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국가와 노조에 맞서는 세계의 계급투쟁

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    2010/04/20 09:46
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국가와 노조에 맞서는 세계의 계급투쟁

 

 

 


(1) 터키

  터키에서는 총파업을 하거나 다른 노동자와 연대파업을 하는 것이 불법이다. 지난 연대파업 중 가장 최근의 것은 1991년 광부 파업에 대한 지지 파업이었다. 2010년 2월 4일, 사유화된 테켈(Tekel) 담배회사의 노동자와 연대하는 노동조합의 하루 총파업이 있었다. 테켈 노동자들은 2009년 중순부터 앙카라에서 항의해 왔다.

  노조 지도자들은 ‘파업’을 말하지 않고 ‘총행동’을 말하며, ‘일하지 않을 권리’를 행사하는 노동자에 대해 말하지 않는다. 그렇지만 수백만의 노동자들이 파업에 참여했고 전국적인 시위가 있었다.

  2009년 12월 14일, 테켈의 수천 노동자들이 터키 십여 곳의 도시로부터 앙카라로 가기 위해 그들의 집과 가족을 떠났다. 노동자들의 행진은 자본주의 질서가 강제한 끔찍한 조건에 맞서는 투쟁을 목적으로 한 것이었다. 이들의 투쟁은 터키 정부의 4-C에 반대하는 투쟁이다. 이 정책은 사유화로 인하여 노동자들의 일자리가 없어지는 데 따른 조치다. 이 정책을 통하여 국가는 임금 삭감 이외에도 공공부문 노동자를 다른 부문으로 이전시킬 수 있는 등, 노동자에 대한 절대적 권력을 갖게 되었다(노동시간과 임금에 대한 자의적 결정 등).

  2009년 12월 5일, 터키 수상이 참석한 개회식에 테켈 노동자들이 가족과 함께 참여하면서 투쟁이 시작되었다. 그 전까지 정부를 지지했던 노동자들은 4-C 정책을 강변하는 수상의 연설에 분노했다. 이들이 속해 있는 노조(주류, 담배 노조)는 앙카라로 모일 것을 요구하는 과정에서 어떠한 심각한 행동도 취하지 않았다. 그 결과 노동자들은 수도 앙카라로 모이기 위해 도로를 점거했다. 폭동진압경찰은 테켈 공장이 집중되어 있는 쿠르드 지역 도시로부터 나오는 노동자들을 막았다. 그러나 서부, 지중해, 흑해 지역의 노동자들은 통과시켜서 계급운동을 인종으로 갈라놓고 서로 싸우도록 했다. 그러나 쿠르드 지역 밖의 노동자들은 경찰의 이러한 조치와 싸우면서, 모든 노동자들이 수도 앙카라로 모이도록 하는 데 단결력을 보였다.

  12월 15일, 테켈 노동자들은 앙카라의 ‘정의발전당’ 중앙당사 앞에서 항의 시위를 벌였고, 경찰의 가장 무자비한 공격은 12월 17일에 있었다. 경찰 진압에 흩어진 노동자들은 노조 관료의 도움 없이 스스로 조직하여 ‘터키노총’ 앞에서 대규모 시위를 벌였다(비공인 파업-Wildcat 투쟁). 테켈 노동자와 노조 사이의 투쟁은 2010년 1월 1일까지 계속되었다. 앙카라의 노동계급과 노동자 배경을 지닌 학생들은 테켈 노동자들이 머물 곳을 찾는 등, 물질적 어려움을 겪지 않도록 지원을 아끼지 않았다.

  노동자 투사들은 ‘주류, 담배 노조’와 ‘터키노총’이 아무 것도 할 수 없음을 보았고, 그들의 요구를 노조에 전달할 목적으로 파업위원회를 만들었다. 이들의 요구 중에는 노동자들이 ‘터키노총’ 앞에 파업 텐트를 치고, 집단적으로 새해를 축하하는 내용도 포함되었다.

  또한 테켈 노동자들은 똑같은 4-C 조건에 놓인 설탕공장 노동자들과 연대하고, 그들의 투쟁을 설명하기 위해 인근과 대학에 초청받았다. ‘터키노총’은 정부와 마찬가지로 테켈 노동자들의 투쟁이 확산되는 것을 두려워했다. 투쟁을 계속 할 것인가 아니면 집으로 돌아갈 것인가를 결정하는 비밀투표에서 99%가 투쟁을 택했다. 그동안 노조가 제시한 행동계획을 토론했는데, 1월 15일 이후 3일간 농성, 3일간 단식 파업, 3일간 죽음의 단식이라는 세 가지 안이 제시되었다. 노동자들은 처음에는 단식 파업이 좋은 생각이라고 보았다.

  농성과 시위가 진행되고 수만의 노동자들이 집회를 열었는데, 터키노총은 테켈 노동자들을 연단으로부터 멀리 배치하고, 연단 앞에는 금속노동자들을 배치시켰다. 테켈 노동자들은  터키노총 위원장의 연설을 중단시키기 위하여 연단으로 밀치고 나가 연단을 점거하고, 그들의 요구를 외쳤다. 노조 지도부에서 확성기를 껐지만, 테켈 노동자들은 시위 노동자들에게 그들의 요구를 전달했다. 노조는 노동자들끼리, 그리고 학생들과 서로 싸우도록 자극했지만 150여 명이 터키노총 앞의 관료적 봉쇄를 뚫고 건물을 점거했다.

  여러 도시에서 온 노동자들이 모두 참여하는 대규모 총회는 열리지 못했지만, 비공식적인 대중 집회가 계속되었다. 그리고 “쿠르드 노동자와 터키 노동자는 하나다”라는 구호는, 정권의 온갖 책동에도 불구하고 서로 다른 인종의 노동자들이 자본주의 질서에 대항하는 단결을 보여주었다. 테켈 노동자들의 투쟁은 이들을 지원한 소방대원들에게도 크게 기여했다.


(2) 그리스

  1년 전, 청년 아나키스트를 경찰이 살해하자 그리스 시가에서 3주간의 대중투쟁이 있었다. 그러나 거리와 학교에서의 투쟁은 작업장에서의 투쟁과 연결되는 데 어려움이 있었다. 오직 초등학교 교사들의 하루 파업이 있었을 뿐이다.

  그러나 그리스 노동자들의 행동은 저항운동을 넘어서 지금까지 계속되고 있다. 노동부 장관은 유로권에서 그리스를 축출하겠다고 위협하며 국가 부채위기를 해결하려는 조치가 위험을 불러일으킬 수 있다고 경고한 바 있다. 새로운 사회주의 정부는 시위, 집회, 파업의 자유를 보호하는 헌법 조항을 유예할 수 있는 국가비상통합정부를 구성하기 위해 모든 부르주아 정당들을 통합시키려 하고 있다.

  그리스 정부가 2012년까지 예산을 12.7%에서 2.8%로 삭감하려는(노동계급에 대한 공격) ‘개혁’이 발표되기 전에도 대규모 노동자 투쟁이 있었다. 부두 노동자, 통신 노동자, 쓰레기 수거자, 의사, 간호사, 유치원과 초등학교 교사, 택시 기사, 철강 노동자, 공공부문 노동자들의 투쟁은 겉으로는 다른 이유 때문인 것처럼 보이지만, 위기의 순간에 노동자가 희생을 치러야 한다고 강제하는 국가와 자본의 공격에 맞서는 것이었다. (EU가 승인한) 내핍 프로그램이 실행되기 전, 그리스 수상은 그것이 “고통스러울” 것이라고 경고했다. 2010년 1월 29일 구체적 세칙이 발표되기 전, 아테네의 소방대원과 다른 공공부문 노동자들의 성난 시위가 있었다.

  정부의 3개년 계획에는 공공부문 노동자들의 임금 동결과 10% 수당 삭감이 포함되어 있는데, 이는 실제로 5%~15%의 임금 삭감과 맞먹는다. 퇴직하는 공무원은 대체되지 않고, 퇴직연령도 연금비용을 줄이기 위해 연장하는 계획도 있다.

  그리스 노조는 투쟁을 분리시키고 있다. 2월 4일~5일 항구와 국경을 폐쇄하는 세관원과 세무원의 48시간 공식 파업이 있었는데, 농민은 폐쇄 조치를 유지하고 있었다. 이와 같은 파업의 ‘기대되는 반발’은 공공부문 파업 계획과 의회국의 행진을 포함하고 있었다. 2월 10일 Adedy 노조와 연금 공격에 대한 항의, 2월 11일 스탈린주의 노조의 파업, 2월 24일 2백만 노동자를 포괄하는 가장 큰 노조 GSEE의 민간부문 파업 같은 것이다.

  노동계급이 위와 같은 방식으로 분리되면, 그리스 정부를 항복시키지 못한다. 실제로 노조는 스탈린주의 정부를 지지하는 것을 게을리 하지 않았지만, 노동계급의 분노가 커지자 자신들이 어떤 행동을 하지 않으면 노동자들이 자신들의 쇼를 알아보기 시작할 가능성이 있음을 알고 있었다. 노조는 노동자들이 희생하기를 바라고 있지만, 그들의 반발도 고려해야만 한다.

  노동자투쟁 발전의 미래를 볼 때, 노동자들은 노조뿐만 아니라 ‘잘못된 친구들’을 방심하지 말아야 한다. 노동계급에게 일정한 영향력을 지닌 ‘그리스 공산당’은 1년 전 시위자를 ‘어두운 외부 세력’의 비밀요원으로 부른 바 있다. 파시스트와 우익에 대항하고 미 제국주의에 대항하라고 노동자를 모으는 트로츠키주의자들도 있다. 노조와 그 동맹 세력은 그리스 주변 국가인 터키에서의 파업이 국제적으로 영향을 미치지 못하도록, 자신들의 과제를 그리스 노동자만의 문제로 국한시키고 있다.

  그리스 상황의 또 하나의 특징은 공공건물을 폭파하는 다양한 무장그룹의 확산이다. 그러나 그러한 과정은 국가의 억압만 부추길 뿐이지 주류 투쟁의 대안이 될 수는 없다. ‘불꽃 세포의 음모’, ‘테러주의자의 게릴라 그룹’, ‘허무주의 분파’ 같은 이름의 그룹들은 노동계급에게 무엇도 줄 수 없다. 노동자들은 집에 앉아 텔레비전에서 급진주의자가 설치한 폭탄을 보지 않는다. 노동자들은 자신들의 투쟁 속에 참여하고 자신들의 조직을 발전시키면서 계급의 단결, 의식, 그리고 자신감을 쌓아간다.


(3) 알제리

  1월 동안 알제리에서는 수많은 파업과 거리시위가 있었다. 동알제리 아바나의 실업 노동자, 모든 지역의 빈민 시위, 도시 외곽 산업부문 노동자들의 파업은 관제보도를 통하여 알려지지 않았다. 그들의 요구는 언제나 노동운동의 요구인 임금, 연금, 강제 휴직에 대한 것들이다. 2009년 말 정부는 노동자들이 조기 퇴직할 기회를 주지 않기로 결정했다. 이에 공공부문과 민간부문에서 만 명 이상이 파업했고, 이는 불꽃처럼 번졌다. 노동자들은 도심에서 폭동진압경찰과 충돌했으나 노조는 이를 방조했다. 새로운 노사정 합의가 법제화된 이후 알제리노총 위원장은 ‘배신자’로 비난받았다.


(4) 스페인

  비고에서는 6만의 실업자가 생겼는데, 2009년에 엔지니어링 부문에서만 8천의 실업 노동자가 생겼다. 발사에서는 약 7백만 명의 휴직 노동자가 더 낮은 임금과 열악한 노동조건의 외국인 노동자로 대체된다는 사실에 분노하여 투쟁했는데, 부르주아 언론에서는 “실업 노동자가 외국 노동자의 고용에 반대한다”며 악선전하고 있다. 그러나 노동자들은 인종주의와 민족주의로 노동계급을 분리시키는 책동에 맞서 싸우며, 실업 노동자와 고용 노동자 사이의 연대와 통일을 이루고 있다(2010년 3월 2일).


(5) 인도

  2009년 10월 18일, 리코자동차 노동자들이 10월 3일부터 시작한 파업을 폭력으로 중단시키려는 파업 파괴자들에 맞서 투쟁했다. 파업 파괴자들과의 충돌로 노동자 1명이 사망하고, 40여 명이 부상당했다. 이를 계기로 구르가온과 마네사 지역 공업벨트의 3만 노동자가 분노하여 투쟁이 확대되었고, 10월 20일에는 두 도시를 폐쇄하면서 10만 노동자가 파업에 동참했다. 노조는 이 투쟁을 노조권리의 방어 투쟁으로 왜곡하려 했다.   <국제공산주의흐름/ ICC>

 

 

-번역  left communist group   (http://cafe.daum.net/leftcommunist)

진보블로그 공감 버튼트위터로 리트윗하기페이스북에 공유하기딜리셔스에 북마크

반혁명의 산물 반혁명의 앞잡이 트로츠키주의

반혁명의 산물 반혁명의 앞잡이 트로츠키주의

Trotskyism: Prodct and agent of counterrevolution

ICG는 트로츠키주의의 반혁명적 궤도를 밝혀낸다.

The ICG traces the counter-revolutionary trajectory of Trotskyism.

(Some grammatical corrections have been made to the original.)

 

Trotsky is often considered as Stalin's enemy. In fact he was Stalin's competitor. Let's explain:

The opposition (that later became trotskyist) appeared in 26-27 as a (quite late) reaction to the counterrevolutionary position of "socialism in one country". But this position of Trotsky only became a theoretical position in so far as Trotsky always defended capitalism in Russia and everywhere else in the world. Trotskyists defended the participation in the so-called "second" world war and in all the following ones. If in '27, Trotsky's reaction to the Canton and Shanghai massacre of the insurrectionary proletarians was correct, in total antagonism with this position, he supported the massacres of the proletarians in Spain and critically supported all the left bourgeoisie initiatives.

Inside the Third International he attacked the Left, calling them "anarchists" or "adventurous", he lead the crushing of the proletarian insurrection in Kronstadt, he imposed the militarisation of labour, and praised the Taylor system (increasing of exploitation of human labour),... In two words: Trotsky always supported the development of capitalism. He never realised/understood the transformation/liquidation of the proletarian organs of 1917 into organs of management of capital. He was blind to the capitalist nature of the relations of production in Russia.

The communist revolution means the destruction of production, value, the abolition of wage labour, total suppression of democracy, be it called popular, direct, liberal or libertarian.

Trotsky foughts against the participation of the communists in the Kuomintang (1923) and against the policy of the Third International which praised the alliance with the Chinese bourgeoisie against the insurrectionary proletarians. Correct! But he did not make a principle out of this position, he did not consider this position as something true always and everywhere, as an important point of the communist programme: anti-frontism.

In 1933, he wanted all the groups of the trotskyist "opposition" to enter the bourgeois social-democrat parties (the same that he condemned in 1920) to make "entryism". That is equivalent to trying to wake up a dead body. We consider entryism is trying to conquer a cadaver from the inside! Trotskyist organisations made entryism inside the organisations created under the Vichy regime in France in order to "organize revolutionary nucleus"!!!

Our criticisms globally concern the critical support to parliament, ministries, elections,... the participation to imperialist conflicts supporting the "weakest" imperialism (Russia, Tito, Ben Bella, Khomeyni, Allende, Ho Chi Min,...) supporting national liberation struggles.

We denounce the theory defending the existence of "degenerated worker States". According to this point of view, in those States, the means of production are "fair", and the means of distribution are "unfair". We consider this as total bullshit! The production determines the essence, the very nature of the distribution and all the ideological forms that justify the later. In Russia as well as everywhere in the world economy is based on the law of value, therefore, what is the difference? Nationalisation? State property? No because it does not attack property. On the one hand, the bourgeois property of the means of production is reinforced and more centralised, on the other hand there is no change in the essence of the relations of production.

We also denounce the theory of the permanent revolution according to which "the accomplishment of democratic tasks in bourgeois backward countries "directly" leads them to the dictatorship of the proletariat which puts the socialist tasks on the agenda." So making the bourgeois revolution would automatically lead to making the proletarian revolution that would put the finishing touches to the bourgeois revolution. That is how the bourgeois revolution could "permanently" give birth to the proletarian revolution, just as if the latter was a simple and more or less mechanical extension, continuation of the first.

Proletarian revolution will destroy democracy, impose the proletarian class power in order to abolish all classes and all powers. The fact that capital always developed by poles of concentration that moved along the centuries does not contradict the fact that it is a worldwide relation of production and that the proletarians have no country to defend, no homeland to die for. National liberation, the "oppressed nations", the "socialist countries" are bourgeois ideologies to prevent class war!

And the last point of the trotskyist theory we denounce: the transitional programme.

For Trotsky there were two programs: a minimum programme (economical demands, immediate interests) and a maximum programme (political demands, historical interests), and between them, there is a bridge: the transitional program, the "preparation to the taking of the power". This transitional program is the basis of the 4th International. It says that the productive forces of humanity have stopped growing and that the objective basis of capital is ready for revolution. What is missing is the subjective factor, i.e: the revolutionary leadership. That is the role of the 4th International. Separation between immediate and historical interests of the proletariat, separation between the "masses" and the "leaders", the bellies and the heads, the oppressed and the imperialist countries, the subjective and the objective conditions, these counterrevolutionary theories serve as a life-guard for capital.

For us the transition between capital and communism will be the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the transitional programme can only be the tasks necessary to dictatorially destroy capital.

진보블로그 공감 버튼트위터로 리트윗하기페이스북에 공유하기딜리셔스에 북마크

Bolshevism and Stalinism

Bolshevism and Stalinism

 

Paul Mattick  -  1947

 

 

The alleged purpose of Trotsky's biography of Stalin1 is to show "how a personality of this sort was formed, and how it came to power by usurpation of the right to such an exceptional role". The real purpose of the book, however, is to show why Trotsky lost the power position he temporarily occupied and why his rather than Stalin's name should follow Lenin's. Prior to Lenin's death it had always been 'Lenin and Trotsky' ; Stalin's name had invariably been near or at the end of any list of prominent Bolsheviks. On one occasion Lenin even suggested that he put his own signature second to Trotsky's. In brief, the book helps to explain why Trotsky was of the opinion "that he was the natural successor to Lenin" and in effect is a biography of both Stalin and Trotsky.

All beginnings are small, of course, and the Bolshevism of Lenin and Trotsky differs from present-day Stalinism just as Hitler's brown terror of 1933 differed from the Nazism of World War II. That there is nothing in the arsenal of Stalinism that cannot also be found in that of Lenin and Trotsky is attested to by the earlier writings of Trotsky himself.2  For example Trotsky, like Stalin, introduced compulsory labour service as a 'socialist principle' . He, too, was convinced "that not one serious socialist will begin to deny to the Labour State the right to lay its hands upon the worker who refuses to execute his labour power". It was Trotsky who hurried to stress the 'socialistic character of inequality, for, as he said, "those workers who do more for the general interest than others receive the right to a greater quantity of the social product than the lazy, the careless, and the disorganisers". It was his opinion that everything must be done to "assist the development of rivalry in the sphere of production".

Of course, all this was conceived as the 'socialist principle' of the 'transformation period'. It was dictated by objective difficulties in the way of full socialisation. There was not the desire but the need to strengthen party dictatorship until it led to the abolishment of even those freedoms of activity which, in one fashion or another, had been granted by the bourgeois state. However, Stalin, too, can offer the excuse of necessity.

In order to find other arguments against Stalinism than his personal dislike for a competitor in intra-party struggles, Trotsky must discover and construct political differences between himself and Stalin, and between Stalin and Lenin in order to support his assertion that without Stalin things would have been different in Russia and elsewhere.

There could not have been any 몋heoretic?differences between Lenin and Stalin, as the only theoretical work bearing the name of the latter had been inspired and supervised by Lenin. And if Stalin's 'nature craved' the centralised party machine, it was Lenin who constructed the perfect machine for him, so that on that score, too, no differences could arise. In fact, as long as Lenin was active, Stalin was no trouble to him, however troublesome he may have been to 'The Number Two Bolshevik'.

Still, in order for Trotsky to explain the 'Soviet Thermidor', there must be a difference between Leninism and Stalinism, provided, of course, there was such a Thermidor. On this point, Trotsky has brought forth various ideas as to when it took place, but in his Stalin biography he ignores the question of time in favour of the simple statement that it had something to do with the "increasing privileges for the bureaucracy". However, this only brings us back to the early period of the Bolshevik dictatorship which found Lenin and Trotsky engaged in creating the state bureaucracy and increasing its efficiency by increasing its privileges.

 

Competitors for Power

 The fact that the relentless struggle for position came into the open only after Lenin's death suggests something other than the Soviet Thermidor. It simply indicates that by that time the Bolshevik state was of sufficient strength, or was in a position, to disregard to a certain degree both the Russian masses and the international bourgeoisie. The developing bureaucracy began to feel sure that Russia was theirs for keeps; the fight for the plums of the Revolution entered its more general and more serious stage.

All adversaries in this struggle stressed the need of dictatorship in view of the unsolved internal frictions between 'workers' and 'peasants', the economic and technological backwardness of the country as a whole, and the constant danger of attack from the outside. But within this setting of dictatorship, all sorts of arguments could be raised. The power-struggle within the developing ruling class expressed itself in policy-proposals either for or against the interests of the peasants, either for or against the limitation of factory councils, either for or against an offensive policy on the international front. High-sounding theories were expounded with regard to the estimation of the peasantry, the relationship between bureaucracy and revolution, the question of party generations, etc. and reached their climax in the Trotsky-Stalin controversy on the 'Permanent Revolution' and the theory of 'Socialism in one Country'

It is quite possible that the debaters believed their own phrases; yet, despite their theoretical differentiations, whenever they acted upon a real situation they all acted alike: In order to suit their own needs, they naturally expressed identical things in different terms. If Trotsky rushes to the front - to all fronts in fact - he merely defends the fatherland. But Stalin "is attracted by the front, because here for the first time he could work with the most finished of all the administrative machines, the military machine" for which, by the way, Trotsky claims all credit. If Trotsky pleads for discipline, he shows his 'iron hand'; if Stalin does the same, he deals with a 'heavy hand'. If Trotsky's bloody suppression of the Kronstadt Rebellion was a 'tragic necessity' Stalin's suppression of the Georgian independence movement is in the manner of a "great-Russian Russifier, riding roughshod over the rights of his own people as a nation". And vice versa: suggestions made by Trotsky are called false and counter-revolutionary by Stalin's henchmen; when carried out tinder Stalin's auspices, they become additional proof of the great leader's wisdom.

To understand Bolshevism, and in a narrower sense Stalinism, it is not enough to follow the superficial and often silly controversies between Stalinists and Trotskyites. After all, the Russian Revolution embraces mote than just the Bolshevik Party. It was not even initiated by organised political groups but by spontaneous reactions of the masses to the breakdown of an already precarious economic system in the wake of military defeat. The February upheavals 'started' with hunger riots in market places, protest strikes in factories, and the spontaneous declaration of solidarity with the rioters on the part of the soldiers. But all spontaneous movements in modern history have been accompanied by organised forces. As soon as the collapse of Czarism was' imminent, organisations came to the fore with directives and definite political goals.

If prior to the Revolution Lenin had stressed organisation rather than spontaneity, it was because of the retarded Russian conditions, which gave the spontaneous movements a backward character. Even the politically advanced groups offered only limited programmes. The industrial workers desired capitalistic reforms similar to those enjoyed by the workers in more capitalistically advanced countries. The petty-bourgeoisie and important layers of the capitalist class wanted a Western bourgeois democracy. The peasants desired land in a capitalist agriculture. Though progressive for Czarist Russia, these demands were of the essence of bourgeois revolution.

The new liberalistic February government attempted to continue the war. But it was the conditions of war against which the masses were rebelling. All promised reforms within the Russian setting of that time and within the existing imperialistic power relationships were doomed to remain empty phrases; there was no way of directing the spontaneous movements into those channels desired by the government. In new upsurges the Bolsheviks came into power not by way of a second revolution but by a forced change of government. This seizure of power was made easy by the lack of interest that the restless masses were showing in the existing government. The October coup, as Lenin said, "was easier than lifting a feather". The final victory was "practically achieved by default . . . Not a single regiment rose to defend Russian democracy . . . The struggle for supreme power over an empire that comprised one-sixth of the terrestrial globe was decided between amazingly small forces on both sides in the provinces as well as in the two capital clues."

The Bolsheviks did not try to restore the old conditions in order to reform them, but declared themselves in favour of the concrete results of the conceptually backward spontaneous movements: the ending of the war, the workers' control of industry, the expropriation of the ruling classes and the division of land. And so they stayed in power.

The pre-revolutionary demands of the Russian masses had been backward for two reasons: they had long been realised in the main capitalist nations, and they could no longer be realised in view of existing world conditions. At a time when the concentration and centralisation process of world capitalism had brought about the decline of bourgeois democracy almost everywhere, it was no longer possible to initiate it afresh in Russia. If laissez faire democracy was out of the question, so were all those reforms in capital-labour relations usually related to social legislation and trade-unionism. Capitalist agriculture, too, had passed beyond the breaking up of feudal estates and production for a capitalist market to the industrialisation of agriculture and its consequent incorporation into the concentration process of capital.

 

The Bokheviks and Mass Spontaneity

 The Bolsheviks did not claim responsibility for the Revolution. They gave full credit to the spontaneous movements. Of course, they underlined the obvious fact that Russia's previous history, which included the Bolshevik party, had lent some kind of vague revolutionary consciousness to the unorganised masses and they were not backward about asserting that without their leadership the course of the Revolution would have been different and most probably would have led to a counter-revolution. "Had the Bolsheviks not seized power," writes Trotsky, "the world would have had a Russian name for Fascism five years before the Rome."

But counter-revolution attempts on the part of the traditional powers failed not because of any conscious direction of the spontaneous movements, not because of Lenin's "sharp eyes, which surveyed the situation correctly", but because of the fact that these movements could not be diverted from their own course. If one wants to use the term at all, the 'counter-revolution' possible in the Russia of 1917 was that inherent in the Revolution itself, that is, in the opportunity it offered the Bolsheviks to restore a centrally-directed social order for the perpetuation of the capitalistic divorce of the workers from the means of production and the consequent restoration of Russia as a competing imperialist power.

During the revolution, the interests of the rebelling masses and of the Bolsheviks merged to a remarkable degree. Beyond the temporary merger, there also existed a deep unity between the socialising concepts of the Bolsheviks and the consequences of the spontaneous movements. Too 'backward' for socialism but also too 'advanced' for liberal capitalism, the Revolution could end only in that consistent form of capitalism which the Bolsheviks considered a pre-condition of socialism, namely, state-capitalism.

By identifying themselves with the spontaneous movement they could not control, the Bolsheviks gained control over this movement as soon as it had spent itself in the realisation of its immediate goals. There were many such goals differently reached in different territories. Various layers of the peasantry satisfied, or failed to satisfy, divergent needs and desires. Their interests, however, had no real connection with those of the proletariat. The working class itself was split into various groups with a variety of specific needs and general plans. The petty-bourgeoisie had still other problems to solve. In brief, there was a spontaneous unity against the conditions of Czarism and war, but there was no unity in regard to immediate goals and future policy. It was not too difficult for the Bolsheviks to utilise this social division for building up their own power, which finally became stronger than the whole of society because it never faced society as a whole.

Like the other groups which asserted themselves within the revolution, the Bolsheviks, too, pressed to gain their particular end: the control of government. This goal reached farther than those aspired to by the others. It involved a never-ending struggle, a continuous winning and re-winning of power positions. Peasant groups settled down after dividing the land, workers returned to the factories as wage labourers, soldiers, unable to roam the countrysides forever, returned to the life of peasant and worker, but for the Bolsheviks the struggle only really began with the success of the Revolution. Like all governments, the Bolshevik regime involves submission of all existing social layers to its authority. Slowly centralising all power and control into their hands, the Bolsheviks were soon able to dictate policy. Once more Russia became thoroughly organised in the interests of a special class - the class of privilege in the emerging system of state-capitalism.

 

 

The Party 'Machine'

All this has nothing to do with Stalinism and 'Thermidor' but represents Lenin's and Trotsky's policy from the very day they came to power. Reporting to the Sixth Congress of Soviets in 1918, Trotsky complained that "Not all Soviet workers have understood that our administration has been centralised and that all orders issued from above must be final... We shall be pitiless with those Soviet workers who have not yet understood; we will remove them, cast them out of our ranks, pull them up with repressions." Trotsky now claims that these words were aimed at Stalin who did not co-ordinate his war-activity properly and we are willing to believe him. But how much more directly must they have been aimed at all those who were not even 'second-rate' but had no rating at all in the Soviet hierarchy. There already existed, as Trotsky relates, "a sharp cleavage between the classes in motion and the interests of the party machines. Even the Bolshevik Party cadres, who enjoyed the benefit of exceptional revolutionary training were definitely inclined to disregard the masses and to identify their own special interests with the interests of the machine on the very day after the monarchy was overthrown."

Trotsky holds, of course, that the dangers implied in this situation were averted by Lenin's vigilance and by objective conditions which made the "masses more revolutionary than the Party, and the Party more revolutionary than its machine". But the machine was headed by Lenin. Even before the Revolution, Trotsky points out, the Central Committee of the Party "functioned almost regularly and was entirely in the hands of Lenin". And even more so after the Revolution. In the spring of 1918 the "ideal of 'democratic centralism' suffered further reverses, for in effect the power within both the government and the Party became concentrated in the hands of Lenin and the immediate retinue of Bolshevik leaders who did not openly disagree with him and carried out his wishes". As the bureaucracy made headway nevertheless, the emerging Stalinist machine must have been the result of an oversight on the part of Lenin.

To distinguish between the ruler of the machine and the machine on the one hand, and between the machine and the masses on the other implies that only the masses and its top-leader were truly revolutionary, and that both Lenin and the revolutionary masses were later betrayed by Stalin's machine which, so to speak, made itself independent. Although Trotsky needs such distinctions to satisfy his own political interests, they have no basis in fact. Until his death - disregarding occasional remarks against the dangers of bureaucratisation, which for the Bolsheviks are the equivalent of the bourgeois politicians' occasional crusades for a balanced budget - Lenin never once came out against the Bolshevik party machine and its leadership, that is, against himself. Whatever policy was decided upon received Lenin's blessing as long as he was at the helm of the machine; and he died holding that position.

Lenin's 'democratic' notions are legendary. Of course state-capitalism under Lenin was different from state-capitalism under Stalin because the dictatorial powers of the latter were greater - thanks to Lenin's attempt to build up his own. That Lenin's rule was less terroristic than Stalin's is debatable. Like Stalin, Lenin catalogued all his victims under the heading 'counter-revolutionary? Without comparing the statistics of those tortured and killed under both regimes, we will admit that the Bolshevik regime under Lenin and Trotsky was not strong enough to carry through such Stalinist measures as enforced collectivisation and slave-labour camps as a main economic and political policy. It was not design but weakness which forced Lenin and Trotsky to the so called New Economic Policy, that is, to concessions to private property interests and to a greater lip-service to 'democracy'.

Bolshevik 'toleration' of such non-bolshevik organisations as the Social Revolutionists in the early phase of Lenin's rule did not spring, as Trotsky asserts, from Lenin's 'democratic' inclinations but from inability to destroy all non-bolshevik organisations at once. The totalitarian features of Lenin's Bolshevism were accumulating at the same rate at which its control and police power grew. That they were forced upon the Bolsheviks by the 'counter-revolutionary' activity of all non-bolshevik labour organisations, as Trotsky maintains, can not of course explain their further increase after the crushing of the various nonconformist organisations. Neither could it explain Lenin's insistence upon the enforcement of totalitarian principle in the extra-Russian organisations of the Communist International.

 

 

Trotsky, Apologist for Stalinism

Unable to blame non-bolshevik organisations entirely for Lenin's dictatorship, Trotsky tells "those theoreticians who attempt to prove that the present totalitarian regime of the U.S.S.R. is due . . . to the ugly nature of bolshevism itself," that they forget the years of Civil War, "which laid an indelible impress on the Soviet Government by virtue of the fact that very many of the administrators, a considerable layer of them, had become accustomed to command and demanded unconditional submission to their orders." Stalin, too, he continues, "was moulded by the environment and circumstances of the Civil War, along with the entire group that later helped him to establish his personal dictatorship". The Civil War, however, was initiated by the international bourgeoisie. And thus the ugly sides of Bolshevism under Lenin, as well as under Stalin, find their chief and final cause in capitalism's enmity to Bolshevism which, if it is a monster, is only a reluctant monster, killing and torturing in mere self-defence.

And so, if only in a roundabout way, Trotsky's Bolshevism, despite its saturation with hatred for Stalin, leads in the end merely to a defence of Stalinism as the only possible self-defence for Trotsky. This explains the superficiality of the ideological differences between Stalinism and Trotskyism. The impossibility of attacking Stalin without attacking Lenin helps to explain, furthermore, Trotsky's great difficulties as an oppositionist. Trotsky's own past and theories preclude on his part the initiation of a movement to the left of Stalinism and condemned 'Trotskyism' to remain a mere collecting agency for unsuccessful Bolsheviks. As such it could maintain itself outside of Russia because of the ceaseless competitive struggles for power and positions within the so-called 멵ommunist?world-movement. But it could not achieve significance for it had nothing to offer but the replacement of one set 'of~ politicians by another. The Trotskyist defence of Russia in the Second World War was consistent with all the previous policies of this, Stalin's most bitter, but also most loyal, opposition.

Trotsky's defence of Stalinism does not exhaust itself with showing how the Civil War transformed the Bolsheviks from servants into masters of the working class. He points to the more important fact that it is the "bureaucracy's law of life and death to guard the nationalisation of the means of production and of the land". This means that "in spite of the most monstrous bureaucratic distortions, the class basis of the U.S.S.R. remains proletarian". For a while - we notice - Stalin had Trotsky worried. In 1921, Lenin had been disturbed by the question as to whether the New Economic Policy was merely a 'tactic' or an 'evolution'. Because the NEP released private-capitalistic tendencies, Trotsky saw in the growing Stalinist bureaucracy "nothing else than the first stage of bourgeois restoration". But his worries were unfounded; "the struggle against equality and the establishment of very deep social differentiations has so far been unable to eliminate the socialist consciousness of the masses or the nationalisation of the means of production and the land, which were the basic social conquests of the revolution". Stalin, of course, had nothing to do with this, for "the Russian Thermidor would have undoubtedly opened a new era of bourgeois rule, if that rule had not proved obsolete throughout the world".

 

The Result: State Capitalism

With this last statement of Trotsky's we approach the essence of the matter under discussion. We have said before that the concrete results of the revolution of 1917 were neither socialistic nor bourgeois but state-capitalistic. It was Trotsky's belief that Stalin would destroy the state-capitalist nature of the economy in favour of a bourgeois economy. This was to be the Thermidor. The decay of bourgeois economy all over the world prevented Stalin from bringing this about. All he could do was to introduce the ugly features of his personal dictatorship into that society which had been brought into existence by Lenin and Trotsky. In this way, and despite the fact that Stalin still occupies the Kremlin, Trotskyism has triumphed over Stalinism.

It all depends on an equation of state-capitalism with socialism. And although some of Trotsky's disciples have recently found it impossible to continue making the equation, Trotsky was bound to it, for it is the beginning and the end of Leninism and, in a wider sense, of the whole of the social-democratic world-movement of which Leninism was only the more realistic part. Realistic, that is, with regard to Russia. What was, and still is, understood by this movement under 'workers' state is governmental rule by the party; what is meant by 'socialism' is the nationalisation of the means of production. By adding control over the economy to the political control of the government the totalitarian rule over all of society emerges in full. The government secures its totalitarian rule by way of the party, which maintains the social hierarchy and is itself a hierarchical institution.

This idea of 'socialism' is now in the process of becoming discredited, but only because of the experience of Russia and similar if less extensive experiences in other countries. Prior to 1914, what was meant by the seizure of power, either peacefully or violently, was the seizure of the government machinery, replacing a given set of administrators and law-makers with another set. Economically, the 'anarchy' of the capitalistic market was to be replaced by a planned production under the control of the state. As the socialist state would by definition be a 멽ust?state, being itself controlled by the masses by way of the democratic processes, there was no reason to expect that its decisions would run counter to socialistic ideals. This theory was sufficient to organise parts of the working class into more or less powerful parties.

The theory of socialism boiled down to the demand for centralised economic planning in the interest of all. The centralisation process, inherent in capital-accumulation itself, was regarded as a socialistic tendency. The growing influence of 'labour' within the state-machinery was hailed as a step in the direction of socialism. But actually the centralisation process of capital indicated something else than its self-transformation into social property. It was identical with the destruction of laissez faire economy and therewith with the end of the traditional business-cycle as the regulator of the economy. With the beginning of the twentieth century the character of capitalism changed. From that time on it found itself under permanent crisis conditions which could not be resolved, by the 'automatic' workings of the market. Monopolistic regulations, state-interferences, national policies shifted the burden of the crisis to the capitalistically under-privileged in the world-economy. All 'economic' policy became imperialistic policy, culminating twice in world-wide conflagrations.

In this situation, to reconstruct a broken-down political and economic system meant to adapt it to these new conditions. The Bolshevik theory of socialisation fitted this need in an admirable way. In order to restore the national power of Russia it was necessary to do in a radical fashion what in the Western nations had been merely an evolutionary process. Even then it' would take time to close the gap between the Russian economy and that of the Western powers. Meanwhile the ideology of the socialist movement served well as protection. The socialist origin of Bolshevism made it particularly fitted for the state-capitalist reconstruction of Russia. Its organisational principles, which had turned the party into a well-functioning institution, would re-establish order in the country as well.

The Bolsheviks of course were convinced that what they were building in Russia was, if not socialism, at least the next best thing to socialism, for they were completing the process which in the Western nations was still only the main trend of development. They had abolished the market-economy and had expropriated the bourgeoisie; they also had gained complete control over the government. For the Russian workers, however, nothing had changed; they were merely faced by another set of bosses, politicians and indoctrinators. Their position equalled the workers' position in all capitalist countries during times of war. State-capitalism is a war-economy, and all extra-Russian economic systems transformed themselves into war-economies, into state-capitalistic systems fitted to the imperialistic needs of modern capitalism. Other nations did not copy all the innovations of Russian state-capitalism but only those best suited to their specific needs. The Second World War led to the further unfolding of state-capitalism on a world wide scale. The peculiarities of the various nations and their special situations within the world-power frame provided a great variety of developmental processes towards state-capitalism.

The fact that state-capitalism and fascism did not, and do not grow everywhere in a uniform manner provided Trotsky with the argument of the basic difference between bolshevism, fascism and capitalism plain and simple. This argument necessarily stresses superficialities of social development. In all essential aspects all three of these systems are identical and represent only various stages of the same development -a development which aims at manipulating the mass of the population by dictatorial governments in a more or less authoritarian fashion, in order to secure the government and the privileged social layers which support it and to enable those governments to participate in the international economy of today by preparing for war, waging war, and profiting by war.

Trotsky could not permit himself to recognise in Bolshevism one aspect of the world-wide trend towards a 'fascist' world economy. As late as 1940 he held the view that Bolshevism prevented the rise of Fascism in the Russia of 1917. It should have long since been clear, however, that all that Lenin and Trotsky prevented in Russia was the use of a non-Marxian ideology for the 'fascist' reconstruction of Russia. Because the Marxian ideology of Bolshevism merely served state-capitalistic ends, it, too, has been discredited. From any view that goes beyond the capitalist system of exploitation, Stalinism and Trotskyism are both relics of the past.

 

 


 

NOTES

1. Stalin. An appraisal of the man and his influence. Edited and translated from the Russian by Charles Malamuth. The first seven chapters and the appendix, that is, the bulk of the book, Trotsky wrote and revised himself. The last four chapters, consisting of notes, excerpts, documents and other raw materials, have been edited.

2. See for instance, L. Trotsky's "Dictatorship vs. Democracy", New York, 1922; particularly from page 135 to page 150.

진보블로그 공감 버튼트위터로 리트윗하기페이스북에 공유하기딜리셔스에 북마크

Stalin and Stalinism -IBRP

Stalin and Stalinism

 

http://www.ibrp.org/files/images/2006-12-01-stalin-statue.preview.jpg

By one of those ironies of history March 2003 saw both the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Stalin and the one hundred and twentieth anniversary of the death of Marx. Despite all bourgeois denigrations (naturally by those who have not read him) Marx demonstrated that capitalist society was not the final stage of human development. He argued that for all the advances that capitalism had brought (and he did not understate them) a still better society was not only possible, but also, inevitable [1]. This last word “inevitable” was what brought such fear to the hearts and minds of the bourgeois who profited from the continued career of capitalism. Indeed, so dependent is capitalist society on the creation of huge polarities of wealth and profit that any rational being from another planet, looking objectively at the current famines, malnutrition and wars created by the system on Planet Earth in the midst of so much plenty, could not but conclude that this is a hopeless failure. The vision of Marx that ordinary working people, the proletariat, could do better and go on to create a society where production would be for human need, scarcity would be ended and social development would be planned by all, a society where free development of each individual would be the condition for the development of all, a society whose birth would represent the end of human pre-history and the start of real human history. It would be, in direct contrast to capitalism, a society without classes and social inequality, without states and wars, without nations and frontiers, and without exploitation and money. This vision, naturally brought down upon Marx the full opprobrium of the capitalist establishment in all countries. He advocated a road to real human freedom, in a society without exploitation, in which “freely associated producers” would cooperate together without need of the coercive force of an oppressive state.

 

But if Marx gave the working class a clear understanding of its goal, Stalin more than any other individual was the biggest gravedigger of that aspiration. Whilst Stalinism was the consequence not the cause of the counter-revolution, “the Stalinist counter-revolution” as we have often referred to it, was the final culmination of the process of isolation which the Russian proletariat had undergone since 1917. The anniversary of Stalin’s death was just one more occasion for the capitalist propaganda machine to hammer home the message that “really existing socialism”, as Stalinism’s defenders always liked to call it, was a monster which was the natural outcome of the proletarian revolution of 1917.

 

We are not concerned here for the obvious capitalist propaganda of the Robert Conquests, or the Richard Pipes’ schools of academic falsification. By claiming the continuity of Stalin with the October Revolution these hired hacks of the bourgeoisie are doing their job. What we are concerned for is the debate amongst those in the working class for whom the weight of bourgeois ideology has proved too heavy. They have accepted that Stalinism was not only the logical outcome of the Russian Revolution but also the real expression! of Marxism. In so doing they reject the one set of ideas which can lead to the establishment of a non-hierarchical, non-exploitative society. Socialism or Communism (for Marx and Engels the terms were interchangeable) has nothing in common with the totalitarian edifice created by Stalin in the USSR in the 1930s. It is however a convenient myth for the capitalists to keep insisting that it was. As a new generation of workers arises who do not know the true history of their own class it is absolutely important for the capitalist lie machine to keep hammering home the message that capitalism, whatever its blemishes is not only the best system, in this, the best of all possible worlds, but is the only system possible. Even the fall of the USSR and the end of the Cold War has not made the academic press and all shades of political journalism pass up the slightest opportunity to denigrate the Russian Revolution. Their chief weapon in this is to make reference to the Stalinist system which eventually emerged from the defeat of the revolutionary workers of 1917 and which finally collapsed in 1990. The identification of the proletarian October with its Stalinist antithesis is no accident. By constantly referring to Stalinism as the child of October they hope to obscure the fact that the working class have already shown that they can overthrow a capitalist state and begin to construct a new order of their own.

 

Before looking at Stalinism and the degeneration of the Russian Revolution in detail it is necessary to state the general analytical framework in which these events must be understood. This framework is that provided by Marx and developed by the left communist opposition to the Bolsheviks which developed in response to the strengthening of capitalist relations of production in Russia. As Marx had clearly shown, socialism was impossible without the development of the forces of production and the consequent development of the working class. There could therefore be no possibility of establishing socialism in Russia alone in 1917 or indeed 1925 or 1928. However, on a world scale the development of the global forces of production and the global proletariat was sufficient by 1914 to construct socialism on a global scale. The catastrophe of World War 1 showed both the necessity and the urgency of replacing global capitalism by socialism. The revolution of 1917 was made in the hope that it would be the first step in a global revolution which could lay the basis for a new global order. Once political power had been achieved globally by the proletariat the period of transition to socialist production could properly start. This transition would be gradual process lasting at least a generation. Under these circumstances the backwardness of Russia could be overcome in the global process of establishing communist society. The failure of the European revolutions, however, dashed these hopes. In these circumstances Russian backwardness could only be overcome by the path of capitalist development as expected by Marx. The Russian regime which remained after the collapse of the revolutionary upheavals of 1917 to 1921 necessarily carried out the tasks of developing Russian capitalism, namely the tasks of the bourgeois revolution. Although this development was carried out via state capitalism rather than private capitalism, which was the path of European capitalism in the nineteenth century, it remained capitalist development nonetheless. This text will consider how this process took place and refute the notion that there is a necessary connection between the attempt to create communist society and the barbaric state capitalist society created by Stalinism.

 

The Myth of Stalin

So enormous has the question of Stalinism become that one short article cannot possibly address all the problems which it has created for the modern revolutionary movement. During the demonstrations against the war on Iraq we met many young people who wanted to be “revolutionary” but had no idea how to set about it. We encountered young people from South America and Asia who insisted they were “Maoists” and who argued that though Stalin “made mistakes” he had “created socialism” and developed and modernised the Soviet Union. When pressed they actually had no concrete critique of Stalinism at all. All they admired was the Mao-Stalin product of “a command economy” not so much because it was “socialist” but more because it could create a modern state in conditions where there was no strong private bourgeoisie and in which world capitalism is dominated by imperialism. In short they admired Stalin (and Mao) for carrying out the bourgeois task of industrialisation. We will return to the question of the kind of system Stalin promoted in the USSR later. For the moment, for the benefit of these young Maoists, and anyone else ready to study the real story, let us just look at Stalin’s actual record in the Soviet Union in its own terms.

 

In the first place Stalin was not alone in his recognition that the isolated Soviet Union needed to industrialise. The whole debate in the USSR amongst the leaders of the Communist Party of all factions insisted that the development of industry was necessary as a precursor to socialism. The question was how to deal with the only productive sector of the economy – the peasantry. In the early 1920s Trotsky and his followers had argued for heavier taxation of the peasantry in order to finance “primitive socialist accumulation” (a term coined by the erstwhile Trotsky supporter, Evgeny Preobrazhensky). This was opposed by the so-called Right Opposition of Bukharin who argued that the New Economic Policy had to be maintained so that the peasants could carry on accumulating capital privately in order to be taxed more heavily in the future. Stalin took little part in these debates (except to denounce Trotsky as a “super-industrialiser”!) but by 1928 was in enough control of the USSR to launch his own industrialisation drive. This had to begin in the one area where capital accumulation had taken place in the 1920s, in agriculture. In order to take more surplus value from the peasants Stalin decided on collectivisation but, unlike Trotsky, and the other leading communists in the 1920s, he was not prepared to simply use taxation to bring this about. He went in for “forced collectivisation”. It was a total catastrophe. Thousands were brought to collectivise at gunpoint. Many peasants (and not just the richer kulaks) burned crops, slaughtered their animals and refused to sow new crops. Stalin realised the blunder in 1930 and wrote an article in Pravda blaming local officials for being “Dizzy with Success” and distorting the scheme. Stalin’s shameless hypocrisy did not mean a halt to the tragedy, it meant that the programme was only suspended and then resumed with equal ferocity. It is estimated that by 1932 60% of peasants were in kolkhoz (collective farms) but that between a third and a half of all farm animals were dead. For the first time since the years of war and revolution the 1925 harvest had exceeded that of 1913 but by 1934 famine was so severe that in the Ukraine, for example, the USSR’s richest grain producing area, a military blockade was introduced to prevent news of the disaster reaching the outside world. At least 8 millions died in executions, famines or in deportations. Soviet agriculture never properly recovered from this and was always a weak link in the Soviet economy. The stupidity of the policy is all the more apparent when we remember that Stalin, the high priest of “Marxism-Leninism” had ignored Lenin’s last article on the peasantry which insisted that the peasants could only be brought to socialism via their recognition of the superiority of “cooperation” when the proletariat was able to provide them with more machinery, something which would only have been possible if the European revolutions had succeeded. But this is the most glaring contrast between the two. Lenin consistently maintained that real socialism could only be built by the workers themselves but Stalin made no bones that he was creating socialism “top down”, a theoretical and practical impossibility.

 

However if agriculture was a disaster surely we have to recognise Stalin’s achievement’s in the industrialisation of the USSR? Even British school textbooks written during the Cold War used to point to the remarkable success of the Five Year Plans in transforming the Soviet Union from being the most backward of the great powers into a super-power by 1945. This does not stand up to closer examination either. First we have to look at how this success was achieved. The Five Year Plans were based on a military premise. 1928 had seen a false war scare (the fact that the Western states were improving relations with each other caused Stalin to expect an attack from them all). He put to Soviet citizens the question as to why old Russia was always beaten. The answer was economic backwardness.

 

We are fifty to one hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this lag in ten. Either we do it, or they will crush us.

For this reason the whole of Soviet society was mobilised to fulfil the targets set by the state. Consumer goods disappeared from the shops, endless queuing for even the most basic goods became an everyday fact of life, rationing had to be introduced, wages fell and prices rocketed. Wage differentials increased to the point where social inequality mirrored that in the West. At the very root of the Five Year Plans was the buying of machinery and equipment from abroad by exporting grain. In other words the starvation and deprivation of the mass of population was the basis for this capital accumulation. On top of the coercion of the NKVD and the attempts to increase labour discipline by arresting “saboteurs” who failed to make their targets, many believed that they really were building socialism and that if this generation must sacrifice itself for the next. One can only wonder what they thought when, in the midst of their most miserable exploitation, Stalin announced that “life is getting better, more joyful”!

 

By this time the cult of personality was in full swing. One poem in Pravda in 1936 described Stalin as “Thou Sun, reflected by millions of hearts”! In 1934 the Party celebrated the First Five Year Plan’s achievements by listening to an impressive list of what we now know to be largely exaggerated figures. In terms of capital accumulation and industrial growth the real achievement was impressive enough but this “Congress of the Victors” carried with it the germ of a further disaster. The elections for the Central Committee had produced their usual result with Stalin receiving the highest number of votes. Well, not quite. Stalin’s ally, Kirov, the popular party boss of Leningrad got more. A few months later Kirov was murdered supposedly by a disgruntled ex-Communist Youth member who was himself mysteriously shot without a trial. Stalin now used this to begin his own “war on terrorism”.

 

In 1935 Kamenev and Zinoviev, Stalin’s former Politburo allies, were tried in the first of the Show Trials. This unleashed a wave of state repression probably without historical precedent in terms of the numbers involved. The first victims were members of the Communist Party. Obvious rivals were eliminated. If (after various types of tortures) they would admit publicly to ridiculous charges they were put up for a Show Trial, if they did not they simply “disappeared” or were sent to the Main Prison Camp Administration (or GULag as it is known). But it did not stop with past opponents of Stalin. Older party members were weeded out, whatever their known views. What has become clear to historians is that Stalin achieved what Hitler and Mussolini only dreamed about. He actually created a state based on cadre whose only loyalty was to him. The young beneficiaries of Stalin’s bloodletting had known no other past and 150,000 of them owed everything to their promotion through the nomenklatura under the Purges. They became the new ruling class. Today the children of these people are the ones who still demonstrate in Red Square on May Day or on the anniversary of the October Revolution (November 7th) with icons of Stalin. They are not the sad remnants of a discredited communist regime as our press portrays them. Their relationship to the proletarian revolution is only via the cult of its gravediggers. 15 to 20 millions were sent to the camps, the vast majority real communists. Some were the political ancestors of Left Communists and Trotskyists today. Many died still resisting in the Gulag.

 

In this sorry massacre Stalin’s final folly was to almost wipe out the existing officer class of the Red Army thus weakening the very defence force that his Five Year Plan was supposed to be supplying.

 

Stalin’s foreign policy record is totally at variance with his own propaganda. After Stalingrad in 1943 Stalin dubbed himself first Marshal, then gave himself the Francoist title “Generalissimo” for his supposed military skill in defeating the Nazis. A closer examination of both foreign and military policy shows this to be just hubris. The attempt by the Western democracies to try to get Hitler to attack the USSR first led to Stalin’s notorious 1939 pact with the Nazis. In this there is no more to condemn than that of any other capitalist power fighting for its survival (although all those communists and workers who had been conned by Stalin’s anti-fascism could rightly feel betrayed). However Stalin seemed to think that Hitler would stick to his word. When Hitler did invade the USSR on June 22nd 1941 Stalin was dumbfounded. He refused to believe it and gave no orders for defence for two days. When the Politburo assembled Stalin expected to be sacked for his paralysis. Instead he was supported and eventually announced a “scorched earth” policy over 11 days after the invasion. By this time millions of Soviet citizens were already dead or prisoners of the Nazis on their way to being exterminated in the slave labour camps of the Nazi war machine. No wonder Stalin put the survivors who made it back in 1945 into the GULags. He did not want witnesses to his criminal folly. The Soviet Union therefore survived in spite of Stalin. Indeed it can be argued only the racist genocide of the Nazis that regarded all Slavs as untermenschen rallied the Soviet citizens for the “defence of Mother Russia”. Such nationalism was consistent with Stalin’s other policies. During the war Stalin abandoned the last pretence of supporting world revolution by dismantling the Communist International as part of the price of the alliance with Britain and the USA in 1943. This was further confirm!ation that the USSR was a part of the imperialist world order. Its conquest of a new empire in Eastern Europe after the Second World War was not a successful extension of international socialism as so many Trotskyists believed but an expression! of Great Russian Chauvinism.

So much for the facts of Stalin’s achievements. These were really only of interest to Third World nationalists (Maoists, Castroites etc) who thought they could use the model of Stalin’s regime to make their own countries free from “imperialism”. What they did not realise was that a break with Western imperialism meant they had to embrace Stalinist imperialism. Inevitably all the “national liberation” struggles of the 1950s to 1970s ended in failure. But behind their failure to recognise that the USSR was not a disinterested centre of international socialism was the fact that they too accepted the idea that Stalinism was “really existing socialism”. Here we must turn to a more pressing and contemporary problem.

 

Modes of Production

Besides our Maoists we also encountered other young people, mainly from the metropolitan countries, on the demonstrations against the war in Iraq. This modern generation knows that “the system stinks”, and they call themselves “anti-capitalist” but they shy away from articulating a real alternative to capitalism. The young people who have marched against war in their millions, and oppose “globalisation” are often under the influence of those who, like Naomi Klein, for example, believe that capitalism can be made to “work for people”. What they all miss is that only a change in the way in which we produce the things we need, a change in the mode of production, can really alter society for the better. Capitalism depends, and is defined by, the exploitation of wage labour. Labour alone creates the value which capital appropriates for its own use. It appropriates this labour in every way it can and turns this labour itself into a commodity. The only alternative to capitalist exploitation is socialism, a society where goods are free at the point of distribution, and labour is “donated” freely and collectively. This is the crux of the issue: Stalinism was never even close to socialism. If Stalinism were really socialism then it would make sense to warn those who are dissatisfied with the existing world order against any idea of overthrowing capitalism. As it is however, not only Stalin’s “crimes against humanity”, but the centralised command economy which characterised the USSR were as far from Marx’s vision of a society based on “freely associated producers” as it is possible to imagine.

 

This is the scale of the problem we are left with. Not only did Stalin create a material hell for genuine communists in his lifetime, his legacy “weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living” [Marx] today. Politically rejecting Stalin and Stalinism (as, for example, most Trotskyists do) is not enough. We have to do so on the basis of a restatement of the Marxist definition of a communist mode of production. Communism is not state capitalism with “nice” leaders. Communism arises from the mass struggle against the whole idea of any state that takes decisions for us and oppresses us. Communism is not only “fairer” and more egalitarian than current capitalist democracy but is a direct expression! of the will of its “citizens”. Ironically the Russian Revolution which eventually degenerated into Stalinism also gave us a glimpse of a communist future. The establishment of soviets or workers’ councils solved one of the greatest problems of mass society. How could there be a body that would combine executive and legislative functions and yet be subject to the immediate influence of the mass of the population? Soviets embryonically provided an indication of the way in which millions could take part in running their own affairs. The Soviets failed in Russia but their failure was neither planned nor inevitable. What we have to do is understand the causes and the trajectory of the counter-revolution since that understanding directly affects how we prepare programmatically for the future proletarian revolution.

 

The Course of the Counter-Revolution

The Russian Revolution was a unique experience in world history. [2] Never before had the proletariat taken power in any state and the victory of the Russian working class in October 1917 seemed, for a brief few years to open up the prospect of a new world of real freedom and equality around the world. However when the German workers were defeated (and this occurred after the March Action of 1921 although it was not clear to those who lived at that time), the prospects for world revolution faded. The Bolsheviks had led the overthrow of the Provisional Government because they expected other, “more advanced” contingents of the international working class to take inspiration and follow the lead of the Russian workers. In March 1917 Lenin had written

 

Russia is one of the most backward countries in Europe… Socialism cannot immediately and directly conquer in Russia. But the peasant masses can push forward and ripen the inevitable agrarian revolution as far as the confiscation of the huge private estates. This revolution would still not be socialist but it would give a formidable impulse to the international socialist movement.

This was no more than Marx had stated the year before he died. Arguing that the Russian tradition peasant commune (the mir) could be turned into a basic form of socialist organisation only

 

…if the Russian revolution serves as a signal for the workers’ revolution in the west, so that the two complement each other.

quoted in E.H Carr The Bolshevik Revolution Vol. 2 p.387, Pelican edition

However history did not quite turn out that way in 1917-18. With the main European capitalist states on the brink of collapse and the danger that the Russian Revolution would have sequel further west, the First World War was rapidly ended in the face of the revival of workers struggles everywhere. Contrary to bourgeois historians (like Evan Mawsdley in “The Russian Civil War” [Berlinn, 2000] who insist that the whole idea of world revolution in 1918 was “a myth” (a view shamefully shared by the Socialist Party/ World Socialist Movement), the idea that the Russian Revolution would only be a signal for the world-wide revolution had a sound material basis. Mutinies had broken out in the French and British armies in 1917 and strikes had begun in Germany in early 1918. The British Government hastily widened the franchise (to all male workers and to women over 30) in January 1918 and when shop stewards in Sheffield and Glasgow threatened to organise rationing introduced it for the whole country in the summer of 1918. Once the war was over however revolutions in Berlin, Hungary and Bavaria were militarily crushed and the struggles, which affected the whole planet from Lima to Seattle and Winnipeg across to Red Clydeside and the Italian factory occupations, all came to nothing. The capitalists made peace with each other in order to make war on the workers in their own countries. Their success in doing this left the Russian Soviet experiment isolated.

 

Now the Russian proletariat found itself in a unique historical position. What happens in an area where the working class have overthrown the local ruling class but then state find themselves isolated in a hostile capitalist world? There was nothing in previous working class experience to answer that question, although previous class struggles had thrown up similar problems. Engels’ history The Peasant War in Germany described the dilemma of the Anabaptist leader, Thomas Munzer thus,

 

The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government at a time when society is not yet ripe for the domination of the class he represents and for the measures which that domination implies. What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the degree of antagonism between the various classes, and upon the level of development of the material means of existence, of the conditions of production and commerce upon which class contradictions always repose. What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, again depends not on him or the stage of development of the class struggle and its conditions. He is bound to the doctrines and demands hitherto propounded which, again, do not proceed from the class relations of the moment, or from the more or less accidental level of production and commerce, but from his more or less penetrating insight into the general result of the social and political movement. Thus he necessarily finds himself in an insoluble dilemma. What he can do contradicts all his previous actions and principles, and the immediate interests of his party, and what he ought to do cannot be done. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whose domination the movement is then ripe. In the interests of the movement he is compelled to advance the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with talk and promises, and with the asseveration that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. He who is put into this awkward position is irrevocably lost.

op. cit. Moscow 1977, p. 115

The Bolsheviks and the Russian working class as a whole were about to experience precisely this problem. The situation was desperate on the economic and very soon on the military front. The idea of extending the world revolution was foremost in the minds of all the leading Bolsheviks but this was not just a question of just having the right ideas – it required the right material conditions. As the post-war world settled down the tide of history turned against the working class. On top of this a revolutionary party now found itself in charge of administering a state in a country where the mass of the population was illiterate – a task for which it was not ideally suited. All these problems were to a great degree inter-related and the real course of the counter-revolution can only be understood when we look at them as a whole.

 

The Civil War and Imperialist Intervention

Lenin’s initial answer to the problem of feeding Russian workers in a backward peasant economy was the grain monopoly. In a telegram of June 27th he insisted that it

 

is one of the most important methods for gradual transition from capitalist commodity exchange to socialist product-exchange.

Quoted in R.W. Davies The Socialist Offensive p.2

Even at the end of the civil war in late1920 Lenin maintained that forcible seizure of grain was essential. The arrival of famine, and the increase of both peasant discontent and workers’ strikes in the winter of 1920-1, was to change all that. As Lenin himself admitted the Bolsheviks were forced to sound a “retreat” on the economic front and try to hold on until the next surge of working class struggle came to their rescue. The NEP was intended to restore the free (capitalist) market in grain in order to get peasant production started again. Although there had been some hopes that the emergency policies (collapse of money, distribution by rationing etc) of the period of so called “war communism” were steps towards socialism (and Bukharin argued just this in his Economics of the Transition Period, a book which was warmly regarded by Lenin) fundamentally there was no question of the Bolsheviks changing the mode of production in Russia to socialism. When Lenin called for nationalisations of parts of the Russian economy in 1917 he insisted that these were

 

measures which do not in any way constitute the “introduction” of socialism… [3]

Far from thinking that a top-down introduction of socialism was possible, Lenin understood that the transformation of society could only be done by the mass of the working class “when they had learned to do it for themselves”. This was a much more difficult question than simply overthrowing the existing capitalist political order. Even here Lenin had insisted that the Bolsheviks were not Blanquists. They did not believe a minority could or should seize power on its own. This is why Lenin opposed the July 1917 demonstrations of the Kronstadt sailors as premature. Only after September 1917, once the Bolsheviks had an overwhelming majority in the centres of proletarian power, the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets, did Lenin advocate the overthrow of the Kerensky regime.

 

And it is the insistence of the sovereignty of the soviet system based on armed workers councils that allows revolutionaries to refer to the regime that was established in November 1917 as “the dictatorship of the proletariat” or “a workers’ state”. The establishment of a workers’ state though did not mean the establishment of socialism since “socialism cannot be implemented by decree” (Lenin). Lenin knew that the revolution would have to extend itself internationally, and in terms of the class consciousness of the Russian workers, if it was to reach socialism.

 

On both fronts the revolutionary hopes of 1917 were to be dashed by 1921. [4] Not only did the international revolution fail to emerge but the civil war, which the Bolsheviks militarily won, cost them their proletarian base. The Kronstadt revolt was only one symbol of how the soviets had become empty shells. By 1921 57% of the factory workers of 1917 had left the factories either to fight in the Red Army or to return to the land. As Lenin remarked at this time

 

We are the representatives of a class which has ceased to exist.

In its place arose the Communist Party; from being the proletarian revolutionary party of 1917 it now was becoming a huge bureaucratic apparatus. The revolutionary party which, even when it had thousands of members, Jakob Sverdlov and two secretaries had run from a single office, was now gradually taking over the state apparatus. Sverdlov’s death in 1919 helped speed up the transformation of the once-revolutionary party into the governing body but it was already a process which was irresistible. By the time Stalin was made General Secretary of the Party in 1922 the dictatorship of the proletariat had truly passed over to the dictatorship of the party. The Civil War had also transformed the situation. Its viciousness forced former revolutionaries to become ruthless state functionaries simply in order to ensure the survival of the Soviet experiment. No-one escaped this pollution. The decision at the Tenth Party Congress to ban factions was aimed at the Communist Left oppositions such as the Workers’ Opposition of Kollontai and Shylapnikov, the Democratic Centralists such as Sapronov and Ossinsky and other groups like Myasnikov’s Workers Group. These people were the real conscience of the proletariat and the Party. Myasnikov had already left the Party and the others accepted the decision. However it should be stressed that from 1921-8 the banning of factions was never really carried out. What the 1921 decision did was to give another weapon which would be used later by Stalin to ensure that he emerged as the dictator. Some Bolsheviks were thus obviously concerned by the direction the party was taking and were worried about the loss of its roots in the revolutionary working class (which had now become a tiny minority) but others like Zinoviev even announced that “the dictatorship of the party” was a good thing. [5] On this level, Stalin’s control of the apparatus gained greater significance than anyone had foreseen when he was given the office of General Secretary.

 

Towards the end of his life Lenin dimly perceived the danger of both the degeneration of the revolution and the rise of Stalin. He criticised the Rabkrin, the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate, as one of the “worst-run” organisations in the system. The head of this organisation was Stalin. Similarly in his last writings he called for Stalin to be removed as General Secretary. Only Lenin’s further decline and death saved Stalin since by 1924 the struggle within the party to keep Trotsky out of power led Zinoviev to defend him in the Central Committee so that Lenin’s request was ignored. By the end of his life Lenin could see that the process of bureaucratisation had stifled the earlier revolutionary hopes of 1917. The Communist Party was no longer the vanguard of a revolutionary working class. Its ranks were now swollen by thousands of careerists, many of them former bureaucrats of the Tsar. They had been accepted into the Party because there was a shortage of literate personnel in Russia during the Civil War. In his last live words to the Russian Communist Party in March 1922 (at its Eleventh Congress) Lenin stated

 

…and if we take that huge bureaucratic machine, that gigantic heap, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can be truthfully said that the Communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth they are not directing, they are being directed.

As the Communist Party was now effectively the state apparatus Lenin was basically admitting a serious danger. His famous call for the removal of Stalin as General Secretary was quite unprecedented. Lenin generally stuck by those who had made any contribution to the Party (even refusing to believe that the Okhrana agent Malinovsky was a police spy until shown the documents). Zinoviev and Kamenev were also forgiven for telling the world that the Bolsheviks were planning to overthrow Kerensky in October 1917 (largely because the Bolsheviks had mass support this piece of “strike-breaking”, as Lenin called it, was irrelevant). The call to remove Stalin was however a call to sack him as General Secretary because he had too much power, not to remove him from the Politburo. Lenin still hoped in his final Testament to create a collective leadership which would face the difficult situation he knew the revolution was in.

 

However the split had already occurred since Zinoviev, in order to build a faction against Trotsky, asked the Party to ignore Lenin’s advice. Stalin was left in a role which allowed him to appoint local party secretaries and thus arrange who would be elected to the Central Committee. As this body elected the leadership this gave him the enormous power which Lenin warned against. For the moment Stalin would have to bide his time as he still only controlled a minority of the delegates but it would not be long before he held a majority…

 

The Economy

If the counter-revolution was on the march in the political sphere it was positively charging ahead in the economy. As we stated earlier, there could be no question of the Bolsheviks transforming the mode of production. Even during “war communism” the working class were no longer in control of their own institutions. Whilst the so-called suppression of the factory committees in 1918 was in fact their own proposal for greater centralisation to coordinate production better, the revival of a one-man management (with the manager appointed by the government), the adoption, from the USA, of Taylorist methods of increasing exploitation of labour power, the increased pay for bourgeois specialists etc., were all evidence of massive retreats. To be sure these retreats were the product of circumstance rather than a programmatic error but they remained retreats nonetheless. By 1920 so top-down had the apparatus become that Trotsky himself advocated using the methods that had won the Civil War against the Whites and their imperialist supporters when he proposed “the militarisation of labour”. All this occurred before the famine, which killed at least a million people, had forced the adoption of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in March 1921. The central plank of NEP was concession to petty bourgeois production. The Bolshevik leaders were not, in any sense, ignoramuses. They were well aware that NEP was precisely “a retreat”. In a largely peasant country they saw their task as hanging on and developing the conditions in which socialism might be created in the future. The atmosphere in the Soviet Union at this time was different to what it became under Stalin. Alec Nove, no friend of Bolshevism, described the situation in the 1920s thus

 

The twenties were an intellectually exciting period. Not only were there debates among Bolshevik leaders and intellectuals, among whom were men of great eloquence and wit, but quite independent ideas were put forward by men who were not Bolsheviks at all. GOSPLAN and VSNKh experts included many former Mensheviks, later to be accused of being plotters and saboteurs. Men like Groman, Bazarov and Ginzburg contributed significantly to policy debates. Ex-populists, ex-SRs, were active too, for example the famous economist Kondratiev, the agricultural experts Chayanov and Chelintsev. Even non-socialists, like Litoshenko and Kutler could raise their voices. There was a one-party state, there were no legal means of organising and opposition, but conditions were far from resembling the monolithic Thirties.

An Economic History of the USSR, Penguin, 1992, p.131

Anyone studying the debates among the Bolshevik Party members in the 1920s is a witness to a tragedy. Speeches and writings flow by their hundred to argue that the regime has to hold on until the world revolution but the continuing situation of increasing isolation was triumphing over the individual wills of the communists. Even Preobrazhensky the greatest enthusiast for “primitive socialist accumulation” argued that it could not be properly carried out without outside capital. It is doubtful whether we today, even with the benefit of hindsight (i.e. their experience) could have done any better. The reality though was that history does not stand still and that one retreat soon led to another. And all the time Stalin was manoeuvring to establish total control of the Party. One of the vehicles by which he does this is that he has no scruples about abandoning the original vision of a world revolution. In a sense this meant that he had the only programme left.

 

Under NEP small factories were returned to private ownership but the key change was the re-establishment of the market in grain. As a small proletariat surrounded by a sea of peasants who made up 85% of the population the Soviet Government, as in so many things, had little choice. Lenin openly described it as a retreat but still hoped, even a this late stage, that an international revolution would come to rescue the situation. A few months later he would conclude that the revolutionary wave had finished and it might be years, even decades before the isolation of the Russian proletariat would be broken. NEP instead began to develop the institutions of state capitalism. Lenin had condemned the confusion of the terms “nationalisation” and “socialisation” but now the two terms became synonymous as the earlier opposition Lenin had posed between “socialism” and “state capitalism” also began to be blurred. For those trying to revive a communist programme today this confusion is a central issue.

For those who argue that the Russian Revolution altered the mode of production in Russia there has always been a difficulty to say when this occurred. For some the change took place during “War Communism” (1918-21) but that was precisely when small peasant ownership had it greatest extension in Russian history. The capitalists might have all run away and abandoned the factories to the proletariat (who did begin to socialise them), money may have lost its value so that rationing and barter became the usual means of exchange but it was an illusion to assume that these emergency measures which were only intended to allow the regime to survive were attempts to build socialism. Socialism can only come about where the forces of production are in a position to create material abundance. In 1918 the condition of the collapse of the Russian economy was so severe that one historian at least has likened it to the Black Death of 1347.

 

Others point to the period of NEP (1921-8) when the organs (GOSPLAN, the State Bank and when VSENKh was turned into a more direct arm of the state) that would begin the planned economy of Stalin began to function. However NEP was not called the “New Exploitation of the Proletariat” by many Bolsheviks for nothing. Under it unemployment increased to about 25% of the working class and wages fell as prices rose. When the “tax in kind”, which the peasants had to pay before they marketed their grain, was replaced by a money tax this was naturally accompanied by a monetary reform. The State Bank now became the monopoly finance capitalist of the new order. Once again the main victims of this were the working class. At this point the difference between socialism and state capitalism is most obvious. In a socialist state the working class are actually socially dominant and politically in control. In no sense was this possible in Russia taken as a single country (and hence why the Bolsheviks were so insistent on internationalism) even in 1918 when the soviets were expanding and functioning. The adoption of a slogan like “socialism in one country” would obviously mean an abandonment of any attempt to construct socialism as Marxists had always understood it. What would have to be built was something else. But as the real prospects for world revolution faded the question as to what was to happen in the USSR became more and more serious. If NEP continued, argued many of the Bolshevik leadership, Russia would become dominated by petty bourgeois capitalist producers. Others, like Bukharin, argued that only the slow accumulation of state capital via taxation of the productive sectors (the peasantry) of the economy would provide the basis for later industrial development. As Russia’s backwardness dominated the arguments the key question began to alter. It became not how to establish socialism but how to industrialise Russia.

 

Stalin wrote little in these debates since he was not regarded as a serious contributor. He first floated the idea of the possibility of “socialism in one country” in his 1924 lectures, Foundations of Leninism. The work was a simplification of Lenin’s ideas but also included the idea that socialism outside of a world revolution was not possible. In a sense it reflected the confusions the whole party was in. But still Stalin was hardly prominent in the debate about the future of the world revolution and the development of Russia. What he did was to take the centre position between all factions, and always portrayed the other factions as either “Left”, “Right” or “United” “Oppositions”. As people like Zinoviev were vehemently anti-Trotsky one minute, then pro-Trotsky the next, this enabled Stalin to portray himself as the man of the Party, above faction and also allowed him to increasingly wield disciplinary measures. By this time the idea that the soviets were formally representative of the working class had become a distant memory since they exerted no real authority in the party-state. The theory that the party was no longer just the political vanguard of the working class but was the proletariat was adduced by Zinoviev first of all to hide the fact that the dictatorship of the proletariat was giving way to bureaucratic control. Even Trotsky added to the clamour that “no one can be right against the Party”, a piece of nonsense which allowed Stalin to remind his audience, in good “Leninist” fashion, that the Party will make mistakes but what it had to do was know how to correct them. By the late 1920s, the 1921 resolution on the banning of factions which had been largely ignored was coming to Stalin’s aid. As he gained more control over the delegates on the Central Committee Stalin was able to get all his opponents voted off the Politburo and replaced with his own creatures such as Ordzhonikidze, Kaganovitch, Molotov and Mikoyan.

 

By 1928 Stalin was in total control of the entire party-state apparatus. It was now that he felt confident to launch his offensive against the peasantry and begin the Five Year Plans. For many Stalinists this was the time when the “socialist transformation” of the Soviet mode of production took place. They argue that the forced collectivisation programme was the forcible expropriation of the peasantry, the ending of private production and the re-nationalisation of all factories. For them the industrialisation programme of the Five Year Plans replaced the “anarchy of capitalist production”. This is largely true but once again to talk of these measures as “socialism” is absolutely wrong. Stalin made no bones about it. This was a revolution “from above” (a phrase he used repeatedly at this time). As we have already seen socialism has to be constructed by the producers themselves. This was something Lenin repeated over and over again in the early months of Soviet power. He went to factories exhorting workers to take management into their own hands. As this was not possible in Russia alone it depended on the extension of the world revolution. The failure of the latter to materialise and the destruction of many of the class conscious workers in the 1918-21 civil war period left the Russian revolutionaries with an insoluble dilemma. Lenin himself had no clear solution and his writings on the question of how socialism could be reached after 1921 are more and more confusing. The lively debate of the 1920s in the period of the so-called “liberal dictatorship” which we have described above actually hid the dilemma. Only those who were prepared to abandon a Marxist understanding that socialism cannot be separated from the control by the producers of their own product could now offer a way forward. History had already posed this “solution” since the collapse of the proletariat had left the Party as the new state. It only needed a more vigorous use of the police apparatus that had developed in the civil war and the adoption of a militaristic mobilisation programme to forcibly modernise state industry and you have all the chief ingredients of Stalinism. The Stalinist victory was assured because it was Stalin and his cohorts who were prepared to set aside the whole question of “socialism”. For them the practical task of industrialisation of the USSR was more important than any theories about socialism. In a backward country the only institution capable of carrying out industrialisation was the state via its monopoly control of investment. Stalin set the agenda in 1929

 

Heavy industry needs state subsidies. If we cannot provide them, then we are doomed as civilised state – let alone a socialist one.

Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1940, p.303

And here lies the confusion of many who equate nationalisation (i.e. state ownership of the means of production) with socialisation which is the takeover of the means of the production by the producers themselves. This in turn has to be seen as step on the road to the withering away of the state. The fact that the state does not disappear overnight by no means implies that “socialism” is compatible with an even more centralised state apparatus. The Stalinists, of course, were not alone in equating state ownership with socialism. It was a widespread belief amongst the pre-first World War Social Democratic movement. But state ownership only transfers the ability to expropriate profit from a single capitalist entity to a collective capitalist entity. Under both the position of the wage labourer (and we must remember that for Marx the existence of wage labour presupposes the existence of capitalism) is one of having no control over the disposal of his or her surplus product. Under the Five Year Plans it has been calculated that the cost of living rose enormously. The disaster of collectivisation led to an eight-fold rise in the cost of basic food products in four years. Wages were not only held down but income tax was increased and on top of this wage differentials and other incentives were introduced. In some industries wage differentials between skilled and unskilled workers could be as much as forty times. [6] The issue is not whether the Soviet proletariat were better off than their Western counterparts at the time (at this time a quarter of the workers in Western Europe were unemployed) but the fact that they were actually in the same relationship to the means of production.

 

Stalinists (and indeed some Trotskyists) have argued that Russia could not have been capitalist because there was no bourgeois class. But that is because their model of the bourgeoisie is wrong. They are looking for the archetypal nineteenth century entrepreneur (no doubt male, equipped with cigar and top hat) but such figures were already passé even by the time of the First World War. Today we can see that the monopoly capitalism of the late nineteenth has transmuted itself into a corporate capitalism in which the ruling class is much more collective in its disposition of the surplus value of the planet. How different is this from the following observation by Michael Reiman?

 

…there can be no doubt that implementation of Stalin’s programme required the existence of a ruling social stratum, separated from the people and hostilely disposed towards it.

The Birth of Stalinism: The USSR on the Eve of the Second Revolution, Indiana, 1987, p.120

We have already demonstrated the two key factors which produced this ruling class. First, the political, then the physical, elimination from all positions of power, however minor, of all potential dissidents within the Party. Second the creation of a young, new class of nomenklatura, many of them the children of workers (one ironic comment was that it was the “the dictatorship of the ex-proletariat”!) who were trained in the first Five Year Plans. They became a class apart, with special housing, privileged shops, dachas and access to higher education facilities. They may not have been able to accumulate property so freely as their counterparts in the West but they certainly could pass on these privileges to their children and always find them a role in the ruling class. This ruling class collectively expropriated the surplus value of the working class and turned it towards whatever targets the apparatus set it. This incidentally also brought competitive pressures within the Soviet system that also undermined the notion that “socialist planning” existed. What existed was a regime of target setting which was supposedly a reflection of the planning that was taking place. As with all target-setting regimes (Blair be warned!) what the targets did was to make it more difficult for the economy to function. To meet targets managers often competed to divert resources to their projects and essentially told lies in order to win the support of the central banks. The role of the State Bank and the Finance Ministry was critical to any sector of the economy whatever “the Plan” stated.

 

Needless to say this ramshackle state system did not make a single step towards the abolition of money. Indeed as we have seen above the role of money incentives in the economy increased. The question of money is absolutely critical in assessing the “socialist” nature of any regime. Although we cannot go into the issue fully here, money, under capitalism represents a further means of distorting the real value of production. Those who finance production and control the supply of currency also control the major levers of economic management. They use monetary values to allocate resources. As long as this is, the case society will be dominated by the law of value. The leap from the “realm of necessity” to the realm of socialism cannot be made until money is abolished so that labour time is itself “decommodified” and used to do only that which is socially necessary. But such a regime also implies a society in which there is no ruling class to expropriate and direct our surplus value either to private individuals or to an abstract collective capitalist state. Stalinism only appeared in the Soviet Union because it was such a backward capitalist state. In some ways it pre-figured the mixed economies of the West after World War Two (the pretence that “the people” own nationalised industries for example) but in reality it was a capitalist formation which arose in a unique context. It became the model for states like China (now abandoning its Stalinist heritage) and Cuba (which has an even more statified economic base) but for real revolutionaries and Marxists it was the graveyard and not the cradle of communism. This is a ghost we have to exorcise.

 

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[1] Although he did not argue that this would automatically lead to a higher society as he makes clear in the Communist Manifesto. Either society would be “refounded anew” or the class struggle would lead to “the common ruin of the contending classes”. Or to put it in a later formula “socialism or barbarism” would issue from the collapse of bourgeois society. They key to the establishment of socialism is the preparation and class consciousness of the proletariat.

[2] Our defence of October as a proletarian revolution is to be found in the CWO pamphlet 1917 available for £3 from the CWO address.

[3] From The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution quoted in Selected Works Volume 2 (Moscow 1977) p.51.

[4] See Internationalist Communist 21 1921: Beginning of the Counter-Revolution.

[5] For an expansion of this theme see The Decline of the Russian Revolution and the Cult of the Party in Revolutionary Perspectives 28.

[6] See Mervyn Matthews Privilege in the Soviet Union: A Study of Elite Life-Styles under Communism (Allen and Unwin, 1978).

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