Housing in Russia and “Socialism in One Country”

A reader (Mr. R. L. Rhodes, Trowbridge) writes as follows:—

Dear Comrade,
In “Notes By The Way” (SOCIALIST STANDARD, December, 1957) you comment on bad housing in the Soviet Union. Surely after having about 25 million people made homeless after the last war had ended and added to other problems of reconstruction, only a person who could perform miracles could have solved the problem over night. The SP.G.B. claims the Soviet Union to be a capitalist state, and that Socialism cannot be brought about in any country unless the whole world turns to Socialism. This theory in my opinion is wrong, as for instance say, Britain’s working class were prepared to elect a Socialist government and in the United States they still elected a capitalist government. What would be the attitude of the S.G.P.B.?
Yours fraternally
R. L. Rhodes.


Housing in Russia
Our correspondent thinks it quite reasonable in view of wartime destruction, that the Russian government has not bear able to “solve the problem overnight” This is of course precisely the excuse given by the British and other governments. It is a characteristic piece of capitalist double-talk. With the resources available in Russia, Britain, America and elsewhere it would have been technically quite practicable to have the population decently housed but for the fact that in each country priority is given to other things, notably the fantastic expenditure on armaments, including the American, British and Russian A bombs and H bombs. Since each government places “guns before butter,” and before working class housing, they can all plead that the residue of materials and labour is not sufficient for decent workers’ houses. And of course the inability to build houses only applies to working class houses, not to the abundant, luxurious accommodation made available for the rich and the leading politicians in all countries.

We would also draw our correspondent’s attention again to the statement about Russian housing in our December issue. How does his plea that houses were destroyed in vast numbers in the war that ended over 12 years ago justify the present building (for the workers only) of new houses that are “one storey buildings very little larger than a one-car garage?” And of course the masses of slums and near-slums were there in Russia before the war broke out. They are not the product of the war.

“Socialism in One Country”
There are two quite distinct notions about the possibility of getting Socialism in one country alone.

One is held by people who think that Socialism can be imposed on the people by the government and that all you need therefore is for the government to be taken over by a group who want Socialism. The point about this theory is, of course, that it assumes that you can get Socialism without having to wait for the workers to become Socialists. If this theory had been sound our correspondent would not have written to us asking a question but would have written giving us the answer. He would have been able to tell us that in 1918 the Russian Communist Party seized power and then, in accordance with the theory of Socialism in one country, had triumphantly introduced Socialism in Russia without having to wait for the workers in Russia to become Socialist or for the workers out of Russia to become Socialist. Our correspondent does not tell us this because it is not true. After 40 years of power, what they have produced is State capitalism, and we readily agree that you can have State capitalism in one country.

The other theory about Socialism in one country is the one our correspondent asks us to consider, the notion of the workers becoming Socialist in one part of the capitalist world but not in other parts, this theory has been put to us ever since the S.P.G.B. was formed but it has undergone repeated changes—the country in which this is supposed to happen is never the same. At one time, it was Germany where the workers were supposed, to be on the verge of Socialism; then the purblind I.L.P. told us that it was Australia (they even had it happening in one state alone in Australia, in Queensland). Then Mexico and France, Austria, Russia, Sweden, New Zealand and numerous other countries, each had their turn—not forgetting Britain where Socialism was about to dawn with the Labour Government of 1924. All of these examples were based on the supposition, now put in the letter above, that the majority in one country become Socialists while those elsewhere do not. Which brings us from fanciful assumptions back to reality. Our correspondent gives us no reason whatever for supposing that something will happen which is contrary to all experience. The overwhelming majority of workers in Britain, Russia, U.S.A. and everywhere else have not yet abandoned their belief in capitalism. Those who have become Socialists are everywhere a small minority, and everywhere at present the Socialist idea spreads only slowly. Experience everywhere supports the view that the progress of the Socialist movement will be much the same everywhere because broadly the workers’ experience of capitalism is everywhere similar. Also the movement in one country influences growth in other countries. The tempo will at some stage increase but again there is no evidence of any kind to suggest that it will quicken in Britain and hang back in U.S.A. and Russia or vice versa. On the contrary the only expectation is that the growth of the Socialist movement everywhere will be accompanied by increasingly effective common international action by the Socialist movement. The international Socialist movement will be strong everywhere before the possibility of Socialism arises, and if the election at which Socialists take governmental control out of the hands of the capitalists in one country slightly precedes the elections at which the workers elsewhere do the same, the situation will present no problem of any moment The capitalists everywhere will be at the end of their rule, and will know that they are at the end of their rule, in face of the worlds’ Socialists acting as one united movement.

Editorial Committee

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