1920s >> 1920 >> no-191-july-1920

A Socialist View of Bolshevist Policy

Where We Stand

 Ever since the Bolshevik minority seized the control of affairs in Russia we have been
told that their “success” had completely changed Socialist policy. These
“Communists” declare that the policy of Marx and Engels is out of date. Lenin and
Trotsky are worshipped as the pathfinders of a shorter and easier road to Communism.
Unfortunately for these “Bolsheviks,” no evidence has yet been supplied to show
wherein the policy of Marx and Engels is no longer useful, and until that evidence
comes the Socialist Party of Great Britain will continue to advocate the same Marxian
policy as before. We will continue to expose and oppose the present system and all its
defenders and apologists. We shall insist upon the necessity of the working class
understanding Socialism and organising with a political party to obtain it.

Socialism Far Off in Russia

 When we are told that Socialism has been obtained in Russia without the long, hard
and tedious work of educating the mass of workers in Socialism we not only deny it
but refer our critics to Lenin’s own confessions. His statements prove that even though
a vigorous and small minority may be able to seize power for a time, they can only
hold it by modifying their plans to suit the ignorant majority. The minority in power
in an economically backward country are forced to adapt their program to the
undeveloped conditions and make continual concessions to the capitalist world around
them. Offers to pay war debts to the Allies, to establish a Constituent Assembly, to
compensate capitalists for losses, to cease propaganda in other countries, and to grant
exploitation rights throughout Russia to the Western capitalists all show how far along
the capitalist road they have had to travel and how badly they need the economic help
of other countries. It shows above all that their loud and defiant challenge to the
capitalist world has been silenced by their own internal and external weaknesses as we
have so often predicted in these pages.

Lenin’s Confessions

The folly of adopting Bolshevik methods here is admitted by Lenin in his pamphlet
The Chief Tasks of Our Times (p. 10). “A backward country can revolt quicker,
because its opponent is rotten to the core, its middle class is not organised; but in
order to continue the revolution a backward country will require immediately more
circumspection, prudence, and endurance. In Western Europe it will be quite
different; there it is much more difficult to begin, but it will be much easier to go on.
This cannot be otherwise because there the proletariat is better organised and more
closely united.”
Those who say “Russia can fight the world”, are answered by Lenin:
“Only a madman can imagine that the task of dethroning International Imperialism
can be fulfilled by Russia alone.”

Lenin admits that “France and England have been learning for centuries what we have
only learnt since 1905. Every class-conscious worker knows that the revolution grows
but slowly amongst the free institutions of a united bourgeoisie, and that we shall only
be able to fight against such forces when we are able to do so in conjunction with the
revolutionary proletariat of Germany, France, and England. Till then, sad and contrary
to revolutionary traditions as it may be, our only possible policy is to wait, to tack,
and to retreat.”

State Capitalism for Russia

We have often stated that because of a large anti-Socialist peasantry and vast
untrained population, Russia was a long way from Socialism. Lenin has now to admit
this by saying: “Reality says that State Capitalism would be a step forward for us; if
we were able to bring about State Capitalism in a short time it would be a victory for
us. How could they be so blind as not to see that our enemy is the small capitalist, the
small owner? How could they see the chief enemy in State Capitalism? In the
transition period from Capitalism to Socialism our chief enemy is the small
bourgeoisie, with its economic customs, habits and position” (p. 11).

This reply of Lenin to the Communists of the Left (Bucharin and others) contains the
further statement that, “To bring about State Capitalism at the present time means to
establish the control and order formerly achieved by the propertied classes. We have
in Germany an example of State Capitalism, and we know she proved our superior. If
you would only give a little thought to what the security of such State Socialism
would mean in Russia, a Soviet Russia, you would recognise that only madmen
whose heads are full of formulas and doctrines can deny that State Socialism is our
salvation. If we possessed it in Russia the transition to complete Socialism would be
easy, because State Socialism is centralisation control, socialisation—in fact,
everything that we lack. The greatest menace to us is the small bourgeoisie, which,
owing to the history and economics of Russia, is the best organised class, and which
prevents us from taking the step, on which depends the success of Socialism.”

Here we have plain admissions of the unripeness of the great mass of Russian people
for Socialism and the small scale of Russian production.
If we are to copy Bolshevist policy in other countries we should have to demand State
Capitalism, which is not a step to Socialism in advanced capitalist countries. The fact
remains, as Lenin is driven to confess, that we do not have to learn from Russia, but
Russia has to learn from lands where large scale production is dominant.

Lenin and the Trusts

“My statement that in order to properly understand one’s task one should learn
socialism from the promoters of Trusts aroused the indignation of the Communists of
the Left. Yes, we do not want to teach the Trusts; on the contrary, we want to learn
from them.” (p. 12) Thus Lenin speaks to his critics. Owing to the untrained character
of the workers and their failure to grasp the necessity of discipline and order in large
scale production, Lenin has to employ “capitalist” experts to run the factories. He tells
us: “We know all about Socialism, but we do not know how to organise on a large
scale, how to manage distribution, and so on. The old Bolshevik leaders have not
taught us these things, sand this is not to the credit of our party. We have yet to go
through this course and we say: Even if a man is a scoundrel of the deepest dye, if he
is a merchant, experienced in organising production and distribution on a large scale,
we must learn from him; if we do not learn from these people we shall never achieve
Socialism, and the revolution will never get beyond the present stage. Socialism can
only be reached by the development of State Capitalism the careful organisation of
finance, control and discipline among the workers. Without this there is no
Socialism.” (p. 12.)

That Socialism can only be reached through State Capitalism is untrue. Socialism
depends upon large-scale production, whether organised by Trusts or Governments.
State capitalism may be the method used in Russia, but only because the Bolshevik
Government find their theories of doing without capitalist development unworkable—
hence they are forced to retreat along the capitalist road.

The Internal Conflict
Lenin goes on: “The workers who base their activities on the principles of State
Socialism are the most successful. It is so in the tanning, textile, and sugar industries,
where the workers, knowing their industry, and wishing to preserve and to develop it,
recognise with proletarian common sense that they are unable at present to cope with
such a task, and therefore allot one third of the places to the capitalists in order to
learn from them.”

This concession is another example of the conflict between Bolshevik theory and
practice, for the very argument of Lenin against Kautsky and others was that in Russia
they could go right ahead without needing the capitalist development such as it exists
in other countries.

The whole speech of Lenin is directed against the growing body of workers in Russia
who took Lenin at his word. These people fondly imagined that after throwing over
Kerensky they could usher in freedom and ignore the capitalist world around them.
They thought that factory discipline, Socialist education, and intelligent skilled
supervision were simply pedantic ideas.

A further quotation from Lenin will make this clear: “Naturally the difficulties of
organisation are enormous, but I do not see the least reason for despair and
despondency in the fact that the Russian Revolution, having first solved the easier
task—the overthrow of the landowners and the bourgeoisie, is now faced with the
more difficult Socialist task of organising national finance and control, a task which is
the initial stage of Socialism, and is inevitable, as is fully understood by the majority
of class-conscious workers.”

He also says: “It is time to remonstrate when some people have worked themselves up
to a state in which they consider the introduction of discipline into the ranks of the
workers as a step backwards.” And he points out that “by the overthrow of the
bourgeoisie and landowners we have cleared the way, we have not erected the
structure of Socialism.”

How far they have cleared the capitalists out of the way is uncertain, as they are a
long way from self-reliance. The long road ahead is admitted by Lenin in these words:
“Until the workers have learned to organise on a large scale they are not Socialists,
nor builders of a Socialist structure of society, and will not acquire the necessary
knowledge for the establishment of the new world order. The path of organisation is a
long one, and the tasks of Socialist constructive work require strenuous and
continuous effort, with a corresponding knowledge which we do not sufficiently
possess. It is hardly to be expected that the even more developed following generation
will accomplish a complete transition into Socialism.” (p. 13.)

The Rule of the Minority

The denunciation of democracy by the Bolshevik leaders is quite understandable if we
realise that only the minority in Russia are Communists. Lenin therefore denies
control of affairs to the majority, but he cannot escape from the compromise involved
in ruling with a minority. Not only is control of Russian affairs out of the hands of the
Soviets as a whole, but not even all the members of the Communist Party are allowed
to vote. Zinoviev, a leading Commissar, in his report to the First Congress of the
Third International said:
“Our Central Committee has decided to deprive certain categories of party members
of the right to vote at the Congress of the party. Certainly it is unheard of to limit the
right voting within the party, but the entire party has approved this measure, which is
to assure the homogenous unity of the Communists So that in fact, we have 500,000
members who manage the entire State machine from top to bottom.” (The Socialist,
29.4.20. Italics not ours.)

So half a million members of the Communist Party (counting even those who are
refused a vote within the party) control a society of 180 million members. It is quite
plain why other parties’ papers were suppressed: obviously they could influence the
great majority outside the Communist Party. The maintenance of power was assured
by the Bolshevik minority through its control of political power and the armed forces.

(July, 1920)