The Celia Hart Controversy - Stalinism or Leninism? Part Two

In Part Two of this article we deal with the statements of G. Zyuganov published in Rebelion under the title Stalin y el Partido Comunista Ruso hoy (Stalin and the Russian Communist Party today). Zyuganov attempts to revive the authority of Stalin. Alan Woods sets the record straight.

In Part One we dealt with the delirious attack of Israel Shamir on Celia Hart after she wrote her article "Socialism in one country" and the Cuban Revolution- A contribution from Cuba. We answered the points raised by Shamir because they were some of the classical Stalinist distortions and lies that we have been accustomed to over decades.

However, in Part Two of this article we are rather more interested in the statements of G. Zyuganov published in Rebelion as part of this debate, under the title Stalin y el Partido Comunista Ruso hoy(Stalin and the Russian Communist Party today). That is not because they are any more serious, but because at least Zyuganov is the leader of a party that is supported by millions of people.

Gennady Zyuganov, the General Secretary of the CC of the CPRF, wrote this article on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Stalin, but it was posted on the Rebelion web site on June 27 of this year, presumably to "set the record straight" after the polemic unleashed by Celia Hart's article.

Zyuganov defends Stalin

In this article Zyuganov writes the following: "There are reasons to assert that the personality of Stalin is comparable to the greatest figures of the Renaissance, a period that, like the last century, saw humanity burst into a new spiral of historic development."

This curious historical parallel is open to different interpretations. The Renaissance knew all kinds of great figures who fulfilled all kinds of roles: not only Michelangelo and Leonardo but also Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. If the comparison is with the latter, then there is something to be said for it. Stalin had all the features that made the Borgias famous, except for their colourful personalities and their well-known love of art.

Stalin, we are told, was "a man of his times, who united in his person an unbridled aspiration to advance, and the heavy burden of the past. A lofty humanism and an inability to appreciate people, [...]. A sincere lack of interest in material things and an impetuous infatuation with power, which at times annulled other sentiments. Prudence and carefulness in many questions, and sudden ill-considered decisions that affected the destiny of millions of people, and which later had to be painfully corrected. All this was Stalin."

One reads these lines and rubs one's eyes in disbelief. Whatever else Stalin might be accused of, nobody ever thought of accusing him of "lofty humanism"! But leave that to one side. One searches in vain in these lines for the slightest element of a Marxist analysis. Here the whole question is reduced to the most trivial level of personal psychological traits – traits that are purely subjective and therefore cannot be explained. But it is precisely an explanation that is required.

In other words, we go back to the old explanation of Nikita Khrushchev – the theory of the "cult of personality." But in reality this "explanation" explains nothing. Marxists do not explain history in terms of the personal traits and individual psychology of "great men and women", but in the relations between different social classes and groupings. The question that must be addressed is: whish social grouping did Stalin represent? The answer was already given by Lenin in his last writings, which comrade Zyuganov, like Israel Shamir, conveniently ignores. Stalin represented the caste of officials and bureaucrats that had usurped power in the Soviet Union as a result of conditions of appalling backwardness.

Stalin's role in the October Revolution was insignificant (this can be seen immediately from a reading of John Reed's classic Ten Days that Shook the World, which Lenin said was a most truthful account). He rose to power after the October victory on the basis of a petty bourgeois bureaucratic reaction against October. He based himself upon the bureaucracy, first in the Party, the apparat, which he dominated, and later became the champion of the millions of former Tsarist officials who continued to function under the protective colouring of the Soviet state.

This process of bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian Revolution eventually ended in the slaughter of the Old Bolsheviks, who could not stomach Stalin's destruction of the Revolution and the Party of Lenin. Stalin trampled underfoot the spotless traditions of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. He utterly destroyed the regime of workers' democracy established by the Revolution.

He thus played the role of the executioner of the Bolshevik Party and the gravedigger of the Revolution. Zyuganov knows this, but passes over it in silence. For him, Stalin is the heir of Lenin and continuer of the Bolshevik tradition. In fact, Stalin betrayed the principles of Leninism, murdered the Bolshevik Leninists and dragged the spotless banner of the October Revolution through the mud.

Lenin and Stalin

According to Zyuganov, "Stalin filled all around him with enthusiasm, with a burning desire to advance, to overcome all the difficulties, to conquer. He was distinguished by his sense of discipline, and his clear understanding of his personal responsibility.

"It is no accident that Lenin held him in such high esteem. Often, to fill responsible positions, he saw no other suitable candidate ‘other than comrade Stalin.' We find an example of this when the People's Commissariat for the Nationalities was under discussion, and when ‘Rabkrin' (The Workers' and Peasants Inspectorate) was set up: ‘It is a gigantic task,' Lenin pointed out, ‘in order to know how to deal with it, there must be someone in control who has authority, otherwise we will fail and get bogged down in personal intrigues'."

It is frankly incredible that comrade Zyuganov should quote these examples. Stalin's record at the head of the People's Commissariat for the Nationalities was a disastrous one. It did enormous damage to relations between the Russian workers and the peoples of the oppressed nations of the Caucasus and led directly to a furious clash with Lenin, who, as a result, broke off all personal and comradely relations with Stalin.

The example of Rabkrin is no better. Under Stalin, Rabkrin became a centre of bureaucratic intrigue. Stalin used his control of this body to advance his cronies and staff Soviet offices with people who were loyal to him. In other words, he turned Rabkrin into precisely what Lenin warned against in the extract quoted by comrade Zyuganov.

When Zyuganov says that, "Stalin filled all around him with enthusiasm, with a burning desire to advance, to overcome all the difficulties, to conquer", he is partly right. Stalin surrounded himself with loyal cronies and careerists who were very enthusiastic to obtain positions for themselves in the Soviet state, and were certainly motivated by a burning desire to advance themselves. True, they faced considerable difficulties in the shape of the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Trotsky, which was waging a stubborn fight against the evils of bureaucracy and privilege. But the new caste of Soviet bureaucrats and upstarts were determined to conquer, and because of the conditions of appalling backwardness in Russia, they finally got what they wanted.

As early as 1920, Trotsky criticised the workings of Rabkrin, which from a tool in the struggle against bureaucracy was becoming itself a hotbed of bureaucracy. Initially, Lenin defended Rabkrin against Trotsky's criticisms. But Later he came around to Trotsky's view: "This idea was suggested by Comrade Trotsky, it seems, quite a long time ago. I was against it at the time. But after closer consideration of the matter, I find that in substance there is a sound idea in it." At first Lenin's illness prevented him from appreciating what was going on behind his back in the state and Party. In 1922, the situation became clear to him. "Bureaucracy is throttling us," he complained. He saw that the problem arose from the country's economic and cultural backwardness.

So how was this state of affairs going to be combated? Lenin stressed the importance of the workers' organisation in keeping the bureaucratic menace in check: "Our Party Programme - a document which the author of the ABC of Communism [Nikolai Bukharin] knows very well - shows that ours is a workers' state with a bureaucratic twist to it. We now have a state under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers' organisations to protect the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state." (LCW, Vol. 32, pp. 24-5.)

Lenin's struggle against Stalin was directly linked to his determined struggle against the bureaucracy within the Bolshevik Party itself. It is quite astonishing that Zyuganov should cite Stalin's control of Rabkrin as proof of his Leninist credentials. Evidently he is not aware that Lenin, in his struggle against Stalin and his bureaucratic faction specifically singles out Rabkrin as the goal of his attacks. Or else he does know this and is simply distorting Lenin's position.

In Better Fewer, But Better, written shortly before his Testament, Lenin commented on Rabkrin in the most negative terms. Here is what Lenin wrote about it: "Let it be said in parentheses that we have bureaucrats in our Party offices as well as in Soviet offices." In the same work, he launched a sharp attack against Rabkrin, which was clearly meant for Stalin: "Let us say frankly that the People's Commissariat of the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection does not at present enjoy the slightest authority. Everybody knows that no other institutions are worse organised than those of our Workers' and Peasants' Inspection and that under present conditions nothing can be expected from this Peoples' Commissariat." (LCW, Vol. 33, p. 490, my emphasis, AW.)

So here we have Lenin's opinion about the Rabkrin that comrade Zyuganov admires so much. It "does not at present enjoy the slightest authority", there is "no other institution worse organised than those of our Workers' and Peasants' Inspection" and " nothing can be expected from this Peoples' Commissariat."

Can this be clearer? And can it be clearer that Zyuganov has presented Lenin's attitude to Rabkrin and Stalin in an entirely false and distorted light? Lenin was very well aware that Stalin had turned Rabkrin into a hothouse of bureaucracy, careerism and intrigue. That is why he warns that "we have bureaucrats in our Party offices as well as in Soviet offices." This warning refers to Stalin. It was the beginning of a struggle that was to end in a complete break between Lenin and Stalin.

Stalin as General Secretary

"It was precisely at Lenin's request," Zyuganov informs us, "that Stalin took over as General Secretary of the Bolshevik Party in 1922." What comrade Zyuganov does not tell us is that Lenin soon after angrily demanded Stalin's removal from the post of General Secretary and formed a bloc with Trotsky against him.

In his autobiography, My Life, Trotsky recalls the conversation he had with Lenin on this question:

"'Vladimir Ilyich, according to my conviction, in the present struggle with bureaucratism in the Soviet apparatus, we must not forget that there is going on, both in the provinces and in the centre, a special selection of officials and specialists, party, non-party, and half-party, around certain ruling party personalities and groups - in the provinces, in the districts, in the party locals and in the centre - that is, the Central Committee, etc. Attacking the Soviet officials you run into the party leader. The specialist is a member of his suite. In such circumstances I could not undertake this work.'

"Then Vladimir Ilyich reflected for a moment and - here I quote him practically verbatim - said: 'That is, I propose a struggle with Soviet bureaucratism, and you want to add to that the bureaucratism of the Organisation Bureau of the party.' I laughed at the unexpectedness of this, because no such finished formulation of the idea was in my head. I answered, 'I suppose that's it.'

"Then Vladimir Ilyich said: 'Well, all right, I propose a bloc.' and I said: 'I'm always ready to form a bloc with a good man.'" (Trotsky, My Life.)

As we have already mentioned, Lenin's last words on Stalin and Trotsky are to be found in his Letter to the Congress, known to history as Lenin's Suppressed Testament. We remind our readers that Lenin said about Trotsky that he was "to be sure, the ablest man on the Central Committee" and stated that "his non-Bolshevik past should not be held against him". About Stalin he said that he was too rude (elsewhere he said "rude and disloyal") and had concentrated too much power into his hands ("and I am not sure that he will use it properly") and demanded that he be removed from the post of General Secretary. But about all this Gennady Zyuganov does not say a word.

Stalin's "great achievements"

Referring to Stalin's alleged achievements, Zyuganov writes:

"The results of Stalin's work is known to all. In the first years of the first five-year plan, for example, the industrial potential of our country was doubled. Heavy industry began to occupy the first place. The most backward and distant regions were drawn into the field of production. A multitude of new cities and industrial centers sprang up. The old centers underwent radical transformations. At the close of the 1930s more than 6000 new enterprises were being built. In 1937 the new industrial centers made up more than 80 per cent of the total industrial production."

All this is true, and it is necessary to underline the colossal advances made by the Soviet Union on the basis of a nationalized planned economy. But was all this the result of the far-sighted genius of Stalin? It was not. On the contrary, Stalin originally completely failed to understand the need for five-year plans, and contemptuously dismissed the idea, when it was first put forward in the 1920s by Trotsky and the Left Opposition. Stalin ridiculed Trotsky's proposal for the building of a hydroelectrical project on the Dnieper (Dnieperstroy) as the equivalent of "offering a peasant a gramophone instead of a cow."

Later, when the Soviet Union was threatened by the kulak counterrevolutionaries, Stalin did a 180-degree somersault and went over to the adventurist policy of forced collectivisation. In this sense his plan for collectivisation certainly went "much further" than the proposals laid down by the Opposition! Trotsky denounced it as an adventure, given the material backwardness of Russian agriculture. Stalin's "broad perspectives" spelled disaster to Russian agriculture. According to Stalin himself at least ten million people perished in this terrible catastrophe, from which Soviet agriculture never fully recovered.

Zyuganov writes: "In spite of all the difficulties that arose from the collectivisation of agriculture, the Russian peasantry recovered and raised itself up. In the years of the second five year plan alone they received more than 500,000 tractors, about 124,000 combine harvesters and more than 140,000 lorries. In the period 1928 to 1932 alone, five million peasants learned how to use agricultural machinery. The people of the countryside learned for the first time the meaning of free time, what it meant to be able to study, to raise their cultural level, to dedicate themselves to social activities."

With the brief phrase "all the difficulties that arose from the collectivisation of agriculture", Comrade Zyuganov glosses over one of the blackest episodes in the history of the USSR, a period in which, on Stalin's own admission, about ten million people perished, in which the Soviet countryside was plunged into a terrible famine and in which Soviet agriculture was dealt a heavy blow, from which it never really recovered.

In 1930, the total harvest of grain amounted to 835 million hundredweight. In the next two years it fell to 200 million; this at a time when the level of grain production was only barely sufficient to feed the population. The result spelled famine for millions of workers and peasants. Sugar production in the same period dropped from 109 million poods to 48 million.

Even more terrible were the losses to livestock. The insane tempo of collectivisation, and the vicious methods used, provoked the peasantry to desperate resistance, which plunged the countryside into a new and bloody civil war. The enraged peasants slaughtered their horses and cattle as a protest. The number of horses fell from 34.9 million in 1929 to 15.6 million in 1934; i.e. a loss of 55%. The number of horned cattle fell from 30.7 million to 19.5 million ‑ a loss of 40% ‑ the number of pigs 55%, sheep 66%. Soviet agriculture to the present day has not recovered from the blow dealt by forced collectivisation. But the most gruesome statistic of all is the millions of peasants who perished in this period - from hunger, cold, disease, in running fights with the Red Army or in the slave-labour camps afterwards; the figure of ten million exterminated was not denied by Stalin; four million is the lowest estimate.

Such is the reality of collectivisation, which comrade Zyuganov refers to, without telling us anything about it. As a matter of fact, if the Communist Party had heeded the warnings of Trotsky and the Left Opposition, the horrors of forced collectivisation could have been avoided. But after the death of Lenin Stalin and his supporters adopted a right wing opportunist policy, based on the bourgeois nepmen and the rich peasants (Kulaks). They were not far-sighted at all but extremely myopic. They foresaw nothing and were taken completely by surprise by events.

As explained by Trotsky: "Without the Opposition's bold criticism and without the bureaucracy's fear of the Opposition, the course of Stalin-Bukharin toward the kulak would have ended up in the revival of capitalism. Under the lash of the Opposition the bureaucracy was forced to make important borrowings from our platform. The Leninists could not save the Soviet regime from the process of degeneration and the difficulties of the personal regime. But they saved it from complete dissolution by barring the road to capitalist restoration. The progressive reforms of the bureaucracy were the by-products of the Opposition's revolutionary struggle. For us it is far too insufficient. But it is still something." (Trotsky, Writings 1935-36, p. 179.)

Lenin always advocated the collectivisation of agriculture gradually and by voluntary means. But he certainly never entertained the mad idea that millions of scattered peasant holdings could be forced to collectivise overnight at gunpoint. Collectivisation was to take place through example. The peasant was to be convinced by patient argument and through the setting up of model collective farms and the introduction of the latest modern technology, tractors, fertilizers, electricity, schools, etc.

Such a perspective was obviously linked to the development of Soviet industry through five-year plans. The idea of collectivisation on the basis of wooden ploughs was a self-evident nonsense. As Trotsky explained, this problem "is far from settled by these general historical considerations. The real possibilities of collectivisation are determined, not by the depth of the impasse in the villages and not by the administrative energy of the government, but primarily by the existing productive resources - that is, the ability of the industries to furnish large-scale agriculture with the requisite machinery. These material conditions were lacking. The collective farms were set up with an equipment suitable in the main only for small-scale farming. In these conditions an exaggeratedly swift collectivisation took the character of an economic adventure". (Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, p. 38.)

After having lurched to the right, now, in order to safeguard and entrench itself as a privileged caste, the Stalinist bureaucracy was forced to lean on the workers to smash the incipient bourgeois counter-revolution, but in so doing they adopted an ultra-left position. Armed detachments were now sent into the countryside to release the grain stocks to feed the cities. The Stalinists veered from opportunism to an ultra-left position. This led to the insane policy of "liquidation of the kulaks as a class" and the complete collectivisation of agriculture "at the earliest possible date". As a consequence, the proportion of collective farms rose in 1929 from 1.7 per cent to 3.9 per cent. In 1930 it increased dramatically to 23.6 per cent, in 1931 to 52.7 per cent, in 1932 to 61.5 per cent, in 1933 to 64.4 per cent, in 1934 to 71.4 per cent, in 1935 to 83.2 per cent, and in 1936 to 89.6 per cent. The percentage of crop area collectivised rose from 33.6 per cent in 1930 to 94.1 per cent in 1935.

The methods used by Stalin to collectivise the peasantry had nothing in common with the ideas of Lenin. "They collectivised not only horses, cows, sheep, pigs, but even new-born chickens," noted Trotsky. "They 'dekulakised,' as one foreign observer wrote, 'down to the felt shoes, which they dragged from the feet of little children.' As a result there was an epidemic selling of cattle for a song by the peasants, or a slaughter of cattle for meat and hides." (Ibid., p. 39.)

"Stock was slaughtered every night in Gremyachy Log. Hardly had dusk fallen when the muffled, short bleats of sheep, the death-squeals of pigs, or the lowing of calves could be heard," writes Sholokhov in Virgin Soil Upturned. "Both those who had joined the kolkhoz and individual farmers filled their stock. Bulls, sheep, pigs, even cows were slaughtered, as well as cattle for breeding. The horned stock of Gremyachy was halved in two nights." (Quoted in Nove, An Economic History of the USSR, p. 174.) All forces were directed to procurements. The human and economic consequences were appalling, and as e have seen, millions perished in the ensuing famine.

Trotsky and the industrialization of the USSR

But how about industry? Did not the success of Stalin's plans which went "much further" than the perspectives of the Left Opposition, prove how "pessimistic" Trotsky was? When, after the notorious Moscow Frame-up Trials, Trotsky appeared voluntarily before the Dewey Commission, which went through the charges levelled against him and the Opposition, he answered, among other things, a number of questions relating to the differences with the Stalinists on the question of industrialisation in 1923-9. We quote verbatim from the text of his evidence:

"Goldman: Mr. Trotsky, with reference to the industrialisation of the Soviet Union, what was your attitude prior to your expulsion from the Soviet Union?

"Trotsky: During the period from 1922 until 1929 I fought for the necessity of an accelerated industrialisation. I wrote in the beginning of 1925 a book in which I tried to prove that by planning and direction of industry it was possible to have a yearly coefficient of industrialisation up to twenty. I was denounced at the time as a fantastic man, a super-industrialiser. It was the official name for Trotskyites at that time: 'super-industrialisers'.

"Goldman: What was the name of the book that you wrote?

"Trotsky: Whither Russia, Toward Capitalism or Socialism?

"Goldman: In English, it was published, I am quite sure under the title Wither Russia, Toward Capitalism or Socialism?

"Trotsky: The march of events showed that I was too cautious in my appreciation of the possibility of planned economy - not too courageous. It was my fight between 1922 and 1925, and also the fight for the Five Year Plan. It begins with the year 1923, when the Left Opposition began to fight for the necessity of using the Five Year Plan.

"Goldman: And Stalin at that time called you a 'super-industrialist'?

"Trotsky: Yes.

"Goldman: He was opposed to the rapid industrialisation of the country.

"Trotsky: Permit me to say that in 1927, when I was Chairman of the Commission at Dnieprostroy for a hydro-electric station, a power station, I insisted in the session of the Central Committee on the necessity of building up this station. Stalin answered, and it is published: 'For us to build up the Dnieprostroy station is the same as for a peasant to buy a gramophone instead of a cow.'" (The Case of Leon Trotsky, page 245)

Such was the extent of Stalin's "broad perspectives" in 1927! At that time, the accusation levelled at the Opposition by the Stalinists was not that they were "pessimistic" but that were "super-industrialisers"! What about the assertion that the plans later implemented by Stalin went "much further" than those of Trotsky? The years 1925-27 were in fact occupied by the struggle of the Opposition against the economic cowardice of the Stalin-Bukharin leadership.

The Stalinists in 1926 first suggested a "plan" which would begin with a coefficient of nine for the first year, eight for the second, gradually lowering to four - a declining rate of growth! Trotsky, whom the ruling clique branded as "super-industrialist", described this miserable excuse for a plan as the "sabotage of industry" (not, of course, in a literal sense). Later, the plan was revised to give a coefficient of nine for all five years. Trotsky fought for a coefficient of 18-20. He pointed out that the rate of growth, even under capitalism, had been six!

The ruling clique paid no attention to the Opposition and went ahead with their pusillanimous plans. Instead of the miserable nine percent projected by the "broad perspectives" of Stalin-Bukharin, the results of the first year of the five-year plan completely bore out the perspective of the Opposition and exposed the complete inadequacy of the coefficients advanced by Stalin and Co. As a result, the following year they plunged into the disastrous adventure of a "five year plan in four years". In vain did Trotsky warn against this crazy idea, which, threw everything completely off balance. By bureaucratic ukaze the leadership now decreed a coefficient of 30-35%!

The wrecking of industry in this period, which was blamed upon the unfortunate victims of the "sabotage trials", was in reality the result of the adventurism of the Stalinists, whose pursuit of the chimera of "Socialism in One Country" and "Five Year Plan in Four Years" led to the seizing up of the economy and untold hardships for the Soviet working class.

This is what Trotsky himself had to say to the Dewey Commission:

"Trotsky: My attitude toward the economic development of the Soviet Union can be characterised as follows: I defend the Soviet economy against the capitalist critics and the Social Democratic reformist critics, and I criticize the bureaucratic methods of the leadership. The deductions were very simple. They were based on the Soviet press itself. We have a certain freedom from the bureaucratic hypnosis. It was absolutely possible to see all of the dangers on the basis of the Soviet press itself.

"Goldman: Can you give us an idea, very generally, of the successes of the industrialisation in the Soviet Union?

"Trotsky: The successes are very important, and I affirmed it every time. They are due to the abolition of private property and to the possibilities inherent in planned economy. But, they are - I cannot say exactly - but I will say two or three times less than they could be under a regime of Soviet democracy.

"Goldman: So the advances are due, in spite of the bureaucratic control and methods?

"Trotsky: They are due to the possibilities inherent in the socialisation of the productive forces." (The Case of Leon Trotsky, page 249)

Superiority of a planned economy

Comrade Zyuganov does not know anything about all this. Yet he repeats the old myth that Stalin was responsible for the industrialization of the USSR! In fact, as in the case of collectivisation, Stalin only accepted the programme of industrialization and five year plans (that was originally put forward by Trotsky and the Left Opposition) belatedly, and in a caricature form. The bureaucratic implementation of central planning caused colossal waste, bungling, corruption and mismanagement, which eventually undermined and destroyed the planned economy, leading to capitalist restoration and the collapse of the USSR.

However, despite Stalin and the bureaucracy, there is no question that the introduction of a nationalized planned economy represented a giant step forward. The superiority of a nationalized planned economy was shown in the Second World War, which in Europe was really a titanic battle between the USSR and Hitler's Germany with all the combined resources of Europe behind him. The nationalized planned economy achieved astonishing results in the field of culture, education and science.

Comrade Zyuganov correctly writes: "At the start of the 1940s 80 percent of the population was illiterate. Hundreds of thousands of young people from the working class and peasantry attended institutes and centers of professional education. A new intelligentsia emerged."

This is also true. The advantages of a nationalized planned economy enabled the USSR to overcome its former backwardness with amazing speed, to abolish illiteracy and achieve the most brilliant successes, above all in the field of science and technology, as its space programme demonstrated to the whole world. In the 1980s, the USSR had more scientists than the USA, Japan and Western Germany put together, and they were excellent scientists.

The problem is that with all these scientists, the USSR was unable to achieve the same results as the West. The relative backwardness of the USSR was shown in the field of productivity, where the Soviet Union lagged behind the West. What is the reason for this? The main reason was the colossal burden imposed on the Soviet economy by the bureaucracy – the millions of greedy and corrupt officials that were running the Soviet Union without any control on the part of the working class. Comrade Zyuganov is silent on this point. But then, how does he explain the fact that, for all the undoubted advantages of the planned economy, and all the colossal advances of the Soviet Union, the whole thing was undermined and destroyed?

If, as the Stalinists maintain even now, everything was fine, and if the Soviet people were living in a socialist paradise, then how come it all collapsed and capitalism was restored? To this question – the most important question of all – the latter-day apologists of Stalinism have no answer. They twist and turn in all ways to justify the regime in the Soviet Union, they fulminate and foam at the mouth at Trotsky's denunciation of the Stalinist bureaucracy, but they have nothing to say in answer to the question that all thinking workers and Communists are asking.

In reality, if one accepts the arguments of the Stalinists, no answer is possible. One minute there was socialism, the next minute there was capitalism. That is all. But wait a minute! Some questions remain to be answered. Comrade Zyuganov was a member of a Party that used to call itself the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This was a Party of some 19 million members. It called itself the "vanguard of the working people". It was supposed to be the fountainhead of all wisdom and the repository of correct Marxist-Leninist principles.

Yet in a few months, this imposing edifice collapsed. When Comrade Zyuganov and others reorganized the CPRF, it had no more than half a million members. What happened to all the others? It turned out that they were not Communists at all, but only vulgar careerists who went wherever the wind blew. Most of them are now enthusiastic supporters of the market. Worse still, many of the leaders (or their children, it matters not) have become wealthy businessmen and are part of the oligarchy that dominates Russia. Compared to this betrayal, the role of the Social Democratic leaders in 1914 was just a children's game.

Can anyone believe that, if the Soviet workers had had any say in the matter, that if Lenin's principles of Soviet democracy remained in force in the USSR, that such a monstrosity would have been conceivable? Trotsky long ago pointed out that a nationalized planned economy needs democracy as the human body needs oxygen. That is not just a literary phrase! Without genuine soviet democracy (the kind of democracy that existed in the Soviet state under Lenin and Trotsky), a nationalized planned economy will inevitably end up in a morass of bureaucracy, corruption, waste and chaos. That is what ultimately destroyed the USSR. The Stalinist bureaucracy, which for decades sang the praises of "socialism" while trampling the most elementary principles of Leninism underfoot, has now passed over from "socialism" to capitalism with the ease of a man passing from a smoking to a non-smoking compartment of a train.

See Part One, Part Three