A short pamphlet entitled 'Bolshevism Promises and Reality' (An appraisal of the results of the Marxist dictatorship over Russia) written by Gregori Maximov and published in Chicago in 1935 by the Free Society group of Chicago. The pamphlet was restored as a direct copy from an original by the E.G Smith collective and reprinted in 1995.
This pamphlet has a unique interest in that it is written by a man who took an active part in the Russian revolution and who also has a profound knowledge of the theoretical side of the various revolutionary movements. It has the advantage, therefore, of combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience.
Our comrade G. Maximov as a scholar and a revolutionist, has rendered a distinguished service to the anarchist movement. He is the author of a number of books, pamphlets, and articles interpreting various phases of anarchism and has lectured extensively on the subject. A comprehensive work by him on the teachings of Bakunin is soon to be published.
For more than a half century, there have been two main opposing schools of revolutionary thought. Both can agree on the necessity of abolishing capitalism and private property but they are irreconcilable on the matter of structure of the revolutionary society.
The followers of Karl Marx believe in centralization and authority, a powerful state which shall guide the revolution and the new social order. The Anarchists of whom Michael Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin have been leading exponents insist that the state as well as capitalism must go. They believe in a free federated society with its members organized in self governing groups, factories, mills, consumers, cooperatives, etc., these groups cooperating by mutual agreement with the maximum possible freedom for all. The Anarchists have always predicted that should the Marxist idea ever prevail it would mean the defeat of economic emancipation and the substitution of Socialist bureaucrats and politicians for our present masters. In his magnificent work The Great French Revolution Kropotkin showed that the French Revolution was stifled by a party dictatorship and that the masses were robbed of the benefits they were to achieve.
Nevertheless, in spite of their prediction concerning the dangers of Marxism, the Anarchists in every country, with few individual exceptions, whole-heartedly supported the Bolsheviks. This was because the Bolsheviks promised a society in which power should reside in the masses of the people. They used Anarchistic ideas to win the masses and proceeded to repudiate their promises as soon as they had secured power.
In this pamphlet, comrade Maximov sets forth unanswerable proof of the contrast between Bolshevik promises and Bolshevik performance. Being as well grounded in Marxist writings and teachings as in those of his own movement, he is able to support his contention by abundant quotations from Lenin. With apt illustrations from history of what really happened in Russia, he demonstrates the glaring contrast.
I feel that no one could read this pamphlet with an open mind and continue to believe that the Communists in any country represent the true aims and interests of the working class. It is hoped that this clear and accurate statement of the Russian situation will be read by every intelligent man and woman for whom it is written. It is hoped that they will be inspired to strive for a new social order, the Anarchist ideal of a world of workers where there are no dictators, where all are genuinely equal and free.
— DR. GREGORY HEINER
BOLSHEVISM—PROMISES AND REALITY
Time moves ceaselessly on. Years follow in close succession and become a remote past. Blind and wanton time erases the differences of the days gone by, reducing them to a uniform mass. Yet in the life of nations as in the life of individuals, there are days which defy time—days which refuse to pass into oblivion—which refuse to become commonplace. Such are the days of the October Revolution!
This glamorous period, its beauty and significance, and that particular quickening of emotion which it recalls to the mind will fade only with the death of the great mass of the Russian people who have lived through it. Many years have passed since then. Yet the memories are so vivid, so alive—that it is almost inconceivable that time has so far removed from us these sacred and triumphant days—days of the greatest crisis in the life of a tremendous nation, and in the life of the international proletariat. The glamour, brilliance, dramatic effect, and the significant precept of these kaleidoscopic pictures fill the heart with a fervor and spirit with inexplicable emotions.
As we approach the present, a sadness is born. Bitterness and anguish fill the soul. The soul trembles like the taut strings of a lute in the breeze. This feeling is quite natural when in imagination we walk again the path leading from the year 1917 to the present day. What a great beginning! What tremendous purpose and deeds; we stormed Heaven and earth. But what a dreadful end, what lamentable results!
In February (March by the new calendar) of 1917, the workers and peasants of Russia in soldier uniforms revolted against the autocracy of the tsar, and against the aristocracy. They deposed them in the name of bread, peace, and liberty. However, they soon realized that the bourgeoisie which replaced the aristocracy was also incompatible with the spirit of the slogan. Bread, Peace, and Liberty. The workers were soon convinced that the Bourgeoisie is synonymous with war and exploitation, with poverty and hunger—liberty in word and slavery in fact. No sooner did the workers realize this, than they began to act. In spite of this most difficult and entangled situation, in spite of the warnings of the wise that the basic social change was premature, the workers and peasants urged by the inevitable logic of the country’s historical development, accomplished a new revolution against the Bourgeoisie, and bourgeois social-liberalism. They filled this revolution with a new social concept based upon the demand of Freedom, Peace and Liberty, and the unlimited right to build a new life.
An astonishing picture unfolded before the surprised nations of the world—a picture, the charm of which still lingers, although it no longer has anything to do with the actuality of present day Russia. What do the exploited classes require for a human existence? What is generally essential for a free and equitable life? Freedom based on economic equality, for any other freedom is deception, falsehood, mirage. Only on the foundation of economic equality can arise social institutions which make liberty secure for everyone, and which give everyone the inalienable right to direct participation in building a new life. Outside of this, and without this, there is no free and equitable life—life without exploitation of one by another—without domination of one over another. Liberty is the daughter of Equality. There is no Justice without Equality and Liberty. Therefore, the Social Revolution aspiring to economic equality and liberty is a highly moral phenomenon. Only highly moral deeds can move and inspire great masses. Only such deeds can kindle them with the fire of enthusiasm and move them to great heroic acts. For this reason, all the efforts of the Bourgeoisie and its hirelings to resist the October Revolution were so pitiful. The force of the bourgeois resistance grew in proportion to the demoralization of the Revolution, in proportion to the corruption of her spirit by dictatorship, autocracy, and discrimination—in proportion to the emasculation from her of the elements of economic equality, and liberty, i.e., human morality.
The bourgeois regime is immoral and unjust in the highest degree. It is maintained and continues to thrive on the coarse, physical strength of the ignorant masses. But as soon as a ray of consciousness penetrates the darkness of their souls, the bourgeois regime ceases to exist. The social order based on physical force and cruelty is immoral because it has as its basis egoism, the coarse egoism of dominating classes and the suppression of natural rights of the toiling masses.
The present Russian regime and the present order of things can not be called bourgeois—still less can it be called Socialistic or Communistic. It is a despotic regime, i.e., the most immoral of all imaginable systems. For this very reason it is the most cruel, most degrading and oppressive of systems. It can not exist without physical force, without terrorism, and without suppression of the most elementary liberties. The slightest relaxation of discipline and it will perish.
How did it come about that the Social Revolution degenerated into a despotism? How did it happen that the masses having crushed the mad resistance of those who raised the sword to defend the immoral regime based on inequality were in turn crushed by a regime as unethical and unprincipled as its predecessors? Was it a whim of history, or an inconsistent series of events? No. We perceive in these events no whim of history nor inconsistency. What happened was logically determined by the historical development of the country or rather by the character and historical development of world civilization and culture for the last three or four hundred years.
It can not be said that state socialism and communism are a product of Russian history. Nobody will deny the fact that during the past few centuries the state was looked upon as an instrument of deliverance in spite of its unethical nature, and it was universally deified and worshiped. The people sought to attain a more ethical society, i.e., liberty and economic equality by the unethical means of state slavery, and inequality. Such was the social religion of the great part of organized labor in the world! Russia was not unique in this respect.
The anti-state movement in Russia in the seventies was crushed and supplanted by a movement, the essence of which was the State and Dictatorship. For nearly forty years the minds of the toiling masses were being poisoned by state socialists. The ultimate goal of state socialism parading under the cloak of liberty coincided in theory with the aspirations of the toiling masses and became the religion of the proletariat. When the Revolution broke the age-long yoke of despotism, and freed the toiling masses from a possible bourgeois domination, it infused its movement with a vital socialism of the people, and it found support in the most resolute and active faction of state socialists, the Bolsheviks. Because the Bolsheviks identified themselves with the Revolution, and tried to direct its course, they were soon confused in the popular mind with the Revolution itself. This misconception became more strongly entrenched in the minds of the people despite the diametrically opposed purposes of the Revolution and the Bolsheviks. This gave the Bolsheviks complete freedom of action, and they proceeded slowly but surely to curtail the freedom and initiative of the toiling masses, gradually strengthening dictatorship and corrupting the spirit of the Revolution.
Had this betrayal been completed with the NEP not in 1921, but during the crucial Civil War, we could definitely say that the Revolution was crushed by the Whites, not by the Bolsheviks. But the Whites were predestined to failure, because the spirit of the Revolution was not as yet completely emasculated—it still retained ethical elements, i.e., liberty and economic equality. The toilers still hoped for free development and creative life after the Civil War. We see then that the Revolution was crushed not from without but from within. The very ones that aroused the enthusiasm of the masses to defeat the Whites in the Civil War proved to be the internal enemies of the Revolution. When the Civil War ended the toilers found themselves bound and gagged. They failed to protest energetically enough at the right time against the throttling of liberty, against the imposition of restrictions, against all regimentations and terrorism. Because all these restrictions seemed to be necessary for the defense of the Revolutionary conquests, the toilers watched in silence the replacement of federalization by centralization, free activity by control from above. The result was that they even lost the conquests they had made during Tsarism. Thus state socialism masked in ethical purposes but pursuing an unethical path, destroyed the people’s revolution which pursued liberty and economic equality, and had begun to build institutions on this basis. This betrayal of the Russian Revolution had and continues to have a tremendous retarding effect on the international workers’ movement.
The revealed despotic character of state communism, Marxism, caused a reaction in the proletarian movement and brought about world Fascism in politics. It plunged Russia into a reaction unprecedented in history. It converted the country into an immense prison and set Russia back to the times of feudalism and serfdom. All that was gained through long centuries of bitter struggle and great sacrifices with church, feudalism, serfdom, absolutism and state democracy was destroyed by Marxian state communism. It has taken from the people all those elements without which progress and a creative movement is impossible.
How did it happen that the Revolution was transformed into its anti-thesis, reaction? We have partially answered this question in the previous pages, but for a more complete, convincing, and basic answer we must analyse the pre-October promises of Lenin and his party, and see to what extent, if at all, these promises were carried out. Let us see what was promised and what given. It will be both interesting and instructive.
In making the appraisal of the situation as it now exists in the presumably Socialist Soviet Republics, we call to witness the very father of the present Russian regime and on the basis of the evidence offered by him, we shall attempt to present a picture of the actualities existing under the regime of the Marxism communists.
In his work, “On the Problems of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution”, (pp. 17–18, Vol. 14, Part 1) Lenin stated as follows: “Not a parliamentarian republic—a return to it from the S. W. D. [Soviets of Workers’ Deputies] would constitute a step backward—but a Republic of Soviets of workers, agricultural laborers, and peasants deputies throughout the land from below upward.”
Lenin and the Bolsheviks, as we see, aimed at organizing a republic of the Soviets. All power to the Soviets! This means said Lenin when addressing the soldiers, that “all the power in the state, from below up, from the remotest village to every city block in Petrograd must belong to the Soviets of the Workers, Soldiers, Agricultural Laborers, etc., Deputies.” (Address to the Soldiers—Vol. 14, Part 1, p. 75).
But what in essence is a republic of Soviet? According to the opinion of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, it is a Paris Commune extending over the whole of Russia. It is, defines Lenin in “The Problems of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”, “The highest type of democratic state—a state which in some respects already ceases to be a State and which, to quote Engels, is no more a state in the true sense of the word. It is a state of the type of the Paris Commune, a state which replaces the standing army and police by the direct army of the people itself. The Russian Revolutions in 1905 and 1917 created just such a government, a Republic of the Workers’ Soviets, etc.” (Vol. 14, Part 1, pp. 48–49).
One of the characteristics of the new state of the Paris Commune is the arming not only of the proletariat or of the toiling masses, but the arming of the people as a whole. The army is the entire people: as such the army cannot be separated for the people and thus cannot be placed without and over the people. The same is true of the police: The entire people carry the responsibility of maintaining quiet and order.
The second basic characteristic of such a new state constitutes the complete elimination of bureaucracy. “The state authorities and the bureaucracy again are either replaced by the direct power of the people, or to a lesser degree are placed under special control, thus becoming subject not only to election, but to recall upon the first demand of the people. This reduces them to a position of simple delegates. Instead of a privileged group of highly paid bourgeois position-holders, they become workers specially ‘equipped’ whose compensation is no higher than that of the average worker.” (Lenin, Vol. 14, Part 1, pp. 24–25).
Continuously and persistently Lenin affirmed his above defined stand. At all times, everywhere and in every manner he shouted, “Prevent the re-establishment of the omnipotence of the bureaucracy.” “Prevent the establishment of a standing army separated from the people, which constitutes a most certain generator of all manner of attempts to take away freedom.” (The Assembly of the Peasant Deputies, Vol. 14, Part 1, pp. 24–25).
To the question, why the organization of a standing army, a police and bureaucracy should not be permitted, Lenin gave answer, because, “a bureaucracy appointed ‘from above’ for the guidance of local populations always has been and forever will remain one of the surest means for the re-establishment of the monarchy—as will the standing army and police.” (Where the Counter-revolutionary Steps of the Provisional Government Lead To, Vol. 14, Part 1, p. 129. Also, The One Question of Principles, p. 226).
What in fact is the power of the state? What are its basic elements, and what is generally meant by the state apparatus? From the viewpoint of the pre-October Lenin “by the state apparatus is meant first of all a standing army, police, and bureaucracy.” (Will The Bolsheviks Retain the Government Power? Vol. 14, Part 2, p. 227).
Thus, as the pre-October Lenin pictured to himself, and impressed upon the minds of the working masses, the peasants and the soldiers, the Republic of the Soviets was nothing else but an anarchist federation of many thousands of Soviet-Communes scattered over the vast spaces of Russia. This, in fact, is a complete democracy which has reached its logical stage of development, Anarchism. The bourgeois socialists cried, “Lenin has ascended the vacant throne of Bakunin”. Is it really true? Is Lenin an anarchist? The answer is both “yes”, and “no”.
Pre-October Lenin followed the example of the founder of Christianity, who spoke to the people in parables whose hidden meaning he disclosed only to his disciples. All of pre-October Lenin’s agitational essays which are appeals to the masses, have a predominant anarchistic tone. However, all his more or less theoretical essays, intended only for a narrow circle of readers, are permeated with the musty odor of Marxism.
Until October, Lenin was guided by the example of the Marx who was forced by the events of 1870–1, for reasons of tactics, to lean in the direction of anarchism and to write “The Civil War in France”, which stands apart from all his works and has almost no connection with his general conception of socialism. Similarly, the events of 1917 forced Lenin to deviate from his dogma in order to further it. But post-October Lenin shows his true face, and thus discloses the insincerity of the pre-October Lenin. The desire to develop his insignificant faction of the social democratic party into a party of significance and his peculiar desire for power pointed out to Lenin the path he was to follow in order to secure domination over the masses. This same will for power led him to adopt the methods by which he became the idol of this party and of the toiling population. Thus, the heretofore outspoken centralist, who writing in “Iskra” stated that “it was not the business of the proletariat to occupy itself with federalism”, decided in the name of centralism to become a terrible federalist.
That this is a factual appraisal of Lenin’s tactics is confirmed in a statement made at the time by the present dictator, Stalin. In 1919, while still Commissar of National Affairs, Stalin with his native blunt stupidity publicly declared that the Communists “are moving via federalization towards centralization”. This statement frankly discloses the reason which prompted Lenin to stand for “a republic without a police force, a standing army, officers subject to recall instead of a bureaucracy enjoying the privilege of bourgeois compensation for their work. We stand for the broadest election, for replacement of any and all the clerks at any time, and for a proletarian wage for work per-formed.” (Our Views, Vol. 1, Part 1, p. 92).
In line with this same policy, Lenin had overfilled the Republic of the Soviets with democratic liberties to the limit. These liberties, it must be stated, constitute in essence the very aspiration of the downtrodden masses. Lenin told the masses what they had known all along from their own experience—what they felt but were unable to express. But long ago all this was expressed and formulated by the Anarchists. Lenin had merely borrowed these formulations from the anarchists despite the fact that a short time previous he so irreconcilably fought against the principles upon which they were based. He had merely used anarchism for his ultimate purposes.
“The introduction of ‘appointed’ bureaucracy must not be tolerated. Only ‘bodies created by the people themselves’ should be recognized.” To this the workers and peasants replied: “Verily, ‘tis the holy truth!”
“The idea of the need for leadership by a bureaucracy ‘appointed’ from above is in its essence a fallacious one. It is non-democratic, Cesaristic, a Blankist Adventure.” (Vol. 14, Part 1, p. 129). The masses overwhelmed with enthusiasm shouted: “’Tis the holy truth, Ilyitch! Hail, the Bolsheviks! Hail, the Republic of the Soviets!”
“In a free land,” said Lenin, “only those govern the people who are elected by the people themselves for this purpose... That is why the governing of the people in free countries is brought about by means of open party contests and free agreement among them.” (Lessons of the Revolution, Vol. 14, Part 2, p. 33). And the masses shouted “Bravo”, returned to their abodes with the slogan, “Hail Free Russia!”
“By establishing the institutions of democracy and freedom which were maimed and crippled by Kerensky, the bolsheviks will form a government which none will be able to overthrow.” (The Bolsheviks Must Secure the Power, Vol. 14, Part 2, p. 134). And the masses shouted, “Down with the social traitor, the lackey of the bourgeoisie, Kerensky! Hail, the bolsheviks! Hail, the Republic of the Soviets!”
“The freedom of the press,” said Lenin to the workers and the peasants, “means this: all the opinions of all the citizens may be freely proclaimed. The power of the state in the form of the soviets take possession of all the printing establishments, all the paper, and distributes them equitably—in the first place, to the state: in the second place to the big parties of significance; in the third place to smaller parties; then comes any group of citizens which has attained a definite number of members and has gathered sufficient signatures... This would constitute a real freedom for all, and not for the rich.” (How to Secure the Successful Election of the Constituent Assembly, Vol. 14, Part 2, pp. 112–113).
“Hail the freedom of the press!” replied the masses. “All power to the local soviets!”
“In every constitutional country the right to organize demonstrations remains inalienable to the citizens... Any party in a free land has the right to organize demonstrations.” (The Sacred and the Entangled, Vol. 14, Part 1, p. 254).“A government aware of the principle that its entire structure rests upon the will of the majority of the people cannot fear demonstrations previously announced. It will not prohibit them.” (Hints, p. 255).
“All peaceful manifestations are merely political agitations. There must be no forbidding of political agitations, nor should agitation be monopolized. The constitution of a free republic cannot forbid peaceful manifestations, or any mass demonstrations of any party or any group.” (Contradictory Positions, Vol. 14, Part 1, p. 259). “Hail, Lenin!” replied the masses to this. “Let us go forward in the fight for freedom!”
“The basic rule, the first commandment of any true revolutionary movement, should be: Do not depend upon the ‘state’; depend only upon the power of your class”, spoke Lenin to the workers. “No ‘state’ is able to be of help to the worker in the village, to the agricultural worker, the daily worker or to the poorest peasant, to the semi-proletarian, if they are unable to help themselves.” (The Necessity to Organize a Union of Rural Workers in Russia, Vol. 14, Part 1. pp. 290–1). “Verily, verily!” shouted the workers in reply.
“All the land of the landlords must be confiscated. Nationalization of all the land in the country and the management of the same must be given to the local soviets of the Deputies of the agricultural workers and peasants.” (Vol. 14, Part 1. pp. 17–18).
“The objective difficulty of socialism is intimately bound up with small-husbandry. We do not even pretend to subject it to expropriation or regulation, in fact not even to control.” (The Destruction and the Proletarian Fight Against It. Vol. 14. Part 1, p. 243). And the peasant howled in reply, “That’s the idea! Truthfully stated!”
“Fear not the initiative and self-expression of the masses; have confidence in their revolutionary organizations, and you will see in all departments of the state functions the same power, greatness, and determination of the workers and peasants which they had demonstrated in their united efforts against Korniloffchina.”
Lenin did not fear such initiative and self-expression of the masses because they led him to power. And, indeed, supported by all the toilers of Russia, he finally came to power. Using their initiative and self-expression, the people commenced to bring into realization what Lenin daily impressed upon them in simple and popular language. While the masses had been absorbed by the struggle and their creative work upon which they fell as the starved do upon food, Lenin diplomatically persuaded the people and forced the Party to organize not a simple army, but a “red army of the workers and peasants”, to protect the conquests of the revolution, and to repulse the imperialists. Thus was created a huge strictly disciplined army, separated from the people and in juxtaposition to the people. Under the pretext of protecting and maintaining order and the fight against criminals was organized a most common garden variety of police force; under the pretext of fighting against speculators and counter-revolutionists was created a political secret police; while the promise was made that bureaucracy and its privileged clerks would be abolished, there had been created a bureaucracy the equal of which the world had never seen before. In fact, the new bureaucracy had come to be a new class of lords. Capital punishment, it was promised, would be abolished. Instead, wholesale shootings became an everyday occurrence.
The people were called to freedom, but were led into a stable of state slavery under which human life became less than worthless. The people were called to the banner with the promise of the abolition of piece-work remuneration and other sweat-shop methods of exploitation. Yet, no sooner had they secured the power, than, in the name of the good of the toiling masses and of socialism, it was found expedient “to apply in practice, and to investigate the value of piece work, and the application of any progressive and scientific points of the system of Taylor.” (The Soviet Government Problems of the Day, Vol. 15, p. 209). Now after many years of communist over-lordship, Russia has become a country of terrible exploitation, and miserable compensation for the work.
Prior to usurpation of the government powers, Lenin and the bolsheviks maintained that every female-cook must take part in the affairs of the government. Yet, no sooner had they gathered the power to themselves, than Lenin declared to these cooks, “in order to govern you must know how.” Do not shove your swinish snouts among the privileged. Where the goat is tied, there she must browse, and cooks must cook, not govern.
Only a while before, initiative and self-expression had been lauded. But no sooner had the usurpation of power been accomplished, than initiative and creative will of the workers were denounced as “petty bourgeois laxity.” They were no longer praised as virtues and were replaced by a call for “discipline to the point of compulsion and dictatorship.” (Vol. 15, p. 213). Lenin began to talk of the need to introduce “unopposed obedience to the orders of individual representatives of the soviet powers during working hours”, (Vol. 15, p. 220), and of the “beginning of a period of ‘merciless’ tightening up, and of a prolonged and insistent fight for a strict proletarian discipline as against the threatening wave of petty-bourgeois laxity and anarchy.” The slogan of Lenin had now become, “to mercilessly tighten up, to discipline severely, to ruthlessly destroy laxity.” (Vol. 15, p. 224). And this policy has been and is being followed to this day with all the mercilessness prescribed. And the tightening up and the disciplining has been carried out over the land of Russia with such zeal and fervor, that it has ceased to be a land and has become instead a huge prison, a vast correction institution, from which Mussolini and Hitler are learning their lessons in discipline, and upon which the body of international reactionaries look with concealed envy.
In the preceding paragraphs was described the concept of the soviet democracy which Lenin expounded before the Russian workers and peasants who were tired of despotism. However, as soon as the bolsheviks found themselves at the helm, Lenin’s declarations changed. “It is stated that soviet democracy is absolutely incompatible with personal dictatorship. This reasoning is very bad.” (Vol. 15, p. 217). “Soviet socialist democracy is not inconsistent with personal rule and dictatorship, for the will of the class is at times best brought into realization by a dictator, who alone will accomplish more and who is frequently more needed.” (Vol. 17, p. 89). “The will of hundreds and even of tens of thousands of people frequently may be expressed through one person”. (Vol. 17, p. 104). And thus, for over many years, the will of millions of people has been expressed in the will of one person, and the land as was stated by Schevchenko, is silent, because the people are prospering. Socialist democracy in Russia has long ago disappeared into the realm of myths, and the very term made synonymous with reaction; and today absolutism is regarded as a revolutionary and progressive phenomenon.
Time and again Lenin had spoken of the inadmissibility of ruling bureaucrats appointed from above. Yet when the professional unions made an attempt to reject the representative of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party, Radeck, as the government appointed bureaucrat, Lenin foamed at the mouth shouting, “What? The Central Committee has no right to attach to professional unions persons who are best familiar with the German experiments and who can have a corrective effect in the case of an incorrect line of action? A Central Committee unable to solve such a problem, surely could not govern!” (Vol. 17, p. 34).
The post-October Lenin, as we see, demanded the right to appoint his bureaucrats not only to the local state governing bodies, but to the professional, cooperative, etc. workers’ organizations. Now the country completely forgot what it meant to elect and remove functionaries by the will of the people.
The vivid and flashing colors which Lenin used in painting the picture of freedom in the pre-October days was discarded in his post-October utterances. He then wrote, “We must by all means erase from the face of the earth all political traces of the mensheviks and the SR’s (Socialist-Revolutionists) who speak of personal freedom, etc.” (Vol. 17, p. 49). And the bolsheviks erased all such traces.
Russia is now a land in which all expression of personality is crushed. It is a land replete with slave-labourers who can be cast about from place to place at any moment at the will of the rulers. Slavishness is now hailed as personality. The slave is the “best citizen” of the communist republic. The aim of the communist party is the bringing up of slaves. Freedom in Russia is a reactionary and counter-revolutionary thing—slavery and despotism, the road to socialism, the road to the free personality! Black is white, and white is black! These are the concepts the population is forced to acknowledge and acquire. No wonder Mussolini had declared, “Fascism had stepped forward and henceforth will confidently step over the decaying carcass of the Princess, Freedom... Russia and Italy had proved that one can rule without, over and against any liberal ideology. Communism and fascism reside without the boundaries of liberalism.”
And Lenin seconds Mussolini. “There can be no talk of the independence of separate parties, at the time when the world-axe is raised over the body of capitalism.” (Vol. 15, p. 587). And since that axe is still suspended over capitalism, there is no talk in these days in Russia of the independence of separate parties. And no such talk there will be as long as the bolshevik axe remains hanging over the Russian workers and peasants.
“Many errors have been made, we know, especially during the early months following the October revolution. Now we shall strive to subdue all to the soviet power, and all illusions of ‘in-dependence’ of separate strata, as well as workers’ cooperatives will be forced out of existence as soon as possible.” (Vol. 15, p. 586). All this has been forced out of existence in Russia long ago. Everything is subdued to the soviet power. There are no more illusions—only tears!
The students follow the precepts of their teachers. They have erased all traces of free personality, they have tightened the vise over the land as Frederick the Great had once done with his Grenadiers. In their hands the state has almost attained perfection, the highest expression of which is represented by the barracks. The commanders order and the subordinates obey. The commanders order to build, to saw and to plant in order to give the starved population a meager slice of bread, and the sub-ordinates build, saw, plant and go on starving. The idiotic plan of forced collectivization has resulted in the most fertile lands of Russia becoming barren, and in the complete devastation of whole sections by death from starvation. The most effective projects in the center, and the most devastating destruction in the provinces—such is the tragic irony of forced collectivization.
The case has been presented. We can now sum up the evidence above and see if progress is possible under the Bolshevik state, or to make it more general, under any state socialism.
First of all we observe a merging of State and Party in Russia, similar to the merging of State and Church in the Middle Ages. This merging created a monstrous State which is the Party, and a Party which is the State—with a monstrous centralization and a regimentation—all dependent upon centralization; the planting of potatoes, the manufacture of shoe-polish, and... human life.
The functioning of this monstrous machine of centralization called for a great many people who have developed into a large class of bureaucrats possessing dictatorial powers. This means that we have in Russia a bureaucratic despotism, a dictatorship of bureaucracy. The fact that the bureaucracy is composed of peasants, workers and intelligentsia does not change the essence of the dictatorship, nor its harmfulness. Any dictatorship, no matter what its purpose, regardless of its aims, is despotism, and no freedom is compatible with despotism. Under this regime the people have many responsibilities, and practically no rights. That is why at present all elementary rights, as well as all elementary liberties, without which no culture or progress is possible have been destroyed in Russia.
What does the USSR represent politically? To answer this question let us examine the political content of this “socialistic” union. In it, there is no freedom of press, but stringent censorship; no freedom of speech, not only for the general population but not even for party members; no freedom of assemblage or organization; no freedom of thought and scientific research—everyone is compelled to think in a Marxian way, the brand of which is prescribed by the ruling sect.
Scientific research must evolve from and be based on Marxian theory. The Dialectic method must be used even in medicine. Is this not medieval Catholicism? Where freedom of thought is absent, there can be no freedom of conscience, and Russia does not have this freedom. There is no freedom of training and education—the Bolshevik schools are Catholic seminaries. There is no freedom of moving from place to place, no freedom of occupation and initiative and artistic creativeness. Literature and art must follow in the channel of Marxism and must serve as tools of agitation and propaganda in the hands of the Party-State. The rights of the individual and the home are violated.
These rights are too bourgeois for “socialism”. There is no freedom of the mail, and all correspondence is censored. The “rulers” will know what the “subjects” of the Socialistic Union think. It is self-evident that where there is no freedom of press, there is no freedom of publicity, and where there is no freedom of publicity, there is no freedom of public opinion. There is no secret ballot, and hence no freedom of election. Where there is no freedom of election, there can be no question of public control, or responsibilities of institutions and persons. There is no political equality, and therefore there exist classes or castes. The peasant has less right than the worker in the field of representation; the political opponents of the Communist party and every kind of “State” offenders have no rights at all, and they form in the Marxian Communist State a caste deprived of all rights and called “Lishentzi” (the deprived of rights). The chairmen of the Soviets become governors, and Soviets become merely advisory bodies to this governor. Housing Committees become extensions of police stations.
In connection with all this, there flourishes in the country, a police with unlimited powers, and the espionage of secret service forces. At home the “citizen” of the United Socialist Soviet Republics is under the surveillance of the chairmen of the House Committee; at work he is watched by the Communist cell; in the street he is spied upon by the professional State Secret Service.
Arbitrariness, shootings, murders, prison, exile, moral and at times physical torture, are the natural consequences of such a regime.
In such dreadful centralization, national federation and autonomy of nationalities and provinces are a mould without content. Under a regime of secret diplomacy and such “freedom”, the Soviet citizen is more limited in regard to the question of war and peace than the citizen of any Constitutional state. Instead of a general armament proclaimed by the Revolution, a centralized army is created which is controlled by the Central government. When the Party is militarized, the youth is militarized, also. In addition to the open and secret police there are created corps of troops with specific functions which are at the command of the GPU.
Such are the results of the Bolshevik regime in the political sphere where many more similar “conquests” not included here were made in the interests of the “people, liberty, and socialism”. And now using this analysis as a basis, we can answer the question we asked before. Is progress possible under the Bolshevik State or under any State Socialism?
No. Progress is not possible under such a regime. This regime truly sets us back to the epoch of medieval catholic reaction. In spite of this, we are called upon to accept this regime, that is to sell ourselves willingly into bondage. Who can agree to do this?
Now let us consider the Bolshevik regime in the economic sphere. The situation of the toilers of the USSR is no less deplorable from the economic standpoint than from the political. The proletariat is denied the right to strike. The factory and shop committees are destroyed, the industrial unions became mere tools of the State. Consequently, the proletariat loses all possibility of defending its economic needs. The State Industrial Unions and organs of management of State industry control labor compensation, forms of productions, regulation of conditions of labor, and settle collective bargaining, ignoring the opinions of the workers. Strikers are State offenders and the dissatisfied are under suspicion. Therefore, they lose their jobs, and are exiled to parts unknown. The wages are based on the piece-work plan. Labor compensation is divided into many categories which create a series of groups in the proletariat differing one from another according to the annual income. This creates dissension and lack of unity in the proletariat.
The majority of the workers are shackled to their factories, and have no right to leave their place of work at their own free will. The eight-hour day is non-existent in many shock-industries, because of repeated use of over-time work. Labor compensation continually lags behind the rising prices of the products of first necessity. The introduction of the five-day week deprived the workers of a “Sunday” in common, the day of rest, when they could meet and discuss the affairs of the country and their own personal affairs. Labor protection was taken away from the workers and given to the Commissariat of Labor. The management of the mills and factories by the workers was destroyed long ago. The collegium and elective industrial management was destroyed and its place was taken by autocratic management.
The worker’s control over industry is non-existent. The peasants are forced into the Collective Farms (Kolkhozi) and are compelled to remain there. The same farms supply the city with workers which are taken in herds by collective contract through the bureaucracy of the Kolkhozi. Co-operatives become supplementary additions of the trading organs of the State. The State has the trade monopoly and exploits the peasants by buying their products at a low price and selling them city products at a high price. The land is state property. The peasant land committees are destroyed.
Agriculture and industry are organized on the bourgeois principle of the profit-system, i.e., on the exploitation and appropriation by the state of surplus value which is swallowed by the bureaucracy. Industry organized on the capitalist principle makes use of all the capitalist principles of exploitation; Fordization, Taylorization, etc. The proletariat and peasantry respond to this with passive resistance. As a result, industry moves at a snail’s pace.
There is a chronic scramble for food-products. The State cannot provide its subjects with a pound of even poorly baked bread a day. There is a lack of necessary commodities manufactured by the city industries. The builders of Communism struggle to abolish the supplying of food by rotation and bread lines. After eighteen years they have still not succeeded.
The entire country is suffering from a housing crisis, heating crisis and a transportation crisis. Crisis, crisis, crisis... without end. According to Marx, existence determines conscience. What, then is the conscience of the Russian toiling masses?
It is bitter, very bitter. The communist existence determines and directs the conscience of the Russian proletariat and the Russian peasantry toward a new third Revolution, an all-healing and all-cleansing Revolution. Without it there is no escape. Without this the Bolsheviks like a gangrene will decompose and seduce beyond hope the spirit and body of the Russian toiling masses—and not only Russian!
We must drive out such builders of Communism, this unsavory brand of Communism. Such rulers must be driven out—the sooner the better. The workers, the comrades of the pre-October Lenin must go against the post-October Lenin and his party. Into the faces of the new despots the workers must fling the very world of Lenin.
“The workers must sweep away all phrases, promises, declamations, projects centrally conceived by bureaucrats, who forever are ready to spend time at composing the most seemingly effective plans, suggestions, constructions, standardizations. ‘Tis all a lie! Down with all that noise of bureaucratic and bourgeois project-making, which has cracked and crumpled down universally. Down with the dilatory procedure of perpetually postponing urgent affairs! The workers must demand the immediate realization of the principle of control de facto, and what is more important, control by the workers themselves. This is most important to the success of the cause, the cause of saving the revolution from a catastrophe. Without this, all else is deception.” (The Unavoidable Catastrophe and the Limitless Promises, Vol. 14, Part 1, p. 196).
We must uphold Lenin against Lenin and say in his own words, “Without this, all else is deception!”
The workers must deal with their betrayers as they deserve. They must take all back into their hands, and must by their own initiative commence to build a free society, a society free from governing and governed, free from exploiters and exploited, in short, they must commence the building of anarchism and communism.
Yet, in spite of all this, the Russian Revolution will play the same part for the proletariat in this century as the French Revolution played for the Bourgeoisie in the last century (1789–93). Her ideas will become—are already becoming the aim of the twentieth century. Indeed, they are not the ideas of reaction which Bolshevism plants in Russia. No. These ideas arise from the toiling masses themselves, which because of a lack of an organization and consciousness were unable to retain it in a realistic form.
The idea of Soviets, i.e., the idea of federated free communes will not die. It will not die because it has thrice endeavored to incarnate itself in life. Doubtless the proletariat understands or is beginning to understand that under true Communism, under a federation of free Soviets, or communes, institutions that guarantee freedom, it is necessary to create a basis of economic equality. And for the third time will arise never again to die—the factory-mill committees which will have at their disposal all the essentials of economic life. The factory will become the Production-consumption commune.
The federation of Free Soviet Communes, the federation of factories as production-consumption communes, this is the closest goal for the next revolution.
Yes, the Russian Revolution died, but her ideas live and prepare a new, victorious, all-cleaning and all-healing revolution. Let us not be depressed then. Let us not yield to despondency at the sight of the temporary victory of international reaction. Let us fight on and our slogan shall be, “The Revolution is dead! Long live the Revolution!”