[This] is a document, dictated in 1966, in defence of the basic tenets of Trotskyism. It was a reply to an Irish socialist, Brendan Clifford, who put the classic Stalinist position, using garbled and one-sided quotations from Lenin to show how Trotskyism was a 'counter-revolutionary trend' opposed to the ideas and methods of 'Leninism'.
Clifford circulated his views inside a small left wing group, the Irish Communist Group. His document was of more than historical interest because the position he adopted was an attempt to justify a Stalinist 'stages' theory of social revolution in Ireland. That would mean that the first task for the labour movement would be to participate - with middle class groups and the 'nationalist' elements within the capitalist class - in a struggle for the unification of Ireland, with socialism relegated to some distant future.
The position adopted by the Trotskyists was that there was no barrier between the struggle to unify Ireland and the fight to transform society, that they were indissolubly linked. The unification of Ireland on a capitalist basis was ruled out, and conversely, the socialist transformation of society would be the basis upon which the unification of Ireland would become a reality.
But the starting point of the Trotskyist position on Ireland was a defence of the general theories of Trotsky and Trotskyism. The reply to Clifford, therefore, was a broad statement, outlining the early, pre-revolutionary differences between Lenin and Trotsky, and showing how their theoretical concepts compared to the living experience of the October revolution. Trotsky's formulations proved more precise than Lenin's 'algebraic' formula, but in reality both were vindicated by events: arriving at exactly the same position in 1917 after having travelled different paths. After the Revolution, both Bolshevik leaders considered their previous differences to be redundant and they were only dredged up after Lenin's death, by the Stalinists eager to peddle the myth of 'Trotskyism'.
The reply also described the rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia and drew a sharp contrast beween the 'four conditions' for workers' democracy laid down by Lenin and the real situation as it became in the Stalinist USSR. As a matter of interest, some of the comments made about the attempts by the Russian bureaucracy to introduce reforms in the 1960s have a very modern ring to them. Like Gorbachev twenty years afterwards, Nikita Kruschev tried to move the sluggish Soviet economy forward by giving 'incentives' to managers and by 'de-centralisation' of economic planning - to little effect in the long run.
Comrade Clifford has raised the question of Trotskyism in a most peculiar way. We have to ask: What is Trotskyism? How did it arise? What theories does it represent? What class interest does it express? Why has the question been raised today? Because in raising these problems and in raising what the Trotskyists have said we have the opportunity to understand the real issues - though not at all, of course, in the way in which they are posed by Comrade Clifford. Clifford has thrown down the gage to us. He says that the difference between Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, on the one hand, and Trotskyism, is that one is revolutionary and the other is counter-revolutionary (and it is obvious that of these two incompatible theories, only one can be correct in the sense of representing the historical interests of the working class on a national and international scale). The question is: which?
In reality, the simple way, the garbled way in which Clifford tries to dismiss this problem cannot result in educating anyone as to the real issues themselves. Clifford repeats in a garbled fashion the fairy tales and lies of Stalin and of the Stalinists as to the real issues. The problem is in reality much more complex than simply 'revolutionary' and 'counter-revolutionary', because both stem, in the last analysis, from the Russian revolution and the fate of the revolution.
And if we are to understand the fate of the revolution, the first thing that is necessary is that when we use terms used by Marxists, we use them in the sense in which they were meant by both Marx and Lenin. Otherwise we are not Marxists at all. We are simply being dishonest.
Comrade Clifford has touched on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union, and in doing so has shown that he does not understand the ABC of what the dictatorship of the proletariat means. The quotations he gives from Lenin deal only with one aspect of the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is - and in that Lenin was 100 per cent correct - that the dictatorship of proletariat in Russia at that stage rested on an alliance between the workers and the peasants and in particular between the workers and poor peasants.
But that does not tell us at all what the dictatorship of the proletariat is! What then is the dictatorship of the proletariat? If we understand this question, all that stems from it will be understood too: whose interest Trotsky really represented, whose interest Stalin represented, what are the real issues in the debates that have taken place between Stalinism and Trotskyism over the past 40 years. And in reality, once one gets down to fundamentals, the question is not so difficult to understand. First of all, as Marxists, we base ourselves on the ideas of Marx. Marx did not suck the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat out of his thumb. Marx did not come forward with the idea of the dictatorship ready made. All that happened is that Marx generalised the experience of the working class in relation to the Paris Commune of 1871.
What were the ideas that were put forward by Marx in his book on the Paris Commune? The first point that he made was one that in the past would have been accepted by those who claim to stand for communism. Today it is not accepted by the Moscow communists; it is allegedly accepted by the Peking communists, but in practice, and as we can see from the way in which they carry through their diplomatic manoeuvres in the colonial countries, it is not accepted by them at all. Marx explained that it is impossible for the proletariat to take over the old bourgeois machine; that it is necessary, therefore, to have revolution and to smash the old state machine. And what then was to replace the bourgeois state machine? That is what Marx explained is the dictatorship of the proletariat. And when he spoke of the 'dictatorship' he meant a far more democratic system, a far wider measure of democracy among the mass of the people than could ever be realised under bourgeois democracy, which is the disguised dictatorship of the bourgeois ruling class.
Lenin, taking up and faithfully reflecting the ideas of Marx in his book State and Revolution, [source] restates all the principles on which Marx based his work in the past. And in order that there should be dictatorship of the proletariat he explains - as Marx explained - the conditions for the rule of the working class; adding perhaps to the ideas of Marx the question of the soviets (which, in its turn, was not whistled out of the mind of Lenin, Trotsky, Marx or anyone else. but came out of the initiative and direct experience of the working class itself in Russia in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917.)
In place of the bourgeois parliament, Lenin said, once the bourgeois system had been overthrown and the proletariat had taken power, we would have a system of soviets, of committees elected by the workers, housewives and even small shopkeepers, professional people etc, together with the peasants (which is the impression which Comrade Clifford's 'thesis' would impart to the unwary - again displaying the continuing capacity of Stalinism to distort Leninism, to dishonestly misrepresent Marxism). In 1917 whereas for the workers there was one soviet representative for every 10,000 votes, for the peasants there was one for every 100,000.
In other words, the peasants did not have the same representation in the soviets, once the revolution had taken place, as the working class; thereby making a distinction between workers and the peasants; making a clear distinction in the plebian mass, in the people as a whole, between the workers who were uncompromisingly devoted to socialism, and the peasants who would always have tendency to veer, to sway, and to be hesitant in their support of the dictatorship of the proletariat itself.
The first condition, then, for the rule of the working class, according to Lenin, is the existence of soviets, these committees with the right of election and recall. The second condition that Lenin laid down for the rule of the working class was that no official was to receive a wage higher than that of a skilled worker. The third condition was that there was to be no standing army, but an armed people. The fourth condition was that there be no permanent bureaucracy: in the words of Lenin himself, 'every cook should be able to be Prime Minister.'
These are the conditions under which the dictatorship of the proletariat begins, not where the dictatorship of the proletariat ends. And here we get the arguments on the question of the difference between Stalinism and Trotskyism.
We shall return again to the conditions for the dictatorship of the proletariat at a later stage in the discussion.
Stalinism and Trotskyism
The difference between Stalinism and Trotskyism originally arose not on the question of the peasantry. That was thrown in merely as a disguise, a trick - as Comrade Clifford is using it as a trick - to confuse the mass of the people in Russia as to the difference between the Trotskyists and the Stalinists. The original difference between Stalinism and Trotskyism had nothing to do with the theory of Permanent Revolution, even. The original difference arose over the demands of the Left Opposition, as they were called and - in which demands the Left Opposition had the full support of Lenin - for a restoration of workers' democracy in the Soviet Union on the lines of the points of the dictatorship of the proletariat that have just been sketched out.
Unfortunately, because of the civil war, the famine, and because of the retreat that the Bolsheviks had had to make with the New Economic Policy, which allowed the development of bourgeois elements in the towns, through the so-called Nepmen, and in the countryside through the so-called Kulaks - gradually, more and more the power which the working class had established in the Soviet Union began to be taken away from them. The same process as had developed in the past, which Lenin had so carefully and meticulously analysed in relation to social democracy, was now taking place after the capture of power by the proletariat. Lenin had explained the role which social democracy and the trade union bureaucracy played, not purely from the point of view of ideas but from the material interests of the bureaucracy of this movement. This bureaucracy had separated itself from the working class, only indirectly reflected the interests of the working class and tried to act as an arbiter between the working class and the bourgeoisie. That is how Lenin explained the betrayal of social democracy and of the trade union bureaucracy in the first world war, when in each country they came out in full support of their own ruling class. Let us note that fact, that crude material fact! That the conditions of existence of the bureaucrats, of the labour and trade union bureaucrats before the first world war, were the reason for the change in the consciousness of these bureaucrats and for their betrayal of the working class.
In Russia, after the victory of the revolution, the original intention of the Bolsheviks had not been to suppress even a single party, except of course for the forerunners of the fascists, the Black Hundreds(1). In the early stages of the revolution even the liberals, the Constitutional Democrats, were not suppressed; nor was their press suppressed. Later, the Bolsheviks were forced to suppress them; then the right-wing social democrats; then the Left Social Revolutionaries (and, by the way, it should be remembered that the first government of the soviets was a coalition government of Bolsheviks and of Left Social Revolutionaries.) But at each stage, it was because of the weakness of the revolution, because of the taking up of arms against the revolution, because of the failure of the international revolution on which Lenin and Trotsky - as we will later explain - had based their whole perspective of the future of the Russian revolution, that these suppressions were made necessary. Every peasant, every peasant soldier, as John Reed shows in his Ten Days that Shook the World, [source] understood the international perspective of the revolution because of the propaganda of the Bolsheviks.
The differences between Stalinism and Trotskyism were not differences as to whether the revolution should be extended into Europe or elsewhere in the early stage of the Russian revolution. The Russian revolution was prepared, and began, with the perspective that it was only the beginning of the revolution in Europe and of the international revolution.
Again, before dealing with this aspect of the thing, let us examine the arguments that are put forward by Clifford on the question of the proletarian dictatorship and on the question of the permanent revolution and the so-called underestimation of the peasantry - a series of most peculiarly assembled quotations, taken out of context from Lenin, and which do not deal with the subject under discussion at all.
What were the conceptions with which the Russian revolution was prepared? Within the Marxist movement, within the social democratic movement - because let us remember that up to 1912 even Bolshevism was not an independent party, as one would imagine from the statements of Clifford; only in 1912 did the Bolsheviks(2) become an independent party - there were certain theoretical conceptions of how the revolution in Russia was going to develop. These conceptions were necessary to guide the work of preparing the victory of the revolution. To take just one aspect of these conceptions for the moment: Lenin, far from being the self-centred Russian nationalist which Clifford and the Stalinists have tried to make him out to be, raised the question at various stages in the revolution, that if it was necessary for the German revolution to succeed, which was far more important than the Russian revolution, then they would even be prepared to sacrifice the Russian revolution for the victory of the revolution in Germany. The whole conception of Bolshevism, and of Leninism, was imbued through and through with ideas of international socialism. And right through the whole period of the Russian revolution, this conception was held by Lenin. We can give not one, but a hundred, a thousand quotations to show that this was so!
We need mention only one: where Lenin said that we are bound to the world market, we are bound to world developments, we cannot solve the problem of the Soviet Union on our own, we have to hold out - that was the conception of Lenin! - we have to hold out till the development of the socialist revolution in the more developed countries of the West.
We might also point out that when, during the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Russia, Podbelsky inferred that some formulations of the programme had reference only to the revolution in Russia, Lenin replied as follows in his concluding speech on the question of the party programme (March 19, 1919):
"Podbelsky has raised objection to a paragraph which speaks of the pending social revolution...His argument is obviously unfounded because our programme deals with the social revolution on a world scale." (CW, volume 29, page 187)[source]
It will not be out of place here, either, to point out that at about the same time Lenin suggested that the party should change its name from the Communist Party of Russia, so as to emphasise still further that it was a party of international revolution. Trotsky was the only one voting for Lenin's motion in the Central Committee.
What then gave rise to the differences between Stalin and Trotsky? What then gave rise to the victory of Stalin? Was it because Stalin understood the problems better? Was it because Trotsky underestimated the peasantry, or any other nonsense of that character?
On the contrary, again if we use the Marxist method, we have to see the different material interests which came to be expressed by these two different tendencies. The isolation of the revolution (in a backward country at that), the famine, the civil war etc, led to seizure of control by the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, by millions of officials in the party, in the trade unions, in the army and in industry. These were the ones who now gradually began to concentrate power in their hands, as a direct consequence of the exhaustion of the masses. And the key year when these things came to a head was 1923.
In 1923, that revolution which the Bolsheviks had expected did have the possibility of taking place in Germany. Those people who have no faith in the working class, who sneer, have only to consider how, in one country after another in the past 40 years, the working class has taken to the road of revolution; how the workers organised the struggle, how the workers tried to take power, in Germany, in Hungary, in China, in Britain, in France, in Italy, in Spain and in other countries - struggles which, at the moment, we cannot deal with. But at any rate in 1923 in Germany again an opportunity was given to the working class to take power into their own hands.
Lenin was ill, Trotsky was ill, and unfortunately, when the delegation of the German Central Committee, which was preparing for the revolution in Germany, arrived in Moscow, the people they met were Stalin and Zinoviev. And unfortunately, the advice which Stalin gave them was not to try and take power. In that sense we have the same sort of crisis which led Trotsky to write his book The Lessons of October, [source] the same crisis in the leadership as existed in 1917 with Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and other leaders of the Bolsheviks who hesitated at the time when the insurrection was being prepared - in the case of Zinoviev and Kamenev, directly opposing the insurrection.
It is interesting to note in this regard that following the February revolution, from February to April 1917, while Lenin was in Zurich, Stalin and Kamenev (who had returned to Petersburg) were running Pravda. Lenin daily sent articles to Petersburg in which he called for no conciliation with the capitalists. He sent covering letters demanding that these be published. Stalin and Kamenev refused to publish them. Instead, during those vital months, they published Stalin's own miserable bits and pieces of journalism in which Stalin called for and worked for conciliation with the Mensheviks, who in turn were calling for conciliation with the bourgeoisie. Stalin in the pages of Pravda actually described the differences between Lenin and the Mensheviks as 'a storm in a tea-cup'!
Stalin, not having understood the experience of 1917, gave the advice to the German comrades not to try and take power, and as a consequence the revolutionary opportunity in Germany was lost.
As Engels has explained, sometimes twenty years of history can be summed up in few days; if the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat does not take advantage of these days it might be twenty years before a new opportunity would return. The opportunity was lost for the proletariat to take power in Germany in 1923, with all the fatal consequences that that has had for the Russian revolution and the revolutionary movement on a world scale.
It was the failure of the German revolution that gave the opportunity to Stalin, who more and more began to reflect the ideas and interests of the millions of officials and bureaucrats within the Soviet Union.
What, then, was the programme on which the Left Opposition was constructed in 1923 and 1924? It was to return to the ideas of Marxism, of Leninism; to return to the conditions that Lenin had laid down for the rule of the working class; to reintroduce workers' democracy in the Bolshevik Party and in the Soviet state. That was the main plank in the platform of the Left Opposition.
The second plank, as important as the first, was the need for the Soviet Union to industrialise, the need for five-year plans in the Soviet Union. And it is significant, in relation to the understanding of the problems of Stalinism and Trotskyism, that the tendency which was against 'socialism in one country', that tendency which was for international socialism - that was the tendency which came out for the industrialisation of the Soviet Union and for five-year plans.
As far as the question of 'socialism in one country' is concerned, one would pose the question to Comrade Clifford: If the Bolshevik programme before coming to power was not based on an international socialist perspective, how did it happen that in his book Problems of Leninism, published in January 1924, Stalin said, echoing the Bolshevik programme adopted after the seizure of power (this idea of international revolution naturally appears in the Bolshevik programme), that socialism is impossible in a single country and that six months later Stalin published a new edition of this book in which he argues for the exact opposite, that socialism can and must be built in a single country?
It is here we see the complete lack of foresight, the complete narrow-mindedness of this bureaucracy and of Stalin himself. When it was suggested that the five-year plans should be put into force on the basis of increasing production by 20 per cent a year, it was Stalin, and at that time his ally Bukharin, who laughed at this. 'sheer adventurism' on the part of the Opposition.
How could a peasant country like Russia hope to develop industry faster than the countries of the West, he asked? In Bukharin's phrase, they would 'reach socialism at a snail's pace'. And when it was suggested, for example, that the Dnieperstroy power works - now one of the most famous hydro-electric schemes in the Soviet Union - should be constructed, and on which the first five-year plan was based, Stalin said that to talk about such a project was like suggesting that a peasant should buy a gramophone instead of a cow. The whole thing, he said, was beyond the resources of the Soviet Union at that time.
We can see very clearly from reference to Trotsky's Revolution Betrayed [source] what was at stake and what actually happened in the Soviet Union in those vital years: why the bureaucracy pursued its course toward the kulak, scoffed at the 'super industrialisers', and rejected any attempt at democratisation and a change of policy. Then, suddenly, panic ensues. The 'impossible' becomes not only possible but 'exceedable'. Those who stood for industrialisation, and gradual collectivisation on the basis of a growing industry (not on the basis of a wooden plough and thousand year old methods) while awaiting the maturing of the revolutionary possibilities in Western Europe, were locked up, exiled and deported (what policies the victorious bureaucracy later imposed on the workers through the Comintern when that revolutionary situation did mature, we shall see later). The forced collectivisation was then proceeded with - not as we said on a basis of tractors, but of wooden ploughs, a few thousand bureaucratic collectivisers and a large army of police.
The results are well known. The wholesale destruction of livestock by the peasants, the situation of virtual civil war with Moscow and other centres surrounded by armour, millions dead of famine. Today in the Soviet Union 40 per cent of the total food produced comes from six per cent of the cultivated land, from the private plots.
So we can see that the argument between Stalinism and Trotskyism was not whether the Soviet Union should be developed or not, because the people who were in favour of developing the Soviet Union were the Left Opposition. The argument was between those who stood for a thorough democratisation or re-democratisation of the Soviet Union and those who stood for a further bureaucratisation of the Soviet Union.
Lenin, in 1924, was already becoming alarmed at the processes that were taking place in the Soviet Union. And Lenin, in contradistinction to Stalin and all the acolytes of Stalin, was always honest and ready to face the facts. And in his last articles and his last speeches he referred to the fact that if one took away the 'thin varnish of socialism' (his own words) which existed in the Soviet Union, there was the same old Tsarist state machine, the same old Tsarist bureaucracy in control.
It was precisely because the revolution had taken place in a country where the working class was only 10 per cent of the population, precisely because of the backwardness even of the working class (we must remember the large amount of illiteracy that existed in the Soviet Union) that the Bolsheviks were forced to rely largely on the same old Tsarist officials in the ministries, etc, in order to carry through the administration of the country. What happened was that the newer elements in this bureaucracy began to raise themselves above the level of the working class. These elements moved away from the conceptions of Marxism, away from the conceptions of Bolshevism.
In the international arena, the developments that gave Stalin the opportunity to come to power were the defeat of the working class in Germany in 1923, in 1925-7 in China and the defeat of the British working class in the general strike of 1926. These were the factors that allowed the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union to consolidate its power.
Socialism in One Country - an Anti-Marxist Concept
Marxists are not internationalists for abstract, sentimental reasons, just because they think that the workers of one country must love the workers of another country.
We are internationalists, as Marx explained, because the whole essence and function of capitalism, apart from developing the productive forces in each country, are summed up in the fact that the whole world was drawn into one single inter-dependent unit by the capitalist system, where every country is dependent on every other country. The whole world is drawn by capitalism into one single inter-related economic unit. It is this which gives us the essence of the internationalism of the working class. Events that occur in one country affect the workers of other countries. That is why Lenin, Trotsky, Marx, Engels and all the great teachers of the working class movement, always based themselves on internationalism - not from abstract sentimentalism, but from the actual organic needs of the development of world economy, from the organic needs of the working class itself.
How, then, did the idea of 'socialism in one country', entirely foreign to the ideas of Marxism, appear within the Soviet Union? The answer, as always given by Marxists, is that no theory, once it gets mass support or the support of a large section of people, can be a theory in the abstract; it must reflect the material interests of classes or of strata within classes. Whose interest, then, did 'socialism in one country' reflect? Did it reflect the interests of the Russian workers? Or did it reflect the interests of the bureaucrats, of the officialdom within the Soviet Union? Had the same process which Lenin sketched in relation to the labour bureaucracy in the industrially advanced Western countries taken place once the workers in Russia had taken power?
The answer we can give as to whose interests the idea of socialism in one country represents, has been given by history itself. There, Comrade Clifford, is the explanation of why Trotsky and the Left Opposition were defeated, and why Stalin won! Whose interests were reflected in the struggle is shown by the development of the Soviet Union itself. What happened to the Soviet state under Stalin? In the early stages, nominally, all the conditions that we've spoken about continued to exist, though the bureaucracy remained corrupt. The bureaucracy illegitimately stole and had a greater share than they were allowed according to the laws of the Soviet state.
But what has happened to the soviets of which Lenin speaks? There are no soviets in the Soviet Union! The name remains, but in place of the living, acting democracy of the soviets, we have a so-called parliament - a caricature of a bourgeois parliament, because at least in a bourgeois parliament different organisations, different tendencies can put up. But in the so-called Soviet parliament we have what amounts to a Reichstag - one totalitarian organisation, where only a single candidate is put up, or as Marx would explain, a plebiscital regime and not at all a workers' democracy as existed with the soviets in the early days of the Soviet Union.
Far from the right of recall which Lenin spoke of, the system had degenerated to the extent that when Stalin carried through his purge in 1936-9, about one-fifth to two-fifths of the members of the parliament were arrested, exiled to Siberia and shot, and mysteriously, without any new elections or by-elections, new MPs appeared to take their place. Under the rule of Stalin, in the last election in which Stalin took part, in his own constituency, he received the magnificent total of 105 per cent of the votes. And that in itself is sufficient indication of the kind of system we are dealing with as far as democracy of any kind is concerned.
All this was no accident. Again, whose interest is reflected? The law that no official should receive a higher wage than a skilled worker was abolished by Stalin as long ago as 1931 and today the difference in wages between a parliamentary representative or the President of the Soviet Union, and an ordinary worker in the Soviet Union, is far far greater than the difference in wages between the parliamentarians at Westminster and the working class in Britain. Lenin had made a concession in the early days of the revolution because they had no other alternative; he had made the concession of allowing a difference in wage of a maximum in the Soviet state of four to one. A specialist, a technician, could receive four times the wage of a skilled worker. That was the absolute maximum. That long ago has been abolished and in the Soviet Union today the difference between the top strata of the managers and the workers, is as great and in many cases, even much greater, than in America, Germany, Britain and other capitalist countries.
Whereas Lenin had openly proclaimed even the difference of four to one as a capitalist differential, now the bureaucracy which seized control reigns untramelled and uses the Soviet state not in the interests of the working people, but in the interests of the bureaucracy itself.
What has happened to the demand of Lenin for the dissolution of the army into the armed people? It is now nearly 50 years since the revolution. As late as 1931, an army general was court-martialled because a peasant, seeing that his felinki or big top boots were dirty and having a liking for this general, had polished his boots. This was considered degrading in a workers' army. Under Stalin, as the economy went forward, so the differences appeared and grew. Whereas in the early days of the Soviet state and even in the early years of the Stalinist regime the soldiers and officers mingled as equals after work (when off duty), now the officers have special clubs, special barbers, special batmen, special everything, in addition to the fact that the difference in wages between a private and an officer, is greater than in the armies of the capitalist countries.
Whereas Lenin had spoken of the armed people, now we have the position of an armed elite that has been created and conditioned apart from the people. The reason why an army separate and apart from the people has to exist under capitalism has been explained many times by Marx and by Lenin as being for the defence of privilege and inequality and not at all for the defence of the rights of people. So that condition laid down by Lenin for a workers' state, of the ending of the monopoly of arms in the hands of an elite and having instead an armed people, has disappeared.
What has happened to the last point that was raised by Lenin - that is, of not having any permanent bureaucracy? Lenin had conceived that as the workers' state gradually moved forward, more and more of the tasks of administration, more and more of the tasks of the state, would be carried out by the working class themselves. As they moved toward socialism, and toward communism, the state would dissolve into the people. On the contrary, under the rule of Stalin, we have had a constant re-enforcement of the state machine and more bureaucratisation, oppressing the working class in the Soviet Union.
What then is left of the revolution? Why, then, do the Trotskyists still maintain that the Soviet Union remains a workers' state, albeit a Bonapartist workers' state or a deformed workers' state?
The answer is that so long as the nationalised economy, and the plan, continue to exist, then the Soviet Union is a workers' state, entirely distinct from the states (of greater or lesser democracy, as the case may be) where private property and the unplanned domination of the market continue to exist.
In the Soviet Union the planned nationalised economy is the last, and only, conquest of the revolution that remains.
Why, then, did these developments take place? Why was Stalin victorious? The answer is that socialism cannot be built in a single country, more particularly in a single backward country. The reason for the victory of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union lies in the material conditions in the Soviet Union itself at the time. Marx almost a hundred years before had explained that in order to have communism, the material conditions must exist, and these do not exist in the Soviet Union.
Let us examine Lenin's writings. We will see for example how in 1919, at the time of the seizure of power by the workers in Germany, in the provinces of Bavaria and Saxony, in his letter to the German workers dealing with this problem, Lenin said the first act of the government must be to introduce the seven-hour day. This was not so much because it was a reform - of course Lenin and ourselves would be in favour of such reforms - but because the extra hour a day which would be given to the working class would give them time to take part in the administration of the state industry, because that was how Lenin saw the question of workers' power and socialism.
But that was not possible, at the stage with which we are dealing, in an isolated, backward, peasant and largely illiterate Soviet Union.
It is true that the Soviet Union has made enormous strides, on the basis of state ownership and a plan, in spite of the mistakes and the crimes of this monstrous bureaucracy.
The Soviet Union has become the second most powerful industrial state in the world. But dialectically, the fact that industry has developed to a stage where the working class, from being a tiny minority, is now by far and away the majority of the people in the Soviet Union, where the working class is perhaps the most highly cultured and educated in the world, means that the bureaucracy, having taken power, is not prepared to give it up. This bureaucracy will have to be overthrown before we can have a restoration, not of socialism - and here, may we say Comrade Clifford is apparently under the illusion that socialism was mysteriously established in the Soviet Union at a time when the material level in the Soviet Union was not one third of that of the United States and of the capitalist countries - but of workers' democracy on the level that existed in the days of Lenin and Trotsky.
Trotsky has spoken of the 'betrayal' of the revolution and these facts that we have here adduced are an indication of this betrayal. Stalin was compelled, in order to make certain of the victory of his bureaucracy, to carry through the counter-revolution to the end; to purge the Soviet state of nearly all those who had created the state - to murder two-thirds of the Central Committee, not only those who had supported Trotsky, but also those who had supported Stalin; to murder the heads of the Red Army.(3) The leading marshalls of the Soviet Union; Yakir, Gamarnik, Tukhachevsky (the latter developed the idea of mobile or lightning war later used by Hitler) were all wiped out. A whole generation of marshalls, generals, officers, and cadres - in fact, 70 per cent of all officers - were liquidated. The disastrous results of this we will deal with later.
Stalin was forced to destroy all the elements who still rested on the October revolution of 1917. At the time that he took power, he unfortunately probably did not understand the role that he was later to play. Stalin really believed that he represented the interests of the revolution in the Soviet Union and in the other countries. At the time of Lenin's funeral he declared how the party and the leadership were going to remain faithful to the ideals of the Communist International and international socialism.
Stalin did not understand that in developing the policy he did develop, more and more he would become a prisoner, a tool and an agent of the bureaucracy itself. He foresaw nothing, and understood nothing. As Trotsky expressed it: if one could have taken a picture in 1923 and shown Stalin what would happen as a consequence of his policy, even Stalin would not have taken control. He would have refused to operate along the lines he did. And to see how the fate of the Soviet Union as it is today, as it was in 1917, as it will be in the coming years and decades, is bound up with the fate of the international working class, as the fate of all sectors of the revolution are bound together, we can see how the policies of this criminal and irresponsible bureaucracy led to the victory of Hitler in 1933.
In 1925-7, in China, and in 1924-6 Britain, Stalin had the aim - because he had lost confidence in the international revolution - of trying to placate the bourgeoisie in China, and the petty bourgeois democrats of the Labour Party and of the trade union bureaucracy in England. As a consequence, he burned his fingers on this policy, and reversed policy completely. Whereas in the Soviet Union the bureaucracy had based themselves on the kulaks and the Nepmen growing into socialism, after the repulsion of the revolution in 1927, Stalin was in a panic, because of fear of the restoration of capitalism. Because of fear of counter-revolution, the bureaucracy was compelled in a caricatured form to adopt the policy of Trotsky, in relation at least to the industrialisation of the Soviet Union and the collectivisation of agriculture. But as always with the bureaucracy, from one extreme they went to the other; from denying the need for collectivisation in the villages, they now passed to the insane policy of forced collectivisation. Similarly in relation to industry: having declared that they could go ahead at six per cent to nine per cent a year, they now declared that anything was possible.
And then, along with the ultra-left turn in the Soviet Union we had an ultra-left turn in the capitalist countries. So far as the 'social-fascist' period of Stalin and Stalinism is concerned: in Britain there was the ludicrous position of the Communist Party not only not uniting with the petit bourgeoisie - as Clifford now suggests must be done in Ireland - but refusing to unite with the working class leaders of the labour movement, with those in whom the working class unfortunately had confidence at that time.
We had the infamous Stalinist formula that 'social democracy and fascism are not antipodes but twins'! To which Trotsky made the famous reply that 'twins are born at the same time' - that social democracy is at its strongest when the rate of profit is high, when capitalism is booming and the labour and trade union bureaucracy can get concessions for the workers from the capitalist class. He stressed that fascism, far from being the 'twin' of social democracy as the 'genius' Stalin declared it to be, arises as a defence of the bourgeoisie when crisis sets in, when there are no profits and when no concessions can be made. Then the capitalist Black Hundreds, or brownshirts or what you like to call them, go to work to split and terrorise the workers, who are in process of turning from the reformism of the social-democratic bureaucracy and of taking the revolutionary road.
In Britain the result of this criminal policy dictated by the Stalinist bureaucracy, was that the tiny British Communist Party was breaking up Labour Party meetings, trying to beat up Labour leaders - Pollitt, Campbell and other hacks and mouthpieces announced in the Worker that the Labour Party was not to be allowed to hold any meetings in the open anywhere in the country. And, of course, as a consequence of this, the Communist Party became isolated from the workers who were completely indignant at the ultra-left and insane tactics of that party.
But in Britain it was merely comedy. In Germany on the other hand, the policy of Stalin was absolutely tragic - a monstrous betrayal of the working class. The failure of the working class to give a lead to the petit bourgeoisie - and that, Comrade Clifford, is where the problem of the petit bourgeoisie comes in; where the working class fails to give a lead, then the petit bourgeoisie goes over to the side of reaction - the failure of the revolution of 1918, the failure of the revolutionary opportunity of 1923, this led to the petit bourgeoisie moving in the direction of the counter-revolution, of fascism. In 1930 for the first time Hitler secured six million votes at the polls, and instead of the Communist Party immediately offering a united front to the Social Democrats and preparing for a struggle to the death against Hitler and the Nazi gangsters, the Communist Party refused. They even attempted to compete in the most base fashion with the nationalist propaganda of the Nazis. They split the German workers in the most insane fashion possible. For example, in the period 1930-3 they even came out with the slogan 'Beat the little Zoergebiels in the playgrounds!' - inciting the children of Communist workers against the children of Social Democratic workers (Zoergebiel being the Prussian chief of police, who was a Social Democrat).
In this criminal way Stalinism paralysed the German working class. In 1931 in Prussia, the state in which the Social Democrats held power, the Communist Party even united and voted with the Nazis in the so-called Red Referendum, for the purpose of turning out the Social Democratic government.
The Communist Party at that time was putting forward the demagogic nonsense that because capitalism ruled under fascism and because capitalism ruled under democracy, therefore fascism and democracy were one and the same thing. What did it matter, ran the propaganda of Thaelmann, whether one gets bullets from the fascists or bullets from the so-called democrats? Whether one starves under the Social Democrats or whether one starves under Hitler? In this way they paralysed the working class. They refused to unite the working class. They refused to organise the working class on a programme that could have won also the mass of the middle class who had gone mad and in their agony, due to the slump of 1929-33, had turned to the fascists for a solution.
For the first time in the history of the working class in the period of a century, monstrous totalitarian reaction was allowed to take power, and to crush the working class, as Hitler boasted, 'without a window-pane being broken'.
We should remember in this connection that whereas Stalin was preaching the insane theory of 'social-fascism' - that the Social Democrats were the worst form of fascists - Trotsky wrote four books warning that the victory of Hitler would be a blow not only against the German working class but against the international working class, warning that the victory of Hitler would mean war on the Soviet Union. At that time the so-called 'communists' were attacking Trotsky as a 'counter-revolutionary' for putting forward the conception of the united front of the working class, a united front of struggle on the basis of the working class.
Trotsky appealed to the German workers and more especially to the communist workers, not to go down without a fight. A defeat of the German workers, he said, at the hands of Hitler, would be worse than a hundred other defeats. Comrade Clifford says there was no Communist Party to speak of in Germany; that there was no possibility of any effective armed resistance. Yet we know there were over one million armed communist workers, Comrade Clifford, and two million armed workers in the Republican Guard. There were even some tanks from the Spartacist uprising. Of course, we realise that for Comrade Clifford to recognise these facts would mean that he might have to look more closely and in a Marxist manner at the 'theory' of 'social-fascism'.
In Britain - as we could give scores of quotations to indicate - in Germany, everywhere, Trotsky revealed himself as a 'counter-revolutionary' according to the Communist Party, because he was proposing and demanding a united front between the social democracy and the Communist Party in order to prevent the coming to power of the fascists.
This was one of Stalin's greatest crimes and greatest betrayals. In the current (August 1965) issue of Marxism Today, in a most dishonest and ignorant way, the issue is not dealt with at all as it was in reality. It was not a question of a defence of bourgeois democracy, but of a defence of the rights of the working class, of the elements of a new workers' state that exist within democracy - of the rights of the trade unions, the rights of workers' parties, which are concessions that had been wrested from capitalism over a period of a hundred years.
It was this 'great teacher' of the workers, Joseph Stalin, who was entirely responsible for the victory of Hitler; no Stalin - no Hitler! That should be ingrained on the working class.
Here we might point out that up to 1933 the supporters of Trotsky considered themselves as part of the Communist International, and stood for reform within the Soviet Union and within the Communist Parties. But after 1933, the Communist Parties showed that they had learned nothing from this greatest defeat in the history of the working class, and continued with the same policy as in the past. In France, as late as 1934 when an attempt was being organised at a fascist coup (we would refer you here to France in Crisis (4)) the Communist Party, having learned nothing from the terrible experience of the German workers, united with the fascists for the overthrow of the bourgeois parliament in February 1934. It was only the instinct of the working class, who had seen what had happened in Germany, that led them to come out in a general strike, and prevent the move to power of the fascists.
It was the continuing reactionary policies dictated by the bureaucracy, which saw a mortal danger to its position in the revolutionary coming to power of the workers anywhere in Europe, that forced Trotsky and the Left Opposition to break and establish the Fourth International.
Stalin attempted to arrive at an agreement with Hitler at that time. For him, the victory of Hitler was only an episode, not a terrible defeat. He was busy building so-called 'socialism in one country'; in reality, building the interests of his bureaucratic clique. It was only in 1935, again by the dictate of Stalin, that the Communist Party once again changed its line, and instead of the united front which they had rejected in the past, turned 180 degrees, and came forward with the people's front or popular front. And the idea of a popular front was again dictated purely by the foreign diplomatic needs and interests, not of the Soviet Union, or the Russian or the international working class, but of this gangster caste which had seized control in the Soviet Union.
Stalin was prepared to sacrifice - and this meant in the end the sacrifice of the interests of the Soviet Union - the French workers, the workers of Spain, the working class of Britain and of other countries (including Ireland, for we have not forgotten what happened to the Irish Communist Party) - when it became clear that Hitler intended war on the Soviet Union. In order to try to come to some kind of military agreement with the so-called democratic capitalists of France and Britain, against Hitler, Stalin followed a policy of popular frontism.
Yet we know that the so-called democratic powers backed Hitler to the hilt; they supported Hitler because they wanted to see the crushing of the German working class. The British imperialists in particular supported the taking over of the Rhineland in order to break the power of France, and above all in older to prepare Hitler as a weapon of intervention against the Soviet Union. And if the war and the developments that took place later were not in the interest of British imperialism, it was no thanks to the criminal policy of Stalin and the Stalinists, as we will show later.
But now that this bureaucratic caste had seized complete control in the Soviet Union and had purged the working class, the whole rosy perspective was spoiled by the outbreak of the revolution in Spain. And now for two reasons the bureaucracy was scared out of its wits by the revolution in Spain. First of all, from the so-called diplomatic point of view, that it might frighten its would-be allies into the arms of the reaction. Secondly, a victory for the working class, an installation of workers' democracy anywhere in the world, would mean the end of this bureaucratic caste itself in the Soviet Union. The victory of the workers and the establishment of a state on the lines outlined by Marx and Lenin would immediately have led to the Russian workers, seeing they were no longer isolated, settling accounts with this monstrous tumour which had grown on the Soviet state - they would have lanced it with the weapon of political revolution.
As reports indicate, even from bourgeois observers, it was the revolution in Spain which shook the basis of Stalin's rule and which now led to the consummation of the bureaucratic counter-revolution in the Soviet Union. It was then that Stalin organised his purge trials. It was then that Stalin massacred hundreds of thousands of worker-Bolsheviks. It was then that Stalin exiled to Siberia and into slave labour camps, between ten and fifteen million people. All this because of the fear of revolution on the part of the proletariat.
The crimes of Stalin were not an accident, as Khruschev and others made out, although to Comrade Clifford this counter-revolutionary bureaucratic ruthlessness was 'necessary' to the maintenance of the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. Another particular favourite of Comrade Clifford, apart from the monster Stalin, is Mao Tse-Tung. The latter also, strangely enough for a 'Marxist', thinks the crimes of Stalin were accidental, and that the so-called 'cult of the personality' was only a question of a mistake. It is absolutely an insult to the intelligence even of non-Marxists to speak as if one man could dominate a whole country, and embark on a programme of crimes of that sort, without being the representative of the material interests of some powerful stratum or strata of society; in this case, the bureaucracy.
The cult of personality was launched, the terror was launched, against the working class in the Soviet Union, against the October revolution, out of fear of the throwing aside of the usurpers of the revolution and the restoration of democracy on the lines of the October revolution. That is the explanation of the crimes of Stalin. And in the lunatic lengths to which this insane bureaucracy proceeded we had at various stages whole nations being uprooted and exiled to Siberia, as Khruschev was later to reveal - the Chechen Ingushes, the Crimean Tartars, the German Volga Republic, all these entire peoples, men, women, and children exiled into Siberia. What did all this have to do with socialism, Comrade Clifford? What did it have to do with the dictatorship of the proletariat, never mind socialism?
It was not for nothing that Lenin in the period of 1923-4, as the new documents have now revealed, was already beginning to take action against Stalin for his Great Russian chauvinism and his attitude to the backward and minority peoples (including the Georgian people) of the Soviet Union. Lenin explained that Stalin did not understand the ABC of the problem of nationalities - and incidentally, we might mention just in passing that the book on nationalities published by Stalin was merely a paraphrase of the ideas of Lenin, which Lenin went over many times before it was published.
As with all his other policies, Stalin's crimes in regard to the nationalities had nothing in common either with the programme of Bolshevism, or the means with which they won the peoples in the Soviet Union in the period of the war of intervention and the civil war.
The Hitler-Stalin Pact
The Stalinists came out for the 'popular front'. In the most cynical fashion which it is possible to imagine - having betrayed the revolution in Germany, the revolution in France (the French workers also had the opportunity of seizing power), the revolution in Spain - Stalin made the second world war inevitable. For five years, having put forward the programme of popular frontism, of agreement with democracy - using the Communist International as a tool of the foreign policy of the Russian bureaucracy - Stalin then cynically turned around and signed the Hitler-Stalin Pact, a pact that Trotsky predicted would result in war on the Soviet Union. This pact was a preparation for the intervention of Hitler.
Trotskyism, while all during this period and at each stage making a relentless criticism of the crimes and betrayals of Stalinism, nevertheless always stood for the defence of what was left of the October revolution.
Stalin, by operating this policy of popular frontism, prepared the way for Hitler's victory. The French working class was demoralised; and as a consequence we had the victory of Hitler in the West, which in turn prepared the way for war on the East. Many people have believed (and Comrade Clifford still does) that it was Stalin's 'clever policy' which led to the situation where the ruling class of Britain and of America were prepared to make an alliance with the Soviet Union against Germany. This is absolute nonsense.
Even in 1917 at the time of the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks the imperialists of Britain and France were quite prepared to support the Soviet Union - temporarily of course - against Germany, their main enemy and main danger to their interests at that time. And in the same way, 'supporting the Soviet Union' - in Lenin's phrase, 'like the rope supports a hanged man' - they were quite prepared to come to an alliance with the Soviet Union at a later stage again because of Hitler's conquest of the greater part of Europe.
In the second world war, we get an entirely different way of operating on the part of the Stalinists than that which we had seen on the part of Lenin and Trotsky in the period of the intervention against the Soviet Union following the first world war.
At the time of the most desperate peril for the Soviet Union, when the German army stood at the gates of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad, when Stalin asked for a second front, he was told that it was militarily impossible, that the resources, tanks, landing craft and men were not available. A million [British] troops were in the Middle East (in Persia, Iraq etc) and by sheer 'coincidence' were facing toward the richest part of the Soviet Union (the Urals, Baku, Batum and the Soviet oilfields). Again by sheer 'coincidence' there were a million Russian troops facing the British troops. When Stalin in desperation asked that these British troops should fight with the Russians on the Eastern Front, Churchill replied that Stalin should withdraw the million Russian troops from these frontiers and send them to fight on the Eastern Front. He (Churchill) was perfectly willing that the million British troops should garrison Baku, the Caucasus, the Urals and the richest parts of the Soviet Union. Even Stalin knew what that meant. He turned down the generous offer of the great democratic gentleman.
What all this revealed was the calculations of the ruling class - that at some stage the Soviet Union would be destroyed and they would collect the lot.
Khruschev has revealed something of the crimes of Stalin in regard to the conduct of the war. First of all they were caught completely unprepared by Hitler's attack. In spite of the fact that many warnings were given by the imperialists and by workers and peasants on the frontiers who saw pontoons, etc, being prepared, Stalin clung to his agreement with Hitler.
What is not generally realised is that at the time of the attack by the German forces the fire power of the Russian army was greater than the firepower of the German army; and other things being equal, the Soviet Union should have defeated the Germans within the first six months of the war. The reason for the terrible victories of Hitler which cost the Russian people so many millions of dead, and the Soviet Union such terrible sacrifices, was the crime of Stalin in destroying over 70 per cent of the effective officers and cadres of the Russian army in order to maintain his totalitarian rule; and in putting in their place such nonentities as Voroshilov, Budyenny and Timoshenko.
The Russian armies were decapitated, and in desperation Stalin had to release Zhukov and Russokovsky from the jail for the purpose of conducting the war!
Instead of Lenin's internationalist policy, as would be natural with a workers' state - relying on the working class of other countries and above all on the German soldiers and working class, to win them over to the revolution (as the Russians had succeeded in doing in 1917-18) - Stalin waged the struggle as a nationalist struggle, even as a racial struggle.
If one reads the poison disseminated by the Communist Party, in Britain, France and other countries, following the lead of Stalin, one will see and be shocked by this. In Russia itself such slogans as 'Death to the Germans', 'The only good German is a dead German', 'To each a German', and so on, were raised by the bureaucratic conductors of the so-called 'Great Patriotic War'. This policy offering nothing but retribution - not, mind you to the German fascists, the German capitalists, the SA or the SS - but to the German people as a whole, led to the war lasting much longer than it need have done, and led to the imposition of immeasurably greater sacrifices on the Russian people than would otherwise have been necessary.
Just to point to what we have said, we would add that Hitler actually distributed and redistributed Russian propaganda material to the German army, because it aided discipline in that it left no way out for the German soldiers except nazi discipline. Can anyone imagine the German High Command helping with the circulation of Bolshevik propaganda in the period 1917-18?!! That was the difference between Stalinist propaganda and Bolshevik propaganda.
Outside Moscow there were one million German soldiers, not clad for the winter, without sufficient food, or sometimes any at all - they died frozen in heaps. Not one international call, not one call to them as workers was made - not a single offer of a bowl of soup even. The bureaucracy could only offer anti-Boche, anti-Hun racialism and hate.
We should remember that the second world war, in the European arena at least, was a Russo-German war. British and US imperialism remained onlookers. The only reason they made the second front in 1944 was, not because they were dear allies of the great warrior Stalin, but because of their fear that if they did not intervene at that stage, when the Russian army was marching on Berlin, they would find the Russians on the English Channel. Their only reason for intervening was to save capitalism in Europe, to prevent the occupation of the whole of Europe by the Russian armies.
And here we can say in regard to the second world war that it was not only the gigantic sacrifices and mighty struggles of the Russian people themselves that saved the Soviet Union from destruction after that war. Russia was at her weakest, she had been bled white. She produced at that time eight million tons of steel, all of which went into the production of armaments. (Only a bare three or four per cent of Russian equipment was Western aid, and this mainly in the form of food, clothing, boots etc.) The armaments themselves were Russian-produced, and here let us say that in the field of armaments, the Russians outproduced Nazi Germany with the whole of Europe at her disposal.
America alone was producing 120 million tons of steel - that is, apart from Britain and the other capitalist countries of the West. The American and the British troops who were engaged in Europe were fresh, the overwhelming majority of them had engaged in hardly any real fighting at all. Had it not been for the revolutionary wave which swept Europe after the war - the radicalisation of the British workers and the American people who wanted the troops brought home once the war was over - it would not have been possible for the Soviet Union to be saved. America had the atomic bomb, the dropping of which, incidentally, was approved and supported by Stalin and by his lackeys in Britain and other countries. America was at her strongest, Russia at her weakest, and still America was paralysed because it was impossible to swing the American workers behind a war against the Soviet Union. That is the reason why the Soviet Union was victorious.
In this regard it can be said that the salvation of the Soviet Union was not so much a result of the reactionary policies of Stalin and alliances with imperialism. On the contrary, the Soviet Union was saved in spite of these alliances and this policy.
The Bureaucracy Today
We have said that Stalin represented the bureaucracy - not the working class, but the millions of officialdom in the Soviet Union. From a Marxist point of view this can easily be explained. Engels, in Anti-Dühring, [source] has shown that the division into classes in society, in the last analysis, is due to the division of labour.
Engels explained that so long as art, science and government remain the preserve of a small group of people and not the masses, this small group of people would use and abuse their position in their own interest and not in the interest of the people as a whole. He went on to explain that this was inevitable as long as the masses of the people had to work seven, eight, nine or ten hours a day for the barest necessities of existence.
In Russia, at the time of the revolution, the per capita income and standard of living were less than in Britain three centuries ago. On the basis of weak industry, backward agriculture, ignorance and illiteracy - where the working class had to work long hours merely as Engels said, to get the barest necessities of existence - it was not possible for the working class to maintain itself in power. That is the explanation for the victory of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
By the dialectic of history the very victories of the Soviet Union in the last ten to fifteen years have gradually been undermining the power of the bureaucracy within the Soviet Union. The bureaucracy has ceased to function even as a relatively progressive force. In the period between the wars, given the failure of the international revolution (the reasons for which have been mentioned) the bureaucracy played a relatively progressive role in the industrialisation of the Soviet Union.
But already by 1953, the bureaucracy, in Marxist terms, had become an impediment, a fetter on the development of the productive forces. Marx explained the role which capitalism played in the past - the development of the material conditions for socialism. We can say that developments like those in the Soviet Union are possible in backward countries, where capitalism might be destroyed by various means (which we don't want to go into at this moment). Where, on the other hand, the proletariat would take power in a country like Britain, America, France or Japan, there is already a sufficiency of the material development of production. But even so, as Marx explained when he foreshadowed the revolution, it would require the efforts of the Germans, the French and the English - of the most advanced countries at that time - for the building of socialism. So also in America, we can begin the dictatorship of the proletariat. We cannot construct socialism even in America on its own.
But today one cannot imagine the revolution in America, Britain, France, or Germany without it spreading to other countries of Europe and of the world.
In the period 1950-3 the bureaucracy, as with the capitalist class in the last four or five decades, has become more and more an impediment on the planning and development of production. It is impossible to operate a so-called socialist plan without the direct participation and control of the working class, the peasants and the people as a whole. In the Soviet Union the rule of the bureaucracy is increasingly hampering development. According to Russian economists themselves, one-third of the entire national effort is wasted because of the corruption, mismanagement and nepotism of the bureaucracy.
In 1953, as in 1936, Stalin, feeling the ground once again moving under his feet, was preparing another purge. That is the explanation of the so-called 'Doctors' Plot'(5) of that time. But the bureaucracy decided that Russia could not afford a new purge - the terrible purge of 1936-40 had terribly weakened the Soviet Union. We have already dealt, albeit briefly, with the terrible effect of that purge on the armed forces, and the consequences of this in the war. The whole of the country was paralysed by the purge which was waged by Stalin at that time. It was a virtual civil war.
Stalin prepared a new purge in 1953, which would also have meant the purge of the top bureaucrats - Khruschev, Voroshilov(6), Zhukov, Beria and others. They decided to strangle Stalin. And Stalin probably got his just deserts, strangled by his own bureaucrats and policemen, in 1953.
In the intervening period, since 1953, the Stalinist bureaucracy, headed by Khruschev, adopted a new policy. They realised that it was impossible, without plunging the Soviet Union into complete chaos, to launch into a new purge, which would have affected tens of millions of people. The Soviet Union, in the world situation which existed, did not dare face a prospect of that sort. In addition to which, the Russian working class was far stronger than before, and the bureaucracy was not prepared to risk a tremendous clash. The significance of Malenkov,(7) Khruschev, Kosygin and Co, is that that they have stood for a policy of reform from the top in order to prevent revolution from the bottom. The whole policy of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union is orientated to a defence of their privileges against the working class and to try by various reforms and concessions to prevent the working class from overthrowing them.
Trotsky, in predicting the political revolution in the Soviet Union, had indicated the way in which the demands of the working class for a restoration of soviet democracy would proceed. In the Hungarian revolution in 1956 there were Hungarian workers who had never read Trotsky, but had read Lenin. They nevertheless put forward exactly the demands which Trotsky had worked out. This was no accident. The demands which they put forward were for the four conditions we have mentioned earlier. They demanded, in addition, the right of all parties which accept state ownership and a plan to put forward their positions. Never again were the Hungarian workers prepared to tolerate the totalitarian dictatorship of any one party.
Whereas it could be argued that in the early days of the Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks were forced to adopt a repressive regime, now, at a time when the Soviet Union can produce 91 million tons of steel, when capitalism has been weakened throughout the world, when the bureaucrats allege that socialism has been realised in the Soviet Union, not even the elementary principles of the dictatorship of the proletariat as worked out by Lenin and Marx exist in the Soviet Union.
Why is it that the bureaucracy cannot introduce democracy? Why is it that they cannot allow workers' organisations the freedom to exist? Let us look at the bourgeois revolution. In the early stages of such revolutions, as under Cromwell for example, the bourgeoisie was compelled to take dictatorial measures against feudal reaction. But at a later stage, after the bourgeois had established themselves, they had no objection to reaction putting forward the programme of a return to the 'good old days' - back to feudalism in effect - because the idea was ludicrous and reactionary. Yet in the Soviet Union, at a time when there are sixty million workers, when only democracy can really permit the full development of the potential of the Soviet state, the bureaucracy still continues with its totalitarian measures. And measures against who? The bourgeoisie has long since ceased to exist. The peasantry is supposed to be, according to our friend Clifford, the dearest ally of the proletariat (and we would certainly say that the peasants would not want to go back to the old system if they were offered an alternative by the working class of the Soviet Union). The measures of the bureaucracy are directed against the workers, as more and more they realise that they, the bureaucracy, are an impediment upon production.
The reason why the bureaucracy is now compelled to fool around with capitalist 'incentives', to give the managers an incentive in the production of their factories, is precisely because they are completely incapable of appealing to the masses themselves. To do this would mean destroying the privileges of the bureaucracy. This is the problem from which stem the zigzags of the bureaucracy over the past ten to fifteen years, under Stalin, under Malenkov, under Khruschev and now Brezhnev and Kosygin.
The bureaucracy first of all centralised the enterprises - 500,000 of them, run by a handful of people - which [was an absolutely crazy idea]. Khruschev decentralised and, as the Trotskyists at the time said would happen, from one centralised bureaucracy controlling industry, sixteen bureaucracies appeared and proliferated, laying new burdens of chaos, red tape and difficulties before the Russian economy. The original impetus given to industry by the regionalisation turned into its opposite. Now they are recentralising and at the same time trying to decentralise! The one thing they cannot do, and which the material base has been created for now, is to permit the creative intervention of the masses, because that would mean the end of their privileges and power. That is the one reason why - unlike the bourgeoisie, whose system was based on private ownership, and who could allow the development of democracy - the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union cannot allow any form of democracy. It is impossible, for that matter in China or in any other of the deformed workers' states.
Comrade Clifford has mixed up (consciously or unconsciously) two fundamentally different questions: the Theory of the Permanent Revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. We have defined the dictatorship of the proletariat, what it means and how it works.
We will now take up the Theory of the Permanent Revolution. Very simply, the theory can be explained in this way. In the period of the modern development of capitalism there is, first of all, what Trotsky calls the law of combined development: superimposed on feudal or semi-feudal remains, we have the development of modern industry - as we had in Russia, to a certain extent in China and in other countries of the so-called underdeveloped or backward areas of the world. Because of the period in which we live, the bourgeoisie in the backward countries is incapable of playing the role that was played by the bourgeoisie in the revolutions of the past, for example in the English revolution or the great French revolution of 1789. Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution bases itself on the idea of Marx - and this they held in common with Lenin - that under modern conditions the bourgeoisie is quite incapable of carrying through the bourgeois democratic revolution. The reason for this is the linking up of the interests of the landowners with the bourgeoisie, and in the colonial countries the linking up of both of these together with imperialism. Therefore, the problem was posed of a new class coming on the scene and carrying through the programme of the bourgeois democratic revolution.
To understand this clearly we can take the development of the Russian revolution itself. What were the various positions and conceptions in relation to the revolution? The Mensheviks, echoing Plekhanov in this regard, said that we are facing a bourgeois revolution in Russia, therefore we must make an agreement with the liberal bourgeoisie. We will come to an agreement with the liberal bourgeoisie, they argued, Tsarism will be overthrown, then over a period of decades democracy will be developed in Russia and then will come the question of the socialist revolution.
The Menshevik spokesman Martynov(8) wrote on the eve of the 1905 revolution:
"The coming revolution will be a revolution of the bourgeoisie; and that means that...it will only, to a greater or lesser extent, secure the rule of all or some of the bourgeois classes. If this is so, it is clear that the coming revolution can on no account assume political forms against the will of the whole of the bourgeoisie, as the latter will be the master of tomorrow. If so, then to follow the path of simply frightening the majority of the bourgeois elements would mean that the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat could lead only to one result - the restoration of absolutism in its original form..." (A Martynov, Die Dikatury, Geneva, 1905, pages 57-8)
Martynov's implied conclusion is that the working class should impose self-restraint on itself so as not to 'frighten' the bourgeoisie; but at the same time he states that it should persistently press the bourgeoisie to lead the revolution:
"The struggle to influence the course and outcome of the bourgeois revolution can be expressed simply in the proletariat's exerting revolutionary pressure on the will of the liberal and radical bourgeoisie, the more democratic 'lower' section of society compelling the 'higher' section to agree to lead the bourgeois revolution to its conclusion."
Similarly, the Menshevik paper Iskra(9) wrote at the time:
"When looking at the arena of struggle in Russia, what do we see? Only two powers: Tsarist autocracy and the liberal bourgeoisie, the latter organised and of tremendous specific weight. The working classes are split and can do nothing; as an independent force we do not exist, and therefore our task consists in the support of the second force -the liberal bourgeoisie; we must encourage it, and on no account frighten it by putting forward the independent demands of the proletariat." (Quoted by G Zinoviev, Istoriia Rossiiskei Kommunisticheskoii Partii (Bolshevikov) [History of the Bolshevik Party], Moscow-Leningrad, 1923, page 158)
Lenin's position was somewhat different to this. Lenin took the position that they were facing a bourgeois democratic revolution. But, he said, echoing the words of Marx, the further East one goes, the more corrupt, the more rotten, the more venal is the bourgeoisie and the more incapable it is of playing a progressive role. We are facing a bourgeois revolution, he said, in agreement with the Mensheviks, therefore some of our main blows must be struck against the bourgeoisie itself; we must have absolutely no confidence in, we must give absolutely no support whatsoever to the liberal bourgeoisie. Lenin put forward the idea of an alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry, of the 'democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants'.
He said that the bourgeoisie was linked to Tsarism, and to the landowners; and that therefore we would have to have in the early stages a bourgeois democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.
Lenin and the Bolsheviks said that the revolution would be bourgeois in character and that its aim would not overstep the limits of a bourgeois revolution. "The democratic revolution will not extend beyond the scope of bourgeois social-economic relationships..." [source] wrote Lenin. And again, "...this democratic revolution will not weaken, but will strengthen the domination of the bourgeoisie." [source] He returned to the theme again and again.
Lenin accentuated and emphasised that the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry was to be a bourgeois dictatorship. And on the basis of the bourgeois revolution - and here we see the internationalism of Lenin - Russia would provoke the socialist revolution in Europe and then on the basis of the socialist revolution in Europe, the socialist revolution would be carried to Russia and we would have a proletarian revolution in Russia.
One can see this point in all of Lenin's writings and pamphlets up to 1917 and Lenin always emphasised this point.
What was wrong with the conception of Lenin, as Trotsky would express it, was that he put forward an algebraic formula, leaving history and the actual course of development to fill in the unknown. Trotsky said that if you have a dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, the question arises: which is to be the dominant force? If there is to be a dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, then it is obvious that the proletariat has to be the dominant force and get the support of the peasantry by supporting the aims of the peasantry.
As Trotsky pointed out, all history has demonstrated that the peasants, and the petit bourgeoisie in the towns, can play no independent role as a class. Under modern conditions they support the bourgeoisie or they support the proletariat. Marx explained this many times. Lenin explained it. Trotsky explained it. The only people who never understood this were Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung and their hangers-on or would-be hangers-on.
Trotsky's theory put the issue in a different way to Lenin. He agreed with Lenin as against the Mensheviks, and quoted many figures to support this view, showing how the landlords were linked with the banks, how the banks were linked with the bourgeoisie, how the bourgeoisie was linked with the landlords. The bourgeoisie had investments in the land; the landlords had investments in industry. Both were linked to Tsarism. Therefore, the bourgeoisie, because of these links, because of the belated character of the revolution and because of the links with foreign capital, could not carry through the bourgeois democratic revolution.
Therefore, Trotsky said, the revolution would begin as a bourgeois revolution, with democratic slogans, with the slogan of the eight hour day, with the slogan of the land to the peasants and so on. Where he differed with Lenin on this question, was in that he said that because the bourgeoisie was incapable of carrying through the bourgeois democratic revolution, the proletariat would have to come to power in Russia in order to carry through the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution. And how, in a bourgeois democratic revolution, could they come to power without the support of the peasantry, without the support of the petit bourgeoisie? The idea is absolute nonsense.
But, Trotsky said, the proletariat, having come to power and having carried through the bourgeois democratic tasks (having overthrown the monarchy, given land to the peasants, unified Russia, given freedom to the oppressed nationalities, and so on) would not stop at this; but having obtained power through the bourgeois democratic revolution, in order to carry through the bourgeois democratic revolution, would then go on to the socialist tasks of the revolution. Having carried through the socialist revolution - and obviously Russia could not carry it through on its own - the revolution would then expand to the countries of the West.
This is what is meant by the Permanent Revolution - that beginning as a bourgeois revolution, it becomes a socialist revolution Having become a socialist revolution in one country it then expands to other countries. In other words, the revolution assumes a permanent character.
Let us make clear that as far as Lenin, Trotsky and all the Marxists at that time were concerned, the question of socialism in one country could not be raised. It could not have been raised by Stalin, Plekhanov or anyone else because it was such a reactionary idea. That was not at all the difference between Lenin and Trotsky before the revolution. It was as to whether the bourgeois revolution could become a proletarian revolution; and on this question Lenin had not taken up a firm position before 1917.
'Socialism in one country' meant revolution in one country
It will be clear from what has been said that today, fifty years after the revolution of 1917, the tasks and problems in Russia have not yet been solved. Because the revolution took place only in one country, inevitably it degenerated into a bureaucratic or deformed workers' state (this was Lenin's description of it in 1923). Bureaucratisation in turn fed upon the continuing isolation. Then, through control of the Comintern, the bureaucracy, under Stalin, became an active and openly counter-revolutionary agent in the communist workers' movement internationally, Because of all this, the task of moving towards socialism still remains in the Soviet Union. The working class in the Soviet Union will have to pay with a new revolution, a political revolution, because of the fact that the revolution remained isolated and therefore degenerated.
Even though Russia has become the second industrial power of the world, it is quite clear that it has not succeeded in solving its problems, and events since the second world war have demonstrated this over and over again. Even if one assumes that in the next five years - and this is entirely possible - the Soviet Union should succeed in overtaking and exceeding the production of America, still they would not have solved the problems that exist. First and foremost, there is the problem of the bureaucracy, which is now clogging up all the creative power of the Soviet Union. Secondly, if one assumes that in the class struggle which is still taking place relentlessly in all the countries of the world, in the advanced countries as well as the backward countries, that the working class were to be defeated, then the fate of the Soviet Union, as formerly, or even more than formerly, will be decided by the class struggle in the West. The boom that we've seen in the last twenty years, the upswing of capitalism, is bound to change into a downswing. Then it is a question again of war or revolution, as the Marxists have never tired of pointing out.
If we were to assume the defeat especially of the American working class in the titanic struggles that loom ahead, and of which the blacks' struggle is but the first glimpse, and the seizure of power by a totalitarian fascist system, that could mean only one thing - a world war. With modern weapons this means annihilation.
It was the betrayal of the German, French and Spanish workers that led to the second world war. The great potential strength of the working class has in the past twenty years prevented the imperialists attempting another major war. If the working class is defeated in America in the coming struggles, then the question of the H-bomb being used will really come up, and in an hour everything that has been built up in fifty or sixty years of the labour of the Russian people will be destroyed.
The fate of all countries in the world is bound together, today more than ever before and any attempt to infuse blood and life into the wholly discredited Stalinist and bureaucratic notion of 'socialism in a single country' is an attempt to do a disservice to the revolutionary movement.
The continued existence of imperialism in a number of advanced countries with all the possibilities inherent in that situation; the fact that Stalinism through its misleading of the working class contributed to that situation and continues today from two centres, 'two Romes', to spread its revisionism in the ranks of the workers' movement; the fact that this revisionism can again contribute to victories of reaction with the consequent unleashing of nuclear world war, is the final irrefutable proof of the irrelevance and reactionary nature of the 'single country' nonsense. It is the final and irrefutable proof of the purely national and reactionary interests of the Stalinist bureaucrats, whether in Moscow, Warsaw, Budapest, Peking or anywhere else. Whether they like it or not, the nationalism of Mao Tse-Tung, of Stalin and all the others is tied up with the fate of the class struggle in the imperialist world. In the most reactionary way, all these elements pave the way for the possible annihilation of mankind.
Leninism, and not Stalinism dishonestly dressed up as Leninism, is the only way forward for the working class and for humanity as a whole. Only international socialism, only the international revolution can prevent a nuclear holocaust and guarantee the future.
Theory and Practice in the Russian Revolution
We will now look at how the theories and conceptions put forward by the Mensheviks, by Lenin and by Trotsky worked out in practice in the Russian revolution itself.
What were the positions of all the tendencies in 1917, after the February revolution? The Mensheviks, logically carrying through the programme on which they had based themselves for two decades, together with the Social Revolutionaries, supported the bourgeois Provisional Government which came to power.
What was the attitude, on the other hand, of Stalin, Kamenev, Zinoviev and of all the other 'Old Bolsheviks' at that time? Because of the lack of clarity in the slogans of Lenin - of a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry - they failed to understand the situation that existed. Had the revolution depended on Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev and all the other 'Old Bolsheviks', it would have been defeated. It would have met the same fate as the Chinese revolution of 1925-7, the German revolution, the Italian and French revolutions, and the revolutions in other countries where the leadership of the proletariat failed.
What was the position taken by Stalin? Stalin's attitude was that the revolution had established the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry and therefore full support should be given to the Provisional Government and to the Mensheviks. Stalin even said that now that the differences between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks had been erased by the revolution itself, they should unite with the Mensheviks into one single united party. When Stalin and Kamenev returned from exile, they found Molotov and some others in control of Pravda, the party press. They insisted that the line of the party press was too left; they took over the editorship of the paper and moved in the direction of conciliation and full support for the Provisional Government.
What was the attitude of Lenin? What Lenin explained when he came to Russia in the sealed train was that in so far as a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry was to be realised, the Kerensky regime was the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. There could be no other, except through the bourgeoisie. And Lenin now patiently explained to the working class that the only solution to the problem lying before the peasants, the only way to carry through the bourgeois revolution to a conclusion was in the proletarian revolution. At the same time, of course, for Lenin as for all Marxists of that time and before, any utopian idea of solving the problem on a Russian basis alone was ruled out. No one, no one at all, raised the question of socialism in a single country until Stalin in 1924.
The bourgeois democratic revolution has been in existence in Ireland for forty years. No other democratic dictatorship is possible, apart from that of Fianna Fail-Fine Gael. Only the Irish working class of North and South, of two imperialist-established stateless, can unify the country, can establish the independence of the country. And they will do so on the basis of a socialist programme, with socialist slogans, and with the support of elements of the rural and urban petty bourgeoisie.
The Irish bourgeoisie can go no further than they have already gone. The place of the petit bourgeoisie is behind the workers; they must place themselves in alliance with the revolutionary proletarian movement. The working class must aim at the establishment of its own power in order to solve the problems of Ireland - that is the way to winning the support of the Republican workers, of the workers in the Belfast shipyards and the North. The petit bourgeoisie can be won to the support of the workers; the question is how are they to be won? Will they be won by capitulation to the exploiters of the Irish petit bourgeoisie?
They can be won by explaining how their interests are linked with the socialist revolution in Ireland, with the freedom and unity of the country; and again, by explaining how they are linked up with the interests of the British and world working class. This is all the more important when we consider that between one and one and a half million Irish workers have been forced to emigrate to Britain in the last 40 years and that the coming revolutionary struggles in Ireland will have not a small effect in Britain.
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(1) The Black Hundreds were a proto-fascist league of monarchists and nationalists who carried out terrorist attacks on workers' organisations and were the chief instigators of pogroms. The Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) were a bourgeois liberal party in pre-revolutionary Russia, which became openly counter-revolutionary after the October Revolution.
(2) While the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks appeared as separate factions within the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party after the 1903 Congress, until 1912 both regarded themselves as groups within the same party. The issues raised here are dealt with fully in Lenin and Trotsky - What they really stood for, [source] by Ted Grant and Alan Woods (Militant)
(3) In 1937-8, Stalin purged the Red Army, arresting 25,000 officers - over a quarter of the total number. Many thousands were shot, including almost the entire leadership of the General Staff, many of whom, like those mentioned, had participated in the building of the Red Army during the civil war.
(5) In January 1953, nine professors of medicine were 'unmasked' as being agents of the British and American Secret Services. Unlike previous purges, which had listed living associates of Stalin as the 'intended victims', this time the only 'victims' were dead. The implications of this shook the bureaucracy and could well have led to Stalin's assassination by others in the Politbureau.
(6) Leading Russian bureaucrats. Nikita Khruschev was Prime Minister 1958-64. Kliment Voroshilov was President 1953-60, Laurent Beria was head of the Secret Police 1958-63, and Zhukov was second in command (after Stalin) of the Russian forces at the end of the war.
(7) Aleksei Kosygin, Russian Prime Minister 1964-80, Georgi Malenkov, Prime Minister 1953-5.
(8) Leading Menshevik at the time of the 1901 split in the RSDLP.
(9) Iskra was established by Lenin in 1900 to lay the foundations for an all-Russian Revolutionary Party. However, soon after the split at the 1903 congress, a majority of the Iskra editorial board sided with the Mensheviks for whom the paper became a mouthpiece.