1920s >> 1922 >> no-216-august-1922

Letters: Russian Problems

Dear Sirs,

In reply to Mr. Dight, you mention the fact that the case of America is an example of Capitalist Development by transplanted material. I think that Marx has pointed out that the machinery of Capitalist Production must be used for producing under another state. We know that the Russians have been bargaining for more machinery. Assuming that they are successful, don’t ,you think that we should witness the development of a Proletarian State by transplanted means? I do not think that Marx expected everyone to be capable of fully understanding the anomalies of Capitalism before a revolution occurred.

He states in the preface to the Critique : With the change of the economic foundation, the entire super-structure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations, the distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic, in short, the ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.”

This passage seems to show that Marx foresaw a change from one system to another without the people being educated up to, say, the S. P. G. B. standard. I should like to see your interpretation of it. In other parts of your reply you are inclined to exaggerate. For instance, ” As the upheaval in Russia in 1917 scarcely raised a ripple among the workers of the West, and certainly not the faintest suggestion of a revolution.” Does the writer remember a person named Liebnecht? Then there is the case of Hungary, Finland, Persia, also, I do not think that the Russians expected to turn the peasant into a Marxist in a single night (although that job with the Bolshevists in Political Power is far easier than the S. P. G. B. job with the Capitalist holding political power). The people I have met and talked with on their return from Russia have said that • the peasant supported the Bolshevik because he gave him land and peace. Then again, if there has been no social change in Russia, would the writer tell me why the capitalist powers of the world have been busy subsidising wars against the Soviet Republic? Surely if they are going on the same tine as Capitalist Society there is no need to attack them.

Yours fraternally, D. S. O’MAHONEY.

REPLY TO D. S. MAHONEY.

Our correspondent misses the point of first reply to H. Dight. In America we have the example of a new people, with higher developed methods, being transplanted into that country. The introduction of modern machinery into Russia would be of little use unless people capable of manipulating that machinery were also taken there. As a matter of fact the Bolsheviks are trying to do this by endeavouring to establish colonies of American skilled workers to operate up-to-date machinery, which Bolsheviks know full well the Russians could not operate.

No doubt the Russian Government hopes to use these colonies as training grounds for native workers, but it will take more than a generation to produce even moderately skilled workers from among the Russians, and thus they will still be behind the Western workers in social development and understanding.

Mr. Mahoney does not state what considers is “the S. P. G. B. standard,” but it is as clear as daylight that social ownership of the means of life will not be established until a majority of the workers see the necessity for it by reaching an understanding of their slave position and the method necessary for their emancipation. Until then they will be content to remain slaves as long as an existence of some sort is allowed to them. Nay, more. They will be prepared to fight to defend the system that enslaves them. The passage from the preface to the “Critique” in no way conflicts with this position, and, therefore, does not call for any “mutation” on the point.

Liebnecht’s adventure was not a “revolution” and the attitude of the workers after his death showed how small was his following. The upheavals in Hungary, Persia, etc., were mere political struggles without the slightest effect upon the social structure of those countries.

The last query of our correspondent shows an astounding blindness to the events of the last eight years. Germany and Great Britain were on the same capitalist basis, and practically at the same level of development, yet they engaged in a colossal war over questions of economic domination, and carried such war on for over four years. European capitalists have subsidised the buccaneering expeditions into Russia as one of the means to obtain control of Russia for the purpose of exploiting the Russian workers themselves.

J. F.

(Socialist Standard, August 1922)