CHAPTER 1: Nature of the Bolshevik State
By the end of 1921, the Communist power felt itself completely master of the situation. At least it could consider itself safe from any immediate danger. Its enemies and opponents, both external and internal, and of both the right and the left, were now no longer able to combat it.
From 1922 onward, it could devote itself entirely to dotting its i's and crossing its t's and consolidating its State.
On the one hand the present Russian State is, in its fundamental aspects, a logical development of what was founded and established in 1918-1921. The subsequent modifications were merely repairs, or the completion of details. We will specify them as they come up.
The Bolshevist State has now existed for 20 years.
What exactly is the nature of that State?
What are its bases, its structure, its essential elements?
It is called the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, for which the abbreviation is U.S.S.R. It pretends to be a "proletarian" or "workers' and peasants' " State. It claims to exercise a "dictatorship of the proletariat". It flatters itself as being "the Workers' Fatherland" and the rampart of Socialism and the Revolution.
How much of this is true? Do the facts and the actions of that State justify these declarations and pretensions?
A rapid examination of the Bolshevik picture will enable an adequate reply to this question.
I say rapid examination. In fact, a detailed and more or less complete study of the prevailing Russian State would call for a volume in itself. That is not the purpose of the present work. And after what has gone before in these pages, a general glance will suffice. We will assemble and complete what we have begun.
At this point I want to apprise the uninitiated reader that there now exists in France a rich literature in the form of books, pamphlets, and magazine and newspaper articles which give a fairly exact idea of the structure, functioning, and spirit of this "Soviet" State.1 Through several years numerous works have appeared which show clearly the true character of that State, the real nature of its government, the situation of the laboring masses there, the precise condition of the economy of the U.S.S.R., its culture, and other aspects. These works bring to light the back-stage aspect and the hidden underside of the Bolshevik regime, its mistakes, its "secret illnesses".
To be sure, the authors of this literature did not seek to get to the bottom of the problem, to reveal the causes and the consequences of the "Soviet" State's decline. They make no mention of that "other flame", the libertarian idea, its role, and its fate, in the Russian Revolution. To them, as to so many other countries, that is all unexplored territory. They do not offer any solution. But they give the facts sincerely. Thus they make known the false route taken by the "Communist" government since the Revolution, and prove irrefutably its bankruptcy.
Generally these studies provide an abundant and precise documentation.
Here, however, we will confine ourselves to a general "view of the whole". This will be sufficient for our immediate purpose. For it is the general character of this State which especially interests us, to the extent that it illuminates events during and after the Revolution.
We have said earlier that the primary concern of the Bolshevik Party in power was to nationalize all the activity and all the life of Russia, in fact, everything that could be nationalized. It was a question of creating a regime which in modern terminology is called totalitarian.
Once in possession of an adequate coercive force, the party and the Government employed it to the utmost in performing this task. And it was specifically to this end that the "Communist" power created its immense bureaucratic apparatus. It ended by forming a widespread and powerful caste of "responsible" functionaries, which today constitutes a highly privileged stratum of some 2,000,000 individuals. Effective mistress of the country, the Army, and the police, that caste supports, protects, venerates, and flatters Stalin, its idol, its "Tsar", the only man considered capable of maintaining "order" in the U.S.S.R., and of safeguarding its privileges.
Little by little the Bolsheviki nationalized, monopolized, "totalitarianized", easily and quickly, the whole Russian administration, the organizations of industrial workers, peasants, and others; finance; the means of transport; the sub-soil and mining, external commerce and heavy internal commerce, big industry, and land and agriculture, teaching, education, and culture in general, the press and literature, art, science, sport, recreation, and even thought, or at least all of its manifestations.
Nationalization of the workers' organizations in Russia— Soviets, unions, shop committees, and other groups—was the easiest and the most rapid. Their independence was abolished. They simply became administrative and executive cogs of the party and the Government.
The Bolshevik Party was led skillfully. The workers did not even realize that they were in the process of being hamstrung. Inasmuch as the State and the Government were now "theirs", it seemed natural to them not to detach themselves from it. They regarded it as normal that their organizations should fulfill functions in the "workers'" State and carry out the decisions of the "comrade commissars".
Soon no autonomous act, no free gesture, by those organizations was permitted. They ended by becoming aware of their error. But then it was too late. When certain workers' organizations, impeded in their actions and restless, feeling that "something was wrong in the Soviet realm", began to show discontent and sought to regain a little independence, the Government opposed them with all its energy and all its trickery. In the first place, it immediately imposed penalties. In the second, it tried to reason with the discontented ones.
"Since," it said to the workers, with the most natural manner in the world, "we now have a workers' State in which the workers exercise their own dictatorship and in which everything belongs to them, this State and its organs are yours. Then of what "independence" can there be a question? Such demands are nonsense. Independence from what? From whom? From yourselves? Since the State now is you!
"Not to understand this means not to understand the Revolution that has been accomplished. To oppose this state of things means to oppose the Revolution itself. Such ideas and movements cannot be tolerated, for they can be inspired only by enemies of the Revolution, of the working class, of its State, its dictatorship, and of the workers' power. Those among you who are still ignorant enough to listen to the whispering of these enemies and who lend an ear to their wicked suggestions because everything is not yet perfect in your young State, are committing a veritable counter-revolutionary act."
Needless to say, all those who persisted in protesting and in demanding some independence were pitilessly crushed.
The most difficult thing to achieve was the complete appropriation of the land, and the suppression of the individual cultivator. As we know, it was Stalin who effected this transformation some years ago. Periodically the situation again grows serious and complicated. The struggle between the State and the mass of peasants continues under new forms.
Inasmuch as everything that is indispensable to the labor and activity of man—in other words, everything that is, in the largest sense of the term, capital—belongs to the State in Russia, that country is an example of integral State capitalism. State capitalism : such is the economic, financial, social, and political system of the U.S.S.R., with all of its logical consequences and manifestations in all spheres of life—material, moral, and spiritual.
The correct designation of this State should not be U.S.S.R., but U.S.C.R., meaning Union of State Capitalist Republics.
Economically, this means that the State is the only real owner of all the riches of the country, of the whole "national inheritance", of all that is indispensable for millions of men and women to live, work, and act. This includes, we must emphasize, all gold, all money-capital, both national and foreign.
This is the most important thing. It must be understood before all else. The rest follows.
CHAPTER 2: Situation of the Workers
Socially, the basis of the system in the domain ruled by Stalin lies in the following facts:
As in all other countries, the worker in the U.S.S.R. is an employee. But he is a State employee. The State is his only employer. Instead of having thousands of "choices", as is the case in the nations where private capitalism prevails, in the U.S.S.R. (the U.S.C.R.) the worker has only one. Any change of employer is impossible there.
It is pretended that, this State being a "Workers' State", it is not an employer in the usual sense of the word. The profits it realizes from production of commodities do not go into the pockets of capitalists, [so the Stalin regime asserts], but in the last analysis, serve the interests of the workers, returning to them in forms other than money.
Subtle as it may sound, this reasoning is purely theoretical. The "workers' State" is not directed2 by the workers themselves, (workers can direct production themselves only in an entirely different social system, never in a modern centralized State), but by a very large stratum of functionaries in the pay of the Government, which itself forms the center of a solid group, detached from the masses of toilers, and acting on its own. It is said that it is "answerable" to the workers. This is another abstraction. The reality has nothing in common with the formulas.
Ask any worker in the U.S.S.R. -- if he be a simple, real worker -- in what form he gets any advantage out of the profits realized by the State above his wages. He won't even understand you; he knows nothing about it. The only thing he knows is that he gets his meager wage, always inadequate, and that he has all the difficulty in the world in subsisting on it. He knows also that there are many people in the "Soviet" Union who live "agreeably" (as Stalin has said), richly, luxuriously.
Ask him if he can bring pressure to bear on those who are purportedly "answerable" to the workers, if he can criticize them, call them to order, eliminate them, replace them. He will understand you still less. What he knows is that he has only to carry out the orders of his chiefs "who know what they are doing", and that the least criticism of them would cost him dearly. Those chiefs are imposed on him by the Government and are answerable only to it. As for the Government, it is infallible, and unassailable : its answerability is a myth.
Let us see a little of the real situation of the worker in the U.S.S.R. Does it differ essentially from that of the workers in the countries where private capitalism flourishes?
As everywhere else, the worker in Stalin's domain is obliged to present himself, on payday, at the paymaster's window in the establishment where he is employed, to get his wages. These wages are paid to him by a functionary, the paymaster of his only boss, the State.
That functionary makes up his payroll according to the wage scale decreed by the Government. He withholds from the wages whatever the State-employer considers it necessary to withhold: so much for Red Aid, so much for bonds ("free", but compulsory, a Soviet sophism), so much for foreign propaganda, so much for the national lottery (another "free" but compulsory institution). He pays the worker exactly as does any other paymaster, employed in any other shop in any other country. Naturally the workers in the U.S.S.R. have no knowledge of what the State gains from his wages, nor what the State does with those gains. "That's the Government's business", and the worker hasn't the slightest intention of getting mixed up with that problem.
But in a country where private capitalism prevails, the worker, if he is dissatisfied, can quit his employer and look for another. He can change his shop, go where he likes, do what he pleases.
All this is impossible in the U.S.S.R.. where there is only one employer, owner of all the factories. Conforming to the latest laws, the worker hasn't even the right to "ask for his time" and quit the factory where he is employed, on his own. For that he must have the authorization of the management. And this management is made up of functionaries who, for a long time, have replaced the factory committees. Thus the worker is attached to his place of work in the manner of a serf or a slave.3
If the Russian worker leaves a factory without a special authorization written on his compulsory identity card, or if he is fired, he cannot work anywhere else without re-authorization. No factory director, functionary of the same State-employer, can hire him, under pain of severe penalties.
Under these conditions, the State-employer can do with the worker what it likes. It treats him like a slave. The worker is obliged to accept everything that is thrust upon him: he has neither a choice of employer, nor means of defense (his labor union being in the hands of the government-employer and pretending not to understand that a union member can defend himself "against his own government"), nor any way of existing except at the end of his tether. Unless he "untangles" himself somehow.
And he cannot complain nor make himself heard, the press also being in the hands of "his government", speech belonging to it, and meetings not being permitted except on official order. In a country as large as Russia, the best method of "getting untangled" has always been vagabondage. This practice has not changed. Thousands and thousands of ex-workers there, having quit their jobs "irregularly", and finding themselves on the outs with the authorities, have revived the old tradition and have taken to the roads. They form a significant mass of unemployed of which the Soviet press naturally does not speak.
The laws in the U.S.S.R. concerning workers in general and factory work in particular are extremely harsh. Tens of thousands of toilers languish and perish in the prisons and places of exile for the sole reason of having broken them.
And the work is difficult. -- Except in the large centers, the hygienic conditions in the shops are deplorable, the general surroundings impoverished. Nearly everywhere, too, there is hard labor at piece-work and the Taylor system is applied.
Prevalence of "stakhanovism" throughout the Soviet Union testifies to this. (The reader will find other testimonies and irrefutable proofs of what we say about labor conditions there in various other works.4 )
The truth about stakhanovism is not well enough known outside of the Russian domain. That term comes from the name of a miner, Alexei Stakhanov, chosen by the Bolshevik authorities for the purpose of a vast campaign to intensify the output of the workers. It was a question, for the magnates of "Soviet" neo-capitalism of applying in the U.S.S.R. the principle of the Taylor system [gleaned from the United States] without using the term and without the appearance of its having been instigated by the Government.
One day Stakhanov made, spontaneously, it was asserted, a sensational declaration to his bosses, claiming that he had discovered a new principle of organizing the work of mining coal which enabled the increasing of production by x times. Immediately the Government "became interested" in the discovery, found it useful, made a big stir about it, and undertook a far-flung campaign to introduce the new method everywhere in Russia.
In fact, however, Stakhanov, inspired and pushed by the Bolshevik Party, had only "discovered" America. His "new" method was only an old device which had just made its first appearance across the Atlantic: to be specific, the assembly line [the speed-up, as used in the Ford automobile and other industrial plants] adapted to Russian conditions. But the "stage setting" [given to Stakhanov's prodigious daily output of coal] and the far-reaching publicity which it got made of it an extraordinary and fortunate discovery. The boneheads and the simpletons abroad took it all very seriously.
That "discovery" became the special business of the State-employer. It permitted it to hope for a general raising of the workers' output. Then it impelled the Government to form a privileged stratum among the workers, a formation which was exceedingly helpful to governmental need for heightened production -- the privileged ones being, generally, competent leaders of men, and thus could be used to facilitate manipulation of the toiling masses. And finally, in certain circles, it enhanced the prestige of the government-employer.
The new efficiency system was inaugurated by means of intense publicity in the press, on posters, and in speeches at public meetings. Stakhanov was proclaimed a "hero of labor", rewarded, decorated. His system was applied in other branches of industry. Everywhere jealous "rivals" set about imitating him and even surpassing his output. All these individuals were ambitious to distinguish themselves, to "rise from the ranks", to "arrive" -- naturally to the detriment of the workers as a whole, they being forced to submit to a new speed-up, that is, to increased exploitation, under the supervision of the "heroes". The latter rose on the backs of the others. They obtained advantages and privileges to the extent that they succeeded in applying the system and dragging along the masses. The "emulation" of the stakhanovists among themselves accordingly gave rise to superstakhanovism.
Soon the mass of workers understood the real meaning of the innovation. Powerless to oppose this "super-exploitation by any general movement, they manifested their discontent by numerous acts of sabotage and vengeance, even going so far as to assassinate over-zealous stakhanovists. It became necessary for the government to resort to extremely severe measures to repress the anti-stakhanovist movement. Moreover, the enterprise shortly ended in nothing. Once the bluff was seen through, all that remained was a sort of workers' opportunism which no longer played a really effective role in production.
The "nationalized" worker in the U.S.S.R. is at least in principle a modern slave. On condition of being docile and zealous, he is fairly well maintained, insured by his "lord", rewarded with a paid vacation, et cetera. Nevertheless this, in reality, is a matter here of only a tightly restricted part of the working class. That class is divided into several categories. The difference in their conditions of life ranges from ease to poverty, through all intermediary stages. The favors go only to the workers "worthy of them". To be well-paid, to have vacations and other advantages it is necessary to deserve them, to detach oneself from the crowd, to "climb".
The overwhelming majority of the workers in the Soviet Union endure a miserable existence -- especially the unskilled, the day-laborers, the domestics, the small employees, and, in general, the mass of average workers. Others, skilled and specialized, privileged slaves, have a relatively "good" life, and form a sort of "workers' aristocracy".
Most frequently, the latter distrust and repulse their unfortunate class comrades. The struggle for existence is bitter in the U.S.S.R. So much the worse for the victims. Let them take care of themselves. If one concerns himself with them, he soon becomes a victim himself. But the skilled and privileged worker, the true stakhanovist -- worthy disciple of the famous Stakhanov, first worker-careerist -- is ambitious for higher and higher positions. He has hopes of rising, some day, out of the ranks of the slaves, to become himself a functionary, some kind of a chief, perhaps a director.
He must do everything possible to rise. He demeans himself; he does four men's work; he trains the youths who will replace him in the shop; he makes himself noticed everywhere he can; he is always in agreement with the authorities and he emphasizes that; he is a candidate for the Party; he flatters and curries favor here, he covers himself there. But, ahead of everything else, it is necessary that he never become involved with those below him, nor with those on his own level. The struggle is hard in the Soviet Union.
The stakhanovist workers are primarily "pace-setters", whose role is to demonstrate by example to the mass of workers that it is possible to intensify production. They are highly paid and are given advancements, especially the superstakhanovists, who are the "aces" of stakhanovism. Their role is to show the proletarian masses that if they work well they can "attain" a comfortable and even "agreeable" life. (Again, Stalin's word).
In the majority of instances, once a new output-record has been established in a factory, it is impossible for a stakhanovist to remain there; the other workers will not let him live. Generally the authorities take care of such a faithful servant. Usually he is sent to a sanitarium, where he sojourns "comfortably" for several months -- after which he is called to an administrative post in Moscow or some other large city, where he has a stylish villa at his disposal and where he lives an "agreeable" life, getting a salary and enjoying prerogatives in proportion to the services he has rendered. His career is made. He is now a functionary. He has risen from the ranks. He has "arrived".
By all such procedures -- stakhanovism, superstakhanovism, classification in various categories of wages, et cetera -- the "Communist" government manages effectively to divide and control the working masses. It creates, at the same time, a privileged stratum which is obsequiously devoted to it, which keeps the "herd" on the alert, and which serves as a buffer between the masters and the slaves.
Thus the practices employed by the new masters -- the "Communists" -- toward the working class remain what they always were: to divide and dominate. And the consoling word spoken by the master to the "herd" also is eternal: "Workers, do you want to get ahead? Well, that depends solely on yourselves, for any capable man, who is diligent and applies himself, can become 'someone'. Those who do not succeed, the failures, have only themselves to blame."
According to the meticulous and objective calculations of the economist E. Yurievsky, taken from the statistics of the Government of the U.S.S.R., out of some 18,000,000 workers in 1938, there were about 1,500,000 (8 per cent.) of ex-workers and privileged workers: stakhanovists and superstakhanovists, et al.
It is of course understandable that the Government should encourage and reward this careerism from which it gains such huge profits and which, incidentally, it never calls by that name. Instead the competition in speed-up is lauded as "noble emulation", "honorable zeal in the service of the proletariat", and the like. There is a decoration "for zeal". And there is even a whole stratum of "decorated workers" -- ordenonostsi. From the most "worthy" of these elements, the Government creates a sort of new "Soviet" nobility, and also a new State-capitalist bourgeoisie: determined and solid supporters of the regime in the Kremlin.
And it is to all such climbers that Stalin, their supreme chief, refers, when he says in some of his speeches: "Life among us becomes always more agreeable, more cheerful."
The herd in the Soviet Union remains the herd, as everywhere else. And as elsewhere, the Government possesses "sufficient means to keep it at its mercy, tranquil and subdued".
It is contended that its methods prepare the ground for "real Communism".
We have asked ourselves whether the lot of the worker in the U.S.S.R. is preferable to that of the worker in the countries where private capitalism continues. But the real problem is not that. It is more precisely this: Is such a state of affairs compatible with Socialism? Or is this, at least, the dawn of it? Can such an organization, such a social background, lead us there?
The reader is invited to answer these questions himself -- and others as well -- when he reaches the end of this book.
CHAPTER 3: Situation of the Peasants
Four successive periods must be distinguished.
At first, seeking to gain and consolidate the sympathies of Russia's vast laboring masses and the Army, the Bolshevik government practiced a "laissez faire" policy toward the peasants. And the peasants -- as the reader knows -- began to take the land, the landlords either being in flight or having been driven out long before the October Revolution. The Lenin regime had only to approve this state of affairs.5
"By themselves, the soldiers stopped the war, while the peasants took over the land and the workers the factories," we are told by Paul Milioukov, well-known Russian historian and writer, and ex-Foreign Minister of the first provisional government. "Lenin had only to sanction the accomplished fact to make sure of the sympathies of the soldiers, the peasants, and the workers."6
There is much truth in this statement of the bourgeois leader, although he is wrong not to take any notice of the influence of the activity and propaganda of the revolutionists. With this reservation, his testimony is particularly interesting. Milioukov always was a keen observer and interpreter of Russian life. He held a post which permitted him to obtain sound information. Finally, he had no reason to diminish the role of the Bolsheviks. (We should note in passing that this testimony is very suggestive, not only in regard to the worker and peasant problem during the war, but also to the problem of war).
Notice [is pertinent here] to all who, intentionally or through ignorance, contend that the Revolution was achieved, not by the masses, but by the Bolsheviki. Here is a point to underline: That fundamentally, the October Revolution, like the one in February, was accomplished by the masses, of course with the help and sup. port of revolutionists of all schools. The masses were ready f0r the new revolution; they achieved it from day to day, everywhere at the moment. That is what is important; that is what it means to "accomplish a revolution". As for the Bolsheviks, they performed a purely political act in taking power. That inevitably had to occur in the course of this popular revolution on the march. By their political act, the Bolsheviki stopped the real Revolution, and caused its deviation.
They claim that if they had not taken power, the counterrevolution would have regained control and the Revolution would have been defeated. That assertion is gratuitous. The Bolsheviks were able to seize power because the vast masses were for the Revolution. The "masses" mainly were the [industrial] workers, the peasants, and the soldiers. With the workers taking over the factories, the peasants seizing the land, the revolutionaries helping both, and the soldiers being partisans of the Revolution, what [possible] force -- without industry, without funds, without help, and without an army -- could have stopped it? Foreign intervention? Who knows what would have been the situation and the attitude in other countries if the Russian Revolution had taken the course visualized by the Anarchists? Who knows what the consequences would have been? At that moment, the two theses should have been debated publicly. The Bolsheviks preferred to suppress the other, and the world has been suffering the consequences for a quarter of a century.
The statement [by Miloukov], among others, confirms the fundamental thesis of the Anarchists. They had maintained, in fact, that when the essential and favorable conditions would come into being, the masses would be perfectly capable of achieving the Revolution themselves, with the aid and support of the revolutionaries. They add (and this is the essential point of their outlook) that after the victory, the Revolution should follow the same course -- free action of the masses, supported by the free action of the revolutionaries of all schools, without any political party, having eliminated the others, installing itself in power, imposing its dictatorship, and monopolizing the Revolution.
Therefore, in the beginning -- in the first period -- Lenin did not bother the peasants. It was for this reason, among others, that the latter supported him, thus leaving him the time necessary to consolidate his power and his State. At that stage it was even said -- especially abroad -- that the peasants were the ones who had gained the most from the Russian Revolution, and that the Bolsheviks, despite the Marxist doctrine, were obliged to base themselves, not on the working class but on the peasant class.
But later -- in the second period -- to the extent that the State strengthened itself and in the measure that the cities, their provisions exhausted, turned their attention to the country, Lenin began to close the circle around the peasants more and more.
If the workers in the cities and the industrial regions had had, through their independent and active organizations, freedom of initiative and action, they certainly would have established direct and fruitful economic contact with the peasants for production and exchange. One can be sure that such contact between the free producers of the cities and the country would have led to alliances and finally to a practical and satisfactory solution of this basic problem of the Social Revolution -- that of the relations between the two classes of toilers, between the two essential branches of the national economy.
But, look! The workers and their organizations had no freedom of action, no freedom of initiative. And likewise the peasants had neither. Everything was concentrated in the hands of the State, of the Government. It alone could act, venture, resolve.
Under these conditions, naturally everybody awaited its decisions.
The peasants who, at the direct suggestions and proposals of the workers certainly would have done, on their own initiative, long before and in a natural way, spontaneous and simple, what was necessary for the cities, now did not move, while the Government -- which was there for that purpose -- did not make its intentions known.
By its presence and its very functions, a government interposes itself between the two strata of workers and separates them. Automatically, it prevents them from conferring, since it takes charge of intervening between the two as an intermediary, an arbiter.
Therefore Lenin intervened. Naturally, as a Marxist dictator he understood nothing of the real situation. He explained the indifferent attitude of the peasants, not as an inevitable consequence of the application of false governmental principles, but as a manifestation of their "egoism", their "petty-bourgeois mentality", their "hostility to the cities".
He acted brutally. Through a series of decrees and ordinances, he called upon the peasants to turn over the greater part of their harvest to the State. That summons was supported by the armed forces and the police. This was the period of requisitions, of impositions, of "armed expeditions", in short, of "war Communism". The military violence was thrust upon the peasants in order to take from them all that the State needed.
The peasants were forbidden to sell their products. Around the railroads, on the highways, and around the cities, "barricades" were set up to prevent such selling, which the State called "speculation". Thousands of peasants and other "citizens" were arrested and some of them were shot for violating those [anti-sales decrees]. It should be unnecessary to say that it was primarily the poor wretches who were carrying a sack of flour to a city for the sole purpose of enabling themselves to increase their daily sustenance, or else the peasants who came to help their famished relatives or friends, who were caught. The real big-time speculators easily "forced" the barricades by greasing palms. Once more, in a statist system, the reality mocked the "theory".
Soon this policy led to serious disturbances. The peasants opposed the violence with fierce resistance. They hid their wheat; they reduced their crops to the proportions strictly necessary to satisfy their own needs; they killed their livestock, sabotaged the work; they took a stand against the perquisitions and requisitions here and there; they assassinated more and more frequently the "commissars" in charge of these operations.
Now the cities found themselves threatened with famine, and no improvement in the situation could be envisaged. The workers, undergoing bitter privations, understanding more and more the true reasons for this failure, and seeking to save the Revolution, began to be seriously disturbed. And part of the Army showed itself fairly disposed to support this mass movement. (It was then that there arose, in March, 1921, the great uprising in Kronstadt). The situation became critical.
Believing that the State, that is to say, all the forces of support and coercion, were insufficiently consolidated to impose its will upon the country at any cost, Lenin retreated. Soon after Trotsky's "victory" over Kronstadt, he [Lenin] proclaimed the famous N.E.P., the "New Economic Policy".
The N.E.P. marks the third period in the evolution of the agrarian problem. It was "new", however, only in relation to the pitiless rigor and the military measures of the preceding period. It simply provided some degree of relaxation. The pressure was let up a little to satisfy the bellies of the peasants and to appease their spirits. The "new policy" granted them a certain amount of liberty in disposing of the product of their labor: notably to sell a part of it freely in the open market. The barricades were eliminated. Small traders benefited from some "liberalities". Individual property recovered some rights.
But, for a thousand reasons, the N.E.P. did not change anything basic. It did not constitute a solution. It was a half-measure, vague and doubtful. To be sure, it cleared the atmosphere a bit. But it created, at the same time, an aspect of irresolution and disorganization. Speedily it led to confusion and contradictions heavy with consequences, both in the economic field and in the life of the country in general.
Moreover, the equivocal and unstable situation which it brought about represented a decided danger to the government's security. Having made concessions, the Bolshevik regime admitted a certain weakness. This indirect admission raised the hopes of the bourgeois circles. It gave a new impetus to forces and elements whose activity and spirit could quickly become seditious and even perilous for the regime. This was all the more true in that the sympathies for the masses for Bolshevism had been greatly weakened since 1917, which the Government knew very well. The eventual reawakening of the bourgeois appetites among some elements of the peasantry appeared particularly serious.
The members of the Bolshevik Party and the privileged strata already formed in the new State, and fairly influential, were afraid. They insisted that it was necessary for the government to put an end to "the pause of the N.E.P." and return to the regime of the State-employer and the State mailed-fist.
For ail these reasons Josef Stalin, the successor of Lenin, who died in 1924, felt obliged to choose between two solutions: either enlarge the N.E.P., which would mean, despite the possession of the "levers of control", opening the doors to the economic and perhaps political restoration of a private capitalistic regime -- or else return to integral statism, to a totalitarian regime, and resume the offensive of the State against the peasants.
Having weighed everything, sure of the acquired power and mastery of the State, assured of the active support of the privileged strata as well as of the support of a sizeable part of the Army, completely subjugated, and of all the coercive forces of his "apparatus", Stalin finally decided in favor of the second solution. At the end of 1928 he proceeded to effect the total nationalization of Russia's agriculture: a nationalization called "collectivization", and representing the fourth period of the evolution of the peasant problem.
Through force of arms, through terror which before long took on unheard-of forms and proportions, the State set about taking away from the peasant who had remained a land-owner his piece of land, even though that property were middle-sized or small. Thus it gained effective and complete possession of the soil.
Prior to that operation it was necessary to distinguish in the U.S.S.R. three factors in the situation:
1. The sovkhoz, an abbreviation of the Russian words, "Soviet possessions", which were exploited directly by the State.
2. The kolkhoz, meaning "collective possessions", which were exploited communally by the peasants, working under the control and direction of the State.
3. The individual cultivator, a sort of State farmer, who, like the kolkhoz, then owed a part of his product to the State.
This distinction disappeared with the "collectivization". From that time onward all agriculture became a direct enterprise of the State, effective lord of the land. Each "agricultural workshop" took the name of kolkhoz.
Every peasant was compelled by force to enter a kolkhoz. His piece of land and his other possessions were confiscated. And, we must emphasize, it was not only a question of the more or less well-off peasants, but also of millions of poor farmers, who had just enough to feed themselves, not employing help and possessing solely what was strictly necessary for their individual labor.
Since then every peasant in the U.S.S.R. has been compulsorily attached to a kolkhoz, as the [industrial] worker is to a factory. The State has transformed him not only into a State farmer, but into a serf, and forces him to work for his new master. And like all real masters, it leaves him, out of the product of his toil, only the indispensable minimum to maintain life. The rest, the major part, is put at the disposal of the Government. And also, like all real masters, the latter decides how this shall be made use of, without the peasant having the slightest say in the matter. True, this surplus does not go to enrich the capitalists, but there are other strata [the privileged] to enrich in the Soviet Union.
Theoretically the State "buys" the products from the kolkhoz. It is in this way that it remunerates the peasants for their labor. But, being the only landlord and purchaser, it pays an absurdly low price for those commodities. That remuneration is only a new form of exploitation of the peasant masses by the capitalistic State.
To understand this, it suffices to say that, according to the reports of the "Soviet" press, the State realized, in 1936, a profit of nearly 25,000,000 rubles from the re-sale of products bought from the kolkhozes. Again, in 1937, the kolhhozists got only 50 per cent, of the real value of the products of their labor. The remainder was retained as taxes, administrative expenses, various revenues, et cetera.
Nearly all of the peasant population in the U.S.S.R. finds itself today in a state of serfdom. This agricultural organization recalls the famous "military colonies" of Araktcheiev in the time of Tsar Alexander I. In fact, "Soviet" agriculture is "mechanized", "bureaucratized", "militarized".
To arrive at that goal, Stalin had to use terrible methods of violence against the peasants. In many places, the countryside did not accept the announced reforms with good grace: It was recalcitrant. Stalin had expected this. He did not hesitate. Millions of peasants were imprisoned, deported, or shot for the least resistance. Detachments of "special" troops -- a sort of militarized police force -- primarily fulfilled that task. In the course of these "expeditions" a number of recalcitrant or rebel villages were demolished by artillery and machine-guns and burned.
And, parallel with those upheavals, several famines devastated whole regions and carried off other millions of victims.
Finally, "might was right". There is no reason to be astonished or to be skeptical about our revelations. We know from other examples, such as those of Fascism and Hitlerism, to what an extent an authoritarian regime, armed with all !the modern methods, can subjugate the masses, and impose its will upon them, despite all resistance and all obstacles, so long as the police and the Army obey it.
Some say that the Bolshevik government had no other means to safeguard its regime, to save the country from permanent famine and other disasters worse than the remedy, to "make agricultural progress", and to "assure the march toward Socialism".
We agree -- except for the goals.
Yes, the statist, governmental process has no other means than these. But that is, precisely, irrefutable proof that its doctrine is erroneous and that the situation created is insoluble. For by such means Socialism will never he achieved.
This system can "assure" a march, not toward Socialism, but toward State capitalism, which is more abominable than private capitalism. And this system is not at all a "transitional" state, as they [the "Communists"] frequently wish to make us believe; it is simply another method of domination and exploitation. It will have to be combated as other systems, based on domination and exploitation, have been and are being combated.
As for the "progress of agriculture", we are convinced that the true progressive collectivization of this branch -- as indeed of the whole economy -- will have to be achieved by forces which have nothing in common with those of a statist political dictatorship.
We have said that for a while the agrarian problem became seriously complicated in the U.S.S.R. The peasant masses carried on a struggle, blind but effective, against the State-employer, and sabotaged the work of the kolkhoz; the agricultural output began to fall catastrophically. In order to stimulate the kolkhozists and to reconcile them to the system, they were then allowed, within the kolkhoz itself, a certain amount of individual property, very restricted, a little land, a few animals, some tools. And the kolkhozist was permitted to work a little for himself.
The inevitable result of this measure was not slow in making itself felt: the struggle between the peasant and the State soon crystalized itself around this "private sector" ("around the cow", they [the Russians] in the country say).
Since then the peasants have tried stubbornly to increase their "property", their rights, and their personal work, to the detriment of the kolkhoz. Naturally the State has opposed this tendency. But, on the other hand, it has been compelled to spare as much as possible the "individual sector", the output of which is superior to that of the kolkhoz, and which contributes largely to the State's prosperity.
At present this struggle and these hesitations combine to make up the nerve center of the agrarian problem in the "Soviet" Union. It is not impossible that that domain is on the eve of a new and fifth period in its agricultural evolution.
We must note, however, that these details and others change nothing of the general picture which we have just painted.
CHAPTER 4: Situation of the Functionaries
The third social stratum in the U.S.S.R., the importance of which has become enormous, is that of the bureaucrats, the functionaries.
From the moment when direct relations between the various categories of workers were suppressed, as well as their initiative and freedom of action, the functioning of the State machine, of necessity, had to be assured by intermediaries dependent on the central direction of the machine. The name which has been given to these intermediaries -- -- describes perfectly their role, which consists of making [something] function.
In the "liberal" countries the functionaries make function what relates to the State. But in a country where the State is all, they are called upon to make everything function. This means that they are responsible for organizing, co-ordinating, supervising; in short with making the whole life of the country, economic and otherwise, go.
In a country as immense as the U.S.S.R., this "civil army" of the State-employer must be extraordinarily large. And, in fact, the caste of the functionaries there has been raised to several millions. According to E. Yourievsky, cited earlier, their total number exceeds 9,000,000. One must not forget that in [that vast territory] there are neither municipalities nor other services or organizations independent of the State, nor any kind of private enterprise.
It goes without saying that, apart from the small subordinate employees, [the functionaries] form the most privileged social strata. In this respect only the top military ranks can equal them. The services which they render to their employer (the State) are inestimable. Along with the Army and the police, also enormous and well organized, the "Soviet" bureaucracy is a force of the first importance. Fundamentally, everything depends on it. Not only does it serve the State, organize it, rule it, make it go, and control it -- but what is much more valuable, it actively and faithfully supports the [Stalinist] regime, on which it depends entirely.
In the name of the government which it represents, the top bureaucracy commands, dictates, orders, prescribes, supervises, punishes. And the middle and even the petty bureaucracy also command and administer, each functionary being master in the sphere assigned to him. Hierarchically, all are responsible to their superiors. The highest are responsible to the chief-functionary, the great, genial, infallible Dictator.
The functionaries give themselves body and soul to the Government, which knows how to reward them for this. With the exception of the herd of petty employees, whose position corresponds to that of the herd of [industrial and rural] workers, the "responsible" functionaries in the U.S.S.R. are the object of ceaseless concern. Good remuneration and advancement are guaranteed to all functionaries worthy of these favors. All docile and diligent functionaries are well paid, pampered, felicitated, decorated. The most devoted and zealous advance rapidly in office and may hope to attain the highest posts in the State.
But the medal has its reverse side. Basically, every functionary is an instrument, a puppet in the hands of his superiors. The least fault, error, or negligence can cost him much. Responsible only to his chiefs, he is punished by them administratively, according to their judgement, without any other form of trial. It means complete destitution, frequently prison, sometimes death. The personal caprice and despotism of the chiefs rule with no appeal.
The most terrible aspect of that situation is that often the punished functionary is only a scapegoat, his "fault" or his failure being imputable either to the defective orders of his superiors, or to general conditions, or to the policy of the Government. "Stalin is always right" -- like Hitler in Germany. If there is a failure, the guilty are quickly found. Frequently also, the matter is deeply anchored in the traditions of "Soviet" bureaucracy. The guilty one falls victim to the struggle for existence: rivalry, jealousy, intrigues -- these elements, inseparable from unbridled careeism, lie in wait for the functionary every moment of his life.
On the other hand, certain misdeeds in the private lives of high functionaries, going sometimes as far as debauchery, are tolerated by the Government, as one kind of necessary relaxation. The G.P.U. closes its eyes. Its chiefs participate. The famous Henrikh Yagoda was a perverted libertine. And there are still orgies in Moscow.
"To arrive" -- -at any price and by any means, without letting oneself be caught: such is the greatest concern and one of the strongest stimulants in the "Soviet" Union.
From a little above the level of the gigantic herd of 150,000,000 [industrial] workers, peasants, and petty employees, every beginning functionary can, by showing himself devoutly and blindly submissive, and by knowing how to fawn and "bend the knee", attain "the good life".
It is this hope which today pushes every young citizen in the U.S.S.R. toward education and study. He aspires and hopes, like the stakhanovist, to "rise from the ranks" -- he, who flounders in poverty. He is ambitious for a position as a chief, a carriage, a leather brief-case, a pair of good boots, a good salary, and decorations. On such a road, he does not bother about his neighbor. He knows perfectly how to flatter, pay homage, be obsequious and servile.
To become aware of all this, one needs to follow closely all that happens in [the vast territory dominated by the Kremlin]. It is necessary to read the "Soviet" press attentively, if one is to know Russian life, mentality, and general customs. The speeches and harrangues of the chiefs, the periodic distribution of decorations, the declarations and statements of delegates to the Congress, the local news and the daily "little stories" which find their place and their echoes in the "Soviet" newspapers -- all this documentation puts him who knows how to read it and understand it in touch with the situation.
According to Yourievsky, out of about 10,000,000 functionaries in the U.S.S.R., 2,000,000, or 20 per cent., are privileged. The rest lead a more or less painful existence, made tolerable only by the hope of "rising" and "arriving".
If we gather together all of our information, we obtain the following table, the figures being approximate:
1.500,000 privileged workers out of 18,000,000
2,000,000 privileged functionaries out of 10,000,000
4,000,000 well-to-do peasants out of 142,000,000
2,500,000 variously privileged; members of the Bolshevik Party (independent of their functions), specialists, soldiers, police, et cetera.
10,000,000 privileged of all kinds out of 170,000,000
These 10,000,000 constitute the new privileged class in the "Soviet" Union and the real support of the Stalin regime.
The rest of the population -- 160,000,000 souls -- are only a more or less unknown herd, subjugated, exploited, impoverished.
CHAPTER 5: Political Structure
In our analysis of the role of the functionaries, we touch upon the political structure of the U.S.S.R.
Politically it is governed by the high State functionaries (as France, according to a time-honored formula, is governed by the prefects), and administered by an innumerable army of subordinate functionaries under their command.
It remains for us to support this statement with certain indispensable details. Ahead of everything else, it is necessary to distinguish between two absolutely different elements. The one consists of appearance, decorations, the stage setting, (the sole heritage of the glorious October Revolution); the other is the reality.
In appearance, the U.S.S.R. is governed by the soviets. ("The Soviets everywhere!" shout the French Communists, without knowing what to believe about the "soviets", without having the slightest notion of their real history and their real role).
Nothing could be more false. The good people abroad who still believe sincerely in this myth are letting themselves be royally "rolled".
Without losing ourselves in details, let us establish the essential facts, emphasizing the characteristics that are unknown or little known.
For a very long time the Soviets (workers' councils) have not played any important role in the U.S.S.R., either politically or socially. Their use is wholly secondary, and even insignificant. They are purely administrative, executive organs, in charge of minor local duties of no importance, entirely subordinated to the "directives" of the central authorities: the government and directing organs of the "Communist" Party. . . . The Soviets do not have even the shadow of power.
A great misunderstanding about the Soviets prevails outside of Russia. For many workers in other countries, the term soviet has something mysterious about it. A mass of sincere, naive people -- "dopes", as the saying goes -- mistaking bladders for lanterns, have faith in the "Socialist" and "revolutionary" decor of the new impostors. In Russia, the masses are forced by violence and other methods of control to accept that imposture (exactly as in Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy). But millions of workers in other countries naively let themselves be hoodwinked, unaware of the fraud of which they will one day be the first victims.
Let us clear up this question of the Soviets.
Two essential facts must be emphasized:
First: The creation of the "Soviets" in Russia took place only because of the absence of other workers' organizations, under the pressing necessity of setting up mechanism for information, coordination, and common action in various factories. It is certain that if Russia had possessed labor unions and a Syndicalist movement in 1905, the idea of forming Soviets never would have arisen, and recourse never would have been had to these vague organisms, completely fortuitous and purely representative.
Second: Basically, a soviet is not an organism of the class struggle, of revolutionary action. It can only be a living active cell, of the social transformation or of the new society in the process of birth. By its very structure it is a weak, passive institution, of a rather bureaucratic, or, at its best, administrative character. A Soviet can take care of certain small local duties, nothing more. It is a sort of workers' municipal council. But -- and this is serious -- because of its structure, and especially of its pretensions, it can become, under certain circumstances, an instrument in the hands of a political party or of a government, as was the case in Russia. Thus it is subject to "the political disease", and, consequently, spells a certain danger for the Revolution.
For these two reasons, this whole famous system of the "Soviets", product of the specific conditions in which the workers' movement in Russia found itself, has no interest and no utility for workers in countries where Syndicalist organs, a Syndicalist movement, and a Syndicalist struggle exist; nor for countries in which the workers have had their class organizations of combat and social reconstruction for a long time; nor for countries where the laboring masses have prepared for a final direct struggle, outside the State, political parties, and any kind of government.
In appearance, we have said, Russia is governed by the Soviets ("free emanations of the working class", according to the myth spread abroad). Theoretically today -- that is, according to the old "Soviet" written constitution, the supreme power in the U.S.S.R. belongs to the Pan-Russian Congress of Soviets, convoked periodically, and having, in principle, the right to name, eliminate, or replace the Government. In principle, the Soviets hold the legislative power, and their "executives" the executive power.
But in reality it is the Government itself -- the Council of People's Commissars, direct emanation of the Communist Party -- which holds, in an absolute way, all the force and all the power, both legislative and executive, in the country.
It is the Government that is master, not the Soviets.
It is the Government which can, if it wishes, wipe out the Congress of Soviets, or any Soviet taken separately, or any member of a Soviet in case of opposition or disobedience. For it is the Government which holds all the "levers of command".
Yet that is not all. The real government is not even the Council of People's Commissars, which is itself only an ornament, but rather the Politbureau (political bureau), which consists of a few top men of the C.P., members of its central committee. That isn't all either. In fact, it is the brutal and cunning chief of the party and of the central committee, the "great" and "genial" Stalin (or whoever replaces him) who is the real supreme power: the dictator, the Vojd (Duce or Fiihrer) of the country. This man can say, with much more reason than Louis XIV: "L'Etat (the U.S.S.R.) c'est moi!" ("I am the State!").
It is Stalin (or his eventual successor) who is [or will be] supported by the "areopagus (the Politbureau), the Council of People's Commissars, the whole party, the "candidates" (aspirants) for the party, the privileged strata, the bureaucracy, the "apparatus", the Army, and the police. For all this world depends on him, materially and morally, and only exists thanks to him. All this world believes blindly in his strength and skill in safeguarding the regime, which is constantly threatened by formless discontent and the rage -- for the moment powerless -- of the deceived, subjugated, and exploited masses.
It is he, the "great leader", and then the Politburo, the party's central committee, and the Council of People's Commissars, who impose their will on the Soviets, and not the reverse.
Some claim that Stalin and all these institutions rule by the will of the people: for, it is said, all the members of the Government, of the directing organs, and of the Soviets are elected, freely and secretly. But, by closely examining the mechanism and the provisions which regulate them, it is easy to see even without participating in them, that these "free and secret" elections are merely a comedy (more or less like everywhere else).
If, at the very beginning, the elections to the Soviets were relatively secret7 -- the vast masses being for the Soviets, the Government had nothing to fear on that score, and moreover, it was impossible to deceive the masses immediately -- this relative freedom has not been in existence for a long time now. For years the elections in the "Soviet" Union have been neither free nor secret, and although this is entirely official, it does not displease the ignorant "followers" in other countries, who have always denied the facts. It is notorious, in fact, that the pretended "freedom" and "secrecy" of elections were "granted" to the people recently, by the famous "democratic Constitution" of Stalin. And the real purpose of that gesture was to appease the growing discontent in the U.S.S.R., and further, to throw dust in the eyes of foreign workers.
Henceforth Stalin and his government had the certainty of being able to remain masters of the situation, despite the "freedom" and "secrecy" of the elections. The "apparatus" of the State was sufficiently solid -- and the people sufficiently subdued -- so that the Government had the herd of voters at its mercy, despite the "freedoms" granted. The very text of the "Constitution" permits one to discern the calculations.
Today, in spite of all appearances, the elections are inspired, even imposed, led, organized, and supervised closely by innumerable agents of the omnipotent government. The committees, the "cells", and the other local party organs, "suggest" their ideas to the voters and impose their candidates. And there is only one list of the latter, presented by the Communist Party. There is no opposition. Who would dare to oppose this list or present another? And for what purpose would the voter "refuse to play" when such a gesture could change nothing in the situation but might lead the stubborn one to prison?
The vote is "free" and "secret" simply in the sense that the voter may manipulate his pen without anyone looking over his shoulder. But as to what that pen can put on the paper, there is no choice. His act is "pre-destined", therefore purely automatic. Thus the composition of the Soviets and their subordination to the Government are assured in advance. And the "ballot" is only another fraud.
We must remind the reader that the "Stalin Constitution" is the third since the October Revolution. The first, adopted by the Fifth Congress of Soviets in July, 1918, under Lenin, established the basis of the Bolshevik State. The second was adopted in 1924, still under Lenin. It made certain modifications and specifications which consolidated the power of the State, suppressing the last vestiges of the independence of the Soviets, the factory committees, et cetera. Finally, the third was granted by Stalin and adopted in 1936. The latter did not change anything. There were a few unimportant alterations of detail, a few vague promises, a few articles repeating "democratic" formulae, immediately contradicted by the articles which followed, and finally, the replacement of the annual Pan-Russian Congress of Soviets by a permanent superior Soviet, renewable every four years. That was all.
CHAPTER 6: General View
To complete the picture that I have just sketched, here are a few last brush strokes.
The Bolshevik system wants the State-employer to be, for every citizen, the provider, the moral guide, and the distributor of rewards and penalties.
The State provides work for the citizen and assigns him to a job. The State feeds and pays him! The State supervises him; the State uses and manipulates him as it likes; the State educates and trains him; the State judges him; the State recompenses or punishes him. So [in one embodiment we find] employer, provider, protector, supervisor, educator, instructor, judge, jailer, and executioner -- all these [embodied] in a State, which, with the help of its functionaries, wants to be omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. Let him who seeks to escape it, beware!
We want to emphasize the point that the Bolshevik State (the Government) not only possesses all the material and moral goods in existence, but, what is perhaps, much more serious -- it has made itself also the perpetual repository of all truth, in all fields, historic, economic, political, social, scientific, philosophical, and others. In all fields, the Bolshevik government considers itself infallible and called upon to lead humanity. It alone possesses the truth. It alone knows where and how to direct. It alone is capable of leading the Revolution properly.
Then, logically and inevitably, it claims that the 175,000,000 people who inhabit the Russian domain also must recognize it as the only bearer of the truth, infallible, incontrovertible, sacred. And logically, inevitably, any individual or group who dares not combat that government, but simply doubts its infallibility, criticizes it, contradicts it, or blames it for anything at all, is regarded as its enemy and therefore as an enemy of the truth, and of the Revolution -- a "counter-revolutionary".
This involves a complete monopoly of opinion and thought. Any opinion, any thought, other than that of the State (or of the Government) is held to be a heresy: dangerous, inadmissible, criminal. And logically, inescapably, the punishment of heretics follows: prison, exile, execution.
The Syndicalists and the Anarchists, ferociously persecuted solely because they dared to have an independent opinion of the Revolution, knew what this meant.
As the reader can see, that system is truly that of absolute slavery of the people -- physical and moral slavery. It is, if one likes, a new and terrible Inquisition on a social level. Such is the work achieved by the Bolshevik Party.
But did the Bolsheviki seek this result? Did they come to this deliberately?
Certainly not. Beyond doubt, the party's best representatives hoped for a system which would have permitted the building of real Socialism and would have opened the way of integral Communism. They were convinced that the methods preconceived by their great ideologists were going to lead there infallibly. More-over, they believed that all means were good and justified, if they would lead to that goal.
They were deceived, those sincere ones. They took a false path. It was for this reason that some of them, perceiving the irreparable error and not wishing to survive their vanished hopes, committed suicide.
Naturally, the conformists and the careerists adapted themselves.
I must mention here an admission made to me, some years ago, by an eminent and sincere Bolshevik, in the course of a heated and passionate discussion. "Certainly," he said, "we have made mistakes and become involved in ways which we neither wished nor expected. But we will try to repair our errors and get out of the impasse, and regain the right road. And we will succeed."
On the contrary, one can be certain that they will not succeed For the logical force of events, general human psychology, the linking of material factors, and the determined chain of causes and effects are, in the last analysis, more powerful than the will of a few individuals, no matter how strong and sincere they may be
Ah, if millions of free men were deceived, if it was a question of powerful collectives acting in full freedom, and in complete agreement, it might be possible by a common effort of will to repair the mistakes and redeem the situation. But such a task is impossible for a group of individuals placed above and outside the subjugated and passive human mass, confronted by gigantic forces which dominate them.
The Bolshevik Party seeks to build Socialism by means of the State, of a government, and of political action, centralized and authoritarian. But it can lead only to a monstrous and murderous State capitalism, based on the odious exploitation of the "mechanized", blind, unconscious masses.
The more it can be demonstrated that the leaders of the party were sincere, energetic, and capable, and that they were followed by vast masses, the better can the historical conclusion about their work be drawn. Thus:
Any attempt to achieve the Social Revolution with the help of a State, a government, and political action -- even though that attempt is very sincere, very energetic, favored by circumstances, and supported by the masses -- will lead inevitably to State capitalism, the worst form of capitalism, which has absolutely nothing to do with the march of humanity toward a Socialist society.
Such is the lesson for the world to be drawn from the tremendous and decisive Bolshevik experiment, a lesson which lends powerful support to the libertarian thesis, and which, in the light of events, will soon be understood by all those who labor, suffer, think, and struggle.
CHAPTER 7: Achievements
Despite the numerous works and studies containing abundant documentation and irrefutable details of the pretense of "Soviet achievements", many persons continue to believe obstinately in this myth. For many such pretend to know and understand things without examining them closely, and without taking the trouble to read what has been published [about the questions before them].
Various naive individuals, with complete confidence in the statements made by partisans of the U.S.S.R., sincerely believe that the marvelous "achievements" of the only "Socialist State" prepare the ground for the coming of true and integral Communism.
But we who know that country, we who follow closely what is happening there, and what is revealed there, can appreciate the real value of the Bolshevik "conquests" and their "feats of valor" up to the present.
A profound and detailed analysis of that value is not our theme, but we must reply, at least briefly, to five pertinent and natural questions:
1. Does State capitalism, to which, according to the admissions of sincere Communists themselves, Bolshevism has led in Russia, achieve at least significant results from the purely industrial, agricultural, or cultural point of view?
2. Does it make progress in these fields?
3. Has it succeeded in giving an impetus to a country which was backward industrially, technologically, politically, and socially?
4. Could it, one day, by reason of the progress made, facilitate the social transformation and the transition to the Socialist society of tomorrow?
5. Can this State capitalism be regarded as a transitional stage [on the road] toward Socialism, an inevitable and indispensable stage in a country such as Russia was before the Revolution?
Many of [their defenders] contend that, under the existing conditions, the Bolsheviki did the maximum possible. By reason of the rudimentary state of industry, technology, and the general education of the masses, they aver, the only conceivable goal in this country was the installation in power of an intellectual elite which, by compulsion, would force the people to make up for the retardation, create a powerful industry, a modern technology, a progressive agriculture, and an exemplary educational system.
This task [the argument of the defenders continues] was the only one that could be attempted. And it was indispensable in Russia. The Bolsheviks were the only ones to understand this and to consecrate themselves resolutely to it, not stopping for any reason nor for any obstacle. And they were completely, right in mercilessly sweeping away all those who might have Werfered with that preparatory work. For the immediate future of the country and also that of Socialism in general depended on these necessary and urgent achievements.
The preceding chapters, we hope, give reason to reflect on the soundness of these assertions.
We complete our broad exposition with a few facts, figures ind precise statements.
An excellent method for discovering the real achievements and the real situation of the Bolshevik State exists. But only if one knows the country, its history, its language, its customs, and especially only if one knows how to read the Soviet press. It is regrettable that, except under these essential conditions, such investigation is hardly practicable outside of Russia.
This method is that of scanning regularly the newspapers which appear in Russia, particularly Izvestia and Pravda.
The Bolshevik government knows very well that, except in a few instances, these papers are not being read abroad. Counting, on the one hand, upon ignorance of what is really happening in the U.S.S.R., and on the other hand, upon the effects of its immense and intensive propaganda, the Stalin regime feels itself amply protected from inopportune revelations. Forced to admit and explain certain weaknesses to its own population, it may do it in full security. Therefore it tolerates certain admissions in its newspapers, while controlling, naturally, their object, their appearance, and their scope.
From admission to admission, the regular and attentive reader of the Soviet press inevitably reaches enlightening conclusions.
In studying the Russian newspapers, the following features especially should occupy the attention of the researcher:
2. Reports of congresses, and particularly the delegates' speeches.
3. Local reportage and correspondence.
The editorials and principal articles, written to order and always developed according to the same model, have for years assumed the same invariable character.
Each article begins with a hymn to "achievements" effected. In such and such a field, it asserts, as a rule, we have made giant strides. Everything is going marvelously. "The Party and the Government" (a sacred formula, repeated many times in each article) have made such and such a decision, have applied such and such a measure, or promulgated such and such a decree. Therefore we are sure (it slips imperceptibly into the future tense) that, from now on, this or that will be done; that, in the very near future, such and such progress will be made; that directly such and such a result will be achieved, et cetera.
This part makes up two thirds of the article. Then unfailingly comes a "but", a "however", or a "nevertheless".
But, the article continues, the Party and the Government are obliged to state that, according to the latest reports received, the present achievements are still far from attaining the necessary results; that, at present, only this or that has been done. And there follow figures and data in astonishing disproportion to the forecasts.
The further you read, the more you realize that while the future is going to be splendid the actual present is deplorable; negligence, serious errors, weaknesses, impotence, disorder, confusion are usually cited in such an article. And it is sure to continue with desperate appeals: "Forward! Faster! It is necessary that we regain control of ourselves! It is high time that production increased! Less waste! Let those responsible be called to order! The Party and the Government have done their duty. It is up to the workers to do theirs, et cetera." Often, too, the article concludes with threats against the unfortunate "responsible parties" and those who remain deaf to the appeals of the Party and the Government in general.
Nothing is more typical of the Soviet press than this aspect. It has been repeated day after day for 20 years.
Reports of the congresses [of the various divisions of the U.S.S.R. political system] are notably edifying if one takes the trouble to scan closely the speeches of the delegates.
All those delegates of course belong to the privileged working-class "aristocracy". All these speeches resemble one another like drops of water.
Each speech begins with an immoderate glorification of Stalin: the great, the genial, the well-loved, the venerated, the superman, the wisest man of all peoples and all centuries. Then each delegate declares that in his region -- or his field -- unheard-of efforts are being made to fulfil the orders of the Party and the Government, and to please the adored Vodj. Then they hold out beautiful promises for the future. Finally, they nearly all servilely enumerate all that the Party and the Government have already done "for the workers". By way of example, the delegate usually cites his own case.
This part of the speech is generally the most curious. Working zealously, and having scored these results, the delegate says, he has been able to win such and such an advancement, which has enabled him now to have a stylish home, nice furniture, a phonograph, a piano, et cetera. And he hopes to do still better in order to attain a way of life even more agreeable.
"He is eminently right, our great Stalin," the delegate cries. "Life in the U.S.S.R. is becoming happier, more comfortable every day." Frequently he concludes his speech on a note that is naive to the point of absurdity: "The authorities have promised me, as a recompense for my efforts, this or that (a fine bicycle, for instance). The promise has not yet been kept, but I am waiting patiently, with confidence in my government..." (Prolonged applause from the congress).
The purpose of these speeches, deliberately inspired, is clear. They say to the workers: "Work with zeal, obey the authorities, venerate your Vodj, and you will manage to rise from the herd, and create for yourself a genteel, bourgeois existence."
And this propaganda bears fruit. The desire to "rise" stimulates the energies of thousands of individuals in the "Soviet" Union. The example of those who "rise" redoubles this energy. The dominant caste makes its profit. But Socialism? Have patience, poor dupes.
And the reporting, local correspondence, and summaries enable us to get an approximate and suggestive idea of a multitude of daily facts, of those "little nothings" which in reality compose and characterize existence.
At the end of such a study, one becomes sufficiently clear about the social level and real spirit of "the first Socialist country". Naturally, of course, the study of this documentation must be completed by the reader with the scanning of magazine articles, statistics, et cetera.
What, then, are our conclusions about the concrete achievements in the U.S.S.R.?
Ahead of everything else, there exists a field in which the "Soviet" power has beaten all records -- that of propaganda: more precisely, that of lying, deception, and bluff.
In this field the Bolsheviks have revealed themselves as past masters,8 Commanding all avenues of information, publicity, [and communication], they have, on the one hand, surrounded the country with a veritable protective wall across which they allow to pass only what corresponds to their plans, and, on the other hand, they utilize every possible means to maintain an incredibly powerful enterprise of imposture, trickery, stage setting, and mystification.
This deceitful propaganda all over the world is of a scope and intensity without equal. Considerable sums of money are devoted to it. Throwing dust into the eyes [of other peoples] is one of the principal tasks of the Bolshevik State. Newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, books, photographs, moving pictures, radio, expositions, demonstrations, "testimonies" -- all methods, one more tricky than the next -- are employed.
Undeniably, the "Soviet" government makes large use of direct or indirect subsidies abroad. Among the "Friends of the Soviet Union", for example, there are writers who are "friends" primarily because this title permits them to sell their literary output in the U.S.S.R. or to gain other advantages.
But propaganda by word having proved insufficient, the Bolshevik government has masterfully organized deception through fact.
No one may enter the Russian domain without special authorization, which is exceedingly difficult to obtain, unless one gives certain guarantees of sympathy for the regime. No one can travel through the country freely, nor examine independently what interests him. On the other hand, the Government has patiently and meticulously set up a showy facade. It has rigged up a great display of promises to show to the dazzled world. It sets up this scaffolding on every occasion. The "workers' delegations", authorized to spend a few weeks in Russia from time to time, and abominably duped (if their members are sincere), serve its purpose. And the same is true of the overwhelming majority of "tourists" or isolated visitors who travel in that country under the vigilant eye of spies, without being able to understand what is really going on around them.
Factories, collective farms, museums, canteens, and parks for sport, play, and rest are all prepared in advance, in special places, and tricked out in such a way that the poor traveler remains dumbfounded without becoming aware of the imposition. And even when he sees something really good or beautiful, he does not realize that it concerns only the 10,000,000 privileged persons and not at all the 160,000,000 exploited proletarians.
If the bourgeoisie of other countries also have recourse to "window dressing", Bolshevism uses "super-window dressing", so that in our times still, and despite the testimony of sincere witnesses, millions of workers in all the other lands do not know the truth about the U.S.S.R.
Let us pass on to other achievements.
Here we shall deal with the bureaucracy, the new bourgeoisie, the Army, and the police.
We already know that the Bolshevik State has succeeded in developing with dizzying speed a tremendous bureaucracy, unequaled and incomparable, a bureaucracy which alone forms today a privileged "aristocratic" caste of more than 2,000,000 individuals. It has succeeded also in dividing the population of the "Socialist" State into at least 20 categories of wage-earners. And they have reached an inequality of social conditions never before existent in private capitalist States. The lowest categories receive from 100 to 150 rubles a month. The higher categories receive 3,000 rubles and more.
The "Soviet" Union includes a State bourgeoisie, a bourgeoisie which lives luxuriously, possessing sumptuous villas, with carriages, and servants, et cetera.
The Bolshevik State has militarized the ranks of the directing party itself, by forming, especially from among the Bolshevist youth a "special Army corps", a sort of State police. And it was with the help of such a special corps that the Lenin government stamped out the revolutionary uprising in Kronstadt in 1921, and with the same aid, the Stalin regime pitilessly drowns in blood the strikes, demonstrations, and revolts which occur in the country from time to time, but of which, naturally, the Bolshevik press does not breathe a word.
Such as it was -- chained, castrated, bureaucratized, bourgeoisi-fied, regimented, corrupted, and petrified -- the Russian Revolution, as we have said, was powerless to impose itself upon the world. The Bolsheviki ended by realizing this. They understood, too, that under these conditions, they almost inevitably, soon or late, would have to do so with the same method that served them in imposing themselves upon Russia -- armed violence.
From then on, they applied themselves relentlessly to the forging of the indispensable instrument of this method: a powerful modern army. Their mining production and their heavy industry particularly were brought into play to carry out this project. The task was achieved to a certain extent. They ended by creating a regular army, patterned after all the armies in the world, mechanically disciplined, blindly devoted to the Power, secured by ranks and decorations, well fed, well dressed, and equipped with the "last word" in materiel. This army has become an imposing force.
Finally. Bolshevism knew how to form a powerful police force, partly regular, but primarily secret, a police force which is perhaps the best in the world, since it has succeeded up to now, in keeping down a subjugated, deceived, exploited, and impoverished population. It has known how, especially, to raise spying to the level of a civic virtue. Every member of the Communist Party -- even every loyal citizen -- is expected to help the G.P.U., to point out suspicious cases to it, to spy, to denounce.
In the last analysis, the Bolshevik power has succeeded in reducing to complete slavery 160,000,000 individuals, for the purpose of leading them one day -- by an infallible method, it claims -- to freedom, prosperity, and real Communism. Meanwhile, with its administration wholly bureaucratized, with its economy totally nationalized, and with its professional army and omnipotent police, this power has managed to create a bureaucratic, military, and police State par excellence, a model of a totalitarian State; an incomparable dominating and exploiting mechanism; a real capitalist State.
All these "feats of valor" and "achievements" are undeniable.
What can be said of the others?
Before we do anything else, we must establish, unequivocally, that, according to the admissions of the Bolshevik authorities themselves, admissions which were forced, indirect, but adequately precise, the [carrying out of] the three greatest tasks of the Russian capitalist State have been a complete fiasco. Those tasks were:
1. The famous "industrialization" of the country.
2. The celebrated "five-year plans".
3. The tremendous "collectivization of agriculture".
To be sure, they have imported into the U.S.S.R. an imposing array of machines, apparatuses, and equipment of all kinds. They have erected modern houses in certain large cities, and in certain places, workers' homes, which, however, are very badly built. They have achieved, with the help of foreign engineers and technicians, a few gigantic constructions such as the Dnieprostroi dam, the Magnitogorsk furnaces, the vast Sverdlovsk machine works, and the famous Bielooserski canal. Finally, they have resumed -- after a stoppage due to the years of stress -- mining exploitation, the production of oil, and the regular functioning of factories. But any regime or nation would have done this under penalty of disappearing [if it did not].
For us the problem has an entirely different meaning. In all that has been accomplished by the Bolshevik State, can one see real achievements that are of interest from our point of view? Can one observe a real general progress of the nation, a progress which puts it on the road to the emancipation, both social and cultural, of the laboring masses, on the road to Socialism, to [real] Communism? Does the activity of the Bolshevik government create in the country an indispensable condition for such an evolution? Has it really achieved a rough sketch of a new society? That sums up the whole problem.
The industrialization of a country can be really productive and progressive only if harmonized with its general and natural development. And such industrialization can be useful socially only if it is in harmony with the whole economic life of the nation, and if, consequently, its effects can be usefully assimilated by the population. In the contrary case, it may lead to impressive, but socially useless, building.
One can erect all that one wishes when one possesses certain means and especially if there can be recourse to enslaved labor, submissive to the commands of the State-employer, and paid by the latter as it sees fit. The [solution of the] problem, however, does not consist of effecting mechanical achievements but of being able to put them at the service of the goal pursued.
A forced industrialization, imposed upon a population which is not prepared for it from any point of view, cannot fulfil this necessary role. To want to industrialize from above a country with a labor populace which is only a downtrodden, inert, miserable herd, is to want to industrialize a desert.
In order that a country be industrialized effectively, it must possess one of two essential elements: either an energetic, powerful, and rich bourgeoisie or a population that is master of its own fate -- that is to say free, conscious of its needs and of its acts, desirous of progress, and determined to organize itself to attain it. In the first case, the bourgeoisie must command a market capable of rapidly absorbing the output of industrialization. In the second, this assimilation and the industrialization are assured by the powerful enthusiasm of the whole population on the march toward progress.
The Russian Revolution suppressed the bourgeoisie. The first condition, therefore, did not exist at that time. The second remained. It was necessary to give free scope to the collective evolution of a people of 170,000,000 individuals, a people spontaneously ready to accomplish a tremendous social experiment: to build a society on an absolutely new basis, not capitalist and not statist. It was necessary, simply, to help that people to achieve the experiment.
Immense technical progress being an accomplished fact in the world, and a rapid industrialization and an abundance of products also being, in our time, materially possible, there were no insurmountable obstacles that a powerful human collectivity, carried away by a prodigious ardor, and aided by all the mature forces available, could not have overcome and have reached the desired goal. Who knows what the world would be like today if this course had been followed?
But the Bolshevik Party was completely unaware of that task. Having seized the vacant throne, it wanted to substitute itself for the ousted bourgeoisie and the free creative mass. It suppressed both conditions to replace them with a third: dictatorial power, which stifled the real breath of the Revolution -- the boundless enthusiasm of millions of human beings for the cause -- which dried up all the living sources of real progress, and barred the way to the effective evolution of society. The result of such an error was inevitable: "mechanism", a mechanism without life, without soul, without creativity.
We know today, on the basis of exact and irrefutable data, that, except for the military sector, the Bolshevik "industrialism" led, in the overwhelming majority of cases, to all sorts of sterile installations and constructions, especially in so far as the real, economic, social, and cultural progress of a people was concerned.
We know that 75 per cent, of all these huge buildings remain without purpose, and either do not function at all or function badly.
We know that the thousands of machines imported from abroad are for the most part rapidly put out of commission, abandoned, or lost.
We know that the present labor force in the U.S.S.R., a labor force that is only a herd of slaves working reluctantly and in a brutalized way for the profit of the State-employer, does not know how to handle those machines, nor how to use them, and finally, that the population does not get any benefit from them. Only the equipment of the Army has been improved, to a certain extent.
We know that the people -- 160,000,000 individuals out of 170,000,000 -- live in terrible conditions of poverty and moral brutalization.
The pretended "industrialization" of the U.S.S.R. is not a praiseworthy accomplishment. It is not an "achievement of the Socialist State", but a State-capitalist enterprise, forced, after the failure of "war Communism" and then of the N.E.P., to play its last card. That consists of deluding its own subjects, and also the people of other countries, by the fictitious and illusory grandeur of its projects, in the hope of maintaining itself "until better times".
The "industrialization" of the U.S.S.R. is just a bluff, nothing more. Likewise the "five-year plans" are nothing but an immense bluff, following that of the "industrialization". On the basis of precise facts and figures, we hold that these plans have been a total failure. This is beginning to be recognized almost everywhere.
As for the "collectivization", we already have said enough about that. The reader has seen what it represents in reality. We repeat that such "collectivization" can never be the real solution of the agrarian problem. It is far from being Socialist, or even a social, achievement. It is a system of useless and absolutely sterile violence. We contend that the peasant will be won over to the cause of the Social Revolution only by means which have nothing in common with this return to medieval serfdom, in which the feudal lord is replaced by the State lord.
Could one construct, let us say, not Socialism, but simply a healthy and progressive economy, on such a basis?
Let us look at a few facts and figures concerning the five-year plans.
The "dictation", supervision, and threat existed from the beginning. Also, we must point out in passing that the People's Commissars, and the members of the Politburo and other supreme organs, were never elected, but were appointed by the central committee of the Communist Party, influenced by the "genial Vojd", and validated by the Congress of Soviets, docile instrument of the central committee.
In 1939 the U.S.S.R. announced the results of the third five-year period.
Through the run of the first two such periods, the Soviet press complained unceasingly of considerable delays in the execution of the plans. Extraction of coal and other minerals, exploitation of oil wells, metallurgical production, textile production, the progress of heavy industry and all other industries, extension of railroads and improvement of their rolling stock -- in short, economic activity in all fields was greatly below the quotas and the forecasts. Passing from one five-year period to another, [the various industries] remained far behind the results expected.
The genial dictator raged, arrested, executed.
But lzvestia was forced to admit, indirectly, in a series of articles (appearing in August-November, 1939), the failure of the [economic plan for the] third period. That journal stated that steel and iron production in October, 1939, was below that of October, 1938; that the output of all the branches of the metallurgical industries had fallen off; and that several blast furnaces had to be shut down for lack of coal and metal.
The situation became critical to such a point that at the end of September the Soviet press ceased to report the monthly figures.
According to the data published in that press, the locomotive works, in the course of the first two five-year plans, realized only 50 per cent, of their quotas. The number of freight cars was increased by a number greatly below the official forecast. The fabulous enterprises such as Dnieprostroi and Magnitogorsk functioned badly. Several of those enterprises underwent long stretches of enforced inactivity. The gigantic projects of electrification were achieved only to an insignificant degree.
The People's Commissar, Kossyguin, declared in May, 1939, that the country's textile enterprises were poorly equipped and technically inadequate to operate at the necessary level of production. And he complained of a lack of contact between the textile industry on the one hand, and the producers of raw material on the other.
"The textile enterprises do not receive enough linen, hemp, or wool. Yet great quantities of flax rot in the fields. The hemp harvest waits indefinitely to be made into thread. And as for wool, the elementary rules of sorting and cleaning are neglected in its preparation, which greatly handicaps the making of cloth. And one may say the same thing about the preparation of silk cocoons."
Thus one could cover pages and pages with precise facts and figures, appearing in the Bolshevik press, and pertaining to all fields, to prove incontestably the failure of the five-year plans.
In describing the lamentable condition of all the Soviet industries, one has an embarrassment of choices.
According to the admissions of Izvestia (in several of its issues in January, 1940) the coal mining industry doesn't know how to use the new machines. That is one of the reasons for the insufficient output.
The Bolshevik papers of July 30, 1939, were given over largely to Railroad Transport Day. Admissions therein are exceptionally edifying. [Some of them follow].
Generally, rails are supplied by the [plants] in very inadequate numbers, and their quality is bad. Four big plants make rails in the U.S.S.R. For some time they have stopped making rails of first quality. So the railroads must be content with those of second or third class. But of these up to 20 per cent, are unusable.
When tracks were being repaired in July, 1939, the great Kuznetski works suddenly stopped all delivery of rails. The reason? Lack of equipment for boring holes. And in general, indispensable spare parts for repair work were not sent out, which held up all such work.
Three huge plants which make various parts for railroads very often interrupt delivery because of lack of steel, of tools, or for other reasons. One case was cited where a plant was short only 180 poods (three and a quarter tons) of metal. Nevertheless, all deliveries were held up, and the railroads were short 1,000,000 repair parts.
Frequently, too, the plants deliver certain parts, and neglect to provide others, equally indispensable. The rails are on hand, but they rust away and deteriorate for lack of fishplates, for example.
The authorities have raged in vain. The Government has sent out an S.O.S. call and fixed "responsibility" in vain. All these measures remain ineffective and the official reports are compelled to state, from time to time, that one of the reasons for all those rieficiencies is "the absence of all interest, of all spirit, among the laboring masses". According to admissions by competent agencies, me indifference of the workers approaches sabotage. And they also speak of "excessive centralization", of "bureaucracy", of "general negligence".
But to talk doesn't mean to remedy. No remedy exists. Instead, it is necessary to condemn the whole system.
According to other admissions by the Bolshevik press, the extraction of all minerals as well as of naphtha suffers from lack of organization. Output in these fields remain low, despite the use of machines (which are frequently in very bad condition), and despite all official measures. Pravda, in certain issues in December, 1939, stated that coal production in the Urals was steadily falling. And about the same time the papers complained of an inextricable mess in the chemical industry.
Elsewhere we learn that the "Red Proletariat" plant, which, Pravda says, is in the advance guard of the metallurgical industry, manages to produce only 40 per cent, of its quota, "because of great technical and administrative disorder".
We could continue citing examples into infinity.
In all fields, the industrial situation in the U.S.S.R. has always been lamentable, and remains so in our day. Industrialization is only a myth. There are machines, but there is no industrialization.
Concerning the "collectivization", one could cite volumes with illuminating data taken from the Soviet press.
We will simply cite a few facts, culled at random from the Russian papers.
Dealing with the harvest of 1939, Socialist Agriculture for August 8 states that everywhere work is very much delayed, and often to the endangerment of the crops. In places, too, the harvest is nearly non-existent. According to the agricultural section of the Communist Party's central committee, the main reason for this is insufficiency of technical means, due, in its turn, to negligence, disorganization, heedlessness, and delays of all sorts. For instance, the indispensable parts for machines in use do not arrive in time, or come in inadequate quantities.
Erection of repair shops is greatly behind schedule everywhere, For example, a center which contracted to build 300 workshops by a certain date, completed only 14. Another built only eight out of 353 promised. And in the Kursk distridt only three repair shops out of 91 planned have been completed.
Moreover, the same periodical explains, the harvest work this year (1939) is in difficulties because great quantities of wheat have been battered down by inclement weather. And instructions about adapting the machines to thresh fallen wheat are always lacking.
Finally, the agrarian paper continues, the force of skilled harvest workers has been considerably diminished this year because, in many places, the machine operators and mechanics have not yet been paid for last year. Why? The answer is that these workers are paid only after the kolkhoz has paid its taxes. And in many places those taxes are yet to be paid.
Izvestia and Socialist Agriculture both said that in 1939, because of all these mishaps, 64,000,000 hectares of wheat less than in 1938 would be harvested by August 1.9
The Soviet press in November, 1939, complained of considerable delays in the harvesting of potatoes and other vegetables. This was laid to lack of men and horses, inadequate deliveries of gasoline, and especially to negligence by the kolkhozniki (members of the co-operative).
Izvestia for November 4 admitted that by October 25 the sovkhoz had made only 67 per cent, of their obligatory grain deliveries; that the kolkhozes had fulfilled only 59 per cent, of their mandatory payments; and that, by the same date, only 34 per cent, of the quota of potatoes and 63 per cent, of other vegetables had been supplied by the kolkhozes to the State.
In July, 1939, a Congress of State Cattle Breeders in the Ukraine reported: 1. That there were then many kolkhozes without any cattle (45 per cent, in Khirguisie, 62 per cent, in Tadjiki, 17 per cent, in the Ryazin district, 11 per cent, in that of Kirovsk, and 34 per cent, in the Ukraine); 2. That a great many kolkhozes possessed an insufficient number of cattle, and that, in the Ukraine, nearly 50 per cent, of those collective farms had less than 10 cows each ("only just enough so that one can smell a cow a little" the reporter jokes); 3. That, in general, the number of head of cattle has greatly diminished in the U.S.S.R. since the collectivization.
And the most curious thing is that, as everywhere else, no really frank, practical, and effective measure can be devised. Need one continue?
These facts, these admissions, and these complaints have prevailed for 20 years. And in many other fields in the "Soviet" Union, one could also pursue this enumeration into infinity.
In the U.S.S.R. those circumstances are given notable attention. One conforms the necessary extent to the requirements of the authorities, and -- "one gets on as best one can".
Abroad, until recently, nothing of this was known. Now the truth begins to be revealed ....
The latest measures taken by the Bolshevik government to stimulate the activity of the kolkhozes are typical.
In the summer of 1939 certain official literature, for example, The Constructive Work of The Party, No. 10, asserted that the essential evil of the Soviet system was "the slight interest of the farmer in doing high quality work and in obtaining good harvests". Inspired from above, the press got busy on this subject.
And in January, 1940, Izvestia declared that "the Party and the Government" had made a decision to enhance the economic interest of the collective farmers. Toward that end, it explained, "each collective farmer must be assured that any increase in the harvest effected by him will remain at the disposal of the kolkhoz and serve to imprcve its economy." (This had not been the case previously). And it added that it was exceedingly important to "develop the creative initiative of the mass of collective farmers."
Finally, in a decree dated January 18, 1940, the Party's central committee and the Council of People's Commissars accorded the kolkhozes a certain amount of economic independence. Each kolkhoz was given tie right to establish its own crop plan -- which, naturally, must always be "validated by the official authorities".
Obviously it is unnecessary to point out that that sort of collective farm N.E.P. will come to nothing. It is only a maneuver of the Stalinist regime due primarily to its reverses in the Finnish War, and practically negated by the whole situation. Moreover, the peasant mass is fully aware of this machination; it received the "reform" with utter indifference.
We have touched upon it here because it shows the true nature of Bolshevist "collectivization".
In general this pretended, forced, "collectivization", undertaken for the purpose of subjugating the peasants completely to the State and representing a new form of serfdom, cracked in all its parts. What we have just seen leaves no doubt on that score.
And the Soviet press is compelled to insist more and more upon the seriousness of the struggle between the "individual sector" and the "socialist sector" in the agriculture of the U.S.S.R. The latter is neglected, abandoned, and openly sabotaged by the peasants on the slightest pretext and by a thousand methods. Finally, the situation is regarded as being "exceedingly serious". The few seeming concessions are attempts to awaken in the collective farmers an interest in their kolkhozes and to combat the tendencies contrary to that interest.
But there cannot be the slightest question that these attempts will fail. The struggle of the peasants against serfdom will continue.
Having dealt with the material side of the U.S.S.R. story -- the economic, industrial, and technical aspects -- let us look at certain other fields which may be called spiritual.
Three points need special clarification:
1. The problem of educating the people.
2. The emancipation of women.
3. The religious problem.
I regret that I am not able to dwell at length on each of these topics. But such a task would require too much space, and is not the purpose of this work. So I shall confine myself to establishing certain essential characteristics.
For years the ignorant and the interested have pretended that, having found the Russian domain in a state of complete, almost "savage", ignorance, the Bolsheviki have made "giant strides" on the road of general culture, training, and education. Foreign travelers, having visited one large Russian city or another, tell us of marvels that they have seen "with their own eyes".
Have I not heard it stated, with the utmost assurance, that before the Bolsheviks stepped in "there were hardly any public schools in Russia," and that today "there are splendid ones nearly everywhere there"? Have I not heard it said by a lecturer that "before the Revolution there were only two or three universities in the country and that the Bolsheviks have created several"? Do they not say that before the Bolsheviks nearly all the Russian people did not know how to read or write and that now such total illiteracy has almost disappeared? Do they not say -- I mention it only as an example of the ignorance and false assertions concerning Russia -- do they not say that under the Tsars the [industrial] workers and peasants were forbidden by law to receive secondary and higher education?
As for the travelers, it is true that they can observe and even admire, in the larger cities of the U.S.S.R., some beautiful modern schools, well equipped and well organized -- in the first place, because such model schools are fixtures in all the great cities of the world (a visitor could have made the same observation in Tsarist Russia); in the second place, because the installation of such schools is part of the decorative and demonstrative program of the Bolshevik government.
But it is clear that the situation in a few large cities proves nothing about the conditions in the countryside, especially in a land as vast as the "Soviet" Union. A traveler there who wanted to arrive at conclusions based on the truth would have to see things and follow their development from day to day, for at least several weeks, in the depths of the country, in various small cities, in the villages, on the collective farms, and in factories far from the great centers. But what traveler who may have had such an idea has been able to obtain authorization to do anything about it? As for the myths of the sort just described, we already have shown their real worth in other parts of this work.
No one contends that the training and education of the Russian people was sufficiently widespread prior to the Revolution. (Indeed, it was not adequate in any country. There was merely a difference of details and shades). No one claims that the number of persons who couldn't read or write in Tsarist Russia was not very large and that popular instruction there was not very back- 1 ward in comparison to certain Western nations, but between that and the statements I have just quoted there is a considerable gap.
It is fairly simple, however, to establish the exact truth.
Before the Revolution the network of primary, secondary, and higher schools in Russia was already fairly impressive, although not adequate. It was primarily the teaching which was defective: the programs, methods, and means were lamentable. Naturally, the Government was unconcerned with the real education of the people. As for the municipal and private schools, supervised by the [Romanov] authorities, and compelled to follow the official curriculum, they could not accomplish much, though they did effect some achievements.
But the purported "enormous progress" of the Bolshevik regime [in the educational field] actually was mediocre. To be convinced of this it suffices, as in other matters, to follow the official Soviet press closely. As elsewhere, its lamentations and admissions on this theme, for years, have been highly eloquent.
Let us examine a few more or less recent citations:
According to the general declarations and official figures, teaching in the U.S.S.R. is going forward in a more than satisfactory manner. The number of pupils in the primary and secondary schools attained, in 1935-36, the imposing figure of 25,000,000; the number of students in the higher schools was raised to 520,000. In 1936-37 the respective figures were 28,000,000 and 560,000. Finally, in 1939,10 the score was 29,700,000 and 600.000. Neatly 1,000,000 students received technical training -- industrial, commercial, agricultural, et cetera. The courses for adults throughout the country were numerous. And desire for education was intense.
Of course it is natural that a government arising from a revolution and pretending to be popular would try to satisfy the aspirations of the people for a good education. It is normal that this regime should submit the national educational system to fundamental reforms. Any post-revolutionary government would have done as much.
But in judging the work of the Bolshevik government intelligently, the official quantitative figures are not enough. The real problem is how to discover what the quality and the value of this new education is. It is necessary to question whether that gov-evnment has succeeded in organizing education to assure good, serious, valuable, and solid training. And it is essential to know whether the training and education in the U.S.S.R. are capable of developing men who can create a new life, militants for Socialist activity.
To these fundamental questions the Soviet press itself, by its admissions through the years, has replied in the negative.
First, we must state that education in the Russian domain is not adequate for everyone. In fact, higher education is not free.11 The majority of students [in the higher schools] are on State scholarships. And the others? A sizeable number of youths are deprived of higher education which thus becomes a privilege depending upon the pleasure of the Government. And there are other defects much more serious.
For years the same statements and complaints [about education] have repeatedly appeared in the columns of the Soviet newspapers, notably these:
1. The Government has not yet succeeded in producing a sufficient quantity of school books. The bureaucracy, centralism, administrative slowness, et cetera, prevent it. (The president of the directing committee of the higher schools, a certain Kaftanov, had to admit in a speech12 that the higher schools were completely without text-books. A small quantity was finally published in 1939, but a goodly part of these were merely reprints of pre-revolutionary volumes).
2. The same complaints from year to year, about school equipment. Its scarcity, its exceedingly bad quality, seriously impedes the work of education.
3. The number of school buildings is [appallingly] insufficient. It increases very slowly, which creates a grave obstacle to real educational progress. And the existing edifices are in a wretchedly bad state, and those newly constructed -- always in haste and carelessly -- are defective and rapidly deteriorate.
However, the defects mentioned are not the most important.
A much more profound evil paralyzes the work of education in the U.S.S.R. -- the lack of teachers and professors.
Ever since 1935 Izvestia, Pravda, and other Soviet journals have abounded in admissions and tears in connection with this subject. According to those admissions, the organization of a teaching force does not at all correspond to the country's needs. In 1937, for instance, only 50 per cent, of "the plan" for teachers was fulfilled.
Hundreds and sometimes thousands of teachers are lacking : in some districts. But that is not all. Those who exercise the teaching function are far from being duly qualified. Thus about | two thirds of the secondary school teachers have not had a university training. Likewise two thirds of the elementary teachers lack secondary education.
The Soviet press complains bitterly of the crass ignorance of the teachers, and cites numerous astounding examples of their incompetence and ineptness.
To sum up -- in reality, training and education in the U.S.S.R. are in a lamentable state. Outside of the great cities and the artificial facade, there are not enough schools, teachers, equipment, or text books. The school buildings lack elementary facilities for hygiene and often lack heating. In the depths of the country, popular education is in a state of incredible abandonment. It amounts to absolute chaos.
Under these conditions are not the pretended "90 per cent, of the population" who are more or less literate simply another myth?
The Soviet press itself answers this question. From year to 1 year it speaks of the absence of the most elementary education, and of a very low cultural level, not only among the masses of people, but among the student youth, teachers, and professors.
All efforts of the Government to remedy this state of affairs have not succeeded. The general circumstances, the very basis of the Bolshevik system, constitute insurmountable obstacles to any effective improvement of the situation. The whole tendency of the Russian educational set-up prevents its success. For it disseminates propaganda, rather than providing education or training. It fills the heads of the students with the rigid doctrines of Bolshevism and Marxism. No initiative, no critical spirit, no freedom to doubt or to examine, is tolerated.
All education in the U.S.S.R. is permeated with a scholastic spirit: moribund, dull, curdled. The general lack of freedom of opinion, the absence of all independent action or discussion, and therefore the absence of all exchange of ideas in a land where only the Marxist dogma is allowed -- all this prevents the people from getting any real education.
The travelers -- observers necessarily superficial, and often naive -- admire the cultural and sport institutions which they have seen "with their own eyes" during a few quick official visits to Moscow, Leningrad, and two or three other cities.
But note what we find in the journal Trud:13
The miners of the Donetz Basin put the following questions to the governmental authorities there: "What is the use of the levies made on our wages for the purpose of maintaining the 'Palace of Culture' in Gorlovka?"14 (The fact that this protest was published was a rare circumstance).
In 1939 (the miners declared) the cost of maintaining that institution reached several million rubles. The budget of the "Miners' Club" alone amounted to 1,173,000 rubles. Out of this sum, 700,000 were paid to the motion picture industry for the rental of films which no one came to see because of their bad quality. The other 400,000 rubles went for maintenance of the personnel. As for the miners, they did not profit at all from the money they were obliged to pay out.
The "Palace of Culture", (the miners' complaint continues), is surrounded by a garden solemnly called "the Park". A considerable sum of money has been deducted from their wages to fix up this garden. With that money a huge entrance gate has been erected, a gate flanked by several concrete turrets. But [those in charge of the project] forgot to build a wall around the garden. The garden is there with its luxurious entrance, but without a wall. No one profits from it, for it is in a state of abandonment.
Also "they" have erected a theater, a platform, a shooting gallery, even a bathing place. But none of these installations function for the miners. They are there only to show the latter the ease with which the responsible officers of workers' organizations waste the money of the workers. These officers have laid out for themselves a little garden, a private corner called "the Garden of the Miners' Committee". But the miners themselves -- the workers who paid for the "Palace", the "Club", the "Park", and the "Garden of the Miners' Committee" -- they have only the dusty streets of Gorlovka at their disposal.
By a [seeming] miracle, this complaint found its way into the columns of Trud. One must suppose that for some reason the authorities could not refuse this publicity to the miners, and that it had been decided in high places to right their complaint and apply penalties. But it is certain that for one such case publicized, thousands of others remain unknown.
A stifling dogmatism, absence of all individual life, of all free spirit, of all moral enthusiasm; a lack of vast and passionate perspectives; the rule of the barracks spirit, of a suffocating bureaucracy, of flat servility and careerism; desperate monotony of an empty and colorless existence, regulated in even the slightest details by the mandates of the State -- such are characteristics of education and "culture" in the U.S.S.R.
Who can be astonished that, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda (Young Communist Truth),15 a profound disillusionment and a spirit of "dangerous" boredom have invaded the ranks of that country's student youth? Their whole environment exercises a depressing influence on the young.
And according to certain admissions in the Soviet press, a great number of the students attend their courses only because of compulsion, and with no real interest in them. Many of them pass their nights playing cards.
The following lines were found in the diary of a young student:
"I am bored. I am terribly bored. Nothing significant or remarkable, neither among men or events. What am I waiting for? Good, I will complete my course. Good, I will be an engineer. I will have two rooms, a stupid wife, an intelligent brat, and 500 rubles a month salary. Two meetings a month. And then? . . . When I ask myself if I would feel any regret about leaving this life, I answer: No, I shall leave it without great regret."
Much noise has been made about "the emancipation of women by the Bolsheviks". Real equality of the sexes, abolition of legal marriage, freedom of women to dispose of their bodies, and the right to abortion -- all these "beneficences" have been sung and glorified by the advance-guard press of all the nations.
These "achievements" also belong to the realm of myths. The reader knows that ideas about the equality and freedom of the sexes," with all of the practical consequences, were harbored a long time ago -- long before the Revolution -- by the advanced Russian circles. Any government stemming from the Revolution was obliged to take account of and sanction that state of affairs.
So there was nothing specifically Bolshevik in this development. The attainments of the Bolshevik government actually occupy only a very modest place. Incontestably that regime wanted to apply the principles enunciated. But again, the essential question is: Did it succeed? And again, we could fill pages -- supported by documented facts -- to demonstrate that it has failed lamentably, and that its own system, with its practical consequences, has compelled it to let everything go, to retreat, to retain only the myth and the bluff.
Legal marriage has not been abolished in the U.S.S.R. Instead, it has been simplified, or, rather, it has become civil, while before the Revolution it was compulsorily religious. It must even be noted that divorce, which, while civil, is regulated by a series of pecuniary conditions and penal measures.16
Examining the marriage registry, one finds a large proportion of weddings concluded between very young women and old but highly placed men. This proves that in the U.S.S.R., as everywhere else, and more so, marriage is a "business", and not a free union of love, as the Bolsheviki would have it believed. And that is entirely natural so long as the capitalist system, under another form, remains intact in that domain. Only the form has changed; the basis and all of its effects remain.
Having failed in their attempt to construct a Socialist State, and having succeeded in building a capitalist State (the other State can be imagined), the Bolsheviks were obliged, as in all other fields, to retreat in everything that concerns the relations between the sexes: family, children, et cetera.
This was inevitable. The situation in that field could be modified only if the whole society were to be changed fundamentally. If that whole is not made over completely, if only the form changes, then all the customs, including the relations between the sexes, [and concerning] the family and children do not change either, except formally. Fundamentally, they remain what they were previously, while changing in appearance.
That is what happened in the U.S.S.R. Beginning with the month of May, 1936, all the "advanced principles" were discarded little by little. A [new] series of laws regulated marriage, divorce, the responsibility of spouses, et cetera.
This legislation has purely and simply re-established, although under new forms, the basis of "the bourgeois family". Free disposal of their bodies has been forbidden to women. Right to abortion has been strongly restricted. Today it is permitted only in exceptional cases, on the advice of a physician, and under specified circumstances. Abortion, and even the suggestion of it, if it takes place without legal authorization, is severely punished.17
Prostitution is widespread in the U.S.S.R. To be convinced of this, and also of the low level of "Soviet" customs in general, one merely needs, regularly and minutely, to run through the daily news summaries, the local correspondence, and kindred departments in the Russian press.
As for "equality of the sexes", that principle having prevailed for a long time in advanced Russian circles, the Bolsheviki naturally accepted it. But like the other glorious social or moral theses, it has been perverted, in its turn, as a result of the general deviation of the Revolution. Concretely, in the U.S.S.R., it is a question of "equality" in work, not in wages. The woman works the same as the man, but she receives lower pay. Therefore this "equality" permits the State to exploit the woman even more than the man.
Let us dwell briefly on the important subject of religion.
It is argued that the Bolsheviks were right about religious prejudices. This is an error, the source of which, again, is ignorance of the facts.
The Bolshevik government has succeeded, through terror, in suppressing public worship for a time. As for religious sentiments, far from having extirpated them, Bolshevism, with its methods and its "achievements", and in spite of its propaganda, has, on the contrary, either rendered them, more intense, among some, or simply transformed them among others.
Before the Revolution, and especially after 1905, religious sentiments were in a state of decline among the popular masses, which did not fail seriously to worry the popes18 and the Tsarist authorities. Bolshevism succeeded in reviving them under another form.
Religion will be killed not by terror, not by propaganda, but by the effective success of the Social Revolution with its happy consequences. The anti-religious seeds which fall upon the fertile soil of that success will give it a bountiful harvest.
The objection is sometimes made to me that the Bolshevik government has done all it could to achieve such and such a success, and that it is not its fault if its efforts have not been crowned with total success.
Precisely. The more the good will of that regime can be demonstrated, the more will it become clear that the real Social Revolution and real Socialism cannot be achieved by the governmental and statist system.
"The Communist government, on its part, has used all of its good will to succeed," it is said to me.
I do not say the contrary. But the problem is not that. It is not a question of knowing whether the Government wanted or did not want to do this or that. It is a question of knowing whether it succeeded. The more it is proved that a government has not succeeded despite all of its good will, the more it becomes clear that a government could not succeed.
"The Government could not do any more."
Then why did it prevent other elements from trying? If it saw that it was impotent, it had no right to forbid others to act. And who knows what those other elements might have been able to achieve?
Why did the Government not succeed?
"The backward state of the country prevented it. The backward masses were not ready."
But nothing is actually known about this, since the Bolsheviki deliberately prevented the masses from acting. It is as though one were astonished because someone could not walk after someone else had tied his feet.
"The other elements of the left did not want to co-operate with the Bolsheviks."
But those elements did not want to submit blindly to the orders and exigencies of the Bolsheviki, which they considered evil. Then they were prevented from speaking and acting.
"The capitalist encirclement..."
Exactly -- the capitalist encirclement could impede a government and make it degenerate. But it never could have prevented or caused to degenerate the free action of millions of men, ready, as we have seen, to achieve, with prodigious enthusiasm, the real Revolution.
To speak of a "betrayal of the Revolution", as Trotsky does, is an "explanation" outside, not only of any Marxist or materialist conception, but of the more ordinary common sense.
How was this "betrayal" possible, and the day after such a beautiful and complete revolutionary victory?
That is the real question.
In reflecting, in examining the situation closely, the least initiated wiil understand that this alleged "betrayal" did not fall from the sky; that it was the "material" and rigorously logical consequence of the very manner in which the Revolution was conducted.
The negative results of the Russian Revolution were only the conclusion of a certain process. And the Stalinist regime was only the inevitable result of the procedures used by Lenin and Trotsky themselves. What Trotsky calls "betrayal" is in reality the unavoidable effect of a slow degeneration due to false methods.
Precisely: the governmental and statist procedure leads to "betrayal", that is, to the bankruptcy which today permits "betrayals" -- the latter being only a striking aspect of this bankruptcy. Other procedures might have led to other results.
In his blind partiality (or rather, in his inconceivable hypocrisy) Trotsky commits the most obvious of confusions, unpardonable in his case; he confuses the effects with the causes.
Crudely deceiving himself (or pretending to fool himself, lacking other means to defend his thesis), he takes the effect (betrayal by Stalin) for the cause. An error -- or rather, maneuver -- which permits him to overlook the essential problem: What made "Stalinism" possible?
"Stalin has betrayed the Revolution." That is simple. It is, however, too simple to explain anything at all.
Nevertheless, the explanation is plain. "Stalinism" is the natural result of the bankruptcy of the real Revolution, and not inversely; and the bankruptcy of the Revolution, to carry the thought further, was the natural consequence of the false course on which Bolshevism led it.
In other words, it was the degeneration of the thwarted and lost Revolution which led to Stalin, and not Stalin which made the Revolution degenerate.
When attacked by the disease, the revolutionary organism could have resisted it victoriously by means of the free action of the masses; but since the Bolsheviks, guided by Lenin and by Trotsky himself, had taken from them all means of self-defense against the evil, inevitably the latter ended by invading the whole organism and killing it.
The "betrayal" was possible, for the laboring masses did not react either against its preparation nor against its accomplishment. And the masses did not react because, totally subjugated by their new masters, they swiftly lost both the meaning of the real Revolution and all spirit of initiative, of free action and reaction. Chained, subjugated, dominated, they felt the uselessness -- what am I saying? -- the impossibility, of all resistance. Trotsky participated in person in reawakening the spirit of blind obedience among the masses, of dull indifference to everything that went on "above". The masses were beaten, and for a long time. From then on, any "betrayal" became possible.
In the light of all this, we invite the reader to use his own judgement about the Bolshevik "achievements".
CHAPTER 8: Counter-Revolution
The creative impotence of the Bolshevik government, the economic chaos into which Russia was plunged, the despotism and unheard-of violence, the bankruptcy of the Revolution, and the tragic situation which resulted from it provoked first a far-flung discontent, and later wide-sweeping backwaters, and finally forceful movements against the insupportable state of affairs imposed by the dictatorship.
As always in such cases, those movements came from two opposite poles -- from the side of Reaction, from the "right", which hoped to regain power and re-establish the old order, and from the side of the Revolution, from the "left", which hoped to redeem the situation and resume revolutionary action.
We shall not dwell long upon the counter-revolutionary movements -- on the one hand, because they are more or less well known, and on the other, because in themselves they are only of secondary interest. Such movements are the same in all great revolutions.
Nevertheless, some aspects of these movements are sufficiently instructive so that they should not be passed over in silence.
The first resistances to the Social Revolution in Russia (in 1917 and 1918) were very limited, rather local, and relatively harmless. As in all revolutions, certain reactionary elements immediately took a stand against the new order, trying to nip the Revolution in the bud. The vast majority of the [industrial] workers, peasants, and members of the Army being (actively or passively) for this new order, these resistances were quickly and easily broken.
If, later, the Revolution had known how to show itself really fertile, powerful, creative, and just; if it had known how to solve satisfactorily its great problems and open new horizons for Russia and perhaps for other countries, [the opposition] certainly could have been confined to those skirmishes, and the victory of the Revolution would not have been threatened. Too, subsequent events in Russia and elsewhere would have taken a turn much different from what we have witnessed for twenty years.
But, as the reader knows, Bolshevism, installed in power, perverted, chained, and castrated the Revolution. First it rendered it impotent, sterile, empty, and unhappy -- and then gloomily, ignobly, tyrannically, uselessly, and stupidly violent. Thus Bolshevism ended by disillusioning, irritating, and disgusting larger and larger segments of the population. We have seen in what manner it strangled the workers, suppressed freedom, and wiped out the other movements. And its action of terror and cruel violence toward the peasants led them also to oppose it.
We must not forget that, in all revolutions, the bulk of the population, the simple apolitical people, the citizens pursuing their trades from day to day, the petty bourgeoisie, a part of the middle bourgeoisie, and a goodly number of the peasants at first remain neutral. They observe, hesitate, and wait passively for the initial results. It is important for the Revolution to be able to "justify itself" in the eyes of these elements as speedily as possible. If not, all such "lukewarm" people will turn away from the revolutionary work, become hostile to it, begin to sympathize with the counterrevolutionary machinations, support them, and render them much more dangerous.
Such is the situation especially during huge upheavals which involve the interests of millions of men, profoundly modifying social relations and doing it by means of prodigious suffering and with great promises of satisfaction. This satisfaction must come quickly. Or, in any event, the masses must be able to hope for it. If not, the Revolution weakens and the counter-revolution gets going.
Manifestly the active sympathy of these neutral elements is indispensable for the effective progress of the Revolution, for they include many "specialists" and professional men -- skilled workers, technicians, intellectuals. All those people, who are not exactly hostile to the Revolution once it had been accomplished, will turn toward it and help it enthusiastically if it manages to inspire them with a certain confidence, if it makes them feel its capacities, its possibilities, and its perspectives, its advantages, its strength, its truth, and its justice.
But if that condition is not attained, all such elements end by becoming open enemies of the Revolution, which is a serious blow to them.
One can well believe that the vast laboring masses, carrying out a free activity with the aid of the revolutionists, would know how to achieve convincing results, and hence would know how to reassure and finally attract these neutrals.
The dictatorship -- impotent, arrogant, stupid, and viciously violent -- does not achieve such results, and drives those people to the other side.
Bolshevism does not know how to "justify" itself, nor how to "justify" the Revolution. As we have seen, the only great problem which it succeeded in solving -- indifferently, and under pressure from the Russian Army, which refused to fight -- was that of the war. That success -- the achievement of peace -- won the confidence and the sympathies of the masses. But that was all. Soon its economic, social, and other impotence made itself felt. In fact, the sterility of its methods of action, governmental procedures, and statist absolutism revealed themselves almost on the day after victory.
The Bolsheviki and persons who sympathize with them like to invoke the "terrible difficulties" that their government had to surmount, after the war and the Revolution, in a country like Russia. And it is on the basis of these difficulties that they seek to justify all the Bolshevik procedure.
One might influence, with such arguments, the foreign public which doesn't know the facts. But the individuals who lived through the Revolution eventually became aware [of certain realities]:
1. That the evil methods of Bolshevism arose not so much from the difficulties encountered as from the very nature of the Bolshevist doctrine;
2. That many of those difficulties arose specifically because the Government, from the beginning, set about stifling the free activity of the masses;
3. That the real difficulties, instead of being smoothed over by the Bolsheviks, were greatly increased by them;
4. That these difficulties could have been surmounted easily by the free action of the masses.
The principal difficulty was certainly that of provisioning and rationing. To advance the Revolution, it was necessary to pass, ; as quickly as possible, from a regime of scarcity and an "exchange" economy (based on money) to a regime of abundance and a "distributive" economy, without money.
Yet the more important and the vaster the difficulties, the less a government could show itself capable of solving them; the more severe and thorny the situation, the more it would have to depend on the free initiative of the people. But, as we know, the Bolshevik regime monopolized everything: ideas, initiative, methods, and action. It instituted an absolute dictatorship ("of the proletariat"). It subjugated the masses, it smothered their enthusiasm. And the greater the difficulties, the less it permitted the "proletariat" to act.
It was not astonishing that despite the purported "industrialization" of its famous "five-year plans", Bolshevism did not know how to come to grips with these difficulties, and that it was driven, in its desperate struggle against the exigencies of life, to the most odious violence, which simply emphasized its real importance. It is not by means of forced industrialism imposed on a mass of slaves that [a nation] can reach abundance and build a new economy.
Intuitively the Russian masses felt the necessity of passing to other forms of production and of transforming the relations between production and consumption. More and more did they perceive the vital need and possibility of doing away with money and of inaugurating a system of direct exchange between the agencies of production and those of consumption. Repeatedly, here and there, they were even ready to make efforts in that direction. It is highly probable that if they had had freedom of action, they would have been able to arrive progressively at a real solution of the economic problem: the distributive economy. It was necessary to let them seek, find, and act, while guiding and helping them like true friends.
But the Lenin regime did not want to hear anything about that. The Bolsheviks pretended to do everything themselves and to impose their will and their methods. Intuitively at first, and more and more clearly later, the masses became aware of the inefficiency and impotence of the Government, and of the danger into which the dictatorship and the violence was leading the country.
The psychological result of such a state of affairs is easy to comprehend. On the one hand, the populace turned away more and more from Bolshevism; disillusioned, they abandoned or grew hostile to it. The discontent, the spirit of revolt, increased with each day.
But, on the other hand, the masses did not know how to get out of the impasse. No valid solution presented itself, all ideological movements, ali discussion, all propaganda, and all free action having been forbidden. Tiie situation seemed to them insoluble. They did not have any way of acting. Their organizations had been nationalized, and militarized. The slightest opposition was severely repressed, and arms and all other material means were in the hands of the authorities and the new privileged stratum which had known how to organize their imposition [of authority] and their defense. [In the face of those circumstances the populace], though increasingly rebellious, did not see any possibility of undertaking effective action.
The counter-revolution which was lying in wait did not fail to take advantage of this situation and this spirit. Assiduously, it sought to turn to its advantage both that spirit and current events. Thus the more and more general and profound popular discontent served as a basis for far-sweeping counter-revolutionary movements, and supported them for three years.
Great armed campaigns were launched in the Southern and Eastern regions of Russia, plotted by the privileged class, supported by the bourgeoisie of other countries, and directed by generals of the old order.
Under the new conditions, the vast uprising in 1919-1921 took on a much graver character than the spontaneous and relatively insignificant resistance of 1917-18, such as the sedition of General Kaledin in the South, that of the ataman Dutov in the Urals, and others.
In 1918-19 several serious rebellions, on a large scale, were attempted here and there. Among these were the offensive by General Yudenitch against Petrograd in December, 1919, and the counter-revolutionary movement in the North, under the aegis of the "Tchaikovsky" government there.
Well organized and well armed and equipped, the forces of Yudenitch reached the gates of the capital. Here they were easily destroyed by outbursts of enthusiasm and devotion and the remarkable organization of the laboring masses of Petrograd, with the aid of detachments of sailors from Kronstadt, outbursts vigorously supported by upheavals behind the enemy lines. The young Red Army, commanded by Trotsky, participated in the defense of the city. The Tchaikovsky movement succeeded in invading the district of Archangelsk and a part of that of Vologda. As elsewhere, its defeat was not effected by the Red Army. Spontaneous uprisings of the laboring masses, both on the spot and behind the front, put an end to it.
It is notable that that movement, supported by the foreign bourgeoisie, likewise encountered the resistance of the Western working class. Strikes and demonstrations against all intervention in Russia -- especially strikes in British ports -- disturbed that bourgeoisie, which did not feel secure at home, and made it withdraw its aid.
More important, however, was the insurrection led by Admiral Kolchak in the East, in the summer of 1918. Among other help, it had the support of a Czecho-Slovakian army, formed in Russia. It is notorious that Trotsky's Red Army was powerless to break this movement. It, too, was liquidated by a fierce partisan resistance of armed industrial workers and peasants, and by uprisings in the rear. The Red Army arrived "triumphantly" -- after the job was done.
All these counter-revolutionary movements were more or less actively supported by the moderate Socialists -- the Mensheviks and the right Social Revolutionaries.
It was at the time of the Czecho-Slovakian offensive that the Bolsheviks, to avert additional complications, and fearing an eventual rescue, executed, on the night of July 16-17, 1918, the former Tsar Nikolai II and his family, who had been deported to Ekater-inenburg, in Siberia. That city was later evacuated by the Bolsheviki.
The precise circumstances of this execution remain fairly mysterious, despite a meticulous investigation conducted by a jurist at Kolchak's order. It is not even known specifically whether these official killings [which took place in a cellar] were ordered by the central authorities in Moscow, or by the local Soviet. And as for the Bolsheviks themselves, they keep silent.
In that period the Russian populace, not yet disarmed by the Lenin regime, and retaining its confidence in the Bolsheviks' revolution, energetically resisted the counter-revolutionary movements and put an end to them with comparative facility.
But this situation changed completely at the end of 1919. The masses, disillusioned about and disgusted with Bolshevism (and disarmed by the "Soviet" government) no longer offered the same resistance to counter-revolutionary attempts. And the leaders of those movements now knew how to play on their sympathies perfectly. In their leaflets and manifestoes they declared that they were fighting only against the despotism of the Bolsheviki. They promised the people "free Soviets" and the safeguarding of the other principles of the Revolution that were scoffed at by the Lenin government. (Of course, once victory was achieved, they had no intention of keeping these promises, but would subdue all revolts).
Thus the two great "White" uprisings in the center of the country, that of Gen. Anton Ivanovich Denikin and that of Baron Peter Wrangel, could assume such proportions that they were on the point of overthrowing the regime.
The first of these movements, directed militarily by General Denikin, rapidly invaded the whole Ukraine and a sizeable portion of central Russia in 1919. Breaking and routing the Red troops, this White Army reached the city of Orel near Moscow. The Bolshevik government was getting ready to flee when, to its great surprise, Denikin's Army suddenly lost its footing and retreated precipitously. The threat to Moscow was ended; the situation was saved. But again, the Bolsheviks and their Army did not play any part in this collapse.
General Wrangel led the second movement that was exceedingly dangerous for the Lenin regime. He followed Denikin's uprising. Wrangel, more artful, was able to learn several lessons from the defeat of his forerunner, and won deeper and more solid sympathy than the latter. Moreover, the spiritual decline [of the Russian populace] was further advanced.
But Wrangel's movement, like that of Denikin, and various others of lesser importance failed.
That of Denikin went to pieces with strange suddenness. Having reached the gates of Moscow, his Army abruptly left everything and retreated in disorder to the South. There it disappeared in a catastrophic debacle. Its remnants, wandering across the country, were wiped out one after another by detachments of the Red Army, coming from the North on the track of the fugitives, and by partisans.
For at least 24 hours the Bolshevik government in Moscow, overcome by panic, could not believe that Denikin's troops had retreated, since they did not understand the reason for it. They got an explanation much later. Finally convinced, they sent some Red regiments in pursuit of the Whites. Denikin's whole movement was destroyed.
Wrangel's effort, beginning some time later, achieved several great successes at first. Without being able to threaten Moscow, it nevertheless worried the Lenin regime much more than Denikin's expedition. For the Russian populace, more and more disgusted with the Bolsheviks, seemed not to want to offer serious resistance to this new anti-Bolshevik drive; it remained indifferent.
But because of this almost general indifference, the Government could count on its own Army less than ever.
However, after those early successes, Wrangel's movement folded up like all the others.
What were the reasons for these almost "miraculous" reversals, for the final defeat of campaigns which began so successfully?
The real causes and the exact circumstances of those fluctuations are little known, [largely because] they have been deliberately distorted by-biased authors.
Chiefly, the reasons for the downfall of the White movements were the following:
First, the awkward, cynical, and provocative attitude of the leaders. Having captured [certain areas of Russia] they installed themselves in the conquered regions as veritable dictators, no better than the Bolsheviks. Usually leading a dissolute life, and likewise incapable of organizing a healthy society, swelled with pride, and full of mistrust of the workers, they brutally made known to the latter that they intended to restore the old regime, with all of its "beauties". The alluring promises of their manifestoes, issued on the occasion of their offensives simply for the purpose of winning over the population, were quickly forgotten.
These gentlemen did not even have enough patience to wait for complete victory. They threw off their masks before they were secure, with a suddenness which soon revealed their real designs. And these boded nothing good for the masses. The White terror and savage reprisals, with their usual retinue of denunciations, arrests, and summary executions without trial and without mercy began to take place everywhere.
Moreover, the former landed proprietors and industrial lords, who left voluntarily or had been driven out with the advent of the Revolution, returned with the White armies and made haste to regain possession of their "property".
Thus the absolutist and feudal regime of the past had suddenly reappeared in all of its hideousness.
Such an attitude [on the part of the White leaders] swiftly provoked a violent psychological reaction among the laboring masses. They feared the return of Tsarism and of the pomest-chiki, the big land-owners, much more than Bolshevism. With the latter, in spite of everything, they could hope to achieve some improvements, a redressing of wrongs, and finally "a free and happy life". But they could hope for nothing from the return of Tsarism. So it was necessary to block its path directly. The peasants, who at that time, had profited at least in principle by the expropriation of the available land, especially were terrified at the idea of having to restore those lands to the former owners. (This spiritual state of the masses explains, to a large extent, the momentary solidity of the Bolshevik government: of the two evils they chose the one which seemed to them the lesser).
Thus the revolt against the Whites was resumed immediately after their ephemeral victories. As soon as the danger was realized, the populace began to resist anew. And the partisan detachments, created in haste and supported by both the Red Army and by the working multitude, which had recovered its understanding, inflicted crushing defeats on the Whites.
Notably, the army which contributed most to the destruction of Denikin's and Wrangel's commands was that of the insurgent peasants and workers of the Ukraine, known as the Makhnovist Army from the name of its military chief, the Anarchist partisan Nestor Makhno. Battling in the name of a free society, that army had to fight simultaneously against all the forces of oppression in Russia, against both the Whites and the Reds.
Speaking of the White reaction, it was Makhno's popular Army which compelled Denikin to abandon Orel and beat a precipitous retreat. And it was that same army which dealt an overwhelming defeat to the rearguard and the special forces of Denikin in the Ukraine.
As for Wrangel's armed forces, the fact of their first serious reversal, suffered at the hands of Makhno's army, was admitted to me by the Bolsheviks themselves, under rather curious circumstances.
During the period of Wrangel's furious offensive, I was in a Bolshevik prison in Moscow. Like Denikin, Wrangel beat the Red Army and drove it rapidly Northward. Makhno, who at this time, was warring against the Bolsheviki, decided, in view of the grave danger which the Revolution faced, to offer peace to them and lend them a hand against the Whites. Being in a bad way, the Bolsheviki accepted, and concluded an alliance with Makhno.
Immediately the Anarchist leader threw his forces against Wrangel's army and defeated it under the walls of Orekhov. The battle over, before continuing the struggle and pursuing Wrangel's retreating troops, Makhno sent a telegram to the Government in Moscow, announcing the victory and declared that he would not advance another step unless it set free both his adjutant Tchubenko and myself. Still having need of Makhno, the Bolsheviks agreed and liberated me. On that occasion they exhibited his telegram and praised the great fighting qualities of this partisan.
In ending my comments on the rightist reactions, I must emphasize the falsity of certain legends invented and spread by the Bolsheviki and their friends.
The first is that of the foreign intervention. According to the legend, that intervention was highly important. It is primarily in this way that the Bolsheviks explain the strength and success of some of the White movements.
That assertion, however, belies the reality. It is a gross exaggeration. In fact, the foreign intervention during the Russian Revolution was never either vigorous or persevering. A modest amount of aid, in money, munitions, and equipment: that was all. The Whites themselves complained bitterly of [its paucity] later on. And as for detachments of troops sent to Russia, they always were of minor significance and played almost no tangible part.
That is easily understood. In the first place, the foreign bourgeoisie had enough to do at home, both during and after the European war. Then, too, the military chiefs feared the "decomposition" of their troops from contact with the revolutionary Russian people. So such contact was avoided as much as possible. Events showed that these fears were well founded. Without speaking of the French and British detachments, which never came to fight against the revolutionaries, the troops of the Austro-German occupation (after the Brest-Litovsk treaty), fairly numerous and protected by the Ukrainian government of Skoro-padsky, quickly decomposed and were won over by the Russian revolutionary forces.
I also would like to emphasize, in this connection, that the result of the German occupation confirmed the Anarchist thesis at the time of the peace of Brest-Litovsk. Who knows what the world would be like today if, at that time, the Bolshevik government, instead of dealing with the German imperialists, had let the Kaiser's troops penetrate into revolutionary Russia? Who can say whether the consequences of such penetration would not have been the same as those which later caused Denikin, Wrangel, the Austro-Germans, and all the rest to disappear?
But behold! Any government always means for the Revolution : the political way, stagnation, mistrust, reaction, danger, misfortune.
Lenin, Trotsky, and their colleagues were never revolutionaries.
They were only rather brutal reformers, and like all reformers and politicians, always had recourse to the old bourgeois methods, in dealing with both internal and military problems.
They had not confidence in either the masses nor in the real Revolution, and did not even understand it.
In trusting these bourgeois statist-reformers with the fate of the Revolution, the revolutionary Russian workers committed a fundamental and irreparable error.
The explanation of everything that has happened in Russia since October, 1917, lies at least partly in this.
The second widespread legend is that of the important role of the Red Army. According to the Bolshevik "historians", it defeated the counter-revolutionary troops, destroyed the White offensives, and won all the victories.
Nothing could be more false. In all the big counter-revolutionary offensives, the Red Army was beaten and put to flight. It was the Russian people themselves, in revolt and only partially armed, who defeated the Whites. The Red Army, invariably returning after the blow (but in full force) to lend a hand to the already triumphant partisans, simply gave the coup de grace to the already routed White armies and crowned itself with the laurels of victory.
- 1 This was written in 1939.
- 2 Naturally I employ the term "direct" in the sense of organizing, and of administration (a social term), and not in that of governing (a political term). A government, even if it were composed of workers (which is not the case in the U.S.S.R.) could serve only the interests of a privileged class which inevitably develops into a statist political system.
- 3 The reader should not suspect me of preferring private capitalism. I state a fact, nothing more. It is evident that freedom to choose an employer is a small thing. But to live and work under the eternal threat of losing the only exploiter possible is not pleasant. This threat, suspended constantly over the head of the worker in the U.S.S.R., makes him a slave. That is all I meant to say.
- 4 See, for instance, Workers Before and After Lenin, by Manya Gordon; New York: Dutton, 1941.
- 5 Decree of October 25, 1917. [But in the fourth paragraph of Chapter xxv Voline gives October 26 as the date of what apparently is the same decree]
- 6 Milioukov, Paul, History of Russia, Volume III, p. 1274.
- 7 The "dictation", supervision, and threat existed from the beginning. Also, we must point out in passing that the People's Commissars, and the members of the Politburo and other supreme organs, were never elected, but were appointed by the central committee of the Communist Party, influenced by the "genial Vojd", and validated by the Congress of Soviets, docile instrument of the central committee.
- 8 Compared to them, the Nazis are only modest pupils and imitators.
- 9 A hectare is equivalent to 2.471 acres. Which means that the shortage of wheat in the U.S.S.R. in 1939 was estimated at 158,144,000 acres.
- 10 Pravda for May 31.
- 11 See Stalin Constitution, Article 125.
- 12 Pravda, May 31, 1939.
- 13 No. 168, July, 1939.
- 14 Gorlovka is an industrial locality in that basin.
- 15 October 20, 1936.
- 16 See Izvestia, June 28, 1936.
- 17 See the law of May, 1936, enactment of which was followed by numerous arrests.
- 18 Orthodox priests in Russia are commonly referred to as "popes".