Source: Socialist Appeal, no. 32 (October 1946)
Transcription: Francesco 2008
Markup: Manuel 2008
In the last few weeks, news [has reached] us of the new wave of purges in Russia which is affecting all strata of the lower [layers] of the bureaucracy. Managers in industry are being dismissed and replaced in thousands on charges of graft and corruption, bureaucratism, incompetence, swindling and misuse of funds of the state.
In agriculture the collective farms are being purged. And a tremendous campaign against “ideological” backsliding in a capitalist and nationalist direction in literature, the arts, the press, cinema, science, the schools, the army, has been begun at a signal from the Kremlin.
These convulsions have shaken the political superstructure in the Soviet Union. They are a reflection of the discontent of the population after the great efforts and exertions of the masses during the war. The Soviet population put up with greater hardships and endured greater privations than any of the other main belligerents. Now, after the war is over they see that the bureaucrats still intend to maintain their inflated standards of life, while the Soviet peoples continue to exist on a level of hunger and privation not much higher than their incredibly low standards during the war. The corruption and degeneracy of the officials with whom the masses come in contact—that is, the lower ranks of the bureaucracy who ape their superiors in the hierarchy of officialdom right up to the Kremlin bosses—arouses their disgust and antagonism.
Stalin and his bureaucratic clique are, to a certain extent, leaning on the masses in order to restore the pre-war equilibrium within the bureaucracy. The usual Stalinist method is being employed: making scapegoats of the lower ranks for carrying out a policy decided by the Kremlin. The nationalistic and middle class ideology put forward during the war, glorifying the Czarist past of Russia and deifying such oppressors of the Russian people as Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, of such Czarist hangmen as the Generals Kutuzov and Suvurov, this chauvinist ideology was ordered and encouraged by the Kremlin in order to serve the needs and interests of the bureaucracy itself.
But while the masses could be reconciled to such chauvinistic and racial outpourings about the superiority of the Slavs at a time when they were directly menaced by the threats of German Fascism, they could not be inspired to make further sacrifices for the Five Year Plan under this banner once peace had been restored. The fruit of victory for the workers in Russia has been the perspective of harder and harder toil under the regime of Stalin for the indefinite future, in order to rebuild and expand the power and industry of the Soviet Union. Thus, in the endeavour to reconcile the workers and peasants to this, the bureaucracy has had to resurrect phrases about Socialism and the society of the future. This also serves to lull the workers abroad, who have become alarmed at the inequalities and sumptuous standards of the bureaucracy, and by the iron dictatorial regime established by Stalinism. But in reality nothing fundamental is changed. Only a different varnish is used.
A few quotations will illustrate the process taking place. The foreign press reports “Drastic purges” in the Communist Party of the Ukraine for “failure to make careful selections of party and administrative personnel, a prevalence of ‘bourgeois-nationalist ideology’ among the intelligentsia and widespread bribery.”
According to Bolshevik the “theoretical” journal of the Russian C.P., the Stalinogorsk Coal Trust “never fulfilled its plan,” but simply inflated its figures to make up monthly quotas, e.g. reported a daily production of 544 tons when the real production was only 150 tons. (Quoted from Time Magazine Sept. 9th).
Le Monde reports on September 13th, that Gorechenine, Soviet Attorney-General, has started investigations, and Pravda comments: “The Party must play a preponderant role in the re-establishment of national discipline.”
The Union of Writers of the U.S.S.R. has expelled the novelist Mikhail Zoschenko and poetess Anna Ahkmatova, on charges of “apoliticalism”. The Central Committee has attacked the entire cinema industry, particularly singling out the Cinema Minister Bolchakov and Eisenstein, world-famous producer. The Arts Committee which produced Soviet plays is accused “of having tried to poison the consciousness of Soviet citizens with an ideology hostile to Soviet society, to revive the residues of capitalism in people’s minds and customs.”
The purge has been very extensive in agriculture. The Times of September 24th, reports a Decree of the Council of Ministers and of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union, signed by Stalin and Zhdanov jointly:
“The decree calls attention to the inflation of the managerial staff to the detriment of the collective farms’ distributable income; to misappropriation of public lands on a mass scale through the extension of private allotments beyond the legal limit and the allocation of common land to various local organizations; to the pilfering of collective farm property by local State and party officials, some of whom, it is stated, are dipping their hands into collective property as if it were in their own pockets; and, finally to slackness on many farms in holding general meetings and electing leaders, a habit which is debarring workers from taking part in the farms’ affairs.
“The decree calls for a decisive end to these violations of the collective farm charter and threatens offenders with prosecution under the criminal code. It demands an immediate correction of abuses, including the expulsion from the collective farms of all ‘drones’ who fail to contribute a minimum quota of labour, and, by cancelling a war-time measure, it brings to an end the practice by which local authorities are empowered to take over common land for their own subsidiary enterprises.”
This indicates how far the collective farms had disintegrated under the pressure of the war, the destruction of tractors and other agricultural implements, the destruction on the land and the transforming of industry into producing almost entirely war material. Under these conditions having to fall back on old primitive methods and the individual plough, individualistic and small capitalist tendencies were inevitably produced. More and more the most energetic and grasping of the peasants began to seize tracts of land from the collective and operate them as their own individual property. The manager-bureaucrats on the land, in return for bribes, turned a blind eye upon this development and many participated in it themselves.
But the bureaucracy does not desire to share power with such elements. Moreover, individual production is very uneconomic in comparison with giant collective farms. The moment that the bureaucracy were in a position to do so, they have turned upon the neo-kulaks. They were compelled to turn a blind eye while industry was not producing sufficient tractors to serve the needs of the collective farms. With the restoration of a certain measure of production, of tractors combines and other mechanical agricultural implements, they have launched a new campaign to restore the collective farms. All petty capitalist tendencies within agriculture (it has not assumed any great importance for industry) are to be ruthlessly crushed, as they were during the purge in agriculture during the first Five Year Plan. And in this, undoubtedly the bureaucracy will gain the support of the big majority of the workers and peasants.
But this does not mean that capitalist tendencies will be eliminated or curtailed. On the contrary they will receive an impetus during the new Five Year Plan, but in a different direction. Far from moving in a Socialist direction: towards greater and greater equality and the abolition of privilege for the favoured officialdom: this is to be increased during the next few years.
As Lenin ceaselessly hammered, differences of this character are capitalist differences which have nothing in common with Socialism. Yet Labour Research controlled by the Communist Party, blatantly declares in its issue of July, 1946:
“Certain developments in Soviet organisation apparent before the war are emphasised in this plan. Wage differentiation, a stimulus to efficiency and exhibition of skill, is to increase within each industry… There is greater cash stimulus for good work by technicians and organisers.”
The sharpness of the measures in the Soviet Union demonstrate that even under the totalitarian regime of Stalin the class struggle still goes on. The discontent of the masses, particularly the soldiers, who have seen the lies and propaganda of the bureaucracy exposed by the fact that the standard of living in the countries they have invaded is higher than that in the Soviet Union; the shortages and hunger, the further sacrifices for the building up of industry while the difference between the masses and the bureaucrats becomes greater and greater, produces a mood of bitterness and antagonism among the workers and peasants. The repercussions of this social antagonism will have great consequences in the long run. But meanwhile, the Stalinist regime will survive the immediate crisis, and far from weakening the bureaucracy will strengthen the hold which it has over the country temporarily. The masses do not see any alternative in Russia at the present time, and are fearful of intervention from the capitalist states in the West.
The Soviet economy will make giant strides despite the abuses of the bureaucracy, because of the superiority of state ownership and planned economy in comparison with the private ownership of capitalist countries. Consequently, these measures taken to eliminate private ownership on the land, and the weeding out of certain inefficiencies in production will assist the bureaucracy in overcoming the difficulties inherited by the war and the excesses of the bureaucracy itself.
But even great economic advances cannot solve the problems of the Soviet Union. The menace of the capitalist differentiation within Soviet society; the uncontrolled domination over the lives and destiny of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. by the despotism of the Kremlin: the bureaucratic graft and privileges; these arise out of the Stalinist system and will still remain. This is not socialism. Only by the overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy and the restoration of control by the workers within the Soviet Union, will these capitalistic tendencies be curtailed and eliminated. But in this task the workers will require the assistance and support of the international working class.
The real dilemma of the Bureaucracy and their method of overcoming it, is indicated by the new position now outlined by Stalin in his interview with Alexander Werth the correspondent of the Sunday Times. In a series of questions obviously arranged by Stalin himself, he asked:
“Do you believe that with the further progress of the Soviet Union towards Communism the possibilities of peaceful co-operation with the outside world will not decrease as far as the Soviet Union is concerned? Is ‘Communism in one Country’ possible?”
“I do not doubt that the possibilities of peaceful co-operation far from decreasing may even grow. ‘Communism in one country’ is perfectly possible, especially in a country like the Soviet Union.”
This is a complete revision not only of Leninism, but the position held by the Stalinists in the past. Stalin put forward the theory of “Socialism in one Country” as the way out in his Foundations of Leninism for the first time in 1924, throwing overboard all that Marx and Lenin, and what he himself had put forward in the past.
Now, according to Stalin, not Socialism, Communism can be achieved in a single country. This conception has a dual purpose. On the one hand it is intended as a re-assurance to Anglo-American Imperialism that the Soviet Bureaucracy has not gone back to the programme of “Trotskyism”, and does not threaten the overthrow of world imperialism but still wishes to compromise with it and is still opposed to the proletarian revolution in the West. At the same time, it reassures the Imperialists that the attacks on capitalism and the re-furbished phrases about Socialism are only intended to fool the world and Russian working class. On the other hand, simultaneously, a new means of reconciling the Russian masses to their lot can be accomplished by this method.
The fiction that socialism has been achieved in Russia sounds very hollow to the overburdened Russian masses. Consequently, Stalin and the bureaucracy must hold out some other perspective for the future. Having abandoned the perspective of world revolution, the Stalinists cannot hold out any hopes to the Russian masses of revolution in the West to come to their aid and assist in building a new world for all. Stalin must develop “Communism” as the perspective before the Soviet masses in order to try and get them to accept new sacrifices and new burdens after the uninterrupted efforts and exertions of the last two decades.
But the workers of the West, and the Russian workers, will have the last say. For there is no solution other than world communism. Without aid from the workers of other lands, without the extension of the October Revolution, Russia cannot achieve a socialist system of society in isolation. That is what Marx taught. That is what Lenin taught. That is what the Trotskyists teach.