have only half their worth, if they cannot be transmitted to one’s children. But the right of testament is inseparable from the right of property. It is not enough to be the director of a trust; it is necessary to be a stockholder. The victory of the bureaucracy in this decisive sphere would mean its conversion into a new possessing class. On the other hand, the victory of the proletariat over the bureaucracy would insure a revival of the socialist revolution. The third variant consequently brings us back to the two first, with which, in the interests of clarity and simplicity, we set out.
* * *
To define the Soviet regime as transitional, or intermediate, means to abandon such finished social categories as capitalism (and therewith “state capitalism”) and also socialism. But besides being completely inadequate in itself, such a definition is capable of producing the mistaken idea that from the present Soviet regime only a transition to socialism is possible. In reality a backslide to capitalism is wholly possible. A more complete definition will of necessity be complicated and ponderous.
The Soviet Union is a contradictory society halfway between capitalism and socialism, in which: (a) the productive forces are still far from adequate to give the state property a socialist character; (b) the tendency toward primitive accumulation created by want breaks out through innumerable pores of the planned economy; (c) norms of distribution preserving a bourgeois character lie at the basis of a new differentiation of society; (d) the economic growth, while slowly bettering the situation of the toilers, promotes a swift formation of privileged strata; (e) exploiting the social antagonisms, a bureaucracy has converted itself into an uncontrolled caste alien to socialism; (f) the social revolution, betrayed by the ruling party, still exists in property relations and in the consciousness of the toiling masses; (g) a further development of the accumulating contradictions can as well lead to socialism as back to capitalism; (h) on the road to capitalism the counterrevolution would have to break the resistance of the workers; (i) on the road to socialism the workers would have to overthrow the bureaucracy. In the last analysis, the question will be decided by a struggle of living social forces, both on the national and the world arena.
Doctrinaires will doubtless not be satisfied with this hypothetical definition. They would like categorical formulae: yes – yes, and no – no. Sociological problems would certainly be simpler, if social phenomena had always a finished character. There is nothing more dangerous, however, than to throw out of reality, for the sake of logical completeness, elements which today violate your scheme and tomorrow may wholly overturn it. In our analysis, we have above all avoided doing violence to dynamic social formations which have had no precedent and have no analogies. The scientific task, as well as the political, is not to give a finished definition to an unfinished process, but to follow all its stages, separate its progressive from its reactionary tendencies, expose their mutual relations, foresee possible variants of development, and find in this foresight a basis for action.