Paths of revolution - M. Sergven

One of the first anarchist critiques of state capitalism of the Russian revolution

Paths of Revolution

Is ours a social revolution? There are some who argue that a social revolution presupposes a 'final and fundamental upheaval', while others prefer to focus their attention on the character and essence of the day-to-day revolutionary movement. But we shall not dispute whether it is the movement or the decisive upheaval that merits the name of revolution. For since the movement is linked with final goals and since both the movement and the upheaval constitute a single uninterrupted process, must we not examine them together when talking about the revolution? In answering this question, however, we must not conclude that, simply because there has not yet been a decisive social transformation, there has therefore been no social revolution. For in order to call revolution 'social', it is enough that the movement should merely be striving to bring about this definitive transformation. When the question is put this way there can be no two opinions as to whether or not our revolution is a social revolution.
Yes, our revolution is indeed a social one, for the revolutionary masses are aglow with the destruction of the class system; for a countless series of victories has been won by the workers and peasants under the banner of socialism; for our revolution has been a class war. But is it moving along the path towards socialism?
A 'dictatorship of the proletariat', the call it. but isn't the organisation of future socialism to be founded on the liberation of humanity from class distinctions? Within the framework of this dictatorship, however, we can see that centralization of power has begun to crystallize and grow firm, that the apparatus of the state is being consolidated by the ownership of property and even by an anti-socialist morality. Instead of hundreds of thousands of property owners there is now a single owner served by a whole bureaucratic system and a new 'statized' morality.
the proletariat is gradually being enserfed by the state. The people are being transformed into servants over whom there has risen a new class of administrators - a new class born mainly from the womb of the so-called intelligentsia. Isn't this merely a new class system looming on the revolutionary horizon? Hasn't there occurred merely a regrouping of classes, a regroup as in previous revolutions when, after oppressed had evicted landlords from power, the emergent middle class was able to direct the revolution towards a new class system in which fell into its own hands?
The resemblance is all too striking. One cannot deny it. And if the elements of class inequality are as yet indistinct, it is only a matter of time before privileges will pass to the administrators. We don meant to say this inequality and these privileges are arbitrary, or that the Bolshevik party set out to create a new class system. But we do say that even the best intentions and aspirations must inevitably be smashed against the evils inherent in any system of centralized power. The separation of management from labour, the division between administrators and workers flows logically from centralization. It cannot be otherwise. There are no other words to the song. The song goes thus: management implies responsibility, and can responsibility be compared with ordinary labour? Responsibility demands special rights and advantages. Such is the source of privilege and of the new anti-socialist morality. Thus we are presently moving not towards socialism but towards state capitalism.
Will state capitalism lead us to the gates of socialism? Of this we see not the slightest evidence. Will the new government not contrive 'artificially' to concentrate property in its hands, as is deemed necessary from the Marxist point of view? Will is not complete the class stratification of the country, which capitalism could not accomplish 'naturally'? And will the emergence of a single owner really ease the task of achieving socialism? Arrayed against socialist are - together with thousands of former small and large property holders - thousands of administrators. And if the workers, owing to the division of the population into two hostile classes and to the deepening of class consciousness, should become a powerful revolutionary force. then it is hardly necessary to point out that the class of administrators wielding the powerful state apparatus, will be a far from weak opponent. The single owner and state capitalism form a new dam before the waves of our social revolution.1
We anarchist and Syndicalist - indeed all who believe that the liberation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves - were too poorly organized and too weak to hold the revolution on a straight course towards socialism. It goes without saying that socialism will not fall from the sky, and that only one conception of socialism is not enough. But now, in the midst of the revolution, we must lay the foundation of socialism and create the organisations of revolutionary struggle and of the economy. The plan of this foundation, in order to conform to the plan of socialist construction, must not be centralist, for, as we have already explained, socialism and centralism are antithetical.
Is it at all possible to conduct the social revolution through a centralized authority? Not even Solomon could direct the revolutionary struggle or the economy from one centre. And if this is impossible for an intellectual, then it is even more impossible for a worker, who is so little versed in the affairs of state. The worker in a centralized state, alienated from his proper way of life, feels like a fish out of water. What he needs, rather, is an atmosphere in which the functions of management and labour are close tougher or even merged with each other.
The people made the revolution without orders from the centre. They tore power to shreds and scattered over the immense revolutionary countryside, therby confronting power with local self-rule. But that splintered and dispersed power poisoned all the soviets and committees. Dictatorship appeared again in the garb of Ispolkoms and Sovnarkoms,2 and the Revolution, not recognizing her, embraced her. Not seeing the enemy, the Revolution was too sure of victory and bit by bit put power in her hands. There was an urgent need for systematic organization and for the co-ordination of activities. The Revolution looked for this but too few elements were aware of the necessity and the possibility of federalist organization. And the Revolution, not finding it, threw itself into the arms of the old tyrant, centralized power, which is squeezing out its life's breath.
We were too disorganized, too weak, and so we have allowed this to happen.

Vol'nyi Golos Truda(Moscow), 16 September 1918

  • 1. Cf. Bakunin's remarkable prophecy in his statehood and Anarchy (1873): According to the theory of Mr. Marx, the people not only must not destroy [the state] but must strengthen it and place it at the complete disposal of their benefactors guardians and teachers - the leaders of the Communist party, namely Mr. Marx and his friends, who will proceed to liberate [mankind] in their own way. They will concentrate the reins of government in a strong hand, because the ignorant people require an exceedingly firm guardianship; they will establish a single state bank, concentrating in its hands all commercial, industrial, agricultural and even scientific production, and then divide the masses into two armies - industrial and agricultural - under the direct command of state engineers, who will constitute a new privileged scientific-political estate.
  • 2. Executive Committees and Councils of People's Commissars

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Method of Freedom
Jul 15 2019 00:50


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