Wednesday, November 21, 2007

La dictadura rusa

The Russian Dictatorship

In 1918 a sharp controversy took place between Karl Kautsky, of the German Social Democratic Party, and Nikolai Lenin, of the Russian Bolsheviks, on the question of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The debate has lately been translated into English, Kautsky’s contribution by the ILP, under the title The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and Lenin’s by the BSP, under the title The Proletarian Revolution.

Lenin’s pamphlet is the more lively, the more abusive and, on a superficial level, the more effective statement. One capitalist critic has been so carried away by the stream of denunciations that runs from one end to the other of the pamphlet that he declared that Lenin had practically pulverised Kautsky.

But denunciation, however justified, is not argument, and when the case is more closely examined one gains the impression that a good deal of the abuse is used to hide the lack of argument, that in some cases is painfully apparent.

How valueless is Lenin’s judgement of Kautsky is shown by one outstanding fact. In Lenin’s view Kautsky was a Marxist until the war broke out in 1914, when he became a "renegade". Yet as every Socialist knows, apart from previous actions in Germany, 14 years before the war Kautsky had proclaimed his renunciation of Marxism when he drafted the well-known "Kautsky resolution" at the 1900 International Socialist Congress. That resolution stated that a Socialist could accept a gift of a seat in a capitalist cabinet in a national emergency, such as war. His support of the German capitalist class in the war was therefore only the logical outcome of his resolution in 1900.

Kautsky says the question is one of the "clashing of two fundamentally distinct methods, that of democracy and dictatorship" (p. 1). Lenin retorts by claiming that the question is one "of the relation between the proletarian State and the bourgeois State, between proletarian democracy and bourgeois democracy" (p. 10).

It is obvious that Lenin’s statement is a shuffle. For relations to exist between a proletarian State and a bourgeois State both these States must exist at the same moment. Are these two States existing in Russia to-day? If not there can be no question of such a relation there.

Again, what is "Democracy"? Kautsky says "Democracy signifies the rule of the majority, but not less the protection of minorities" (p. 30).Lenin pours scorn upon the latter part of this definition, and refers to the repression of strikers, internationalists, and others in democratic countries like America, Switzerland, and England. True as this retort is against the "protection of minorities", it does not touch the question of what is democracy, and Lenin carefully evades any definition himself. His use of the terms "proletarian" and "bourgeois" democracy merely clouds the issue.

Democracy means "Rule by majority", and the trimmings introduced by both Lenin and Kautsky are quite secondary to this main point. It is generally taken that the minority shall be allowed to express their views and may endeavour to convert the majority to their ideas, while accepting for the time being the majority decisions. This, however, depends upon circumstances and conditions, such as war, where this allowance would not be made. Kautsky himself supported the German Government in repressing minorities in Germany.

His grief at the capitalists being deprived of the vote under the Bolsheviks, receives an answer from Lenin that will hardly please the supporters of the latter here, who have proclaimed it as a necessary factor in working-class policy. He says: "One may say in this connection that the question about the suppression of the franchise of the exploiter is entirely a Russian question and not at all one of the dictatorship of the proletariat in general" (p. 38. Italics in original).

As a matter of fact, it is a question of the conditions existing at the time. If the capitalists were endeavouring to foment civil war - as they were doing at that time - they would be outlawed and thus deprived of most civil privileges.

But what is "bourgeois" democracy? Lenin points to modern capitalist countries as examples. Yet in all these countries the proletariat not only form the majority of the population, but also have the majority of the votes.

So a "bourgeois" democracy is one where the proletariat are in a majority. Then what is a "proletarian" democracy? We are told that it is "a democracy for the poor" (p. 31. Italics Lenin’s) while in a bourgeois democracy, even the best, "We are ruled, and our State is run by bourgeois bureaucrats, by capitalist parliaments, by capitalist judges" (Ibid.).

But if democracy is the rule of the majority, and in the capitalist countries mentioned the proletariat form the majority of the population and have the majority of the votes, it is clear that the proletariat must have voted the capitalists into Parliament and power. Why did they not vote themselves into power? Lenin’s statement on this point is such a stupid lie as to cause wonder that a man of his abilities should have written so glaring a contradiction of the facts. He says: "The labouring masses are kept away from bourgeois parliament (which never decides the most important questions in a bourgeois democracy as they are decided by the Stock Exchange and the banks) by a thousand and one barriers" (p. 29).

Lenin does not give one, let alone a thousand and one of these barriers, for the simple reason that they are non-existent outside his imagination.

This is one of the points on which Kautsky scores heavily and Lenin is reduced to evasion.

On page 12 of his pamphlet Kautsky says:

"Every conscious action presupposes a will. The Will to Socialism is the first condition for its accomplishment."

"This Will is created by great industry … Small production always creates the Will to uphold or to obtain private property in the means of production which are in vogue, not the Will to social property, to Socialism."

This is the situation. While the workers agree with capitalism, they will vote capitalists into Parliament. When they agree with Socialism - or "Will to Socialism" - they will send Socialists there.

And - how short is Lenin’s memory! - both he and his colleagues were voted into a "bourgeois" Parliament by the "labouring masses".

Lenin on p. 30 of his book says: "the Soviet regime is a million times more democratic than the most democratic regime in a bourgeois republic".

What is the Soviet Regime?

The word "Soviet" is used by many supporters of the Bolsheviks as though it denoted some newly discovered magical power. When one is told that it merely means "Council" the magic vanishes.

At the base of this system are the Urban and Rural Councils, directly elected by the sections qualified to vote. The delegates are elected in the proportion of one delegate to every 1,000 members in the towns (up to a maximum of 1,000 councillors), and one delegate to every 100 in the country.

Above this comes the Volost Congress. A Volost is a group of villages, and the Congress is composed of delegates from the Councils of these village groups.

Next above in the order is the District Congress composed of representatives from the Village Councils.

Still higher is the County Congress consisting of representatives from the Urban Councils and the Volost Congresses.

Overriding all these bodies is the Regional Congress made up of delegates from the Urban Councils and Congresses of the County Districts.

At the apex of the system is the All Russia Congress of Councils which is the supreme authority of the Russian Republic. This is formed of delegates from the Urban Councils and the Congresses of County Councils.

We have, then, six grades of authority in the Russian system. But note how they are elected.

The "labouring masses" vote once - namely, at the local councils, urban and village. This is their one and only vote. All the other grades are elected by the delegates of the Congress immediately below it.

This the Volost Congress is elected by the Village Group Councils; the District Congress by the general Village Councils; the County Congress by the Urban Councils and Volost Congresses; the Regional Congress by the Urban Councils and Congresses of County Districts; and the All Russia Congress by Urban Councils and Congresses of County Councils.

We see, then, that "the supreme authority of the Russian Council Republic" is removed five stages beyond the vote, reach, or control of the workers.

Another interesting point is the ratio between the urban and country representatives. Thus for the All Russia Congress of Councils the Urban Councils send one representative for every 25,000, while the County Council Congresses send one delegate for every 125,000, or to put it another way, the Urban Councils have five times the representation of the County Councils. The same ratio applies to Regional and County Congresses. These figures have a peculiar significance.

The Bolsheviks, naturally, find their chief support in the urban centres. By this basis of representation they are able to ensure the practical certainty of a majority in "the supreme authority of the Russian Republic". "And that’s how it’s done", as the stage conjurer says.

This method may be suitable to Russian conditions, but to claim for such a system that it is "a million times more democratic than the most democratic regime in a bourgeois republic" - where the workers have a direct, and overwhelming, vote for the very centre of power - is the wildest nonsense.

But what of the Recall? we may be asked. Let us see what the clause says.

"The electors have at any time the right to recall the delegates whom they have sent to the Council and to proceed to new elections."

Two interpretations may be given to this clause. First - if as the words state - the recall is limited to the Councils, all the Congresses are free from this control. Secondly, if the clause is intended to apply to all the grades, then the workers can only use it for Local Councils as they are not voters in any other grade.

Marx, of course, is freely quoted by both writers. On p. 140 Kautsky, while stating that the Bolsheviks are Marxists, asks how they find a Marxist foundation for their proceedings.

"They remembered opportunely the expression ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’, which Marx used in a letter written in 1875."

Kautsky states that this is the only place in the whole of Marx’s writings where this phrase occurs, though Engels used it in his preface to the 3rd edition of Marx’s Civil War in France.

Lenin’s reply to this is to call the passage a "celebrated" one, and to call Kautsky several names. He then makes the following statement:

"Kautsky cannot but know that both Marx and Engels, both in their letters and public writings, spoke repeatedly about the dictatorship of the proletariat, both before and after the Commune" (p. 12. Italics in original).

Here was a grand opportunity for Lenin to get in a powerful blow by giving some of these "letters and public writings", but, to the chagrin, no doubt, of his followers, he does not give a single case outside those mentioned above. There are endeavours to twist some of Marx’s statements on the Commune of Paris (1871) into a support of this claim, but they are all dismals failures. Only in the Communist Manifesto is found a phrase - "the proletariat organised as a ruling class" - that bears any resemblance.

But a more important point remains. Every student of Marx knows how he laid bare the laws of social evolution and claimed that, in broad outline, all nations must follow these laws in their development.

Kautsky uses this fact with great effect, and it forms the strongest argument in the whole of his pamphlet. On page 98 he gives the well-known phrase from the preface to the 1st Volume of Capital.

"One nation can and should learn from others. And even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement - it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten and lessen the birth pangs."

How does Lenin deal with this famous phrase of Marx’s? By entirely ignoring it. There is not a single reference to it in the whole of his reply. More than this, the quotation given above from page 140 of Kautsky’s pamphlet is printed by Lenin on page 11-12 of his reply. Immediately preceding the sentence quoted Kautsky says:

"The Bolshevists are Marxists, and have inspired the proletarian sections coming under their influence with great enthusiasm for Marxism. Their dictatorship, however, is in contradiction to the Marxist teaching that no people can overcome the obstacles offered by the successive phases of their development by a jump or by legal enactment."

This ignoring of one part of a paragraph while quoting the other part is full proof Lenin deliberately avoided this important question.

Kautsky’s analysis of the conditions prevailing in Russia, with the danger to the Russian Republic from American and even more from German capital, is well done, but is entirely ignored by Lenin.

This controversy, along with the events that have taken place since it occurred, adds considerable evidence to the correctness of the deduction we drew from the situation in 1918.

In the midst of the special conditions and chaos caused by the war, when the old exploiting regime had broken down and the new exploiting class were too weak to take hold of power, a small but resolute minority seized the political machinery and took control of affairs. The mass of the workers in Russia are not Socialists, neither do they understand the principles of Socialism nor desire to see Socialism established.

The new ruling minority promised peace and - to their highest credit- established it. That this peace has been broken and they have been compelled to take up war again is due entirely to the Imperialist aims of the capitalist class of Europe. Despite this great burden and the appalling chaos in which they found Russia, they have, according to the accounts of various witnesses who have visited Russia since the Bolsheviks came to power, done wonders in the way of reconstruction and reorganisation. Their success in these matters has caused large numbers of Russians who are opponents of Socialism to give their support to the Bolsheviks as the only party in the country who can get things done.

But rule by a minority - even a Marxist minority- is not Socialism. Not until the instruments and methods of production have reached the stage of large machinery and mass organisation is it possible for social production to develop. When the workers, organised and trained in this social production, reach an understanding of their slave position, and decide to supplement social production by social ownership, through the seizure of political power, then, and not till then, will Socialism be established.

The Bolsheviks based their hopes on a rising of the proletariat of Western Europe to make their position secure. But the Western proletariat did not rise, nor do they show any signs of doing so up to the present. This failure of their basic hope leaves the Bolsheviks in conditions that make inevitable the entry into, and development of capitalism in, Russia.

The Bolsheviks may try to save as much of their system as possible, but the events will prove the correctness of Marx’s view on the failure of attempts to jump the stages in social evolution. Their failure, however, will not be all disaster.

They will have shown the workers of the world that the capitalist class is a useless and parasitic class in modern society. They will have shown that men holding Socialist views and of the working class could take charge of huge affairs and manage them with great success, in the midst of the wildest chaos, and while hampered by enemies within and without. Already the lesson is beginning to be learnt, and though only affecting a few relatively at present, it is spreading with steady persistence.

When the workers awaken to an understanding of the position in which they exist, and begin to fight the class war consciously in numbers that seriously count, the rule of the Russian Bolsheviks will be a splendid lesson, not on the value of "Soviet" or "Dictatorship", but on the ability of the working class to manage its own affairs. It will have done its share in "shortening and lessening the birth pangs" of Socialism.

(July 1920)

El levantamiento Ruso

The Russian upheaval

The pseudo-socialist Press and organisations, who here at home are preaching social reform and palliation as bona fide Socialism with impunity, have naturally not the least compunction in presenting international labour struggles or national working-class action in other countries in the light of the reform movement. Their accounts and criticisms of recent Russian events have been so grossly misleading and exaggerated as to the real proletarian position that it becomes necessary to place before the workers of this country, however briefly, the situation in Russia from the Socialist standpoint.

Some of the aforementioned critics have asserted that large numbers of those Russian workers who have been and are now engaged in strikes and demonstrations against the Government are class-conscious Socialists fighting the “social battle” of the working-class; others have praised the principles of the General Strike as deserving emulation by a “United Socialist Party in Great Britain” and especially as a prelude to the “Social Revolution”; and others again, particularly those who, believing in the emancipation of the workers by a long series of reforms enacted by a Liberal-cum-Labour party, have expressed their admiration of the intelligence and tact displayed by the Russian toilers in “working so gallantly hand-in-hand with the other forces of progress and revolution in the corrupt Empire of the Czar” for, as they call it, the “freedom of all”.

No one can gainsay the fact that the Russian workers have in the present upheaval shown great power of organisation and class solidarity, but, on the other hand, nobody understanding even in the smallest degree the causes of the great Russian crisis can honestly assert that the struggle in which the Russian workers now are taking part by means of strikes and demonstrations is distinctly working-class in character.

In order to obtain a clear conception of the real meaning of the whole outbreak it is necessary to consider briefly the historic course and present stage of Russian economic development.

Although factories and workshops in Russia date from the period in which Peter the Great ascended the throne (1696), the beginning of modern capitalism, the industrialism of this epoch, can be distinctly traced to the sixties of the nineteenth century. When in 1861, Alexander the Second by an imperial ukase abolished serfdom it was not for the purpose of uplifting the toilers, but this breaking of ancient ties, so vociferously applauded at the time by the bourgeoisie of other countries, had become an economic necessity. Russia, whose industrial activity had until then almost exclusively been given to agriculture, was suddenly roused to the fact that the new world with its virgin soil, its highly developed machinery and scientific methods of production was becoming not only a formidable competitor in the international markets of agricultural produce, but that Russia ran the risk of being altogether cut out, unless it encouraged and helped on agricultural production on modern capitalist lines. Above all was the “Liberation of the serfs” directed towards the creation of a working-class, free to sell its labour power to the highest bidder, a class which, being without property and unable to find employment on the land, would migrate to the towns, there to enable the bourgeoisie to develop industrialism like the rest of western civilisation.

At the present time two-fifths of the land in Russia is held by the State, consisting mostly of forests and wasteland; one-fourth is owned by land proprietors, and one-third by peasants. Of a population estimated at 140 millions, about half belong to the peasantry, and quite 20 millions to the agricultural labouring class employed by the land proprietors. The industrial population of the towns, including railway workers and miners, does not exceed 15 millions in number, that is to say, there are only about 3 million industrial workers throughout the whole of Russia.

And now as to the economic position of the working population. The peasants’ conditions of existence are becoming more and more intolerable owing to their intense exploitation by means of imperial and local taxes, direct and indirect, and to the keen competition of the large agriculturists in Russia and abroad. The only means of keeping the peasant in subjection is a sop of a little more land to increase the scope of his income. But this remedy is impossible for a length of time and applicable only sectionally with the aid of the aristocratic land proprietors, who run in fear of losing their lives should the peasantry rise in rebellion against them. The agricultural labourers working for the farm proprietors are gradually reduced in circumstances. Great numbers of them, having been thrown out of employment, migrate to the towns, and still more congest and overcrowd the industrial labour market, making the conditions of the industrial workers more and more deplorable. Competition is increased, the level of subsistence is lowered, and very little new capital is being invested in industrial undertakings owing to the financial insecurity of aristocratic rule, the exploitation of all those producing is becoming unbearable. The largest proportion of the wealth exploited from the peasants, the agricultural labourers and the industrial workers finds its way into the pockets of the Ruler and his family, the aristocratic land proprietors, the bureaucracy, and the merchant princes. The smaller capitalists of the bourgeois class, denied the opportunity of exploiting labour without let or hindrance, owing to the privileges and powers of mediaeval origin possessed by the ruling class, make common cause with the workers, whom they induce, by means of the strike, to fight out the political battle of the capitalist bourgeoisie.

Now it must be borne in mind that although Feudalism was formally discarded in Russia in 1861, the social and juridical changes that have in every other country accompanied the economic revolution ushering in the capitalist system of unhampered competition were stubbornly withheld. Capitalism without universal capitalist conditions in the social and juridical respect must naturally produce economic dilemma, and in Russia the thirty years of capitalist industrialism in an economic atmosphere nourished on the social and political soil of autocracy were bound to bring this pronounced contradiction to a head, an unhappy, disastrous war completing the chain of economic failure. Thus it is that we have on the one hand the peasants sucked completely dry by the ruthless taxation, the agricultural labourers despoiled to starvation level, many deprived of employment altogether owing to aggravated competition within the country and from abroad; the industrial workers collapsing under the super-human burden of oppression, over-work and starvation pay, more and more influenced by the growing number of unemployed agricultural labourers pouring into the towns in search of work, and on the other hand ever more wealth accumulation on the part of the Autocrat and his henchmen, the archdukes, aristocrats, large land-owners, high officials, merchant princes, and big capitalists.

The disgusted and envious bourgeoisie comprising the manufacturers, merchants, and professionals in Law, Art, Science and Literature forced to stand by and see the wealth scooped in by their superiors in privilege, corruption and violence, raise an outcry for capitalist liberty and equality, and the revolutionary spirit seizing the enraged and oppressed working-class, they join the revolution in sheer despair, hoping to gain some amelioration by participating in the fight for a “free capitalist Russia”.

The bourgeoisie by the aid of working-class strikes and demonstrations succeed in removing the terrible contradiction in the semi-capitalist system, a constitution is granted and all capitalists, small and great, and their hangers-on rejoice, for now at last will they be able to flourish in the enjoyment of free competition.

But for the working-class there is nothing but a return to wretchedness and the outlook of gloom and despair and unless indeed they have learned the lesson of reliance upon no other class but their own to effect that amelioration in their condition that they desire, so only will they attain to that class-consciousness with its appreciation of the universal solidarity of proletarian interests that shall presently deliver them and with them the whole human family from the throes of slavery for evermore.


(Socialist Standard, December 1905)

La muerte de Trotsky

The death of Trotsky

Through the attack of an assassin Leon Trotsky is dead. The Press reports that the attack was made in Trotsky's own home, the assailant having wormed his way into the aged revolutionary's friendship through many visits to his home in Mexico.

Thus the murderer avoided the usual search which the guards of Trotsky's person carry out in the case of all visitors, and so managed to conceal a small axe, with which the attack was made.

Trotsky's dying words were to accuse the Russian Secret Police of the crime.

So ends the amazing career of one of the outstanding men of to-day. Trotsky (his real name was Bronstein) was the son of a well-to-do Jewish farmer in the Russian Ukraine. In early youth, whilst he was yet studying at High School in Odessa, he became an active member of the Russian Revolutionary Movement, whose fundamental aim was the overthrow of Czarist Autocracy. So far he was merely expressing the general need and feeling of Russian intellectuals, teachers, civil servants and such like, whose scandalously low pay added fuel to their intellectual abhorrence of a medieval despotism.

Soon, however, the character of the Russian Revolutionary Movement changed completely. The doctrines of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, interpreted and disseminated in Russia by theoreticians like Plekhanov, Struve and Axelrod in the first place, swept aside the curious mixture of destructive Nihilism and Western Liberalism so typically represented by the Party known as “Narodnaya Volya" (People's Will).

To understand the apparent contradiction of the spread of Marxism among "intellectuals" in a country so agrarian and backward as Russia, it would be necessary to go deeply into the subject, but perhaps one of the most important, certainly the immediate factor, was the absence of a strong, coherent capitalist class who could have directed the opposition to Feudal restrictions along orthodox capitalist lines.

Instead, the ferment was organised and led by “intellectuals," who took their cue from the most advanced social science which Europe then had (and still has) to offer.

In his own life-story, Trotsky tells us of the enthusiasm with which he plunged into Socialist study and the light which then suffused even the darkest and most perplexing problems.

It is curious, therefore, that a man so gifted as a writer as Trotsky undoubtedly was, has left little, if any, literary trace of his Marxist education. This is in contrast to men like Lenin, Martov, Riazanov, Bukharin and many other Russians, who have given us ample proof of their familiarity with the theoretical system of Marx.

After spending some time in Russian prisons and Siberian exile, years of hardship and suffering which left their mark on Trotsky's health, he managed to escape only to be arrested again as one of the ringleaders of the revolt at Petrograd in 1905.

Escaping once more, he left Russia and spent the intervening years until the Bolshevik uprising in October, 1917, in various European countries and, finally, the United States.

During this time he was continually in touch with the exiles who were planning revolt, and he played an important role in the deliberations of the Russian Social-Democratic Party, although he was then only a young man in the twenties.

When the split in this organisation took place at a conference in London in 1903, Trotsky took an individual stand.

It is not true that he was a Menshevik, for, although he, like the Mensheviks, opposed Lenin's plan for an organisation of revolutionary conspirators to be controlled by a dictatorship in the centre, his fundamental views differed from both factions.

Trotsky himself made it clear that he did not consider the controversy important enough to warrant a split, and continued to work with both groups in an attempt to re-establish unity.

But whereas both factions were agreed that the coming Russian Revolution would be essentially capitalist and that Russia would consequently have to pass through an era of capitalist democracy, Trotsky was alone in proclaiming that the overthrow of Czardom could be accomplished by the Russian movement alone, which could maintain itself in power and so cut out completely the period of capitalist transition.

This point of view he elaborated into a theory called "Permanent Revolution."

The basic points of this theory rest on the assumption that power could be held by Socialists in Russia long enough to enable the workers of the more advanced Western countries, helped, of course, by their Russian comrades, to introduce Socialism. Then the material backwardness of Russia could be overcome through the united efforts of a Socialist Europe.

None of the Bolsheviks, including Lenin, accepted this view until after the seizure of power in October, 1917.

This theory is still the kernel of "Trotskyism," and from the S.P.G.B. standpoint that kernel is rotten with error.

Lenin himself had to admit that their hopes for a Socialist revolution in the West had been frustrated, but he and Trotsky blamed this on bad and treacherous leadership.

What the Bolsheviks did not grasp, then any more than their would-be imitators can do to-day, is the need for an understanding of Socialism by a majority of the .working-class. This understanding alone would make leadership, good or bad, impossible.

But Trotsky who himself failed to grasp all the implications of Socialism, continued to nourish these illusions to the end.

Hence his bitter opposition to Stalin, whom he accuses of having betrayed the "Socialist" Revolution in Russia.

Trotsky's role in the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks was second only to that of Lenin. This fact is generally recognised, except by the hide-bound followers of the present Russian Dictatorship.

His talent for military organisation and strategy helped to save the Bolsheviks from being defeated by the armies of the Czarist generals and the half-hearted intervention of the Allies.

This was often asserted by Lenin and, at the time, admitted by Stalin.

But Trotsky did not achieve this military success without ruthless discipline, a ruthlessness which showed itself again in his suppression of the revolt of the sailors at Kronstadt.

When charged by Kautsky with using methods of terrorism, Trotsky replied with a defence justifying the means by the end, as if the two could ever be separated.

Socialism, the pinnacle of human development, can never be achieved by methods that are themselves reactionary and anti-human; it is more than the irony of his logic that Trotsky himself should have met his end in such a violent manner.

How can the fall of Trotsky be explained?

Trotsky himself ascribes it to the chicanery of Stalin and his associates, but this explanation is both shallow and misleading.

Fundamentally, Trotsky fell from power because his theory of Permanent Revolution and his consequent insistence on continued revolutionary agitation abroad would have cut off all technical aid from the Western world, and so made any attempt at industrial development more difficult in Russia.

Another important factor was Trotsky's standing in the party clique which ruled the country.

For although his military successes had probably made him the most popular man with the Russian masses, the Bolshevik party-machine, controlled by the secretary, Stalin, regarded him as an interloper. As already explained, Trotsky had maintained an individual stand until the October upheaval, therefore his hold on the Bolshevik party was not strong and was finally broken by the Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev clique.

The last two have since been legally murdered by their former associate; in this way Stalin has attained a personal power unequalled by any Czar.

Trotsky's misunderstanding was further exemplified by his contradictory attitude towards the Soviet Union.

Bitterly hostile towards the regime, yet he urged that should Russia be involved in war, it would be the duty of all workers, inside or outside Russia, to fight in “defence” of that country, whilst at the same time working for the overthrow of Stalin.

This inconsistency he defended on the grounds that the Russian economic system, i.e., state control, was essentially working-class, and apparently required only a change in its political administration to perfect it for working-class needs.

This error is bound up with Trotsky's confusion between State-capitalism and Socialism, evidence of which can be found in his writings.

Trotsky's personal qualities are of minor interests to Socialists.

As a political pamphleteer he was outstanding and he was also a first-class orator.

But unless the world-proletariat can harness such gifts to serve the struggle for Socialism, they will be wasted and even harmful to workers' interests, although, and as in the case of Leon Trotsky, there is no doubt that his whole life was sincerely dedicated to their cause.

(Socialist Standard, September 1940)

Also from September 1940 Socialist Standard:

The "Daily Worker" writes about its Former Hero

There was a time when the British Communists were showing towards Trotsky the blind and extravagant hero worship they now bestow on Stalin. Even as late as 1925 when Trotsky was already on the blacklist (having just resigned from his post as chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Russian Government) the Workers' Weekly, was still able to refrain from the worst extremes of prejudice in its estimate of his work. In its issue of January 23rd, 1925, it published an article containing the following:–

“. . . Trotsky entered the Party in July, 1917, and went through the November Revolution side by side with Lenin. During the next three years he made a great name for himself in history, and did splendid service to the Revolution as organiser and inspirer of the Red Army.”

But by 1940, writing on Trotsky's assassination the Daily Worker (August 23rd, 1940) can descend to publishing an article with the title "A Counter Revolutionary Gangster Passes," written by J .R. Campbell. The article manages to sketch Trotsky's life without ever mentioning his work in the Russian Government.

According to the Star (August 24th, 1940) the Moscow Pravda delivered itself of the following:–

“Under the heading "Death of an International Spy," "Pravda," organ of the Russian Communist party, to-day discloses to its readers the "inglorious end" of Trotsky.

Trotsky is accused of having planned the assassination of Lenin and Stalin as early as 1918 and organised the murder of Gorki, Kuibyshev and Kirov.

Trotsky, adds "Pravda," finally fell a victim to his own weapon.

Finally, “Pravda" alleges that Trotsky was a paid agent of the British, French, German and Japanese secret services.”

"Great men" do not make history but some little men certainly know how to write, (and re-write), it.

La URSS, la contra-revolucion de terciopelo

Twisting and turning

L'URSS et la contre-révolution de velours. By Ludo Martens. EPO, Brussels.

Normally we would let the dead bury the dead. And this book ("The USSR: The Velvet Counter-Revolution") clearly comes into this category, written as it is by someone -the leader of a Maoist party in Belgium- who believes that Stalin was a Great Man and Trotsky a Hitlerite agent. But it reveals an interesting twist to the argument over the nature of the social system in Russia when the Communist Party was in power there.

In the course of their disputes with the rulers of Russia, the rulers of China (Mao) and of Albania (Enver Hodja) came to characterise Russia as "state capitalist". This was largely name-calling but Mao and Hodja got their State ideologists to work it up into some kind of theory; which, in Martens's words, went like this:

"In the Soviet Union, Khrushchev's coup d'Etat marked the capture of power by a new big-bourgeoisie, made up of the high officials of the Party and State, who de facto own the means of production and who appropriate the surplus value created by the workers. The Soviet State is a collective capitalist".

As it happened, this description of who the Russian ruling class were and how they owned the means of production and exploited the workers was substantially correct, except why did this suddenly come to apply only in 1953 when Khrushchev took over after Stalin died? Since the political and economic structure was the same, if it applied to Russia under Khrushchev it ought logically to apply to Russia under Stalin too. Indeed, it ought logically to apply as well to China under Mao and Albania under Hodja.

As we pointed out at the time, in characterising Russia as capitalist the Maoists were more advanced than the Trotskyists who still clung to the absurd view that Russia was some sort of "workers state" . However, in so doing they were also underlining their own defence of the Chinese and Albanian regimes which of course were also examples of state capitalism.

And this is what happened. After the so-called Cultural Revolution some ex-Red Guards came to apply the same analysis to China under Mao. Others went further and applied it to Russia under Stalin. As Martens describes it from his point of view:

"The whole French New Right, of the "former-Maoist-New-Philospher" type, started from the analysis of the restoration of capitalism under Khrushchev to then discover that the "bases" of this restoration had already been laid by Stalin".

Some went even further, such as Michael Volslensky in his book The Nomenklatura (recommended reading, incidentally, for anyone wanting to understand the ancien régime in Russia) whose views Martens quotes as the final proof that the new class/state capitalist analysis of Russia was wrong and should be abandoned:

"Neither the Leninist party nor its core has ever been the vanguard or even a simple part of the working class . . . In the event of the revolution they were preparing being victorious, this small group would automatically become an organisation of professional leaders. It is thus that Lenin created the embryo of a new ruling class".

Mao, Stalin and Lenin as advocates and practitioners of state capitalism, this is where the theory Mao and Hodja patronised in the 1960s and 70s led! This has proved too much for today's Maoist remnants who have now decided to abandon it as a "leftist" deviation. Martens backtracks on a view which he says he held and ardently defended for twenty years, in these terms:

"We believed at the time that Khrushchev had established a new specific mode of production, state capitalism, a higher form of capitalism where the "nomenklatura" collectively owns the means of production. This thesis isn't tenable".

He now believes that Khrushchev didn't after all "restore" capitalism in 1953; all he did was to embark on a course that would eventually lead to "the restoration of capitalism" but that this didn't actually occur till Yeltsin came to power in 1991; in the meantime the Russian economy remained "basically socialist".

So the Maoists have now retreated to the same absurd position as the Trotskyists they hate: that Russia from Stalin to Gorbachov was still basically socialist even if those at the top were feathering their own nests (as if the absence of a privileged group in society wasn't the essence of socialism).

This view has the added advantage -and is probably a major factor in their U-turn- of allowing the ex-pro-Chinese Communists to make it up with those ex-pro-Russian Communists who haven't become open reformists, so that they can both rally round the remaining "socialist countries" (Cuba, North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos). On reflection, perhaps we should have left the dead to bury the dead.

(May 1996)

El estilo de via en la Rusia Sovietica

Life in Soviet Russia

The claim that the only person who can know what is happening in a country is one who has been there is not even a half-truth, but it dies hard. It rests on the notion that “seeing is believing.” But those who make the claim overlook that it is a physical impossibility to “see” more than a microscopic part of the area of even the smallest country and equally an impossibility to know the life, work and thoughts of the population by "seeing" them. Moreover, the observer himself, even if supplied with full and accurate information and given free access to places and people, is useless if he does not know what to look for and how to interpret it. There are millions of workers who have lived in capitalist Britain all their lives, yet who hardly realise that capitalism exists, and who are quite content to vote for their own exploiters. Some of the conditions of a sound interpretation are: unbiased statistics, freedom from censorship, and the unfettered expression of opinion by the population themselves through their own voluntary organisations, journals and meetings. Most of these conditions are lacking in greater or less degree under the dictatorships, including Russia. That is why an 88-page booklet by M. Yvon, Ce Qu'est Devenue la Révolution Russe (“What the Russian Revolution Has Become”) has a value much greater than its size would indicate. Yvon was a skilled worker, active member of the Communist Party, who worked for 11 years in Russia, returning to France in 1934. He was in turn a factory-hand, foreman and director, and he worked in Moscow, Leningrad, Siberia, Turkestan and elsewhere. His booklet is a plain account of working-class life in Russia, supplemented for the years since 1934 by information from the Russian Press. (It is published by La Révolution Proletarienne, 54, rue du Chateau d'Eau, Paris 10, at two francs.)

What he experienced in Russia has convinced him that Russia is not Socialist nor heading for Socialism, but giving birth to a new régime, new classes and new forms of exploitation in place of the old. He writes (page 85):–

“. . . it is no longer a question of a Socialist régime with the defects and errors of infancy, nor of a regime of a specifically Russian nature, but of a new social system with new classes . . . There are in the U.S.S.R. privileged and exploited classes, dominant classes and subject classes. Between them the standard of living is sharply separated.

The classes of travel on the railways correspond exactly to the social classes; similarly with ships, restaurants, theatres, shops, and with houses; for one group palaces in pleasant neighbourhoods, for the others wooden barracks alongside tool stores and oily machines. .It is always the same people who live in the palaces and the same people who live in the barracks.

There is no longer private property, there is only one property – State property. But the State no more represents the whole community than under preceding régimes.”

The “new classes” Yvon sees in Russia are the so-called specialists and persons holding responsible positions, administrators, directors, and men and women in the professions.

Everything that he says is backed with detailed information. He writes of the acute housing shortage – for the workers, not for the privileged – of the penalty of ejection by the police if you are rash enough to express discontent with the Government, with, however, the benevolent provision that are immune from ejection in winter – that would mean being frozen to death.

He points out (page 7) that social divisions have become the accepted thing even in the factory canteens on working days. There are separate rooms or separate tables for the highly-paid minority. The factory staffs are graded as follows for the separate dining rooms: the factory heads, the engineers and technicians, the “shock-workers” and the rank and file. He replies to the contention that the higher prices charged in the special rooms equalise the pay of the various grades. It is true that the charge in room 1 will be from 1.2 to 1.5 roubles, while in room 4 it will be .6 to .8 of a rouble, but this difference only reflects the different quality of the meal. As Yvon dryly remarks: "It is true (in Russia) that the poor pay less, but it is quite a long time since bourgeois society adopted this same plan of a good meal costing more than a bad one."

Yvon mentions that the food of the workers is so lacking in quality and quantity that in 1931 dockers loading salt fish for abroad used to regard a broken barrel as a god-send.

Regarding the unequal rates of pay, Yvon quotes the following typical rates in Moscow in 1936:–

Industrial workers, ranging from 70 to 400 roubles a month, most of them between 125 and 200 roubles.

Domestic servants 50 to 60 plus food and lodging.

Clerical and technical staffs, 300 to 800.

Big bosses and specialists, highly-placed officials, certain professors, artists and writers, 1,500 to 10,000 and more, in some cases 20,000 to 30,000 roubles a month.

He shows how the free services (paid holidays, health services, etc.) are hedged about with conditions and granted or not according to the “pull" of the individual and the whim of those in control.

Regarding the speeding-up methods of which the Russian Government is so proud, Yvon says (page 43):–

“Soviet Russia is the country par excellence of rationalisation: all work is piecework or on the conveyor belt system. Now, as a result of stakhanovism, the piecework system, with bonuses on excess output, is being adopted generally; the famous sweating system that capitalism had not succeeded in rivetting on the workers.”

Yvon deals with many other questions, including the restrictions on the individual and on organisation, the activities of the Communist party, and on the outcome of this Bolshevist system. The class struggle continues and shows its customary forms in such conditions as exist in Russia. Thousands of workers are in prison for their resistance to the exploiting State machine which functions for the privileged minority, but discontent spreads and shows itself in spontaneous strikes and in attacks on individual members of the privileged class.

The picture Yvon draws of Russia under the Bolshevist dictatorship is a gloomy one, only relieved by the knowledge that the lessons it taught one former supporter of the Communist Party are bound to be learned in time by the Russian workers.

(Socialist Standard, June 1937)

La revolucion Rusa

The Russian Revolution

The appeal from the International Socialist Bureau on behalf of the Russian revolutionaries which we publish elsewhere, is an interesting document and, like the Revolution itself, gives a working man much food for thought. We by no means desire to dogmatise respecting the events which are now passing in Russia, the more so since reliable news from that quarter is scanty and unsatisfactory. Yet the evidence before us, the news from the seat of the revolution, and the communication we publish from the Bureau, give rise to grave misgivings.

The other great nations of Europe have long ago burst asunder the feudal bonds on industry and commerce, and the few survivals are more picturesque than effective. The aristocracy, where it has been able to continue in existence, is merged into the plutocracy and forms one compact mass against the workers. Russia, however, lags behind; and her economic backwardness is reflected in her mediaeval system of government. Hence in the other nations of Western Europe a straight fight is possible between the proletariat and the capitalist ruling class; whilst in Russia the rising capitalist class has yet its emancipation from Autocracy to accomplish: so that, in contrast with practically the whole of civilised nations, the working class and the capitalist class in Russia have, in the abolition of Tsardom’s tyranny, a step to go together. This historical circumstance, which is at once the strength and weakness of the Russian movement, distinguishes it from that of all capitalist countries.

No Socialist, therefore, can withhold his sympathy from the great struggle of the Russian people for the elements of political liberty, and all must heartily wish that the great barrier to economic and political progress, Tsardom, may be speedily broken down.

It is satisfactory to note that, in the present communication from the Bureau the idea (which was so common at an earlier period of the revolution, and which was proclaimed by many who called themselves Socialists) that out of the ruins of Tsarist Russia the Socialist Republic would arise, is absent; whilst the elements of political liberty, the creation of a Constituent Assembly, or at most the inauguration of a Russian Republic, are taken for granted as the probable outcome of the present struggle. It has been insisted upon in these columns that the Socialist Republic cannot be the outcome of the defeat of autocracy in Russia because the economic elements are lacking or insufficiently developed. As Marx said: "No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and the new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions for their existence have been matured in the womb of the old society." The industrial development of Russia is still in its infancy, and vigorous though the infant may be, the greater part of the empire is yet untrodden by it. It is indeed probable that whatever government succeeds that of the Tsar will be compelled, if only to appease the peasants - the bulk of the nation - to bring about that most reactionary of things in which the land is split up among the peasants as their private property.

But the student who watches with as little emotion as possible the flowing tide of social life, is sickened at noting for how little human suffering and human blood count in great social movements, and how often the masses of the people have been struggling and fighting for a victory the fruits of which when won are not for them; and the present case appears to be but another illustration of this sad fact. The Russian revolution is a struggle, headed at first by the capitalist middle-class, for the free and untrammelled development of capitalism; and, as in former revolutions, it is the proletariat which later forces on the hesitating bourgeoisie to the completion of their revolutionary work. The hesitancy of the capitalist class is natural under the circumstances. They have an unholy fear of the proletariat which is only a degree less than their fear of the Autocracy that is throttling them.

We have misgivings, however, that the Russian working-class movement, not fully conscious of its mission, will lose its identity in the struggle for middle-class emancipation, and be absorbed by the party of the small capitalist, so that after having been the catspaw of the middle-class, the proletariat will have to start afresh the work of educating and organising the workers for their own great battle. Nevertheless the struggle must go on, even though the spoils of victory go to the capitalist class, freed from autocratic restrictions and oppression, and the workers, who remain wage-slaves and subjected, have only started on the road to their emancipation, have only cleared away one enemy in order to have a straight fight with the other whom their victory has placed in power.

Let us then do all in our power to help our Socialist comrades in Russia in the hope that they will not be deceived as to the outcome of the present upheaval: in the hope, also, that they will sternly keep their separate identity and distinct aim, so that the Russian bourgeois State of to-morrow may find a militant class-organisation of Socialist workers heading the final struggle against the capitalist class whose defeat must herald the triumph of Humanity.

In the body of the Manifesto all Socialists are urged, innocently enough, to bring pressure to bear on their governments to prevent the lending of money "at high interest" to the Government of Russia. Our Russian comrades have an object lesson close at hand as to the value of bringing pressure to bear on a government with any other object than that of defeating it. It is to be feared that the recommendation rests on a misapprehension. If the Socialists in any country are doing their duty in waging incessant war with all their power upon the capitalist government, it should be clear that the Government, knowing that the Socialists as soon as they can defeat them will immediately do so, will pay no attention to Socialist threats and will not yield to pressure in any particular except to superior force or for their own interests, being aware that the Socialists are doing their worst all the time and can do no more. It is conceivable that the capitalist class would, in order to get the support of some or all of the Socialists, or to avoid being defeated by them, make some small effort to get that support or avoid that defeat. But a Socialist movement which supports Capitalism ceases to be Socialist. The movement which begs a crumb when it has power to take its fill is - well! words fail to describe it. The spectacle of Socialists attempting to prevent the capitalist class lending money at high interest is pitiably amusing. The capitalist class would buy shares in hell itself, if hell could pay a dividend! In this connection the only word for the Socialist to concern himself in is the taking from the capitalist class the power to lend at all.


International Socialist Bureau, "Maison du Peuple", Brussels


In spite of his given word, Nicholas II, twice perjured Tsar, has dissolved the Duma as he had violated the constitution of Finland. After having concentrated his troops in St. Petersburg and forced the deputies to disperse, he has, to draw away the attention of Europe, issued a manifesto of which each word is an untruth. He accuses the Duma of having committed illegal acts, - after having illegally imposed the fundamental laws upon it, contrary to his promises of the 30th October. He accuses it of impotence, - after having refused it any power, after having compelled it to be but a tribune, which has served, at least, to denounce the crimes of the bureaucracy. He reproaches it with having done nothing, - after having made it impossible for it to realise a single parliamentary act.

International Socialism will not lose its time in vain protestations. It is to the action of all that it once more appeals.

The new outrage of the man of the 22nd January has not at all surprised the Socialist Party and does not find it unprepared. The Duma was doomed as soon as the clique of secret councillors, the officials and Grand Dukes, saw the weakness of the majority of the assembly; and the latter, despite the efforts of the Social Democratic and Labour Groups, has followed tactics which could but weaken it.

An odiously restrictive electoral régime, administrative pressure of the most shameless kind exercised on the voting, popular suspicion keeping from the ballot boxes the few proletarians who had access to them; all this has created a fictitious majority which in no wise represented the aspirations of the majority of the country. The elected of the liberal bourgeoisie have themselves proved, by their attitude after the dissolution, that they were wrong to show themselves vacillating before the government, and hesitating before the most urgent reforms. Have they not lost the confidence of the peasants by promising only an insufficient agrarian reform, the adoption of which would not have restored the land to the people of the country districts? Have they not discontented the workmen in offering miserable palliatives to them instead of fundamental reforms? Have they not deceived all those who ardently aspired to liberty, by not knowing how to be firm and energetic respecting the amnesty, the pogroms, and the death penalty? And in spite of their repeated declamations of loyalty, the Tsar has had nothing but contempt for them. At the opening of Parliament he praised the fundamental laws before them, and, during the whole of the session, he refused them everything. At last, when by their own fault they found themselves without support and without power, they were dispersed without effort like dead leaves before the winds of Autumn.

The consequence of the coup d’état of Nicholas II will be to compel the liberal bourgeoisie to abandon the phase of speechmaking and to choose between absolutism and revolution. Compromises and delays are henceforth done with. After recent experience the most naively optimistic must be convinced that it is useless to try to conciliate contraries. The creation of a Duma without power of executive could not prevent the bureaucracy from pillaging the public treasury, from starving the peasantry, from organising with the pecuniary assistance of the occidental bourgeoisie, massacres and outrages upon the liberty of the workers.

But the revolution does not founder with the Duma. The revolution, on the contrary, enters upon a new phase, more decisive. Before putting an end to the parliamentary comedy, Nicolas II consummated the financial and economic ruin of his empire. He killed the idea of a constitutional Tsarism in the minds of the conservative classes. He opened the eyes of the peasants in refusing them the land. He rallied a portion of the navy and army to the cause of the people, who, after having ascertained the impotence of the liberal bourgeoisie, come again on the scene, grouped under the flag of Socialism. As at the beginning of the struggle it is the proletariat that leads, in the front rank, the struggle against absolutism. With the workmen of the towns, the peasants are joining, who understand better every day that only that union can give them the land, and so also are the intellectuals, more permeated with our doctrines than in any other country. Liberal bourgeoisie itself, if it will not be condemned to a radical impotency, will be, in many cases, compelled to follow the stream.

Two armies thus find themselves henceforth face to face: the army of the Tsar and the army of the people, and between the two, whose conflict is inevitable, victory will be by so much the more decisive for us as the revolution will have been better able to concentrate its forces, realise a unity of action, and utilise more abundant resources.

The revolution commenced by the strike, will, at the proper time, be pursued by the strike, by refusal of taxation and of military service, by the occupation of the lands of the crown, of the aristocracy, and of the church, by armed revolt with the aid of the soldiers and sailors whom the Socialist propaganda daily wins to the new ideas. It will be pursued without truce and without weakness until the day when Tsarism, having neither troops nor money, neither credit nor power of any sort, the people will be at last the masters of their own destinies.

The past of the Russian Socialists speaks for the future. They will know how to compel the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, and to do their duty to the end. Let us know how to do ours. We can aid in the common work by two means: BY PREVENTING THE AUTOCRACY PROCURING MONEY, - AND BY SENDING MONEY TO THE SOCIALISTS OF RUSSIA.

The radical government of France, the reactionary government of Germany, the capitalist class of all countries, have made themselves the accomplishes of the Tsar in lending him at high interest the pay of his gendarmes, of his executioners, and of his black bands. Let us bring pressure to bear on the governments to put an end to their compliance! Let is warn the possessing class that the Russian Republic of to-morrow will not pay the infamous debts which the Tsar contracts in order to hire assassins! Let us rally all useful support to the cause of Liberty to end that millions of men may be delivered from an implacable tyranny. And, if contrary to all expectation, the Holy Alliance of the international reaction attempted to intervene in the conflict to break the revolutionary effort and save the Tsarist oppression, let us know how to take the necessary measures to effectively help the people of Russia, who, united still closely in that conjuncture, would make no distinction between Tsarism, already stricken to its death, and the foreign invader, guilty of attempting to outrage the autonomy of a nation conscious of its rights. Let us give, then, and give generously! Let the accumulated pence of the poor decide the victory!


Let each Socialist, let each worker, send his mite, be it to the central organisation of his party, be it to the authorised delegates of our Russian comrades, or to the Secretariat of the International Socialist Bureau.



The Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau (Belgium).

Eduoard Anseele, Emile Vandervelde, Camille Huysmans, Secretary.

(November 1906)

Algunos aspectos sobre Rusia

Some aspects of Russia

When the Russian Revolution took place in 1917, the Socialist Party of Great Britain pointed out that it would not result in Socialism, but in a development of capitalism. We laid great emphasis on the fact that Russia, being still very backward, was not ripe for Socialism. The population of Russia was composed chiefly of peasants. How could they, illiterate and individualistic in outlook, have any understanding of Socialism, or any desire for it?

Whilst we were urging these views, other parties, claiming to represent the working class, asserted that the Bolsheviks had discovered a short cut to Socialism. They ignored the lessons of history, which show that there are no short cuts, that society passes through various phases and that none of these phases can be “jumped” in the course of society's evolution. They ignored the past failures of workers to establish Socialism by intelligent minorities. After claiming to be “Marxists”, they paid little real attention to the theories of Marx and Engels.

Alas, thanks to these parties (chiefly the Communist Party and the Independent Labour Party) a legend was created, a legend that Russia was Socialist. It was a harmful legend, too, for many workers began to imagine that they could copy the Russians, and establish Socialism with-out first having a Socialist working class.

When the .S.P.G.B. said that soon the opponents of Socialism would be pointing to Russia and telling the workers to see what evils Socialism(!) had brought, in order to make them hostile to it, the C.P. and the I.L.P. just smiled (to put it mildly) and told us to be patient. “Soon,” they said, “everything in the garden will be lovely.2

Unfortunately for these optimists, every so often facts about Russia are published, which prove the S.P.G.B.'s case up to the hilt.

Recently the French writer, André Gide, has written a book, Retour de l'U.R.S.S (“Return from Russia,” by André Gide; pp. 152; 6 francs; published by Gallimard), after a visit to Russia. This book is the more significant because its author has, on several occasions in the past few years, announced his sympathy and admiration for Russia.

Now, however, Gide shows himself to be disappointed with the state of affairs there. This disappointment is largely due to his having been misled by Communists into believing that Russia is the fatherland of Socialism. Even after his visit, he writes: “The exploitation of a large number for the profit of a few no longer exists in Russia” (p.46). Thus he expected to find poverty abolished from the land and was shocked to find it so rampant (p.65). We told the Communists long ago that disillusionment would be the effect of their extravagant propaganda!

Gide observes that, even now, twenty years after the Revolution, the problem of production has not been solved, and he thinks that, for a long time to come, the supply of goods will not satisfy the demands (p.38). Hence the necessity imposed on the Russian State of paying attention to quantity at the expense of quality (p.39).

Social contrasts are easily seen in Russia, and Gide fears that these contrasts will grow more pronounced as time goes on, especially as these tendencies are encouraged by the State.

“I fear,” he writes on pp. 62-4, “that soon a new kind of ‘working-bourgeoisie,' satisfied (and indeed even conservative), will be formed, too much like our own class of small capitalists. Everywhere I see symptoms of this.” And again: “I am greatly disturbed to see in the Russia of to-day these capitalistic instincts indirectly flattered and encouraged by recent laws.” (Gide refers to such laws as those authorising the possession of private property) legacies, etc.)

Gide gives us a picture of the social differences one sees next door to each other. He describes (p.60) the Hotel of Sinop, near Soukhoum, where everything is up-to-date. Each room has its bathroom attached, its own terrace and furniture of perfect taste. The food is supplied from an up-to-date farm, where one must sterilise one's shoes before entering. Yet, separated by a stream from all this luxury, are houses where poorly paid workers live. Here four share one room less than nine feet by seven, and they are compelled, through poverty, to live on bread and dried fish.

In the Appendix (p.118) Gide gives us some idea of the vast differences in wages that prevail on the collective farms (Kolkhoses). Here he says: “These privileged persons can earn 600 roubles a month.” The “qualified” workmen receive very often much more. For the “non-qualified workers, who form the immense majority, the daily salary is from five to six roubles. The simple workman earns still less.”

Gide describes also the scorn or indifference that the relatively rich show towards their “inferiors”, and the servility of poor work-people towards their “superiors”. No equality here!

The ruling clique in Russia pursues a policy similar to that of all ruling classes. It tries to keep the poor quiet by persuading them that they are as happy as they can be till better times come, and that they are more happy than people in other countries (pp.50-2) “The citizen of Russia is extraordinarily ignorant of other countries. More than that, he has been made to believe that everything abroad goes on less well in every respect than in Russia. This illusion is skilfully upheld” (p.52).

All criticism in Russia is confined to deciding whether or not theories or things are orthodox. Anyone who expresses views differing from those held by officials is considered a Trotskyist. “To-day,” says Gide, “it is a spirit of submission, orthodoxy, that is demanded. All those who do not declare themselves satisfied are considered ‘Trotskyists’”(p.76). Woe betide those people who cannot hold their tongues, or who cannot always raise a cheer! “What is desired and what is demanded is applause for everything that is done in Russia . . . The least protest, the least criticism is punishable by the severest penalties” (p.67).

Other interesting things in this book could be dealt with (e.g., the “deification” of Stalin, the influence of the official newspapers on the minds of the people); but enough has been said to show that, for one admirer who went to see Russia, it is a capitalist state with wide contrasts in economic and social status, and that the ruling clique maintains its power by ruthless suppression of criticism.

With Gide, however, we agree that social contrasts in Russia will become more evident as time goes on. Then the masses will become impatient and criticism will spring up on every side. May this criticism be directed, not so much against persons, as against the exploiting nature of capitalism!

(Socialist Standard, December 1937)

La naturaleza de clase, del capitalismo de estado Ruso

The nature of Russian state capitalism

A few months before the outbreak of the Second World War was published in Paris, in an edition of 500, a book entitled La bureaucratisation du monde. Its author was Bruno Rizzi (who identified himself simply as "Bruno R."), an Italian travelling salesman who had come to Paris from Milan in 1938. Rizzi had at one time been a member of the Italian Communist Party and was a Trotskyist sympathiser without ever being a member of any Trotskyist organisation.

This book, despite being frequently referred to in all Marxist discussions on the nature of Russian society, has only just become available in English with the publication of a translation of its first part under the title The Bureaucratisation of the World. The USSR: Bureaucratic Collectivism, with a useful and informative introduction by Adam Westoby (Tavistock Publications, £9.95).

The book’s main theme was that capitalism was being replaced throughout the world by a new social system called "bureaucratic collectivism". This was, like capitalism, a class-divided society based on the exploitation of the producers but one in which the capitalists had been replaced as the exploiting class by a bureaucracy which collectively owned the means of production through the State. Thus Rizzi argued:

“Class ownership, which in Russia is a fact, is quite certainly not registered with notaries, nor in the most detailed of surveys. The new exploiting Soviet class had no need of such things. It holds state power and that is worth much more than the old records of the bourgeoisie. It guards its property with machine guns, with which its all-powerful oppressive apparatus is well supplied, and not with legal scribblings” (p.64).

“In the USSR, in our view, it is the bureaucrats who are the owners, for it is they who hold power in their hands. It is they who manage the economy, just as was normal with the bourgeoisie. It is they who take the profits, just as do all exploiting classes, who fix wages and prices. I repeat – it is the bureaucrats. The workers count for nothing in the governing of society. And what is still worse, they have nothing to do with the defence of this peculiar nationalised property. Russian workers are still exploited, and it is the bureaucrats who exploit them” (p.69).

“In Soviet society the exploiters do not appropriate surplus value directly, as the capitalist pockets the dividends from his enterprise, they do it indirectly, through the state, which appropriates the whole national surplus value and then distributes it amongst its own functionaries. A good part of the bureaucracy, that is to say technicians, directors, specialists, stakhanovites, profiteers, etc is authorised, in one way or another, to exact its high salaries directly within the enterprises they control. Over and above this they also enjoy, as do all bureaucrats, state services, provided out of surplus value, and in the USSR these services are both numerous and important, as befits the pattern of ‘socialist’ life” (p.75).

The transition to Bureaucratic Collectivism, said Rizzi, had been completed in Russia, was well on the way to completion in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and had also begun in the old capitalist democracies with measures such as the New Deal in America.

A copy of the book was sent to Trotsky in Mexico. What interested him was not so much the characterisation of Russia as a new class society – which he did not accept since he always considered Russia to be a “Workers’ State”, a degenerate one, but a “Workers’ State” nevertheless – as Rizzi’s analysis of what might happen if, with capitalism in decay, the working class should fail to establish socialism. Trotsky regarded such a failure as a remote theoretical possibility only, but conceded that, in that event, the Trotskyist movement would have to revise its political perspectives because it would be faced with the prospect of defunct capitalism being replaced by the new bureaucratic class society described by Rizzi. As the working class did fail to establish socialism after the Second World War Trotsky was committed to revising his analysis of, among other things, Russia and it can be plausibly argued that, had he not been murdered by Stalin’s agents in 1940, he would have come to regard Russia as “bureaucratic collectivism”.

The idea that Russia under Stalin was pro-working class was so patently absurd that, towards the end of the Thirties, it began to be challenged even within the Trotskyist movement. In France Yvan Craipeau suggested that Russia might be some new class society with the bureaucracy as the collective owning and exploiting class. In America James Burnham argued that, although Russia was not capitalist, it could not be described as a “Workers’ State” either. Rizzi followed, and took part in the French Trotskyists’ discussion of this issue and clearly derived many of his ideas and arguments from it.

The discussion was particularly acrimonious in the American Trotskyist Party where it came to a head over the related issue of “unconditional defence of the USSR” (which is of course a logical consequence of attributing some working class character to the Russian State). Burnham, Max Schachtman and the others who rejected this slogan were, with Trotsky’s approval, expelled from the Trotskyist movement in 1940.

Burnham, disillusioned with Trotskyism, went on to write his best-seller The Managerial Revolution, which first appeared in 1941, where he argued that the capitalists were everywhere being replaced as the ruling class by the managers. Schachtman and his supporters, on the other hand, continued to regard themselves as Trotskyists and founded a new organisation, the Workers’ Party, which, despite a minority led by Raya Dunayevskaya and C.L.R. James which came to regard Russia as state capitalist, adopted as its official policy the view that what existed in Russia was neither capitalism nor socialism, but bureaucratic collectivism. The Workers’ Party, which later changed its name to the Independent Socialist League, continued to exist as an independent organisation committed to the bureaucratic analysis of Russia until 1958.

Many have claimed that Burnham plagiarised Rizzi, a view endorsed by Rizzi himself. Certainly Burnham, like Rizzi, saw the world, led by Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, evolving towards a new class society based on State ownership where the workers exploited by a class which owned and controlled the production. On the other hand, evidence that Burnham ever read La bureaucratisation du monde; he may have done in the unlikely event of Trotsky having lent him his copy, but it is much more probable that he learned of Rizzi’s theory through the references to it in Trotsky’s articles and letters.

Trotsky, we have noted, had dealt with the theoretical possibility of what might happen if, with capitalism in decay, the working class failed to establish and had conceded that Rizzi would be right: the world would be heading towards Bureaucratic Collectivism. Burnham, who in his disillusionment had come to the working class as incapable of establishing socialism, merely drew a logical conclusion from Trotsky’s admission: the world was heading towards a new class society based on State ownership of the means of production.

Burnham, however, called this new society “managerial society” and not “bureaucratic collectivism”. This is significant and a reason for concluding that Burnham did not simply plagiarise Rizzi. For Burnham rejected the term “bureaucratic collectivism” precisely because he held that the new ruling class would not be the political bureaucrats but rather the industrial managers, who were directly involved in production. In the final chapter of his book he distinguished his theory from what he called “the similar theory of the bureaucratic revolution”, a reference to theories such as Rizzi’s. Further, Burnham had suggested that Russia might be some sort of “non- bourgeois, non-proletarian State” before Rizzi wrote his book. For he is the B of the “Comrades B and C” referred to by Rizzi at the beginning of Chapter II.

There is another important difference between the theories of Burnham and Rizzi, At the end of Chapter VII, Rizzi suggests that the orthodox Trotskyists should drink the cup of bitterness to the last dregs and recognise that Stalinist Russia was not a “Workers’ State”. But he did not himself drink the cup to the last dreg since he continued to regard the Russian revolution as a proletarian one. Burnham, on the other hand, had no hesitation in declaring: “The Russian revolution was not a socialist revolution . . . but a managerial revolution” (The Managerial Revolution, 1945, p,185).

This is a much more logical position for those who hold Russia to be a class society (whether managerial, bureaucratic collectivist or state capitalist) to adopt – and much more in accord with the Marxist method of judging historical events by their practical outcome instead of by what their participants said they were doing – since it makes the revolution which overthrew the old ruling class part of the process of the rise of the new ruling class.

Rizzi could have made a better case for having been plagiarised by Schachtman who adopted his view of Russia, including the name “bureaucratic collectivism”, unchanged. But then Schachtman did not agree that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were bureaucratic collectivist or that the whole world was evolving in such a direction.

The fact is that Rizzi, Burnham, Schachtman, Dunayevskaya, James and the others drew their ideas from a common pool provided by the discussion in the Trotskyist movement on “the nature of the Soviet State”. In this discussion all sorts of ideas were put forward even if only to be rejected by those who brought them up: that the bureaucracy was a class; that Russia was state capitalist; that a class could own without legal property titles; that Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany had the same social system . . . In these circumstances it is quite out of place for one of the participants to claim that he was plagiarised by another. Rizzi can however be allowed to regard himself as the originator of the term “bureaucratic collectivism”.

In any event, “the theory of the bureaucratic revolution” was proved wrong. It is now more than a generation since both Rizzi’s and Burnham’s books were written, but the capitalist class in the West are as firmly established as ever and show no signs of being ousted by industrial managers or a political bureaucracy. Certainly the Russian system has spread to Eastern Europe and China and to a number of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but the question here is whether the system in Russia can really be regarded as a new, non-capitalist exploiting society.

It is true that in Russia the exploiting class collectively own the means of production and do not have legal property titles to it, and in this respect they do differ from the capitalist class of the West. But, to use a phrase of Marx’s which comes up in Rizzi’s book, this does not necessarily mean that “the specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labour is pumped out of the direct producers” is different. In fact it is basically the same: the producers are separated from the means of production and, in order to live, are forced to sell their labour-power for a wage or salary. In the course of their work they create, over and above the value of their labour power, a surplus value which is realised when the commodities in which it is embodied are sold. Thus in Russia, as in the West, the working class are exploited through the wages system. All the other features and categories of capitalism also exist in Russia: commodity production, value, profits, capital accumulation, and so on. The difference – in the form of ownership but not of exploitation – between Russia and capitalism in the West is best indicated by referring to Russia as State capitalism.

That there is, and has been, a continuous trend towards state capitalism all over the world is undeniable. This has taken place not only in the underdeveloped countries where various groups controlling State power (army officers, party leaders, nationalist intellectuals) have substituted themselves for weak or non-existent private capitalists in the process of primitive capital accumulation (as, indeed, the Bolsheviks had been forced to do in Russia). It has also taken place in the developed capitalist countries where the State has more and more intervened to organise national capital for the struggle for a share of the world market. In this sense Rizzi and Burnham did correctly identify a trend, but they analysed it wrongly. What they saw as a struggle between the old capitalist class and a “new class” was in fact the continuation of the tendency seen by Marx towards the centralisation of production under capitalism, a tendency which makes the private capitalist more and more obviously superfluous.

Supporters and opponents alike often mistakenly analyse this tendency towards state capitalism as socialist. Indeed, as a result of years of misuse the word “socialism” has now virtually come to mean “state capitalism” for most people. But socialism must be clearly distinguished from State capitalism otherwise the working class will be intervening on the political scene only to support State capital against private capital, just as in the last century they intervened to support the industrial capitalists against the landed aristocracy. Socialism means a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by and in the interests of society as a whole. While State capitalism retains all the features and categories of the capitalist economy – the wages system, commodity production, profits, money, banks socialism abolishes them. Socialism is opposed to both private and State capitalism and alone is in the interests of the working class.

(Socialist Standard, From November 1985)

Rusia nunca fue socialista, porque, y lo que dijimos por muchos anos


What We Said Over The Years


When we are told that Socialism has been obtained in Russia without the long, hard and tedious work of educating the mass of workers in Socialism we not only deny it but refer our critics to Lenin's own confessions. His statements prove that even though a vigorous and small minority may be able to seize power for a time, they can only hold it by modifying their plans to suit the ignorant majority. The minority in power in an economically backward country are forced to adapt their programme to the undeveloped conditions and make continual concessions to the capitalist world around them. Offers to pay war debts to the Allies, to establish a Constituent Assembly, to compensate capitalists for losses, to cease propaganda in other countries, and to grant exploitation rights throughout Russia to the Western capitalists all show how far along the capitalist road they have had to travel and how badly they need the economic help of other countries. It shows above all that their loud and defiant challenge to the capitalist world has been silenced by their own internal and external weaknesses as we have so often predicted in these pages.

( . . .)

We have often stated that because of a large anti-Socialist peasantry and vast untrained population, Russia was a long way from Socialism. Lenin has now to admit this by saying: 'Reality says that State Capitalism would be a step forward for us; if we were able to bring about State Capitalism in a short time it would be a victory for us. How could they be so blind as not to see that our enemy is the small capitalist, the small owner? How could they see the chief enemy in State Capitalism? In the transition from Capitalism to Socialism our chief enemy is the small bourgeoisie, with its economic customs, habits and positions' (The Chief Tasks of Our Times, p. 11).

(. . .)

Here we have plain admissions of the unripeness of the great mass of Russian people for Socialism and the small scale of Russian production.

If we are to copy Bolshevik policy in other countries we should have to demand State Capitalism, which is not a step to Socialism in advanced capitalist countries. The fact remains, as Lenin is driven to confess, that we do not have to learn from Russia, but Russia has to learn from lands where large scale production is dominant.

(. . .)

That Socialism can only be reached through State Capitalism is untrue. Socialism depends upon large-scale production, whether organised by Trusts or Governments. State Capitalism may be the method used in Russia, but only because the Bolshevik Government find their theories of doing without capitalist development unworkable --hence they are forced to retreat along the capitalist road.

--"A Socialist View of Bolshevist Policy", Socialist Standard, July 1920.

* * * * *

We have always contended that the Bolsheviks could only maintain power by resorting to capitalist devices. History has shown us to be correct. The January 1920 Congress of Executive Communists in Russia abolished the power of workers' control in factories and installed officials instructed by Moscow and given controlling influence. Their resolutions printed in most of the Labour papers and the Manchester Guardian here show how economic backwardness has produced industrial conscription with heavy penalties for unpunctuality, etc. The abolition of democracy in the army was decreed long ago, but now that the army is being converted by Trotsky into a labour army it means rule from the top with an iron hand.

Russia has agreed to repay foreign property-owners their losses and allied Governments their 'debts'. This means continued exploitation of Russian workers to pay foreign exploiters.

With all the enthusiasm of the Communists they find themselves faced with the actual conditions in Russia and the ignorance of the greater part of its population.

There is no easier road to Socialism than the education of the workers in Socialism and their organisation to establish it by democratic methods. Russia has to learn that.

--"The Super-Opportunists. A Criticism of Bolshevist Policy", Socialist Standard, August 1920.

* * * * *


The Bolsheviks will probably remain in control for the simple reason that there is no one in Russia capable of taking their place. It will be a question largely as to whether they will be able to stand the strain, for the task is a heavy one, and they are by no means overcrowded with capable men. But this control will actually resolve itself into control for, and in the interests of, the Capitalists who are willing to take up the development of raw materials and industry in Russia. The New Economic Policy points the way.

--"The Passing of Lenin", Socialist Standard, March 1924.

* * * * *


Trotsky presents a long list of remedies which serve only to confirm what we have always said as to the necessity for Russia to go through capitalism. Trotsky does not admit this in so many words. In fact, he vigorously denounces Stalin's 'capitalist tendencies'. But when we examine his programme we find that it is all based implicitly on the continuance of capitalism in Russia until such time as a developed capitalist industry and a Socialist revolution outside Russia make Socialism possible.

Most of his proposals might have been lifted out of the programme of any trade union in Germany or England: 'Equal pay for equal work', less overtime; more unemployment pay; no more Government faking of labour and industrial statistics; retail prices to be brought down to the world price level; no profiteering by capitalist middlemen; no increase in the rents of working class houses; every effort to be made to lower the cost of production in order to promote the growth of industry; more taxes on rich peasants; abolition of the State sale of Vodka, etc. A long programme of reforms, but no mention of the abolition of capitalist farming, capitalist trading and capitalist investment. Both Trotsky and Stalin draw up their programmes within the framework of state and private capitalism which prevails in Russia.

--"Trotsky States His Case", Socialist Standard, December 1928.

* * * * *


The facts given in this Year-Book sufficiently illustrate how illusory the communist dreams have been. Like many pious hopes embodied in the official documents and constitutions of the rest of the capitalist world these phrases have no relation whatever to the actual facts. Russian capitalism, although administered by the Communist Party, reproduces almost down to the last detail the paraphernalia of the capitalist world as we know it here.

The lesson of this is the one we have tried to drive home for so many years, that it is not possible for a minority to impose Socialism upon a majority who are hostile or indifferent; nor is it possible to remedy backward economic development by means of fine-sounding but ineffective decrees, issued by dictators.

--"Russia: Land of High Profits (review of Soviet Union Year-Book 1930), Socialist Standard, September 1930.

* * * * *


As Russia has not established Socialism and is not doing so in spite of the repeated statements of Communists, it has to carry on its work and build up its industries on lines similar to normal capitalist countries; it must therefore enter into normal trade relations with the rest of the world, and it does so.

(. . .)

When, in 1924, the Bolsheviks decided to throw overboard the 'world revolution' (except as a mere phrase to give lip-service to) and to concentrate on building up the internal resources of the country on the plea that they were building up Socialism in a single country (a complete reversal of their former views), the Communists of the world, who take their policy from Moscow, have simply been used to help on this object.

The foreign policy of Russia is aimed at living more or less amicably with the rest of the capitalist world, and they can only do this because they are building as the capitalists do.

Socialism is a system diametrically opposed to capitalism and impossible in a predominantly capitalist world. It is impossible in one country alone, owing to international economic interdependence. It is international not national.

The extravagant claims held out of the success of Socialism in Russia have one by one been proved by time to be groundless and Russia is rapidly approaching the stage of taking its place as a first-class capitalist power.

--"Changing Russia", Socialist Standard, September 1934.

* * * * *


Russia is not a Socialist country --its low industrial productivity and the non-Socialist outlook of the vast majority of its population do not bring such a thing within the realms of present possibility. It is based on various forms of State capitalism. Goods are produced, not for use only, but for sale at a profit. Industry is carried on largely on lines familiar to us in the Post office and other State-capitalist organisations outside Russia. The Russian Government borrows from investors (mostly Russian citizens) hundreds of millions of pounds for investment in industry, and pays them a high rate of interest on their investments; this payment to the investors being the first charge on industry. Inside the industries there are the same kind of gradations of pay as in capitalist industry generally from the mass of workers on or about the bare subsistence level at the bottom up through numerous grades to the very favoured few at the top who can enjoy the most pleasant and interesting work and live on a high standard of comfort and luxury.

--"The New Russian Constitution", Socialist Standard, January 1937.

* * * * *


Certainly Russia has its privileged section of the population and they will buy (because they can afford to do so) the bulk of the luxury articles which the average worker cannot afford. These privileged people are the party officials, technical experts, writers, doctors, lawyers, etc. Some of these people receive incomes a hundred times bigger than that of the average worker. With the legality of inheritance in force, accumulation of wealth is today bound to be taking place in Russia among the wealthy. They are the exploiters, and the Dean is wrong when he says (p. 282) 'exploitation of man by man is entirely abolished'. They can obtain their big incomes only out of the wealth produced by the workers.

--"Is Russia Socialist?" (review of The Socialist Sixth of the World by Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury), Socialist Standard, July 1943.

* * * * *


The reader of these reprinted articles will have seen that the attitude of the SPGB has been consistent from the start of the Bolshevik regime. We said then as we say now, that it is impossible for Socialism to be imposed from above even if the minority who hold power genuinely have that as their object.

The articles are important also to help to combat the efforts of various political groups which seek to discredit the Socialist movement by holding up Russia as a proof of the impossibility of abolishing capitalism. It is not true that Marxian Socialists at first approved of the Bolshevik dictatorship and Bolshevik policy and only later discovered that Socialism would not be the outcome. As these articles prove, the SPGB foresaw from the first that the attempt must fail.

Nor is it correct that the failure in Russia has been the failure of the men in control --though dictatorship inevitably corrupts those who wield it-- it has been the failure of the whole mistaken policy of the Bolsheviks. Had Lenin lived or Stalin died the result would not have been appreciably different.

--Postscript to Russia Since 1917 pamphlet, 1948.

* * * * *


The 1917 Revolution overthrew Tsarist Absolutism and allowed nascent capitalist industry to develop more freely and rapidly, but only at the expense of submitting the country to a more barbarous absolutism, the Stalinist regime. Now this absolutism has in its turn become a fetter on capitalist expansion and is being cast aside.

(. . .)

Russia now has the productive forces of a developed capitalist country yet still the political regime of a developing country. This contradiction shows itself in the disagreement between the liberal and conservative elements in Russia, in the campaign against police excesses, in the demand for more freedom of expression in poetry and art, in the Liberman controversy and in anti-Stalinism. Russian industry has developed to such a stage that political and other changes are required before it can develop further. Once liberalisation has triumphed in Russia, as it will, the capitalist character of Russian industry will have become more obvious. Russia will lose its attraction in 'left-wing' circles. History, by destroying the illusion that Russia is Socialist, will once again have done our work for us.

--"Changing Russia", Socialist Standard, August 1963.

* * * * *


The social system in Russia can be described as capitalist since the essential features of capitalism predominate: class monopoly of the means of production, commodity production, wage-labour and capital accumulation. (. . .)

A class is made up of people who are in the same position with regard to the ownership and use of the means of wealth-production and distribution. One class has a monopoly over these means of production if the rest of society are allowed access to them only on terms imposed by the group in control. This monopoly does not have to be legally recognised though in fact, as in Britain, this is generally so. Here the privileged minority, the capitalist class, have titles backed by law to the wealth they own. In Russia the ownership of the privileged minority is generally not given formal legal backing, but, as in Britain, they maintain their monopoly through control over the machinery of government. They occupy the top posts in the party, government, industry and the armed forces. Their ownership of the means of production is not individual but collective: they own as a class. Historically this is not a new development as is shown by the position of the Catholic church in feudal times. The privileged class in Russia draw their 'property income' in the form of bloated salaries, bonuses, large monetary 'prizes' awarded by the government, and other perks attaching to the top posts.

--from chapter "Capitalism in Russia" in pamphlet Russia 1917-1967, 1967.

* * * * *


If it is implemented --and it remains to be seen whether or not this reform will suffer the fate of previous ones-- perestroika will represent a fundamental change in the form of capitalism that has existed in Russia until now. It will represent a transition from centrally planned commodity-production and exchange to a more competitive system in which the competing units would be, as in the West, legally and economically autonomous enterprises. The economic laws of capitalism will come to operate in Russia through competition rather than through the State which (. . .) has proved to be an inadequate substitute.

--"Where Is Russia Going,", Socialist Standard, September 1988.

* * * * *


It is the longer-term implications of the decision to abandon the Leninist principle of one-party dictatorship that could prove to be the most significant though, as this could herald a change in the way the means of production are monopolised in Russia with the ruling class there changing itself from a class of collective owners into a class of individual owners as in the West.

(. . .)

The transformation of the Russian ruling class from a collectively-owning state bureaucracy into a class of private capitalists with private property rights vested in them as individuals certainly won't take the form of the present members of the nomenklatura abdicating and handing over their power and privileges to the small group of privately-owning capitalists who have always led a precarious existence on the margins of the Russian state-capitalist economy. Nor would it need to take the crude form of them simply dividing up the presently state-owned industries amongst themselves. It would be more likely to take the form of the Russian government gradually introducing more and more opportunities for private capitalist investment --which only those who have already accumulated wealth would be able to take advantage of. Most of these will inevitably be individual members of the nomenklatura as the group which for years has enjoyed bloated salaries, cash prizes and opportunities to speculate on the black market (. . .).

Gorbachev (. . .) realises that it is now no longer possible for the nomenklatura to rule in the old way and that some sort of flexibility is called for, if only to be able to push through perestroika without provoking a workers' revolt. He probably isn't consciously working towards ushering in a Russia where the nomenklatura has disappeared as such and has succeeded in converting itself into a class of Western-type privately-owning capitalists, but it is in this direction that his reforms can now be seen to be leading.

--"Russia and Private Property", Socialist Standard, April 1990.

(November 1997)