Introduction - Albert Meltzer

Nikolai Bukharin was regarded by many as Lenin's favourite, in spite of his many differences with the leader of the Bolsheviks, the Benjamin of the Party which seized power in (or more precisely, after) the Russian Revolution. He was the youngest of the leadership, a merry extrovert among the more grim-faced professional revolutionaries, and above all, was popular with the Party both in Russia and abroad.

After Lenin's death, Bukharin was considered the most likely successor to the leadership; indeed, looking round the assortment of Party hacks and armed scholars, there was no one else to recommend themselves who had the necessary background and the talents to conquer. As against the vainglorious flamboyant Trotsky and the sinister Zinoviev, Bukharin impressed greatly, and above all, there was his undoubted popularity with all but a handful of the Central Committee, including the obscure Georgian, Stalin, whom nobody took very seriously at the time. However, the race is not always to the swift, and Stalin won; and by a quirk of fate future neo-marxist generations made a cult of Trotsky, and forgot Bukharin.

Bukharin, originally counted among the 'Left Bolsheviks', and whose anti-statist arguments and conclusions Lenin drew upon for his famous State and Revolution, settled down after Lenin 's death to resignation with Stalin's victory. Like Trotsky he became one of the minor functionaries of the Party, but whereas Trotsky departed in glory with an entourage and ample cash, like a departing prince, Bukharin stayed on in Russia to come into inevitable conflict with the Stalinist bureaucracy. Originally one of the enthusiasts for world revolution, he came to accept the Stalin dictum that they had better be content with one country, and moved steadily to the right until one day the world was surprised with the news that Bukharin was in disgrace, accused of plotting with the German General Staff, and numerous other charges of sabotage, murder and ‘Anti-Soviet activity', for which he was shot on March 15, 1938.

Was the story true? All the opponents of Stalin, and this goes for anarchists too, were convinced at the time that it was a put-up job by Stalin to disembarrass himself of the .Old Bolsheviks' who might have constituted a danger. But what danger had they ever been? All obeyed meekly, all lived under the shadow of the Kremlin without raising any standard of revolt, all dutifully attacked the anti-Stalin worker revolutionaries, all with the sole exception of Bukharin, who defended himself vigorously, ultimately went to their deaths without shouting a word in their own defence. There was a good leninist precedent for plotting with the German General Staff; even Stalin, within a year of Bukharin's execution, was himself doing it in the name of Holy Russia. Since to the Old Bolsheviks revolution against the regime was anathema, and the only way of altering it was by foreign intervention, if they could have done a deal, why not? It would not have been the first time....

At all events, Bukharin was shot as a spy, a traitor, and a ‘right-wing deviationist' but once he was the hero of Russian leninism and the genius of the left-wing within the Bolsheviks (not to be confused with the ‘ultra-leftists' outside the party, but inside the soviets). It was in this capacity that he was asked to write something to pulverise the anarchists, with Italy particularly in mind.

It may not only have been Italian anarchism that the author had in mind. In a passage which Fabbri particularly resents, Bukharin attacks thieves and bandits who ‘pass off' as anarchist revolutionaries. Nothing could have been more calculated to ruffle the feathers of a puritanical anarchist of the old school, Fabbri in particular, saintlike, aesthetical, who had suffered poverty, hardship and imprisonment for the cause. In rebutting Bukharin, in this reply desired of their mentor by Italian workers, he at this point quivers rage and describes the author as a ‘mad dog’. Bukharin wasn't exactly that; indeed at this point he was probably using the anarchists as a decoy duck to shoot at quite a different bird, the stalinists in the party who had contributed heavily to party funds with their bank robberies. Even under Lenin one could not attack the old Georgian burglar for his expropriations, but one could safely blaze away with both barrels at... the anarchists!

And with all respect to Fabbri it was true of some, if a few, anarchists in Russia and in other countries. Why quibble? Nor was it necessarily solely because they wanted to raise money for ‘funds’, though generally this was the case. They turned to crime because they needed the money. There is nothing more immoral in robbing a bank than in running one, and what worker conscientiously working for the capitalist system in return for wages can afford to scorn the bank robbers as being dishonest? This is not to glamorise the 'individual expropriationist' (wonderful word!) but one feels one individual business is not better than another. One cannot blame Fabbri, the world was much simpler and less sophisticated in those days.

That aside, Fabbri's analysis and response to Bukharin is deadly, incisive and direct. Fabbri is an anarchist writer who should be better known than he is. This is probably the first time that any of his writings have appeared in English though he lived the greater part of his life in the United States and is one of the ablest exponents of anarchist communism. More of his writings should be available and I understand that Cienfuegos Press are presently preparing an English translation of his major workDictatorshtp and Revolution.

Like Alexander Berkman in Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism (the second part of which has been widely distributed as The ABC of Anarchism) he makes it plain that state communism is one thing and anarchist communism quite another, that the Bolsheviks want communism imposed by force, the anarchists want it freely entered into. It is this view of the relationship of state communism to anarchist communism that led one Christian pacifist reviewer of The Floodgates of Anarchy fifty years later, to say with horror we clearly wanted a sort of soviet system without the state. Berkman and Fabbri would not, at least at that date, have seen this as distorted criticism. But soviet communism has long since ceased to be any form of communism. Some would have it that it has become state capitalism, yet it is not that either. There is neither competition nor capitalism; the exploitation is directly by the state, the beneficiary is the faceless bureaucrat. State communism has become the monstrosity anarchists predicted that it would. Bukharin found that out only too well; it led him in despair to choose military, perhaps Nazi intervention as the only way out, or, in the only other possible version, it dragged all Russia down under the personal autocracy of one man, more despotic than any Tsar, who cravenly condemned all who approached him, in the manner of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

Rocker's views of soviet communism were harsh from the start. He had no illusions about the type of state communism that would flow from marxism. Rocker’s two essays included in this book* are on anarchism itself, and on anarchism and sovietism. It could be said that on anarchism his writings are pedantic, not to say boring, and one wonders how he made an impact on workers' movements for so many years. But his clear vision of the defects of a marxist analysis excuses all, an analysis which has become revered by the student-inspired 'movement' of today and has no relationship to life or to the working class. Rocker's essays were not written directly in reply to Bukharin’s attack on anarchism, but they further illuminate Fabbri's rebuttal of state communism, and in particular of the insidious phrase that legitimised tyranny, 'the dictatorship of the proletariat’.

Despite the claim made by Lenin, and to a lesser extent Bukharin, it could never be maintained that the state was 'withering away’, nor denied that what did wither away, and that rapidly, were the opponents to the state, and that a thoroughgoing dictatorship had been established over the whole people. The qualification that it was a dictatorship but 'of the proletariat’, was an ingenious one. Up to this day student marxists have maintained that it is part of the 'undialectical thinking' of anarchists to treat one dictatorship as equal with any other. 'The dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be compared with the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie...' - yet in what does it not compare? A 'dictatorship' consists of politicians and policemen. Unable to deny that the 'soviet system' was not a dictatorship, it had to be passed off by its apologists as a dictatorship, yes, but a proletarian one. The subterfuge was too clever by half. It proved to be a pit into which every one of its authors, bar two, Lenin and Stalin themselves, fell, victims of the same terror squads they built up against the working class but insisted was against the bourgeoisie and to protect the 'young state' which has now outlived them all.

Albert Meltzer
*These essays appeared in the original but were not included in this version as they already exist as seperate pamphlets