In this essay first published in 1930 in France, the founder of the Workers Group denounces the bureaucracy that he claims seized power in a “coup d’état” in 1920 at the Ninth Congress of the CPSU(b)—its “latest deception” being its fraudulent appeals for “freedom of criticism” and “self-criticism” after a series of revolts by workers and peasants in the early to mid-1920s—and calls for a restoration of proletarian democracy (as exemplified by the Paris Commune) by democratizing the functions exercised by bureaucratic State institutions (production, distribution, oversight) and replacing them with Soviets (“Councils”), cooperatives and trade unions.
The Latest Deception1 – Gabriel Miasnikov
If the old adage that says that every text gets the fate it deserves is true, then, in the case of a book, this fate begins on the day it is published. Will it be read from front to back, or will it prudently remain in the bookstore or the warehouse, in the library or the archives, irritating everyone with its bothersome cover, its uselessness and its ugliness, only to end up being used as a doorstop?
And if it is read, will it be read by many or by few? What impression will it make on the reader? Will it open his eyes to anything new? What portion of truth will it reveal to him? Will it have the kind of influence on the reader that the author intended? Or will it only arouse his anger and his indignation, provoking revulsion at the slightest contact?
Or will it merely cause boredom and indifference? “All of this is just fine, it is true, but we should leave everything the way it is because this book leads us down a path of pain and hardship, full of struggles and sacrifices, toil and suffering.” There will be those who, viewing this book with malevolence and hatred, will no doubt take it upon themselves to see to it that it will rot on the shelves and in the warehouses along with insignificant monographs, waiting for someone to use them as props for furniture.
Any of these fates may be in store for books that have the luck to be published. This pamphlet has undergone every kind of difficulty, even when it was “in the maternal oven”. It was written approximately two years ago, in Yerevan, where the author had been deported after three and a half years of solitary confinement in cells in high security prisons of the GPU in Moscow, Tomsk and Vyatka.
It was written secretly, the proscribed fruit of audacity and resourcefulness; and once it was born it had to be hidden from Herod, who devours illegitimate and disobedient children. The seed that it was, was destined to fall on sterile soil, buried in a steel coffin and drowned in an ocean of fear whenever the tribe of Herod came looking for it to discover its hiding place.
But then … one night, an individual appeared…. He paid careful attention to his surroundings, took one more step and stopped in front of the bars. He gazed attentively; the coast was clear. Silence. No one from the tribe of Herod in sight.
He walked by the bars and passed through the building like a dart. He knocks, the door opens. “Come in. With a little help we can copy the whole thing in one day. They will take the original to Moscow and we will keep the copies.”
Said and done.
The original was dispatched to Moscow. But the trip was not simply a question of transport, of buying a ticket and choosing a seat on the train car for the next six days. Nothing like that. It was impossible to send it by mail. But, dodging the eagle-eyed watchers of the tribe of Herod, a messenger had arrived who had taken all the necessary precautions. He took the manuscript and furtively disappeared. Once in Moscow he copied the original and it passed from hand to hand, and everyone who touched it experienced a thrill of fear.
My copy shared my destiny, the fate of its author. On November 7, 1928, I attended the demonstration,2 but I did not go home: along the way I stopped at a barbershop and got a shave and a haircut, changed clothes, and with my suitcase full of manuscripts I flagged down a taxi and headed for the train station. I bought a ticket for Julfa and waited for the train, which was two and a half hours late.
The storm clouds had begun to dissipate and this was not a good sign, since the night would be clear. Oh, dark night, come to my aid! The waning moon was shining in its last quarter and the first rays of dawn were gleaming. It would have been better, however, if there had been clouds, wind, rain or snow and darkness, total darkness. But no. The weather was clear. The train arrived at the station, I climbed aboard, and I sat down, but there was not much room, so I climbed into one of the upper bunks, which was more comfortable and out of sight of probing eyes.
Around midnight, when the train was underway between the stations of Deresham and Julfa, I jumped off and ran towards the Aras River.3 Concealed by the moving train, I went silently and without being seen towards the Aras River, I quickly stripped off my clothing, I tied my suitcase and my clothes with a rope around my neck and I dove into the river. The water was freezing cold. The Aras was raging. The sky was cloudy and there was some light snow. A biting wind blew all along the river. I swam across it. The manuscript crossed the river tied to my neck, as if it were part of me.
And then … the Persian government arrested me, me and my manuscript. Then came the usual police stations and jails.
The tribe of Herod, always alert, pursued me relentlessly. Despite the Persian police and the GPU, however, I escaped in one direction and my manuscript in another.4
They searched through my suitcase twice … but the manuscript was not there. They gave up … twice the tribe of Herod failed and could not find new conspirators, and had to return with empty hands.
Now, however, the author has to illegally cross the Turko-Persian border and once again he is brought to the police stations, the prisons and exile, fleeing to a place where the GPU was not in charge. A new manuscript appeared in the police station of the small city of Karaköse:5 A Brief Critique of the Theory and Practice of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) and of the Komintern. Without a penny to my name, extolling the generosity of the police in order to survive, without being able to use a mechanograph to copy even one single line, and with the paper that the police had given me, line after line, the ideas were taking form, and then I carried on the task in exile, in the city of Amasya. The efforts and the help of some friends made it possible for me to go to Constantinople—my sentence of four years in prison was commuted. In Constantinople I wrote another manuscript: What Is the Nature of the State in the USSR? Once again they tried to steal my manuscript from me. The police arrested Ivan Jelezov for bribing someone with a thousand Turkish liras to steal it from me.
At last, I reached France. And what was impossible in Persia and in Turkey became a reality here. From Persia, via Berlin, to Paris, overcoming all obstacles, my manuscripts, which I had so sorely missed for so long, arrived, and the suitcase with which I had crossed the Aras River was once again reunited with the head to which it had been fastened and which had given birth to the manuscripts. I had reason to be pleased. I celebrated!
On October 3, 1930, however, the manuscripts disappeared, along with the suitcase.
Written during long years in jail in solitary confinement, where I was held by order of the GPU, these manuscripts had not only been written down on paper, but had also managed to dissipate and reemerge beyond the walls of the prison and escape the assaults of Herod. They had been placed in the custody of one jail after another, and then in exile. The manuscripts existed under the constant threat of destruction. And when they had passed through all these perils, and had overcome almost every obstacle, there, right in the heart of Paris, in the printer’s workshop, in broad daylight, they disappeared. And there were many manuscripts:
• Some original and irreplaceable texts: a) two letters to Stalin and one to Bukharin, one to Zinoviev,6
and another to Rykov, written in the isolation modules of Tomsk and Vyatka; b) the transcript of a conversation with Maxim Gorky in Yerevan; and c) an account of my escape from the USSR;
• A short commentary on the Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels;
• “On the Workers State”;
• A critique of the program of the Komintern;
• A copy of the Program and Constitution of the Communist Workers Party of Russia;
• “Three Questions”;
• A brief critique of the Theory and Practice of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) and of the Komintern (including an open letter to Trotsky on organizational questions pertaining to the Communist Workers Party of Russia);
• “The Thoughts of a Materialist” (incomplete);
• An outline for a program for a Communist Workers International;
• Three chapters from my memoirs;
• Sketches, notes and drafts.
As you can see, the suitcase was stuffed full.
If the GPU was responsible for this theft, then all the manuscripts will be in its archives; the Central Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) must return them to me and thus show that it has nothing to fear from their publication. If they are not returned to me, this will prove that the theft was the work of the GPU under the direct orders of the Central Committee.
By chance, “The Latest Deception” managed to escape the fate of its fellows—it was being edited at the time of the theft. So, too, did “What Is the Nature of the State in the USSR?” In Germany, there are copies of the “Brief Critique of the Theory and Practice of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) and of the Komintern” and of the “Outline of the Program for a Communist Workers International”. “The Latest Round of Liquidationism” (a response to Sorin7 and Bukharin concerning the former’s book, The Workers Group, concerning the followers of Miasnikov) was also saved, along with six issues of the newspaper, The Proletarian Road to Power, clandestinely published in Moscow.
The fate of “The Latest Deception” was more fortunate than its brothers, perhaps because it was the youngest. Here we publish it, now, after so many adventures and tribulations.
The plan of the thief was clear: the author has to work to survive, which keeps him busy all day long. He has no time to write. What he has written is embarrassing and dangerous. The workers of all countries might learn some things. What he has written reveals the nature of the regime of the USSR, and if the workers understand this they will be able to answer the question: What are we fighting for? We will not accommodate ourselves to oppression and exploitation in the countries of private capitalism. Wage slavery must be abolished. But we do not want to exchange one form of exploitation for another, either—the bourgeoisie for the bureaucracy—to the contrary, we want to abolish every form of exploitation. This is the goal of the proletariat. State Capitalist exploitation in the USSR must be destroyed. But what should we replace it with? Should we go forward or backward? Towards the workers state or towards private capitalism? All these texts were attempts to answer these questions, both theoretically—by explicating the philosophy of the proletarian revolution—and practically—by explaining what Marx meant when he declared that “the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy”, and showing that a workers State must learn from the experience of the Paris Commune and three Russian Revolutions. And that was what made them dangerous. The bureaucracy knows this perfectly well….
Two years have passed since I wrote this pamphlet. I wrote it at the express request of some comrades of the Provisional Central Organizational Bureau of the Communist Workers Party of the USSR (the Workers Group), who thought that it was necessary to respond to the latest con game of the bureaucracy concerning the slogan of “self-criticism”. For over two years this slogan was featured on the pages of Pravda, Izvestia and all the other Soviet newspapers. Furthermore, at that time the slogan had emerged amidst the suffocating environment of bureaucratic omnipotence and was only mobilized in order to deceive the Soviet proletariat, it was then disseminated to every section of the Communist International and has become an integral part of the ideological and organizational bases of all the Communist Parties. Thus, insofar as this phenomenon has become generalized at the international level, this critique is even more necessary.
This modification of the operational methods of the organization, undertaken in a situation in which the reigning bureaucracy is all-powerful as a result of its specific conditions of rule and a type of one-party system in the framework of State Capitalism, but in a totally different historical context, on a terrain in which the aptitude of the classes is totally different, demonstrates a bizarre “rule of the dialectic” and a strange “Marxist coherence” in the general articulation of the ideas that have been propagated, both on the part of those who are struggling to impose these ideas as well as on the part of those who adopt them in order to submissively implement them.
The reigning bureaucracy thus demonstrates that it shares the destiny of all the other ruling classes and that it has exchanged its critical and dialectical methods of reflection for dogmatic methods, since it considers its form of rule as the ideal (perfect) State and is at the same time attempting to impose its program and the organizational methods of its State on the proletariat of the entire world. This proves its essential class nature and the nature of its goals, although it also serves to reinforce its own rule.
From Trotsky to Stalin, from the Mensheviks to the Latest News, all the political tendencies testify to the class essence and nature of the USSR, on the basis of State ownership of the means of production and projects carried out in the sphere of economic development.
The Platform of the 83 (the Trotskyists and Zinovievists) criticizes the “theory of building socialism in one country” and proposes, instead of Stalin’s Five Year Plan with its 9% increase in industrial growth, its own internationalist Five Year Plan with a target of 20% increase in growth. It would seem that an increase of 20% in industrial production is internationalism, while an increase of 9% is “the kind of conservatism that is typical of a petty nationalist spirit”. The bureaucracy, however, with Stalin at the lead, has decided to propose an increase in industrial production of 30% for the Five Year Plan, which, with luck, will be implemented in two years, which implies a significant acceleration of the rate of the Five Year Plan, which will now be completed in four years. It is obvious that anyone who honestly reflects upon these matters will admit that these putative attributes of “internationalism” and “petty nationalism” do not stand up to scrutiny, and that the disagreement concerning the rate of growth must be debated in less pretentious terms.
Obviously, one can say that quantitative changes are qualitative changes, especially on this terrain. In fact, if instead of a growth rate of 9% we have one of 5%, or instead of 5% we have 2%, then the private sector will inevitably grow more rapidly. And if, with a 20% growth rate in the State industrial sector, the private sector grows by 2%, then when the former grows by 9%, the latter will grow by 3-5%, and with a 2% growth rate in the State sector, the private sector will grow by 7-9%. This is how it must be, for otherwise the development of the productive forces will come to a halt and a crisis will break out. This is easy to see. But in the context of serious and conscientious debate, who can accuse Stalin & Co. of following this road? After all, we all know that the question of the growth rate is not a question of principles, but of arithmetic. Neither Stalin & Co. nor the now-extinct duo Trotsky-Zinoviev have taken into account, for even a single moment, the possibility that the rate of growth of State industry will be lower than that of the private sector. And this means that, due to the direction taken by economic development, private property, industry and trade are condemned to totally disappear. Neither the horse-drawn cart, nor the sickle, nor the scythe, nor the flail, have a future, unlike the machine and heavy industry. The peasant is the representative of the old bourgeois world, of the world of private property. And the bureaucracy organized into a party and a State, with all the resources of heavy industry and industrial agriculture at its disposal, is a ruling class, the personification of heavy industry. The bureaucracy represents machinery; the private business owner and the peasant represent the horse-drawn cart. The fight is not an equal one. The horse-drawn cart is doomed. The bureaucracy will complete its triumphant march and will do so in such a way that will presuppose the transformation of the class nature of the State.
Collectivization is the introduction of State Capitalism into the countryside, as comrade Sapronov has correctly observed. It is the first step to eliminate the private economy and the horse-drawn cart. The second step is to transform all the collectives into Sovkhozy and the petty bourgeois into proletarians. The bureaucracy cannot stop at the stage of collectives, cooperatives or communes.
What is a well organized and equipped collective? It is a factory, a factory for agricultural production. But the difference between urban industry and agricultural collectivization resides in the fact that the factory is run by a bureaucrat, who is the only person who has been appointed with this power by a commission of bureaucrats, while the collectives are directed by an elected collegial directorate as in the factories where the Factory Councils of Workers Delegates direct production.
This is in principle an unacceptable state of affairs for the bureaucracy, but a favorable one for the proletariat. A proletarian could say: “If those people who used to be petty bourgeoisie and peasants can be appointed to be directors of industry, why can’t I , who have always been an honest proletarian, do the same? Down with the bureaucracy! Long live the Factory Delegates of the Workers Councils!” This would be the death of the bureaucracy, and it is incapable of facing such a situation. And even if the bureaucratic law of the one-party system allows the members of the bureaucracy to make the rules, there are still many things that it does not control; it will inevitably have to fight to transform the collectives, the communes and the cooperatives into Sovkhozy, appointing directors who will implement their commands. In this way, any features that might be attractive to the urban proletariat would be abolished.
State Capitalism is undoubtedly experiencing success in the field of economic development. Only a blind man or someone who desires the return of private capitalism could deny this. But this success, which is accompanied by the world crisis of private capitalism, makes one thing clear: State Capitalism is more vigorous and progressive than private capitalism.
In fact, in 1920, all urban industry was in ruins and was only operating at about 15-20% of its 1913 output. The armies of the White Guards, paid and supplied by the capitalists of the entire world, isolated the country, destroying everything they could lay their hands on, devastating the country and annihilating the productive forces to a degree never before seen in history.
The long and difficult process of reconstruction of industry under the conditions of economic and financial blockade and embargo began in 1921. It was completed in five years and in 1926 production had already attained its pre-war level. From 1926 to 1930 it reached 200% of the pre-war level. Without credits and subject to financial embargo!
What private capitalist country would have been capable of enduring the financial embargo that has been inflicted on the USSR? Not only have such rates of growth been achieved amidst the awful conditions faced by Soviet industry, but the country also had to survive and prevent total catastrophe. If, under conditions of close financial and economic cooperation the bourgeoisie has undergone a crisis that threatens its very existence, and the existence of private property, what would have happened to any bourgeois nation if it had suffered a blockade such as Russia has endured for more than twelve years? What would have happened to such a country if its production had also declined to 20% of its 1913 levels? It would have ceased to exist as a private capitalist country and would have undergone a revolution. But the USSR not only survived, but even grew. It grew rapidly, more rapidly than any other country in history. And it did so despite the coercion of bureaucratic rule and the bureaucracy’s fear of the living forces of the proletariat, the peasants and the intellectuals. What would have happened if these same masses had taken control of production by way of their Councils of Workers Delegates from the factories, if they had seized control of distribution under the management of the Cooperatives and their industrial trade unions and taken over the State by way of the Councils and Cooperatives? If the State were to have been organized in this way its rules would have been the product of a multiplicity of parties inclined to guarantee the Right to Liberty for all the proletarians, peasants and intellectuals, both in the letter of the law and in practice, at a higher level than any bourgeois State: freedom of association (party organization), freedom of expression, of the press, of assembly, etc., giving free rein to the creative forces of the working masses who have been suffocated by centuries of oppression and violence. Under such conditions, would there be any place for sabotage? Would there really be any reason for the existence of artyomovists or smolenskists,8 for theft on a petty or a grand scale? At the present time there is no commercial society that is not affected by theft of goods, no major commercial society is exempt from corruption and graft. In these conditions the colossal and unprecedented expansion of the economy and culture would produce veritable miracles. Of course, the proletariat thus organized into its own State would offer a real fatherland to all the oppressed working masses. Can there be any doubt that this would be a refuge for all the workers who think freely and who have been expelled from their own countries for fighting against capitalism? Today, however, it is nothing but a refuge for the bureaucrats of the USSR. Even if you are the most hardened bureaucrat—like Trotsky, for example—you cannot manifest the least disagreement or the least complaint—such as the disagreements and complaints expressed by our distinguished opponents, who have been reduced to discovering the maximum quantity of hair that one can have in order to be defined as bald or at what percentage growth rate internationalism begins and “socialism in one country” ends—not even they have the right to express themselves or to assemble freely and if they do so they are hauled off to prison, or rot in internal deportation, or are expelled from the country or shot down like dogs in the deepest dungeons of the GPU. What will the millions of workers who engage in critical thought and fight to overthrow their shameful slavery think of their fatherland? If the influence of the Soviet bureaucracy is immense this is due to the fact that it employs the prestige of the October Revolution for its own benefit. This constitutes yet more evidence of how hard life is for the proletariat: we will have the devil close on our heels until we rid ourselves of our odious slavery. By virtue of its mere existence, the workers State will accomplish this task more effectively than the bureaucracies, better than all the writers and orators. We have to sound the alarm, issuing a call to the workers to cast down the walls of Jericho of exploitation.
The achievements of the USSR with respect to economic development only reflect the fact that State Capitalism is superior to private capitalism, just as the achievements of the bourgeoisie in their time demonstrated the superiority of its relations of production over those of feudalism.
This shows that the Soviet bureaucracy is fighting private capitalism, within and without the USSR, because State Capitalism is the enemy of private capitalism as long as the bureaucracy remains faithful to its class interests. Likewise, the bourgeoisie, with its hostility towards the USSR, defends its rule and remains faithful to its own class interests. It does not want to be expropriated by either the bureaucracy or by the proletariat. But this does not prove the proletarian nature of the Soviet State.
Besides addressing the question of “self-criticism”, this pamphlet examines programmatic (what are we fighting for?), tactical (how should we fight?) and organizational questions (how should we organize our ranks in order to be victorious?). But these questions are discussed above. There are other manuscripts that have also managed to survive, which can provide more substantial material for discussions of these programmatic, tactical and organizational questions:
1. “Brief Critique of the Theory and Practice of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) and of the Komintern”.
2. “What is the Nature of the State in the USSR?”
3. “Outline of a Program for a Communist Workers International”.
4. “Outline of a Program and Constitution for the Communist Workers Parties in the USSR”.
All the comrades who are sincerely concerned with the conditions of the proletariat and who suffer by their side, who have the courage to think for themselves and know the valor and the integrity of the proletariat, will participate in this debate. They need to know what they are fighting for, how they should fight and how to organize for victory. Clear and precise answers to these questions will unleash the energy of the proletariat and help it to organize for the battle and for victory.
The exiled representatives of the Provisional Central Bureau of the Communist Workers Party of the USSR do not enjoy the formal legal liberties of the bourgeois State and cannot publish these documents without help from other comrades. We need financial assistance. If we had more money, my manuscripts would not have been stolen and they would have been published long ago. Comrades, we need your help!
Another way you can help us is by sending books and pamphlets to the USSR, to the proletarians of the USSR. We must find a way to send them, to cause them to be read and to put our shoulders to the wheel.
We must resume the publication of The Workers Road to Power.9
We need volunteers, money and contacts.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE NO LONGER WITH US (IN LIEU OF AN INTRODUCTION)
In September 1843, Marx wrote to Ruge: “Hitherto philosophers have had the solution of all riddles lying in their writing-desks, and the stupid, exoteric world had only to open its mouth for the roast pigeons of absolute knowledge to fly into it. Now philosophy has become mundane…. But, if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.”
This critical perspective of one of the future authors of the Manifesto completely coincides with that of its other author. Frederick Engels, as we may verify in one of his passionate articles in which he exhaustively examines the vision of Carlyle: “Carlyle has, as he himself admits, no ‘Morison’s pill’, no panacea for curing the ills of society.”
“In that too he is right. All social philosophy, as long as it still propounds a few principles as its final conclusion, as long as it continues to administer Morison’s pills, remains very imperfect; it is not the bare conclusions of which we are in such need, but rather study; the conclusions are nothing without the reasoning that has led up to them; this we have known since Hegel; and the conclusions are worse than useless if they are final in themselves, if they are not turned into premises for further deductions. But the conclusions must also assume a distinct form for a time, they must in the course of development evolve from vague imprecision into clear ideas….”10
After these lines were first written, the social philosophy of Marx and Engels evolved, leading to the celebrated conclusions that were first laid down in the Manifest of the Communist Party and were then more fully developed in the later work of its authors. No one can say that these conclusions are imprecise. If Engels was right, however, when he said that we do not have to confer as much importance on the conclusions, but rather on the process from which they arose, and that in general conclusions are nothing but a temporary formula, we can ask ourselves: Have the conclusions arrived at in the Manifesto been superseded? Have subsequent developments perhaps shown that they were false? An astute Frenchman once said that he did not attempt to reason like Voltaire in an era when Voltaire himself would have reasoned in a different way. If we do nothing but repeat what Marx and Engels said in an epoch when they would have themselves thought in a different way, we would thus reveal our total inability to instill ourselves with the vivifying critique that is contained in their teachings, defending the letter rather than the spirit of their works. We would be even more far removed from the spirit of the work of Marx than those dogmatists whom Marx himself refers to in his letter to Ruge quoted above.
“Marx and Engels had ruthless criticism for everything that existed, and had no fear of the results of that criticism,” Plekhanov said. “The followers of Marx and Engels, too, should have no fear of the results achieved by their teachers. One would think that all this goes without saying, and that it is quite superfluous to speak on the matter….”
Nowadays, however, this perspective is considered to be erroneous. Today, this is no longer so obvious, which is why commentaries are necessary, for now the highest virtue consists in having a blind faith in the wisdom of the “philosophers” of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party, who “have had the solution of all riddles lying in their writing-desks, and the stupid, exoteric proletarians had only to open their mouths for the roast pigeons of absolute knowledge to fly into them”. Talk is not superfluous when all criticisms of the Party Line or of the Central Committee are considered to be Menshevik, whether they come from the left or the right, and entail the usual consequences for those who dare to express them. It is not true that the Central Committee does not have any kind of “‘Morison’s pill’, no panacea for curing the ills of society”, since if this were the case, it would welcome criticism as the duty of every Marxist, of every revolutionary, and not as something that is the work of sinister criminals. And the fact that the Central Committee’s membership is composed exclusively of dogmatists of the kind that Marx described and who according to Plekhanov are even more alien to Marx, this, dear father of Russian Marxism, does not bother anyone at all.
To the contrary, this gives you the right, dear G.V. Plekhanov, to say that “followers … should have no fear of the results achieved by their teachers”.
We, however, who, following your example, have sought to criticize the “results” formulated by the disciples of Marx and Engels, have suffered and continue to suffer adverse consequences when we proclaim our “results”. But as you have taught us, with the example of Marx and Engels, who were not afraid “of coming into conflict with the powers that be”, we have decided to continue to argue just as Marx and Engels would have done if they were in our place.
And we have done so because “the conscious workers who are in the vanguard of the movement must constantly look over their shoulders, to the road that the workers movement has just left behind, in order to ask themselves over and over again if they are following the right road and if there is a better way”. And also because “only idiots and those who fear the participation of the broad masses in politics think that open and impassioned debates on tactics, of the kind that one can constantly read in the workers press, are vain and inopportune. In reality, it is these very same debates that attract the attention of the workers, inviting them to examine their politics from every angle in order to find a clear, but not narrow, class line for the movement”,11 as another disciple of Marx and Engels said in 1900, when you wrote your “Preface”, who was at that time your comrade and friend: Lenin.
Elsewhere, Lenin wrote:
“In the press one may find arguments and polemics that help the reader to understand political positions, to have a better grasp of their meaning in order to be able to improve them later. And there are also arguments that degenerate into insults, slander and disputes.
“The more conscious workers, those who are aware of their responsibilities with regard to the task of transformation and organization of the proletariat must pay the greatest attention so that these inevitable debates and these necessary polemics do not degenerate into insults, slanders and calumnies.”12
He thought that the lack of political education “of the Russians” was manifested, among other ways, by their inability to find precise and well-argued demonstrations in important historical debates, as well as in a naive faith in vulgar slogans and gestures, in threats and in the oaths of the parties involved.
“Every rational being understands that over the course of a debate that has been poisoned by this or that theme, in order to arrive at the truth one has to go beyond the arguments of the parties involved, taking into account the facts and the documents and discerning to what degree the testimonies are reliable. Of course, this is not an easy task. It is much easier to consider whatever we hear, or want to hear, to be the Real McCoy, depending on how loud it is. Anyone who abides by this practice is a mental defective who does not deserve any respect. If you want to have a serious position, the truth will not be discerned without a certain amount of personal investigation, and anyone who is afraid of this task deprives himself of any possibility of ever reaching the truth.”13
And we can add that the same thing is true of anyone who is afraid to criticize the conclusions formulated by Marx and Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin and the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party.
Lenin said: “Comrade Chudnovsky14 said here that he had ‘taken the liberty’ of making some sharp criticisms of the Commissars’ actions. There can be no question at all as to whether or not sharp criticism is to be allowed, for it is a revolutionary’s duty to engage in such criticism, and the People’s Commissars do not claim to be infallible”.
1. THE BUREAUCRACY’S DECEITFULNESS AND THE PROLETARIAT
All the workers and peasants, whether they know how to read or not, have heard the deafening howls and uproar of the professional bureaucrats of the party-Soviet concerning self-criticism.
The newspapers and magazines spit and rage, demanding that the dissidents—the workers, peasants and intellectual opposition—should be eliminated, appealing to iron and blood, to retaliations urbi et orbi. But after having dragged thousands of workers, peasants and intellectuals to prison or deportation in the “socialist fatherland”, these gangsters of the bureaucracy are now making a terrible ruckus with this business about “criticism”, “self-criticism” and “implacable criticism, from top to bottom”. What is happening here? These gangsters, who are the ones who make all the important decisions in this country with its millions of people behind the backs of the proletarians and peasants, in their ministerial sanctuaries, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR (bolshevik) whose decrees are more infallible than the edicts of the Holy Synod; these gangsters who have done away with so many workers, peasants and intellectuals without any kind of public trial, without allowing them the right to defend themselves, employing kangaroo courts and torture chambers, because these honest revolutionaries had the audacity to have their own opinions and to express them; these bureaucrats, whose acts of repression are more cruel than the most degrading and abject deeds of the bourgeois governments (Bela Kun was condemned to three months in prison by a bourgeois court, and the organizer of a prison escape, comrade Braun, was given a six-month sentence), are the same ones who are now suddenly advocating self-criticism.
The workers, peasants and intellectuals, whether or not they are members of the party, are stupefied and bemused by this clamorous hypocrisy. Does it represent a 180 degree change of course? Does it mean that the workers, peasants and intellectuals who disagree with the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (bolshevik) will no longer be subjected to secret reprisals and will not be imprisoned without a trial in the dungeons of the GPU because of the positions they advocate in meetings and in the press? Does it mean that from now on the proclamations of the bureaucracy of the Politburo of the CPSU(b) will no longer be infallible and will no longer be off-limits to all criticism? Does this mean that the gangsters of the bureaucracy, who meet in ecclesiastical conclaves (that is, in party congresses), will now be subject to criticism and that if they are opposed by a majority they will have to alter their decisions? No, of course not. All this talk of self-criticism is only the latest deception of the bureaucracy.
The bitter disillusionment of the working class and peasant masses caused by the arbitrary tyranny of the bureaucrats, by their betrayals, their deceitfulness, and their inability to perform the simplest task—supplying bread to the cities in a country that is an exporter of grain—this disillusionment is so profound, that the bureaucracy organized into a ruling class, that exercises command over production, distribution and the State, believes that it has not inflicted enough repression on the workers, peasants and intellectuals of the opposition, and it seems that now the ground is shaking under its feet. That is why it is howling like mad against “bureaucratism” and in favor of “self-criticism”.
Evidently, this “criticism” and “self-criticism” must ultimately benefit the bureaucracy, it must culminate in reinforcing its power and its rule, winnowing from its ranks the most notorious and corrupt embezzlers and bandits, those for whom the workers and peasants have expressed the greatest hatred, and thus divert the discontent against the system of bureaucratic rule towards more anodyne targets: the minor misappropriations of low-level bureaucrats, small-time bureaucratic chicanery. The bureaucracy praises the “honest” bureaucrats, calling upon the workers and peasants to collaborate in the task of cleaning up the mess. These are the limits of “criticism” and “self-criticism”, and anyone who deviates from them is persecuted with all available means: blackmail, calumny, discreet pressure applied at the headquarters of the GPU, deportation and prison. The working class, the agricultural wage workers and the honest proletarian intellectuals will fight to break the rule of the bureaucracy, by destroying the bureaucratic machinery, by overthrowing its power in production and replacing it with that of the Councils of Workers Delegates in the workplaces, who will elect the organs of industrial management: the directorial staff of the industrial sectors and the councils of administration, and the National Economic Council of the Soviet Union will simultaneously institute these Councils as the “working class cornerstone of state power” (the original program of the CPSU(b). They will fight to evict the bureaucracy from all commercial activities, to abolish all the National Commissariats of Commerce, the commercial organizations of the State, and to transfer all the capital, rights and responsibilities of these institutions to the cooperatives. They will fight to expel the bureaucracy from the leading positions of the State and to transfer all the rights and prerogatives of the bureaucratic Workers and Peasants Inspectorate to the trade unions. They will fight for a workers State, for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for workers democracy, knowing that the bureaucracy is incapable of eliminating, even minimally, fraud, bribery, arbitrariness, tyranny, and the oppression and exploitation of the working class and peasant masses.
And even while the proletariat fights for immediate objectives in its everyday struggles, for the suppression of the worst aspects of bureaucratic rule, for higher wages, better working conditions and other similar reforms of the social-bureaucracy, while they are fighting against these bureaucratic evils, the proletariat must understand the very nature of these evils, whose essence is State Capitalism itself, the very structure of the social-bureaucratic system.
Only the destruction of this system and its replacement by a workers State will destroy the bureaucracy at its very roots.
2. BUREAUCRATIC DECEPTION: PAST AND PRESENT
This is not the first time that the social-bureaucracy has raised the alarm with this business of criticism and self-criticism and with the democracy of the councils and the proletariat, trying to dissimulate its fear of the growing discontent of the working class and peasant masses, as well as its repression of the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals, behind a radical propaganda campaign of love and peace.
We all remember the ferocious repression of 1923 against the proletarians of the Workers Group of the CPSU(b), whose crimes can be summarized under the rubrics of having criticized the theory and practice of the bureaucracy in the Manifesto of the Workers Group, for having denounced “accumulation”, and for the fact of existing as an organized group. And we all remember the repression, just as ferocious, secret and subterranean, as is the way of the GPU, which was inflicted upon them by the bureaucracy, which was all the while talking about Soviet democracy and proletarian democracy. We can all recall that subsequently, in 1924-1925, when the discontent of the working class and peasant masses took the form of strikes and spontaneous uprisings, the bureaucracy endlessly repeated the watchwords of “criticism” and “self-criticism”. Thus, at the 13th Party Conference in Moscow, in January 1925, Stalin, who is currently at the head of the bureaucratic leadership, declared:
“The issue is as follows: either we, the entire Party, allow the non-Party peasants and workers to criticise us, or we shall be criticised by means of revolts. The revolt in Georgia was criticism. The revolt in Tambov was also criticism. The revolt in Kronstadt—was not that criticism? One thing or the other: either we abandon this official optimism and official approach to the matter, do not fear criticism and allow ourselves to be criticised by the non-Party workers and peasants, who, after all, are the ones to feel the effects of our mistakes, or we do not do this, and discontent will accumulate and grow, and we shall have criticism in the form of revolts.” (Pravda, No. 24, January 30, 1925).
Can we not detect in this speech the portrait of a miserable, frightened and panic-stricken bureaucracy that has just noticed the wave of working class and peasant discontent and which, when the workers and peasants have been pacified thanks to a campaign of lies, provocations, blackmail and violence, promises to continue to deceive them?
“The revolt[s] of Tambov…. Georgia…. Kronstadt [were] criticism.” The criticism of the workers and peasants took the form of revolts and strikes because, up until then, they did not have the right to express any kind of criticism, written or oral, of the policy of the ruling bureaucracy and its party. Stalin knew this, and continued as follows: “either we … allow ourselves [the bureaucracy] to be criticised by the non-Party workers and peasants … or we do not do this, and discontent will accumulate and grow, and we shall have criticism in the form of revolts.”
Which means that Stalin, the leader who is at the head of the bureaucracy, admits that prior to 1925 the workers and peasants did not have any political rights: freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, of political and trade union organization. They were dispossessed of all freedom of criticism.
The tyranny and violence of the bureaucracy know no bounds. That is why the workers and peasants who suffer bodily from the policies of Stalin & Co. were driven by desperation and decided to express their discontent by way of uprisings and strikes.
“Either we abandon this official optimism and official approach to the matter, do not fear criticism and allow ourselves to be criticised by the non-Party workers and peasants, who, after all, are the ones to feel the effects of our mistakes, or we do not do this, and discontent will accumulate and grow, and we shall have criticism in the form of revolts.”
The bureaucracy, as a whole, and its leaders, are spewing radical phraseology of love and peace, while at the same time confessing that they are compelled to do so given the increasing discontent of the workers and peasants, which could lead to revolt. In the meantime, the desk-jockey-in-chief calls upon his bureaucratic peers to repudiate their privileges and bureaucratic ways, that is, he exhorts them to rid themselves of their petty bourgeois bureaucratic nature. Evidently, that was that. And the leader himself, as well as his whole gang of desk-jockeys, remained the same bureaucrat that he always had been.
What does stand out in this concession made by the panic-stricken bureaucrat-in-chief, is the fact that “bureaucratic-desk jockey” conduct had led to the emergence of internal dissent; in the meanwhile, criticism coming from the workers and peasants, whether from the left or the right, regardless of its political position, was considered as Menshevik and counterrevolutionary by these bureaucrats and their party, and silently, concealed from the sight of the proletariat, it is quite effectively dealt with in the prisons of the GPU. But this was not enough to save the bureaucracy, and its leaders were obliged to openly call for the repudiation of bureaucratic methods and for the toleration of criticism, in order to prevent bureaucratic conduct—the violent and arbitrary rule over the peasants and the workers—from being criticized by way of uprisings and strikes.
“The whole trouble, comrades”, Stalin went on, “is that many of our comrades do not understand, or do not want to understand, how extremely important this question is. It is often said: our leaders in Moscow have made it the fashion to talk about the peasantry; probably, they don't mean it seriously, it is diplomacy. Moscow needs these speeches to be made for the outside world, but we can continue the old policy.”
“I think, comrades, that of all the dangers that face us, this failure of our local responsible workers to understand the tasks before us is the most serious danger. One thing or the other: Either our local comrades will realise how very serious the question of the peasantry is, in which case they will really set about drawing the peasantry into our constructive work, improving peasant economy and strengthening the bond; or the comrades will fail to realise it, in which case things may end in the collapse of the Soviet power.”15
Stalin knew perfectly well that not even his comrades believed him, since these discourses of “peace and love” concerning the freedom of criticism had already repeatedly been used to deceive the workers and peasants. The local cadres looked upon the latest display of concern about freedom as merely the latest trick, another turn of the screw to deceive the workers and peasants.
And that is exactly what it was. If freedom of criticism has been granted to the workers and peasants since 1925, why did we witness another round of talk about “criticism” and “self-criticism” in 1928? Up until that point they had tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the workers and peasants by speaking to them about their right to “criticism”; now they even speak about “self-criticism”, as well.
And the problem is not restricted to the fact that the workers and peasants who are not members of the party are not permitted to criticize the all-powerful bureaucracy, that is, to publish newspapers, magazines, and books of a non-bureaucratic nature, to express themselves at meetings, to organize in groups and parties and to participate in the elections in opposition to the party bureaucracy. It is rather that criticism is not even permitted to the party comrades themselves, and when they do express their dissenting opinions, in an attempt to advocate their position and to convince a majority within the party, they are ferociously and viciously attacked, in a way that would provoke envy among the brutal Italian fascists, who usually prosecuted communists in public trials. In Russia, however, trials are only for thieves, murderers, rapists, embezzlers, White Guards, generals, and capitalists and their gunmen, while the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals are quietly eliminated in the dungeons of the GPU. And until the most basic rights are granted to the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals, such as a public trial and protection under the law, something that is even enjoyed by every kind of common law criminal, as well as spies, agents provocateurs, policemen, generals, etc., while the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals are quietly eliminated in the cells of the GPU without the right to a legal defense, because they are sentenced by a sham court, until that time, neither the workers nor the peasants will be able to believe the bureaucracy and its leaders when they claim that they will permit freedom of criticism; until then all the discourses about “criticism” and “self-criticism” will be nothing but so many lies sewn together with the white threads of provocation.
In 1925 the bureaucracy launched the slogan of the right of the workers and peasants to enjoy freedom of criticism. In 1928, it was the turn of the slogan of self-criticism. The value of these campaigns has not changed, however, since in 1925 as well as in 1928 the GPU continued eliminating those same dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals and dragging them off to those same fake courts where they have no right to mount a legal defense. And as long as these workers, peasants and intellectuals are still rotting in prisons and in internal exile, without the right to a public defense, no one will swallow the wishes and promises of Stalin & Co., which are nothing but the latest bureaucratic deception.
3. THE DIVISION OF LABOR IN THE BUREAUCRACY
At the right time or the wrong time, with or without excuses, the bureaucratic leaders of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) express their love for the proletariat and denounce the bureaucratic plague. They always promise to put an end to the inefficiency of the bureaucratic State apparatus by introducing workers and peasants into the State machinery, and what this amounts to is that some peasant and intellectual bureaucrats are dismissed and replaced with new worker bureaucrats, who can offer the experience of their working class origins. Just as the President of the German Republic, the former saddler Ebert, his Prime Minister, the former carpenter Scheidemann, and his Minister of War, the former metal worker Noske, etc., changed nothing in the bureaucratic nature of the German State, nothing about the bureaucratic nature of the social-bureaucratic State Capitalist system will be changed by promoting workers to posts as desk-jockeys. Just as it is necessary, in order to transform the bourgeois State into a proletarian State, “to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class”, so, too, in order to transform the social bureaucratic State from a State Capitalist system into a Workers State, it is necessary for the proletariat to play the role of the ruling class. The difference lies in the fact that in a society of private capitalism the proletariat expels the bourgeoisie from its commanding position over production and distribution, placing the management of all of industry in the hands of the Councils of Workers Delegates in the workplaces and all of exchange into the hands of the cooperatives in order to thus ensure distribution, and transforming the trade unions into organs of State control over the Councils of Workers Delegates in the workplaces and over their cooperatives. In a State Capitalist system, the working class expels the bureaucracy from the leadership over production and distribution, replacing the bureaucrats, the directors and their assistants, etc., with the Councils of Workers Delegates in the workplaces, which control production, and with the cooperatives that assume responsibility for distribution, and the trade unions that will be responsible for overseeing those institutions. In a society of private capitalism, the proletariat overthrows the bourgeoisie from its ruling position, as the ruling class, but in a system of State Capitalism the ruling class is the bureaucracy. In a society of private capitalism the apparatus of the bourgeois State is destroyed, while here we have to destroy the bureaucratic State apparatus. The bourgeoisie combats the attempts of the proletariat to become the ruling class, and the bureaucracy combats and will continue to combat the attempts of the proletariat oriented towards that same goal. The bourgeoisie defends its class rule and so does the bureaucracy. The social-traitors of the Second International and of the Amsterdam International, while defending bourgeois rule, proclaim as loudly as possible that they are fighting for socialism, just as the social-bureaucrats of the Politburo defend State Capitalism while appealing to the defense of socialism and the Workers State.
What is it that the bourgeoisie does not want? The transformation of the proletariat into the ruling class, the transformation of the Councils of Workers Delegates in the workplaces into the administrative organs of production and into the “foundation of State power” (Program of the CPSU) and of the cooperatives into the administrative organs of distribution. And the bourgeoisie does not want this to happen because this would mean the end of its own existence. And what is it that Stalin & Co. do not want, either, even if they proclaim as loudly as possible that they are defending the participation of the workers in the affairs of the State and communism? As soon as one asks this question, everything becomes clear, all the beautiful words and noble phrases about communism, about the dictatorship of the proletariat, instantly become obvious swindles for all the workers, lies woven with the white thread of the most absolute hypocrisy. The Stalins, the Bukharins, etc., do not want Councils of Workers Delegates to be formed in the workplaces, nor do they want them to take control over production, nor do they want the cooperatives to assume responsibility for exchange and for the rights, the duties and the capital of the of the People’s Commissariat for Commerce and of the State agencies for trade, nor do they want all the functions of the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate to be transferred to the trade unions. And they do not want these things to happen for the same reasons the bourgeoisie does not want them to happen. Both defend their respective States and their egoistic class interests, while they dissimulate this defense with noble phrases. If the Councils of Workers Delegates in the workplaces are the institutions that are supposed to administer the industries of the State according to a general plan that embraces every sector of industry, thus becoming the “foundation of State power”, as set forth in the Program of the CPSU(b), and if the cooperatives are supposed to take control of all the commerce of the State, and of all the rights and duties of the commercial agencies of the State, and if the trade unions are supposed to take control of the rights and duties of the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate, then what kind of party will have to guide the organized proletariat towards these goals? A workers party or a bourgeois party? A workers party, of course.
And what kind of party is it, on the other hand, that fights with every possible means against the transformation of the proletariat into the ruling class, situated at the controlling center of production, distribution, overall supervision and the State? It is an anti-worker and anti-proletarian party. If it were a party that defends the private capitalist system, it would be a bourgeois party. But this party defends the State Capitalist system, it is a bureaucratic party. And those who try to prevent the proletariat from becoming the ruling class are standing in the way of the struggle against the bureaucracy, and by trying to cut short any criticism, self-criticism and the struggle against bureaucratism, they reveal their class nature. One part of the bureaucrats manages production, one part commerce, and a third is engaged in both while a fourth exercises its draconian rule over the bureaucracy, criticism and self-criticism. This division of labor of the bureaucrats is obvious, and of course contributes to the reinforcement of their economic and political power, which entails the physical and spiritual slavery of the proletariat.
4. THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION AND THE PROLETARIAN STATE
“The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy”, Marx and Engels wrote in the Manifesto.
A proletarian revolution is a revolution in which, in its first stage, the proletariat is transformed into the ruling class, assuming control over production and distribution.
How can the proletariat become the ruling class? How should it organize to achieve this goal?
In the Manifesto, Marx and Engels write that in order to fulfill its historic mission as gravedigger of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat cannot organize as a class except by way of association. This means that only if all the proletarians are collectively engaged will the proletariat successfully attain the level of ruling class and seize all the functions of management of production and distribution that were in the hands of the bourgeoisie prior to the advent of the proletarian revolution, which will transform it into the economically dominant class. By seizing control over the entire apparatus of the administration of production and distribution, by transferring this apparatus into the hands of all the associated producers, the proletariat would not thereby cease to be the productive class that labors, a collective that labors.
This proletariat, collectively organized, manages production and is itself responsible for overseeing the labor process. This self-organization, this self-managed labor, Marx referred to as workers cooperation, as a corporation, a college.
By studying the experience of the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels were able to provide a clear and practical explanation of what they understood by the idea of the proletariat becoming the ruling class.
“… by far the most important decree of the Commune instituted an organization of large-scale industry and even of manufacture which was to not only be based on the association of the workers in each factory, but also to combine all these associations in one great union; in short, an organization which, as Marx quite rightly says in The Civil War, must necessarily have led in the end to communism, that is to say, the direct opposite of the Proudhon doctrine.” (Engels, Preface to The Civil War in France).
Marx and Engels categorically stated that only this kind of proletarian organization, under the form of Councils of Workers Delegates in the workplaces, united into one immense trade union that would embrace all the factory and workshop councils, would necessarily lead to communism.
“Its true secret was this. It was essentially a working-class government, the produce of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour.”
“Except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion. The political rule of the producer cannot coexist with the perpetuation of his social slavery. The Commune was therefore to serve as a lever for uprooting the economical foundations upon which rests the existence of classes, and therefore of class rule.” (Marx, The Civil War in France).
The all-inclusive collective “association” of the proletariat of all workplaces eliminated the power of the bourgeois owners and exploiters. Organized in a collective association, in the Councils of Workers Delegates in the workplaces, the proletariat assumed control over production, thus transforming this association into the “foundation” of the State. This is how the economic foundations upon which the very existence of classes and therefore class rule is based is overthrown. Without these conditions, the Commune (the Workers State) is inconceivable, it would be an empty shell and would be transformed into an imposture. The secret of the Commune consists in the fact that it was the “associations” of the proletariat that administered production and the organization of labor. An organization like the Councils of Workers Delegates in the workplaces would thus necessarily lead to communism. This is the long-sought form of political organization that will make the economic liberation of labor possible. This is the only road to communism.
In The State and Revolution Lenin wrote:
“A witty German Social-Democrat of the seventies of the last century called the postal service an example of the socialist economic system. This is very true. At the present the postal service is a business organized on the lines of state-capitalist monopoly. Imperialism is gradually transforming all trusts into organizations of a similar type, in which, standing over the ‘common’ people, who are overworked and starved, one has the same bourgeois bureaucracy. But the mechanism of social management is here already to hand. Once we have overthrown the capitalists, crushed the resistance of these exploiters with the iron hand of the armed workers, and smashed the bureaucratic machinery of the modern state, we shall have a splendidly-equipped mechanism, freed from the ‘parasite’, a mechanism which can very well be set going by the united workers themselves, who will hire technicians, foremen and accountants, and pay them all, as indeed all ‘state’ officials in general, workmen’s wages. Here is a concrete, practical task which can immediately be fulfilled in relation to all trusts, a task whose fulfillment will rid the working people of exploitation, a task which takes account of what the Commune had already begun to practice (particularly in building up the state).
“[…] This is what will bring about the abolition of parliamentarism and the preservation of representative institutions [that is, the Soviets]. This is what will rid the laboring classes of the bourgeoisie’s prostitution of these institutions.”
In his debate with Lenin on the question of the proletarian State, Kautsky says:
“‘The most varied form of enterprises—bureaucratic [??], trade unionist, co-operative, private... can exist side by side in socialist society…. There are, for example, enterprises which cannot do without a bureaucratic [??] organization, such as the railways. Here the democratic organization may take the following shape: the workers elect delegates who form a sort of parliament, which establishes the working regulations and supervises the management of the bureaucratic apparatus. The management of other countries may be transferred to the trade unions, and still others may become co-operative enterprises’.” [Interpolated question marks are Lenin’s additions].
That is what Kautsky said.
“This argument is erroneous”, Lenin objects; “it is a step backward compared with the explanations Marx and Engels gave in the seventies, using the lessons of the Commune as an example.
“As far as the supposedly necessary ‘bureaucratic’ organization is concerned, there is no difference whatever between a railway and any other enterprise in large-scale machine industry, any factory, large shop, or large-scale capitalist agricultural enterprise. The technique of all these enterprises makes absolutely imperative the strictest discipline, the utmost precision on the part of everyone in carry out his allotted task, for otherwise the whole enterprise may come to a stop, or machinery or the finished product may be damaged. In all these enterprises the workers will, of course, ‘elect delegates who will form a sort of parliament’ [that is, Soviets].”
As we can see, Lenin, when he was a Marxist revolutionary, did not conceive of a proletarian State without Workers Councils, without that “association” by means of which the proletariat administers production instead of the bourgeoisie, after the latter is defeated. Following Marx and Engels, Lenin saw in these Councils “the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour”. And “except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion”.
Stalin, Bukharin & Co., however, are devoted to hauling off to the dungeons of the GPU, under the accusation of being counterrevolutionaries, all workers who have the audacity to talk about organizing these Councils. And yet they still dare to call themselves Marxist-Leninists! And the bureaucracy that administers production and the State, as well as the whole bureaucratic apparatus—they call that a workers State! Woe to anyone who would dare to deny it.
We, the workers, who operate the productive apparatus that has been bequeathed to us by capitalism and relying on our experience as workers, will institute a strict, iron discipline by way of the State power of the armed workers [that is, the Soviets]; we shall reduce the role of public officials to that of mere executive agents of our directives, to the role of “foremen and accountants”, all of whom will be responsible to the rank and file, recallable at any time and modestly paid (preserving, of course, every type of specialist, of every variety and category); this is our proletarian task, and it is on this basis that we can and must begin the realization of the proletarian revolution.
In the Manifesto, Marx and Engels stated that “the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy”, and Lenin added that the starting point, after the victory of the proletarian revolution, is the transformation of the Councils into the administrative organs of production and the foundation of the State.
The leaders of the bureaucracy, Stalin, Bukharin & Co., drafted the program of the Komintern, which never even once mentions that the proletariat as a class, organized into Councils, can become the ruling class. But if the proletariat reminds them of their betrayal of Marxism, then comes repression, to the great joy of the gangster bureaucrats.
5. PRIVATE CAPITALISM, STATE CAPITALISM AND THE PROLETARIAT
Lenin said that in contemporary capitalist society the post office is organized like a State Capitalist monopoly. If all the more important enterprises were to be converted, like the post office, into a State Capitalist monopoly, and were to be managed by officials, directors and managers, if this were to be accomplished, then we would have State Capitalism. The really wealthy bourgeoisie has disappeared. Production is therefore administered by the bureaucracy, which has become the ruling class, rising from a subordinate position in bourgeois society to a position of dominance in this society. This means that State Capitalism is the organization of the bureaucracy as a ruling class, the bureaucracy administering production and the State. The bureaucracy accedes to control over all the means of production and over the State, tasks previously performed by the bourgeoisie. Bourgeois rule is replaced by the rule of the bureaucracy. And just as the bourgeoisie succeeds in controlling the elections in a bourgeois State, the bureaucracy does the same thing in its State. In the bureaucratic State the working class is still the class that is economically and politically reduced to slavery. Only now it is the bureaucracy rather than the bourgeoisie that exploits and uses it.
“A State that would play the role of a private entrepreneur would proceed in exactly the same way as a private capitalist, and might even make a bigger profit. State Capitalism is the worst form of capitalism because it is a concentration of both political and economic power and can oppress and exploit the workers more cruelly and intensely”, declared Wilhelm Liebknecht in his speech at the Erfurt Congress, where the Erfurt Program was approved. For the proletariat to be able to shed these latest parasites, its new exploiters and oppressors, to get rid of the bureaucracy, it must become the ruling class. It must organize as a class in Councils and these Councils must assume responsibility for all the functions exercised by the ruling bureaucratic class: the administration and direction of production and distribution. All the factories, workshops, domestically owned enterprises and foreign corporations, etc., must be directed by an elected organ of the Councils, instead of the directors, managers and their bureaucratic underlings. This would constitute the practical realization of what Lenin foresaw when he spoke of “reduc[ing] the role of state officials to that of simply carrying out our instructions”, paid “the wages of the average workman”. This is our duty as proletarians. And this is the task to which we must devote our efforts after the proletarian revolution, according to Lenin. Only thus can the foundations of the social-bureaucratic system be dismantled, the foundations of bureaucratic tyranny, exploitation and slavery, and of the whole bureaucratic regime. Without this, all the talk about the struggle against bureaucracy is just so many empty words, disseminated in order to further the material and spiritual submission of the proletariat, to deceive the workers and the peasants.
The Stalins, Bukharins & Co. say that the State that they administer is a workers State. They say this to fool the working class, so that the latter does not fight for a real workers State. They are defending their power and bureaucratic rule. But if this State whose production and distribution are run by a bureaucracy is a workers State, what should we call the State in which the proletariat would really be the ruling class, that is, the class that administers production, distribution, and the State, a State in which the Councils administer production and constitute the “foundation of the proletarian State”, in which the cooperatives administer exchange, performing the functions of the current State commercial agencies, of the People’s Commissariat for Commerce, etc., and in which the trade unions have assumed responsibility for the tasks currently performed by the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate? What kind of State is that? Marx, Engels and Lenin called this a workers State. But what do you say, honorable leaders of the bureaucracy, Stalin, Bukharin & Co.? If we ask this question, you are ready to eliminate us with your favorite method: the dungeons of the GPU. But repression will not prevent this question from being asked. The proletariat will ask it and will also answer it, against and in spite of you. And all the honest, brave and lucid people will abandon you and will join the proletariat in its battle for victory.
To annihilate the bureaucracy, it is necessary to:
1. Organize the Councils, give them control over production, as organs of the State, also preserving the Councils of Peasant Delegates and the Urban (Neighborhood) Councils.
2. Transfer all capital, all rights and all duties of the People’s Commissariat for Commerce and of the State trade agencies to the cooperatives, abolishing the former institutions.
3. Transfer to the trade unions the functions of the State’s bureaucratic control apparatus, normally exercised by the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate.
4. Abolish all the Councils of People’s Commissars, which have become carbon copies of the Cabinets of the bourgeois States, and transfer all their powers and duties to the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee, in which the corresponding departments will have to be organized.
5. Establish the Central Executive Committee as a permanent institution rather than as a clique of play acting part time chatterboxes who meet only to ratify with the stroke of a pen whatever the bureaucracy does.
6. Liquidate the institution for the secret repression of the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals by withdrawing all legal functions from the GPU and offering every worker the rights to defend himself before a court of law and to a public trial.
7. Recognize the right of the workers, peasants and intellectuals to freedom of expression, of assembly, of association, etc., at least to the same degree as prevails in the bourgeois democratic countries: Germany, France, England, United States, etc.
8. Declare an amnesty for all workers, peasants and intellectuals who have been sentenced to prison terms or who have been deported for political reasons by the secret tribunals of the GPU.
Is this the road that has been followed by the Stalins, the Bukharins & Co.? What such a program would mean is nothing less than the death of the bureaucracy and its rule. The bureaucracy will oppose the creation of a workers State with as much determination as the bourgeoisie of any capitalist country. Why would the bourgeoisie want the workers to organize into Councils and transform them into the administrative institutions of their countries? Why would the bureaucracy want the cooperatives to take over commerce and administer foreign and domestic trade?
Why would the bourgeoisie want the trade unions to take charge of the functions that are now performed by government ministers? They would fight against this with tooth and nail, with every means at their disposal!
And how will the bureaucracy defend itself? Can it possibly eliminate every proletarian inclined to engage in peaceful struggle and to try to share his convictions about the workers State, and thus act in a much more draconian way than the bourgeoisie of Germany, England, France and the United States?
Or maybe the proletariat enjoys, even if minimally, some formal rights and liberties, the freedom of expression, of the press, of assembly, of association, as in the above mentioned countries?
The bureaucracy claims that the proletariat possesses very few rights and liberties in the capitalist countries, where the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie reigns. True enough! But the bureaucracy concedes exactly the same paltry rights and liberties to the workers, peasants and intellectuals as the bourgeois States! The bourgeoisie grants the proletariat the right to freedom of expression, of the press, of assembly, of association, etc., but since all the means of production, including the presses and the paper factories, buildings, transport and means of communication are in the hands of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat must proceed by scraping together its pennies, from its miserable wage, in order to obtain the means that would allow it to publish the newspapers, magazines and books that it needs, and to rent and operate the buildings for its committees, rallies and so on. In this case, the liberties and the rights of the proletariat are perfectly determined by its economic slavery.
In the State Capitalist countries, all the means of production that previously belonged to the bourgeoisie are now under the control of the bureaucracy. This is the principal difference between State Capitalism and private capitalism. In Russia, the bureaucracy controls all the means of production, just as the bourgeoisie does in the capitalist countries, but in addition to this economic servitude, it also deprives the proletariat of its formal rights and liberties—the freedom of expression, of the press, of assembly, of association—even in the framework of the narrow limits authorized by a bourgeois dictatorship. In this case, although the workers must sweat blood for their miserable wages, they cannot publish any newspapers, magazines or books (of a non-bureaucratic nature), nor can they organize in a party (except in the bureaucratic party) in order to fight to free themselves from the bureaucratic yoke and for a workers State. A workers State, besides the fact that it would guarantee the legal and formal recognition of rights and liberties for all the workers, would also guarantee that it would be materially possible to exercise these rights and these liberties, allowing the working class population access to presses, buildings, transportation and the means of communication which are under the control of the Councils.
It is in the interests of the proletariat as a class that there should be various parties so that the proletarians would thus have the opportunity of choosing from among the diverse programs and political positions of these parties and so that none of them should seize exclusive power and be transformed from a servant of the proletariat, into a master and oppressor, and from a champion of rights and liberties, into a tyrant that abolishes them.
When the bureaucracy loudly proclaims in its appeals to the proletariat of the capitalist countries that it should fight and overthrow the bourgeoisie, then the proletariat of all those countries should ask themselves: Who will the bureaucracy put in charge of production, the proletariat organized into Councils or the bureaucratic enterprise directors, bosses and managers? Who will the bureaucracy put in charge of the State, the production syndicates (the trade unions) or a bureaucracy called the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate? Will the proletariat have at least the same rights and freedom of expression, of the press, of assembly and of association as in the societies of private capitalism under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie?
What is the proletariat fighting for? For State Capitalism, for a bureaucratic State or for a workers State?
Before going into battle, the proletariat of all countries must know that it is fighting to liberate itself once and for all from exploitation and slavery.
The old Marxist standard, the Manifesto, which proclaims that the task of the proletarian revolution is “to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy”, is the standard of the proletarian struggle against private capitalism, against the bourgeoisie and against the bureaucracy. The proletarians of all countries will unite and will emerge victorious from this battle.
6. THE PROGRAM OF BUREAUCRATIC MYSTIFICATION
The bureaucracy, led by Stalin and Bukharin, announces that its power is the power of the bureaucracy and its party, and that this consists in the dictatorship of the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry. Anyone who dares to audibly express doubts about this will be invited to visit the dungeons of the GPU, where he will be able to experience for himself the warm “camaraderie” of the bureaucrats. The bureaucracy is augmenting its power and its rule and is savagely eliminating all the workers who dare to raise their voices against its omnipotence and in favor of a workers State. This whole program of “self-criticism”, the “limits” set by the bureaucracy to its “self-criticism”, are the limits of the defense and the reinforcement of bureaucratic rule, which accompany the one-party dictatorship and are inherent to the rule of the bureaucracy. In its message “To all the members of the party, to all workers”, the Central Committee of the CPSU(b), after the usual introductory boilerplate, explains the practical measures that it seeks to implement. With respect to the Soviet apparatus:
1. “The struggle against bureaucratism and therefore a bold streamlining of its apparatus!” Neither more no less! These audacious initiatives are terribly shocking! They plan to eliminate themselves! But let us examine the ways they have in mind for combating bureaucratism.
2. “The promotion of workers to positions in the State and the economic apparatus of the State; this promotion will have to be compulsory, systematic, immediate and carried out on a daily basis.” What? It is a revolution! “The promotion of workers to positions in the State and the economic apparatus of the State.” Nothing could be more simple: we shall allow the workers to organize themselves in Councils and transform them into organizations that will control the economy and production while they also become the “foundation of State power”. All of this coincides with Marx and Engels and with the Program of the CPSU(b) (although not with that of the Komintern, since this demand, which is the very essence of the program of the proletarian revolution, has been totally abolished). In this way, the proletariat organized in Councils, integrally, day after day, systematically and without any restrictions, will participate in all the affairs of the State and its economic tasks, from the most trivial to the most important. And this means the disappearance of all the bureaucrats, of bureaucratism and of the rule of the bureaucracy over the workers, since it would mean the power of the workers over the bureaucrats. And in order to put an end to bureaucratism once and for all, it is necessary to evict from the sphere of exchange all the commercial commissars and State agents who come from the ranks of the bureaucrats, and hand over all the capital, the organizations, the rights and responsibilities of these State bodies to the cooperatives, which is what the bureaucracy has been so insistently proclaiming every day in the newspapers. And in order to cause the bureaucracy—which for the purposes of deceiving the workers and peasants has created the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate (WPI)—to disappear totally from the sphere of State control, all the tasks previously carried out by the WPI must be transferred to the trade unions, to all the proletarians organized as one man in their organizations, which are the trade unions. Then we shall see what workers control really is!
Not so fast, implores the bureaucrat: how can you transform the integral organization of the proletariat—the Councils—into a State organization? This is unprecedented! Even Kautsky said that it was impossible. But let us see just what it is that Kautsky himself says. “The Soviets of 1905 were local organisations confined to single towns. Those of 1917 were not only more numerous, but closely knit together. Single Soviets were affiliated to a greater body, which in its turn was part of an organisation comprehending the whole Empire, its organ being the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and a permanent Central Executive Committee.” Kautsky continues: “Already the Soviet organisation can look back on a great and glorious history. A more important period lies before it, and not in Russia alone.” And Kautsky concludes: “The Soviet organisation is, therefore, one of the most important phenomena of our time. It promises to acquire an outstanding significance in the great decisive struggles between Capital and Labour which are before us. Can we ask even more than this of the Soviets? The Bolshevists, who, together with the left-wing Social Revolutionaries, obtained a majority in the Russian Workers’ Councils after the November Revolution of 1917, after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, proceeded to make an organ of government of the Soviets, which hitherto had been the fighting organisation of a class.”
What councils is he talking about? The rural Soviet of peasant delegates? No. He is talking about the Councils, the integral organizations that include, as if it were one man, the wage workers of all the enterprises.
“Marvelous! Form up in Soviets, you proletarians and poor peasants! But, for God’s sake, don’t you dare win! Don’t even think of winning! The moment you win and vanquish the bourgeoisie, that will be the end of you; for you must not be ‘state’ organisations in a proletarian state. In fact, as soon as you have won you must break up!”
“What a marvelous Marxist this man Kautsky is! What an inimitable ‘theoretician’ of renegacy!”, Lenin says (see The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky). This “inimitable ‘theoretician’ of renegacy” is opposed to the transformation of the Councils into the directive organs of production and the “foundation of the State”. He requests that they dissolve themselves. But what about the bureaucracy? What do the Stalins and the Bukharins have to say? They agree, they also demand that the Councils must dissolve. If Kautsky is the “inimitable ‘theoretician’ of renegacy”, what are our Stalins and Bukharins? According to Marx and Engels the Councils are “the political form at last discovered [without which] the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion”. Just who are Stalin and Bukharin the disciples of with regard to this central question of the proletarian revolution, concerning the theme of the proletarian State, the question of knowing the form by which the proletariat organizes as the ruling class? Are they Kautskyists or Marxists?
The bureaucracy not only opposes the transformation of the Councils into the directive organs of production and the organization of the State, but also attacks with an animal ferocity and an implacable savagery any proletarian who dares to speak of creating workers Councils. We have already explained what kind of “workerism” it is that they want in the State apparatus: the same kind as the bourgeoisie. For the bourgeoisie also recruits its high functionaries and its cadres from among the workers, which helps it to more effectively maintain its rule over the proletariat. The bureaucracy does exactly the same thing and constantly appeals to the working class origin of certain bureaucrats.
But that is a lie! It is calumny! Miserable insinuations and slanders against our “cohorts” and our “old guard” who defend the assemblies of production! Listen to this, for example: “Take an active part in the production assemblies. Ensure that the practical proposals of the workers are implemented as thoroughly as possible.”
That is really what is supposed to happen! But let us cast a glance back in time and acquaint ourselves with a little history. When were the production assemblies legalized? After the campaign led by the Workers Group of the CPSU in 1923. In order to prevent the formation of Workers Councils, which the Workers Group was calling for with the support of the workers, it was alleged that such a project posed too many difficulties, and the bureaucracy decided to replace them with “production assemblies”. These assemblies were created solely for the purpose of serving as tools of the bureaucracy to hoodwink the proletarians and to disorganize their struggle for the formation of real Workers Councils. These workers assemblies have no rights, they are nothing but a useless appendage of the omnipotent bureaucracy: the directors, the foremen, the managers of the enterprises, etc., and they enjoy practically the same prerogatives as the Bulygin Duma.16 Moreover, Bukharin has let the cat out of the bag with respect to these “production assemblies”. It would seem that in the United States, the bourgeoisie has also established production assemblies. There is only a slight difference between our assemblies and those in the United States, that is, in the United States 85% of the assemblies’ proposals are approved while here only 35-40% are authorized (see Bukharin’s speech at the 15th Congress). This is the only difference. On the other hand, just as in the United States the assemblies of production not only do not weaken the power of the bourgeoisie, but lower the costs of exploitation, here, not only do they not weaken the power of the bureaucracy, but they reduce the costs of its rule over the working class: for it is the bureaucracy and no one else that benefits from the councils and the experience of the workers to improve the production process and it is the bureaucracy that uses this apparent proletarian participation in order to direct production and to keep the workers compliant and submissive.
What the American bourgeoisie fears and always will fear is the prospect of these assemblies being transformed into Councils that would seize control of production and the State. This is anathema to the American bourgeoisie and always will be. Why? Because this would amount to its social extinction, the death sentence for the bourgeoisie.
So is it true that our bureaucrats want us, the workers, to transform these production assemblies into Councils and take over production and the State? Of course not! They are disseminating all this confusion, these malevolent lies and slanders, in order to frighten and disorient the proletariat. But the proletariat nonetheless continues to demand the creation of Councils, in the face of all the forces of the GPU. The bureaucracy will not hesitate to launch a bloody repression against the workers to defend its State. But even if it does, the proletariat will not desist from its efforts and will win in the end.
Why does the bureaucracy want to prevent these production assemblies from being transformed into Councils? For the same reason as the American bourgeoisie: because this would mean its social extinction and its death sentence.
Besides these production assemblies, however, there are also the control commissions. The Central Committee of the CPSU(b) decrees: “Extend the control commissions to all the sectors of production and transport.” Once again, let us cast a glance back in time, and review a little history. The control commissions were formed in 1925 in response to a slogan of the Workers Groups: “Trade Union Control!”, a slogan that reflected the demand to transfer all the functions of the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate to the trade unions. In order to divert the attention of the workers from this slogan, in order to deceive them without conceding them any rights, the bureaucracy created the provisional control commissions, which had the same rights as the production assemblies, that is, none at all, and of course it opposed with all its powers and all the means at its disposal any transfer of the rights and responsibilities of the Rabkrin17 to the trade unions. Tomsky, Dogadov18 & Co. played on this occasion the same role that the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries played in the Councils of Workers and Soldiers prior to October 1917, rejecting the transfer of power to the Councils and dissuading the proletariat from pursuing such a course of action. The difference between them lies in the fact that Skobelev, Chkheidze19 & Co. refused to yield power to the Councils in order to help the bourgeoisie, while Tomsky, Dogadov & Co. refused to do so in order to support the bureaucracy. Tomsky, Dogadov and the other trade union bureaucrats deceitfully encouraged the workers, not to transfer State power to the hands of their general organizations, the trade unions, but to hand over this power to the bureaucracy, in the form of the Rabkrin. Even more passionately, the trade union bureaucracy insisted that the workers must not organize themselves in Councils and transform the Councils into organs of the State and directive organs over production. They used every means at their disposal: pressure, bribery, calumny, secret repression on the part of the GPU, and all of it was dissimulated behind a torrent of vapid speeches about the workers State, the dictatorship of the proletariat and proletarian democracy.
That is how they fought the bureaucratization of the State apparatus and “rejuvenated” the trade unions.
Now let us see how they “rejuvenated” the party. Everyone knows that once a year, or sometimes a little more frequently, they devote themselves to the task of encouraging the work of the Soviets, the trade unions, the cooperatives and the party. We find nothing particularly “self-critical” about this type of “cheerleading” which is so fashionable. It is just the same old bureaucratic fakery to which we have all become accustomed and with whose value we are so well acquainted. We have already seen how the bureaucracy rejuvenates the work of the Soviets and the trade unions. This “rejuvenation” also has other aspects, but since they are nothing new we may omit examining them. This is how the bureaucracy decided to rejuvenate the party: 1) “guarantee complete liberty of internal criticism”; and 2) “ensure the election of responsible party members”.
If we take the trouble to examine the decrees on the structure and the life of the party since 1921, we will not find a single decree in which internal party democracy, freedom of criticism, election of responsible members, etc., are not mentioned.
And we always find the same old song: “rejuvenation” thanks to “freedom of criticism” and by way of “the election of all responsible party members”. Why? Because the bureaucracy, by its very nature, is incapable of basing the living party on proletarian democracy. To ask the bureaucracy to rejuvenate its own party on the basis of proletarian democracy is to ask it to do the impossible. Our task consists in revealing all the lies that are concealed behind these words and these Marxist speeches devoted to fooling the proletariat and the peasantry. In an attempt to legitimize its rule, the bureaucracy is attempting to cause its State form to be perceived as a workers State, a perfect State. In this respect it is acting no differently than all previous ruling classes, who justified their rule as “the kingdom of God on Earth”, an absolute ideal that could not be more perfect. The bureaucracy has to justify this dogma, which is why it formulates the theory that the proletariat is incapable of establishing its dictatorship with its own organizations, the workers Councils, and therefore must establish it by way of the bureaucracy and its party. This is how the original notion of the dictatorship of a class was resolved into the power of a single party that does not permit the existence of any other parties. This nefarious theory is ridiculous. We all know that the capitalist States have various parties besides the one that controls the government. Furthermore, in all the bourgeois States various parties can share power and govern at the same time, by forming a coalition government: the left coalition in France, the Müller government in Germany, Branting in Sweden, etc. Pravda itself has announced that in the elections to the German Reichstag, thirty parties participated, ten parties competed in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies in France, etc., including the Communist Parties, whose goal is the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie. Does this mean, however, that these countries are not ruled by dictatorships? Not at all. If there is a State, then democracy and dictatorship also exist, side by side. These are characteristics inherent to every State. (See the illegal pamphlet by Borisov, On the Workers State.) The multi-party form of bourgeois rule does not rule out the existence of a dictatorship, just as one-party rule in the petty-bourgeois bureaucratic Russian State does not rule out the fact that the ruling class, the bureaucracy, enjoys the benefits of democracy.
One-party rule is not the only patrimony of the bureaucracy: one-party rule also existed under the rule of the nobility, the feudal lords, in the Middle Ages. At that time, the dictatorship of a class, the nobility, was the dictatorship of a party, just as today the dictatorship and the power of the party in Russia is the dictatorship of the bureaucracy. We may even say that the old system of clans and tribal elites, which was replaced by the slave-holding Republics of Athens and Rome, was also a system of one-party rule. Human history has experienced two forms, two systems of rule: one-party rule and multi-party rule. In both systems, however, we can find dictatorship and democracy at the same time. Currently, in Russia, we have one party, and the dictatorship of one party is equivalent to the dictatorship of one class, the bureaucracy, which is the master of production, distribution and the State, and which concentrates in its hands economic and political power at the same time. The bureaucracy preaches to the proletariat that its rule is a workers State. Here it is guided purely by its egoistic class interests, seeking to fool the proletariat and subject it to its spiritual influence in order to thus fortify and defend its rule. By defending its rule and its State by means of one-party rule, the bureaucracy does not want to, and cannot, allow any criticism of its policies, which might serve as the basis for a program for another party. Even if this criticism takes the form of the most peaceful, the most moderate and most temperate propaganda (such as the criticism of the autocracy of the Octobrists), or of the most “moderate” and “fair” program advocated by some people (such as Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev), its supporters cannot be allowed to organize and transform their criticism into an organized criticism, criticism leveled by a group (“the counterrevolutionary mob”), or a party, or an organization, a consistent and everyday criticism that fights day after day to influence the proletarian masses, the peasantry and the intelligentsia in electoral campaigns for the leadership of the trade unions, the cooperatives, the institutions of public security, the workers Councils, etc., a criticism that would enter into conflict everywhere with the ruling party and would present its own programs and its own candidates.
If the bureaucracy were to allow this, it would have to expend more efforts to defend its rule. It will therefore not make this concession unless it is forced to do so. But even if it is forced to concede such liberties, however, it will not want to abandon its dictatorship. To do so would be the beginning of the end. For then the proletariat would rapidly come to understand that it is necessary to organize Councils and transform them into the directive organs of production and organs of the State, to transfer to the cooperatives all the functions of the State institutions of commerce and the People’s Commissariats for Commerce, and to transfer all the rights and responsibilities of the Rabkrin to the trade unions. This would put an end to the hopes of the bureaucrats to retain their hold on power, violence and dictatorship. All of this means that, remaining faithful to its class interests, the bureaucracy will not tolerate any organized criticism—the only kind of criticism to which the proletariat aspires—or any criticism of its political line, the line of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b), the line of its party and its committees. But if the bureaucracy will not tolerate any “critical program”, a criticism that would propose its own point of view, with its own base and its own program, this means that it will tolerate absolutely no criticism at all, since criticism without a basis, without a point of view or its own program, is no criticism at all. And if criticism of that kind is expressed, it would be nothing but hollow phrases, wishful thinking, a fake “criticism” expressed by fake people. Even the most tyrannical States allow this kind of criticism. Where there is no freedom to form parties (freedom of association), there is not nor can there be any freedom of criticism. We learned this elementary lesson during the time of the illegal “circles” of 1906, but now they are trying to make us forget it, and they are sparing no efforts in their attempt to make the proletariat forget it, too.
The bureaucratic dictatorship is totally guaranteed by the one-party system, since there is only one party, that of the bureaucracy. It will therefore stop at nothing to prevent the creation of other legal parties. In other words, the bureaucracy will not tolerate nor will it permit any criticism of its political line. All criticism of the party’s policy will be considered to be counterrevolutionary and Menshevik, and anyone who expresses the least degree of disagreement, heresy or disbelief will be threatened with the most draconian punishments. And if this is not enough, the GPU will come to its aid with all its very special methods, in order to persuade the proletarians, peasants and intellectuals that the speeches of the Central Committee of the CPSU are the truth.
Would the bureaucracy be faithful to its interests if it were to allow criticism within the party? Of course not. Internal criticism of the party is, first and foremost, criticism of the policies of the committees, including the Central Committee. By criticizing its policy and proposing a different policy inevitably leads to posing the question of the formation of groups and fractions. A fraction is potentially, as a dormant possibility, another party. And those who prohibit the existence of other parties cannot allow the existence of groups or fractions within their party. Therefore, those who prohibit criticism outside of the party cannot allow criticism within the party, either. That is why they have eliminated all internal opposition, regardless of its political line, by availing themselves of the methods of the GPU. And after each wave of repression, when the bureaucracy announces for the thousandth time that its desire is “to guarantee freedom of criticism within the party”, the conscious proletarians will understand that this is nothing but bureaucratic sophistry to fool the proletariat and the peasantry.
7. PROLETARIAN DEMOCRACY IS THE TOMB OF THE BUREAUCRACY
During the early years of Bolshevism, in July 1904, a conference was held that was attended by 22 Bolsheviks. At this conference the following resolution was approved:
“The Rules to provide guarantees that Party struggles are conducted by Party methods.”
“That this reform is essential is shown by the entire experience of the post-Congress struggle. It is necessary to include in the Party Rules guarantees of the rights of any minority, so that the disagreements, dissatisfactions, and irritations that will constantly and unavoidably arise may be diverted from the old, philistine, circle channels of rows and squabbling into the still unaccustomed channels of a constitutional and dignified struggle for one’s convictions. Among the conditions needed for such a change we class the following. The minority should be allowed one or more writers’ groups, with the right to be represented at congresses; the widest formal guarantees should be given as regards publication of Party literature criticising the activities of the central Party institutions. The right of the committees to receive (through the general Party transport system) the particular Party publications they desire should be formally recognised. The limits of the Central Committee’s right to influence the personal composition of the committees should be precisely defined.” Compilation of the Resolutions of the Congresses and Conferences of the CPSU(b) 1898-1926, Gosizdat, p. 30.
And what does this document tell you, esteemed bureaucrats? Hello?! Are you there? Stalin! Bukharin! Do not try to hide from us behind the GPU, just tell us what you think of this resolution of the Bolsheviks! Does it not grant rights to the minority or to the minority groups to engage in the battle of ideas against the majority, so that the minorities can criticize the actions of the majority, the theory and the practice of the superior institutions of the party, and even at the congresses? Where exactly does it say that groups and militants are prohibited from criticizing the superior committees? What exactly was the intention of the Bolsheviks? Tell us, infallible leaders of the party!
That’s right! The Bolsheviks were not afraid of criticism, or of counter-criticism, or their consequences. Down with all icons! There is no prohibition of criticism in the congresses, conferences, local or central committees. To the contrary! The Bolsheviks had the courage to protect the exercise of a comprehensive right of minorities to publish texts directed against the party’s institutions, and thus sought to fortify the struggle, to keep it free and clear of all charlatanry, all gossip and all scandal, to situate it at the level that is in conformance with a struggle of convictions. What does Bolshevism have in common with the stupid conduct of sub-commandant Prichibeev20 and of Stalin, Bukharin & Co.?
We must ask ourselves what happened to those guarantees that were proposed for insertion into the party constitution, to which those 22 Bolsheviks referred. At the next congress the statutes were revised and “guarantees for the rights of minorities” were introduced: “The Central Committee must convoke a congress within the next two months if the organizations of the party request it to do so and if these organizations obtain the support of at least half the votes of the congress delegates. If the Central Committee refuses to convoke this congress at the request of half of the committees, a conference of representatives of the committees with the right to vote will have the option of electing an organizational committee that will convoke the congress. This organizational committee will have the same rights as the Central Committee.” Thus, the minority groups would have the guarantee that, if their criticisms of the superior institutions of the party gain the support of half of the party members (this proportion was later reduced to one-third), they would have the right to convoke an extraordinary congress. And if the Central Committee refuses to authorize such a congress, these groups would have the right to form an organizational committee, and without the authorization, and in direct defiance, of the Central Committee, it would itself have the right to convoke the congress. These were the statutory guarantees and rights of minorities. And these guarantees and rights were in force right up until 1921. Between 1905 and 1917, this Bolshevik practice passed through the crucible of three revolutions. The internal structure of the party was strictly bound to the living forces of the revolution, and this led to the greatest and most glorious victories that the world has ever seen.
What does this Bolshevism have in common with the grotesque parody enacted by Stalin, Bukharin & Co.?
After the coup d’état, for which the foundations were laid by the change in the correlation of forces between the classes between 1917 and 1920, which favored the petty bourgeoisie, the proletariat was overthrown from its dominant position and was replaced by the bureaucracy, a situation that was formally recognized during the 9th Congress of the CPSU, which permitted the abandonment of the elective and collegial principles in the administration of industry and introduced the appointment system of one-man management; it was after the successful execution of the coup d’état, answering to the aspirations of the bureaucracy for one-party dictatorship, at the 10th Congress, when a motion was introduced, no longer seeking to guarantee the rights of minorities, no longer for the purpose of guaranteeing the rights of one or more groups to criticize the theory and practice of the superior institutions of the party, but instead to prohibit the organization of groups or fractions. This motion was presented amidst a flood of vacuous words about workers democracy in the party, about the right of all party members to engage in criticism, etc., and so forth. You may engage in criticism, comrades, but not collectively, not in groups, you may criticize, but without a program, without any reference points and without a platform. But this means precisely to deprive the party militants of all right to criticism, while they are allowed the right to gossip, to say foolish things, to engage in intrigue and calumny. And since then, every year, and sometimes twice a year, motions are proposed concerning internal party democracy, freedom of criticism, and the absence of elections. But it is only by returning to the revolutionary traditions of revolutionary Marxism (Bolshevism), which regulated the life of the party from its inception up until 1921, that proletarian democracy can be restored to the party. To accomplish this, however, a proletarian party is necessary, not a bureaucratic party. “That which was born to crawl, cannot fly.”
Let us now examine the question of elections. An election takes place when there is a choice to make. If you go into a store and they only have one brand of cigarettes, you do not have a choice. When there is only one way of viewing the world, one program, a single political line, and it is prohibited to suggest any other, one has no choice but to choose that program, that political system and that way of life. Whether or not one votes, whether one elects Tom, Dick or Harry, or anyone else, the political line, the system and the program will not change. Such elections are without interest and constitute a truly bureaucratic and empty formality, by means of which the bureaucracy is granted the formal right to exercise its dictatorship and to rule in exactly the same way as before. That is exactly what it means when they talk about “electing all the officials of the party”, and the same is true of the elections in the trade unions, the cooperatives and the workers Councils and the other institutions.
When the only party, the party of the bureaucracy, participates in elections, it will win a majority, whether or not it wins the majority of the votes. And if some honest, non-party individuals are also elected, it is only because the bureaucracy needs them to back up its demagogy: “Of course they were free elections, even people who are not members of the party were elected”, it will loudly proclaim.
In actuality, however, no segment of the population—not the proletariat, not the peasantry, not the intelligentsia—has the right to participate in an organized manner in the elections, whether as a group or as a party, with a program or a tactic that would be opposed to the party of the bureaucrats. It is not possible to have any influence in elections unless you are organized. What would the bureaucracy have to say about elections to the Reichstag if the only party that had the right to participate in the elections was the racist party? What would the bureaucracy say about the majority of the vote that it would surely obtain? And if in Germany there were a State Capitalist system, if the bourgeoisie had been annihilated, if all the medium-sized and large enterprises had been placed under the control of the State, managed by directors, foremen, etc., appointed by the party, and if the Teutons (the German fascists) were to have concentrated into their hands all the resources of industry, commerce, transport, the means of communication, the press, buildings, etc., and everything else; if, year after year, every election to State institutions was won by Teutonic candidates, except for a handful of non-party persons (honest persons!), then what would the bureaucrats say? How would they characterize the German system? A workers State and proletarian democracy? The Teutons would say that it is socialism and that they are advancing towards communism. What is really happening, however, is that the proletariat elects one or another member of the ruling class to represent and oppress it, lending legitimacy and prestige to the all-powerful bureaucracy. Many comrades have been so completely immobilized by the bureaucracy’s “theory”, according to which the class dictatorship is one-party rule and that all other parties must be excluded, that they have become incapable of recovering a Marxist position on these questions. They say: “I agree, we do not have a workers State, but a bureaucratic State, but it will be a workers State when we act totally in accordance with Marx: the Soviets will assume responsibility for production, the cooperatives will administer commerce, the trade unions will undertake the tasks of the Rabkrin and the Soviets, besides administering production, will begin to govern the country, the State, both the Soviets of peasant delegates as well as the urban Soviets. But who will lead the proletariat? The party? Yes, the party. Then this means that the dictatorship of the proletariat will once again become the dictatorship of the party!” This is completely senseless.
The proletarian State cannot exist without various political parties, so that first one, then another, and then a third, and all the others when their time comes, will direct the State at any given moment. And this does not at all mean that once one of these parties has taken power it must deprive the population, including the proletariat, of the right to form parties (freedom of association). To the contrary. The peasants, who in bourgeois society had the right to form parties, that is, they had freedom of expression and of the press, will not lose these rights and freedoms in a proletarian State. If we are to claim the support of the peasants, how can we deprive them of what they had already enjoyed in bourgeois society? If all the speeches about the alliance or the united front between the proletariat and the peasantry are supposed to be more than just empty words and lies, then we have to build this alliance on the basis of the common interests of the proletariat and the peasantry. And it is clear that the peasantry has an interest, a vital interest, in preserving its rights and liberties, including its freedom of association, at least at the same level that its counterparts enjoy in bourgeois States. Maybe it will have its own party, or maybe it will have several. The task of the proletariat is not to deprive the peasantry of its rights and liberties, but to ensure that it has access to the material conditions that will allow it to exercise these rights and liberties—printing presses, paper, transport, means of communication and office space—with the same opportunities as the workers parties. Furthermore, a workers party, if it really is a workers party, cannot set itself the goal of depriving the proletariat of its rights and liberties. To the contrary, it is a workers party precisely because it fights for the rights and liberties of the proletariat. A party that, for whatever reason, takes away from the proletariat its rights and liberties, ceases to be a workers party. When the proletariat unleashes its struggle against the bourgeois State, a difficult struggle that demands numerous sacrifices, it does not do so because it wants to deprive itself of the rights and liberties which it enjoyed under a bourgeois State—freedom of expression, of the press, etc. To the contrary, it fights to obtain new rights and liberties, to surpass the narrow constraints of the rights and liberties of the old bourgeois society and to considerably augment them on its own account. Along with the legal recognition of the rights and liberties conceded by the bourgeois State (freedom of expression, of the press, etc.), the proletarian State will reinforce these rights with material means, supplying all the parties with presses, paper, office space, transport and means of communication. This is what distinguishes proletarian democracy from bourgeois or bureaucratic democracy. In addition, the multi-party form of government would serve as a bulwark against the seizure of power by one party and also against any party that, having taken power, changes from the servant of the people to their master, exploiter and oppressor.
But is it not possible for these proletarian liberties to be used as weapons to overthrow the proletariat? No. For this reason. First, the workers State is the most progressive form of State that has ever existed, the most complete guarantee of the interests of all the workers and of humanity as a whole, offering an unprecedented field of action for the development of the productive forces. This means that the danger does not come from the classes that represent the future, but from those that belong to the past. In England, for example, where the proletarians constitute 90% of the population and the bourgeoisie 5%, the proletariat is exploited and oppressed by that 5%. There are various parties, among them the Communist Party, whose goal is the armed defeat of the bourgeoisie, and there are also anarchists and syndicalists who share this goal. These parties are legal. Together with these revolutionary parties there are also right wing parties, bourgeois parties, a conservative party, a liberal party, a labor party and an independent labor party. And why is the bourgeoisie so powerful? Because all the material means are in its hands and by way of its economic rule it succeeds in subjecting the proletariat spiritually and politically; of the 90% of the population that is proletarian, only 5% vote for the Communist Party.
Let us imagine a different scenario. The proletariat has become the ruling class in England, it possesses all the material means of production and has consolidated its rule in the State. Henceforth, the Soviets administer production and the political affairs of the country, the cooperatives are in charge of distribution and the trade unions exercise supervisory control over the State. If the bourgeoisie—who represent 5% of the population and who previously controlled all the means of production, distribution, transport, etc., which are now controlled by the proletariat—had for centuries upheld its rule without needing to formally abolish the proletarian organizations, then the proletariat, which represents 90% of the population and now possesses all that previously belonged to the bourgeoisie, will certainly not need to abolish the organizations of the bourgeoisie. The legal existence of the bourgeois parties in a proletarian State would be much less dangerous for the proletariat than the existence of proletarian parties would be for the bourgeoisie in a bourgeois State. This is how the problem must be posed, although this scenario is obviously situated after the civil war, when the exploiters have been defeated. And if certain considerations of a military or political character make it necessary to suspend these rights and liberties (freedom of expression, of the press, etc.) and to place restrictions on everything else that can help or be used by the enemies of the proletariat who orchestrate the armed struggle against the proletariat, then it will have to do so with a firm hand and without any hesitation.
Thus, the multi-party form of rule completely guarantees the interests of the proletariat, the peasantry and the intelligentsia and of all the workers, paving the way to a considerable development of the productive forces of the workers State, transforming society into an immense corporation, an immense factory, transforming all of society into a free “association of producers in which the happiness of the individual is inseparable from the happiness of all”, a society that leads to communism, to the disappearance of the State, from the dictatorship, from democracy and from the political parties. If 30 parties running candidates for parliament do not constitute a threat to the bourgeoisie, then the proletariat certainly will not be endangered by the fact that the elections to the Councils, the rural and urban Soviets, the leading committees of the cooperatives, the trade unions, etc., are contested by 300 parties.
The bureaucracy opposes all criticism that would challenge its universal rule, all criticism that would represent an attempt to raise the proletariat to the status of ruling class, all criticism that would go beyond minor sniping and personal attacks—against such as the artyomovists, the smolenskists, etc.—and would challenge the general line of the bureaucracy led by the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b), which set the stage for this tedious campaign after the affairs of Artyomovsk and Smolensk. The bureaucracy strikes back against any criticism whose purpose is to put an end to its dictatorship and its all-encompassing power. It will fight such criticism with all the means at its disposal: secret repression, prison, calumny, provocations and lies, dissimulating its repression under a copious verbiage concerning the “freedom of criticism” and “self-criticism”.
All of this blah-blah-blah about “self-criticism” and “freedom of criticism” is one of the methods that the bureaucracy uses to fool the proletariat and the peasantry and to reinforce its bureaucratic rule. “Freedom of criticism” and “self-criticism” litter the Komsomolkaia Pravda from one end to the other, in excessive and tedious abundance, at the same time that this newspaper is leading the chorus for sanctions against workers, peasants and intellectuals whose positions differ from those of the bureaucracy of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b).
And who are those who, deafened by these slogans about “freedom of criticism” and “self-criticism”, languish in prison or in internal deportation without ever having been tried or convicted in a real court of law, those whose road led them to Berezovka, Obdorsk and Turujansk,21 where a slow-motion death sentence awaits them? Are they not those same proletarians, peasants and intellectuals who dared to criticize this system of all-embracing power, of violence and of bureaucratic impunity and arbitrariness?
“We must make the broad masses of workers participate in this purgative self-criticism, in the elimination of all the obstacles that stand in the way of the road to freedom of criticism”, according to the Komsomolskaya Pravda (“Open Season on Bureaucratism by way of Criticism”, June 13, 1928). But what are these “obstacles that stand in the way of the road to freedom of criticism”? First of all, the secret repression against the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals in the dungeons of the GPU. Then, the absence of a right to engage in organized, systematic and comprehensive criticism, as a group or party. The third “obstacle” is the fact that the right of criticism from their own point of view, on the basis of their own platform or program, is denied to the workers, peasants and intellectuals, and so is the right to publish magazines or books that are not official or social-bureaucratic publications.
Honorable bureaucrat editors of Komsomolskaya Pravda, are you in favor of eliminating these “obstacles”?
Or perhaps you would prefer, you bureaucrat editors of the newspapers and magazines, to loudly proclaim your support for the “elimination of all the obstacles that stand in the way of freedom of criticism” while, serenaded by your noise, the bureaucrats in charge of the dungeons of the GPU listen to the screams of the workers, peasants and intellectuals who do not agree with you, you bureaucratic scribblers of editorials (such as those of Komsomolskaya Pravda)?
Do you expect that the workers will allow themselves to be fooled by all this claptrap about “freedom of criticism”? No, this second-hand sophistry will not succeed!
“The problem is that many workers do not believe that there is no risk in criticizing the leadership, and even more importantly, that the ‘exercise of criticism’ is not dangerous. When the bureaucrat of the past, cut according to a standard pattern and a petty tyrant, is completely transformed overnight into a faithful devotee of self-criticism, the worker cannot immediately trust him and surrender his soul to him”, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda. We could not agree more. The workers cannot trust the bureaucrat who is cut according to the standard pattern of the past, nor can he trust the bureaucrat cut according to the standard patter of our time, the bureaucrat who only abides by the division of labor: one is responsible for the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals in the silence of the dungeons of the GPU, secretly, hidden from the sight of the proletariat, while the other, cut according to the standard pattern of newspaper editors, writes that we have freedom of criticism and conceals the activities of the GPU. Not so long ago, the bureaucrats cut according to the pattern of Komsomolskaya Pravda were calling for sanctions against the opposition and against all the workers, peasants and intellectuals who had adopted a position of organized criticism against the bureaucratic dictatorship, against its violence and its impunity, but today this flock of scribblers frantically agitates for “freedom of criticism” and lauds the “faithful devotees of self-criticism” and sheds tears because “the problem is that many workers do not believe that there is no risk in criticizing” and have no trust at all in this bureaucratic rehash in the latest style. Good. You are completely correct, comrade workers! Do not trust the vacuous words of the bureaucracy. Until the GPU’s secret repression directed against the dissident workers, peasants and intellectuals comes to an end, until these workers, peasants and intellectuals have the right to publish newspapers, magazines and books that espouse different ideas than the bureaucracy, as long as these workers, peasants and intellectuals are rotting in prison and in internal deportation, where they have been dragged by the bureaucracy that is today jabbering away about freedom of criticism, until the bureaucracy concedes these guarantees, until then no one should believe this flock of scribblers and charlatans who chatter about freedom of criticism! Obviously, the workers, peasants and intellectuals will take advantage of every opportunity that arises to unmask impostors, embezzlers and petty tyrants, but as it does so it will always keep in mind that the really putting an end of the dictatorship, of divine right, of violence, of tyranny and exploitation will not be possible unless the proletariat seizes power, that is, unless “the proletariat [is raised] to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy”. Only then will the proletariat organized as a class in the Councils of workers deputies administer production instead of the bureaucracy. Only then, organized into cooperatives, will it assume responsibility for distribution instead of the bureaucratic commercial institutions of the State. Only then, organized in its trade unions, will it take over the rights and responsibilities of the bureaucratic Workers and Peasants Inspectorate. Only then will the workers Councils, in alliance with the Soviets of peasant delegates and the urban Soviets, actually administer the State. And only then will the proletariat have the right to form parties (freedom of association) and freedom of expression, of the press and of assembly to a much greater extent than in the freest of the bourgeois States. For the first time in the history of humanity, after all these centuries of class societies, the exploited will finally be really free. This is the only way to put an end to the all-embracing power, to the violence, to the divine right and to the tyranny of the bureaucracy.
Workers! Raise the battle flag of the Communist Manifesto and join the fight! Remember that “the emancipation of the workers must be the task of the workers themselves”!
There is no supreme savior,
No God, no Caesar, no Tribune,
Producers, do it yourselves!
Proclaim universal salvation!
They will put us in jail,
They will torture us with fire,
They will deport us to the mines,
They will assassinate us!
That is how it will be! In the end the workers will be victorious!
Translated in December 2014 to January 2015 from the Spanish translation obtained online at: http://www.saludproletarios.com/.cm4all/mediadb/Izquierda_bolchevique/Ultima_mentira.pdf.
Originally published in 1931 in France under the title, Ocherednoi obman.
- 1 French translation published in Contribution à l’histoire de la Gauche communiste, “Le Groupe ouvrier du Parti communiste russe, 1922-1937—G. Miasnikov”, by Michel Olivier, 2009.
- 2 The demonstration commemoration the October Revolution.
- 3 The Aras River marks the border between Azerbaijan and Persia [Iran].
- 4 Author’s Note: Agabekov told me that not only were they looking for my manuscript, but they were also out for my head. But he did not tell me more. Why? Which of his masters prevented him? The current one, the previous one, or both?
- 5 Now known as Agri, capital of the Turkish province of the same name, on the border with Iran.
- 6 The letter to Zinoviev was found in the archives of Perrone, a member of the Italian Communist Left. Yaroslavsky cites it in an entry from the minutes of a meeting that bears the note: “secret”.
- 7 Vladimir Gordeevich Sorin (1893-1944) joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917. In 1918 he was a “Left Communist”. In the 1920s he was a supporter of Bukharin, who seems to have been ready to break with him. In 1924 he accepted a position at the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute. He was arrested in 1939 during the Stalinist Terror. He wrote a book on the Workers Group during the first part of his career, around the mid-1920s.
- 8 During the late 1920s, two famous trials of engineers and “specialists” that were held in the cities of Artyomovsk and Smolensk.
- 9 The official journal of the Workers Group.
- 10 Frederick Engels, Review of “Past and Present” by Thomas Carlyle, London, 1843.
- 11 The quotations in this paragraph were translated from the Spanish translation, as the source could not be identified and an existing English translation could not be located [American Translator’s Note].
- 12 Translated from the Spanish translation [American Translator’s Note].
- 13 Translated from the Spanish translation [American Translator’s Note].
- 14 Grigori Chudnovsky (1890-1918). Member of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party since 1905, he belonged to the Menshevik fraction. In 1917 he joined the Bolsheviks together with the “Mezhraiontsy”. He participated in the October Revolution. He was a member of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, the Central Executive Committee of all Russia. He died in combat during the Civil War.
- 15 American translator’s note: The English translation of this paragraph and the preceding one were taken from the website, Marxists.org: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1925/01/27.htm. The text of the second paragraph as provided in the Spanish translation is, however, substantially unlike the English translation provided at the Marxists.org website, and an English translation of the Spanish translation of the passage in question is provided here for reference: “The problem, the biggest problem, is that the local cadres think the new policy is not a new policy, but a ruse to deceive foreign countries, and in the meantime continue to behave in their usual manner, and do not perceive the criticism of the workers and peasants, of the right or of the left, as anything but Menshevism or counterrevolution, and treat it in the same way they have done all along until now.” Perhaps this paragraph is a recapitulation by the author, Miasnikov, rather than an excerpt from Stalin’s speech.
- 16 Alexander Bulygin (1851-1919) was the Russian Minister of the Interior between February and October 1905. In response to the Revolution of 1905 he promulgated a Constitution and a Duma that was subsequently referred to as the Bulygin Duma.
- 17 The Workers and Peasants Inspectorate.
- 18 Alexander Dogadov (1888-1937/38), trade union militant, Bolshevik after 1905, member of the Party Central Committee from 1924 to 1930 and Secretary of the Central Council of the Trade Unions from 1921 to 1929. In the late 1920s he moved closer to the Bukharin-Rykov tendency. He fell victim to the Stalinist repression. Mikhail Tomsky (1880-1936), a Bolshevik since 1904, leader of the trade unions before and after the revolution, member of the Central Committee of the Party since 1919, an ally of the Bukharin-Rykov tendency, he was compelled to resign from his positions in the Central Council of Trade Unions in 1929 and committed suicide after being accused of terrorism in 1936.
- 19 Matvey Skobelev (1885-1938), a social democrat, a Minister in the Kerensky government and subsequently vice president of the Central Executive Committee after June 1917. He resigned from the Menshevik party in November 1917. A critic of the Bolsheviks, he ended up joining the party in 1922, despite Lenin’s and Trotsky’s doubts. Nikolay Chkheidze (1864-1926), Menshevik, deputy in the Third and Fourth Dumas, refused to vote for war credits and propagated the resolutions of Zimmerwald. President of the Executive Committee of the Councils after June 1917, he supported the Provisional Government and criticized the October Revolution. Went into exile in France in 1921.
- 20 A character in a novel by Anton Chekov, a voluntary informer and incompetent administrator, a symbol of the power of the Czarist autocracy in Russia.
- 21 Berezovka, Obdorsk (today known as Salekhard) and Turujansk are Siberian cities.