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A. B. Razlatzky

Notes in the Margins of History

1

I must say at once that I am a Marxist. Right away, this makes me unacceptable in some company, and somehow alien to people with pluralistic views. Somehow we have gotten to the point that Marxism is separate unto itself, while pluralism is pluralistic of its own accord. But, it must be said that for Marxism, pluralism is acceptable without restriction; yet it has placed itself on guard against our native pluralism. However, perhaps correctly so. We have gotten too used to treating Marxism as something tacked on, something obligatory. But that is not Marxism at all, it is not scientific, it is unthinking. As a method of comprehending reality, infantry drill rules have never been suitable. 

I am a Marxist, but I have nothing whatever in common with those currently masquerading under this label in our country; neither their conscientious 'Marxology,' nor their apologetics for the present, (over all our recent yesterdays) nor their unforgettable imperative orders. But dialectical materialism as a science, this is the Marxism that I would consider it an honour to be a part of. This science is not reflected in the textbooks, where confusion and talentless commentary coexists with material correctly understood and conscientiously reiterated; but it exists immediately in the legacy of the classics, where, if there are mistakes, they are Marxist mistakes which history helps to point out and correct. And this science, of which I have time and again become convinced, and for which I continuously receive confirmation, works reliably not only for analysing both recent and the very latest history, but also predicts that which is predictable in our rapidly changing lives. 

It must be said once more; Marxism is a science, like, for example, physics. The diesel engine works according to the laws of physics, but, for all that, it was invented by Diesel and not by physics, nor by Newton nor Einstein. How many unsuccessful experiments were conducted by Diesel or other less fortunate inventors? Surely, physics is innocent of these failure. Science comprehends, but people do. There is not a single science which fosters the illusion that it comprehends and surpasses everything. Yet without knowledge of that which has already been mastered, you will not go far. 

Now in essence. Today is a time of mass rehabilitation, with the recovery of so many vanished names, our literature has received a big restocking from the past. The innocent victims of the thirties, forties and early fifties ... Perhaps, one day, my own turn will come. But there is one victim of the present for which I must earnestly plead. That victim is history. 

The innocent victims... It is not rehabilitation, but our concern that they need. For the living, concern; for the dead, remembrance. For why would we be rehabilitating them if we had not prosecuted them, had not sealed their fate. Or wasn't it us? Perhaps it was the state? But don't we have a state now? Somehow it never entered the heads of the soviet administration to rehabilitate the political convicts, convicted by the czarist courts. 

And all this because we plunge into history with our emotions. We want to act there, in the past. We want to divide everyone into friends and enemies and to wave our sword. We want to impose our own order, to instill our current conceptions. 

It won't work. Time has no road back. Even for yesterday nothing can be repaired, let alone for the decades. But perhaps I shouldn't try to hold us back, if we can't wedge all our feelings back into the facts of history, then at least in the description we can vent them. These are the villains, those the heroes... 

And this is where I become altogether unacceptable. I cannot relate to history with emotion; perhaps it is Marxism that won't permit it, perhaps it is common sense. I reason this way; if yesterday I was unsuccessful, then today I must soberly reconsider all my actions and find the mistakes. And if I should curse the stupidities of yesterday, with emotion of course, then this emotion is not directed at yesterday, but at today and tomorrow, in order that I may not repeat these mistakes. Emotions are needed in today's world, they define action, but inserting them into the past is completely useless. 

It is worse than useless, it is harmful. When anger, even righteous anger, clouds one's vision, everything is seen onesidedly and can never be understood. And of course, history is given to us in its entirety, like a good textbook. But this is a textbook for attentive eyes, for those who have not been blinded. History neither races nor runs anywhere, and thus bridles its passions and allows for a calm, all-sided treatment of it. 

Clearly, history is not ours to improve. Today what we must do is to build and construct so that we can move to tomorrow and not find ourselves back at yesterday. Now perhaps this is not because yesterday was so very terrible but simply so that we don't stagger around and then end up back in the same boat. We have to pave the road still further. 

This is why I issue my invitation; let us rehabilitate history. 

And let us not so insistently reproach history (yet again, I dare say, unacceptable). History is already such that you can not reeducate it. It is neither like a man nor a cat and responds neither to feeling nor to our actions. 

It is possible to feel pathological hatred for a stone. Giving vent to our passions, we can condemn it to destruction and grind it up into a powder. We can not do this with history. History is unchangeable. If we are exasperated by this, we can raise our voices as much as we like and use our most expressive vocabulary, but the past remains unshakeable and does not even feel our efforts. 

History has one indisputable virtue; it was. This is worth a great deal. It was; and this means that everything in it corresponds to the demands of nature, the laws of social development. No, I am not saying that we are dealing with the unique possible variation; but when we say "what if...," then we are painting a picture which is not proven and is unprovable, and is thus, perhaps, also altogether impossible. For how could we have taken everything into account, when many of the laws are unknown to us. History was, thus itself proving that it was possible; and now you must take it, examine it and study the mysterious boundary between the possible and the impossible. 

Yet further. They communicate in whispers, that in directing our arrows at the past, we are, so they say, criticizing the present and moreover a present which it is still impermissible to criticize out loud rather than in a whisper. This is a lie. In saving our audacity for the past, we pull further away from the emotional assessment of the present, we whitewash the concrete, contemporary authors of our misfortunes, all of which damages the activity of clarifying the organizational paths which characterized this legacy. But enough! Let each answer for himself. Yes, such people are firmly linked, and these links are to be found in history... Because they are enmeshed today, it is today that the task of tearing them free lies before us. But trying going back in history with a pair of scissors. For that which today hinders us, is hindering us today and not in history. 

Everything evil that we have was bequeathed to us by history. And history takes nothing back. Only the future can take it back, that future which we are making today and everyday. But do we know what is good and what is evil? Where to cut and where to sew? Before, this was beyond us, so how have we now, suddenly, learnt? Nothing other than history can teach us this. 

And this is why history is in need of rehabilitation. History does not need this rehabilitation, it is we who need it; because through the bars of our condemnation it is hard to investigate and understand. 

2

The more calmly we look at history, the more all the "whys" come to the fore. It is only under a massive self-deception that we can be satisfied with answers like, "because of October, which forced us off the normal path of development," or "because Stalin was a villain (and worse yet, paranoid)." Such answers are popular today, but they only serve to hide the problem, to fence it off behind a screen. For each such "because" has its "why;" why did October happen, why did a villain become the head of the state... And many other such "whys." 

But, surveying the path ahead, we must find answers to two sets of questions. Where and how are historical choices presented to us? By whose will and how were such choices made? The laws of social development, whether they are known to us or not, we can not freely change. But making a choice; we have all been faced with this time and again, and the more clearly we understand what will flow from our choice, the smaller the price that we will be called upon to pay for science. We have, for seventy years of our history, paid a high price and suffered great losses because we went down unexplored and bumpy paths. And, if we cross out the entire past with a single phrase, one categorical "because," it is not mere money that we are throwing to the winds, we are scattering human lives. They were all killed so that we could become wiser; they bring us knowledge in pebbles and in boulders, shall we make them all into Sysyphus[1]? Surely, if we cannot comprehend their experience, it will once again fall to us to pay the price. 

Incomprehensible material can not be comprehended. We are done with "because" and will not refer to it again. Although we will think over the principal ones. Of course, for these answers too, there will be the "whys;" but here, if thought is aroused and urged on, we may uncover the roots. In history! In history lie the answers; just study... 

3

February gave Russia democracy which never saw the light of day. October took it away. Lenin and the bolsheviks are guilty, in that they deflected Russia from the natural course of development and directed it into a dead end.

This is, roughly, how those people who locate the causes of our present crisis in the year 1917, formulate their views. 

The law of uneven historical development, the result of which is that individual ethnic groups, nations and states make leaps in their development and outstrip their neighbors, has long been well-known to historians. Yet the operating mechanism of this law has still not been sufficiently studied. It seems to me, that our own revolution reveals many of the hidden mainsprings of this law, and, perhaps, can give us the key to its understanding. 

In 1917, Russia was still an entirely feudal country; the autocracy was immediately based on the class of landowners. But, at the same time, there had been, in Russia, already for more than half a century, since the reforms of 1861, the development of capitalist production, and this meant the formation of two, sufficiently mature, classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Due to the vastly more developed capitalist production relations in other European countries, there, political mastery had long since belonged to the bourgeoisie; it was only in Russia, yes, and also in Germany, that the feudals had maintained their position. Under these conditions, the contradiction of capitalist production was itself the mainspring, squeezing both sides in a vice. And this was where Russia straightened itself up and fired a shot. 

This is the large scale, almost iconic, view. Our own history permits us to see these activities in detail, to construct a critique in detail. But first, some dry theory; I must reveal the basis upon which I am relying. 

The Nature of Classes in Society

The productive forces of society are divided between great groups of people, appearing as their property. The productive forces are composed of; 
  • the land (as the sum of the conditions of production and as the sum of the objects of labour), 
  • the means of production, 
  • labour power. 
  • Depending on which of the productive forces they possess, people are regarded as belong to this or that class. 

    Although the entire social product is created by labour power, it is through the participation of their property in social production that the classes obtain the possibility of receiving a share of the social product. The capability of appropriating such products is uniform within a class, and differs for differing classes. 

    Nothing external predecides the question of what the share should be. This is why the classes struggle continuously amongst themselves to increase their own share. 

    The fundamental weapon in this battle is the threat of withdrawing ones own property from the production process, which, although it brings with it losses for social production as a whole, at definite moments in time, can be directed against one class, compelling it to make compromises in the distribution of goods. 

    In the process of the continuous development of the productive forces in social production, the role of individual aspects of the productive forces varies, and, correspondingly, the opportunities for manouevre in the class battle. 

    The ruling position, and together with it, the opportunity to appropriate the lion's share of the products, belongs to that class whose ownership is most highly organized at the given stage. The historical sequence is as follows; labour power (slave ownership), land (feudalism), means of production (capitalism). The future of humanity is tied to the growth of organization of the working class (once again, labour power). 

    People without ownership of the productive forces (the intelligentsia, the army etc.) have no opportunity for the immediate appropriation of the social product. They are obliged to serve some class which can provide them with their livelihood out of its share of the social product. As a rule, it is precisely the ruling class that they serve (for it has the surplus product at its disposal), which strengthens it and prolongs its domination. As a whole such groups of people, lacking ownership of the productive forces, can be considered as a special type of null class; always bearing in mind, however, that they cannot directly participate in the class battle, they can only support one or other of the contending classes. 

    Now, let us return to Russia in 1917. The February revolution took place under the pressure of the powerful Petrograd strike movement. A revolution? 

    Revolutions don't happen inside governments, at the top only coup's take place; revolutions take place amongst the masses. We can only call such an overthrow a revolution when it expresses a fundamental break in the economic relations in the whole of society. 

    What changed in society, in the economic system, after February? Nothing! The relations between the landowner and the peasants were unchanged, as were those between the entrepreneurs and the workers, and even between the entrepreneurs and the landowners. Everything remained in place. 

    Democracy! The broadest freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association and freedom for demonstration... 

    What does this signify? It signifies that the ruling class, the feudals, had lost their bearings, they needed some suggestions, so they sent society off on a wide-ranging scouting mission. Perhaps, out of this bubbling solution a shining crystal would appear, which they might seize hold of as a guiding star? 

    It did not appear. 

    But hope springs eternal. Although all other things did not remain equal. 

    For really, was it not such causes that brought us to the ideas of perestroika, the ideas of democracy and glasnost after 1985? What was on the minds of our contemporary propertied authorities? Yes, it was the same thing. Yes, Gorbachev disturbed the tranquil life that we had led under Brezhnev. But was there reconciliation to this? We could free ourselves from Gorbachev, but then what about the economy? Clearly, a dead end. People grew nervous. If you were to grab and then try to hold power, in the old way, like Brezhnev, not resolving the economic problems, then surely the embittered masses would, in the end, explode and sweep you away. No, better to allow Gorbachev, allow the search, allow the disturbances, for anything else would be unthinkable. Yes, his movement made many people sick, but only specific people, not the system! The key thing was to hunker down, to sweat and strain, to hold on in the bowels of the system. And then? Then Gorbachev might find the economic solution that would give rise to a growth in well-being. Then we would break through into the light and the system would have kept its promise. And, once again, we could return to our tranquil lives. 

    What? Could such a variant really have appeared? 

    It did not appear. 

    Because the unique obstacle on the path to new relations was the obsolete system and those who diligently defended it. 

    In just this way, in 1917, the feudal ruling class allowed both the search and the pressure, and the entire composition of the Provisional Government. They waited it out. 

    But what happened in society? 

    Society still needed to let the force ripen, which would be ready to seize power from the hands of the decrepit class of landowners. Such a force as could decisively restructure and reshape the property relations that served in society. 

    In neighbouring countries, this had been the bourgeoisie. They were young and few in number, but they led into battle not only their own workers, but also the peasants, who were bursting out of the vice of the arbitrariness of the landlords. 

    But in Russia, things were not this way, and neither were the people. The Russian bourgeoisie based itself on guile and did not enter into decisive conflict with the autocracy. They gave birth to and shaped a sufficiently powerful working class. They gave birth to the working class and then aggravated relations with it to the limit. And this particularity had far reaching consequences. 

    February occurred not through the efforts of the bourgeoisie and the peasants, but under the pressure of two hundred thousand striking workers in Petrograd. Could the bourgeoisie have utilized this? And how would this have been expressed? 

    For this it would have been necessary to break the peasants free of the grip of the landowner, to realize a transformation of the feudal relations in land into capitalist ones. And further, to declare their power with the support of the workers. 

    The latter condition was unobtainable. Therefore, the bourgeoisie avoided battle with the landowners, searching instead for agreement with them and preferring to remain under the protection of their traditional power. And this meant also refusing to to act as organizer of the peasant movement. The bourgeoisie feared its workers, and not without reason. 

    Where did such a political line lead? It could lead only to the establishment of a feudal dictatorship. The autocracy or Kornilov[2], this was purely a question of form. Nothing could change as a result, everything would just be dragged out for another few years. 

    And here is where the law of uneven development appeared in very concrete form. Having missed, somewhere in the 19th century, its moment to vanquish the autocracy, the Russian bourgeoisie made the socialist revolution inevitable. 

    Of course, the fact that it occurred precisely in 1917 was the result of the efforts of Lenin. It was necessary to understand the situation, and it fell to the bolsheviks to link up with the elements of peasant organization. Without Lenin, there might not have been an October in 1917. 

    But if not on that occasion, then after a decade, on the next lap; the socialist revolution was already inevitable. Until the next crisis, there would have been no reason for the feudals to give up their privileges, and this would only have assisted the development of the contradictions between the workers and the entrepreneurs. And in that next crisis, the bourgeoisie would still not have rushed into battle, but would have hidden from its workers under the landlords wing. History did not allow Russia to live through its purely capitalist stage, replacing it instead with a landlord-capitalist, feudal-bourgeois stage. Perhaps it was simply the vastness of Russia, its huge population, that did not permit linking it all together without a superfluous, intermediate, hierarchical stage, I don't know. Or, at the very least, it was the unpreparedness of the bourgeoisie to undertake the gigantic state labour, at the time that history gave it this chance. But this chance would never return. 

    4

    What lessons can we learn from the Civil War. Civil? Yes, it was civil; father against son, brother against brother. Those who condemned Pavlik Morozov[3] were not so much interested in the idea which he followed, as they were indignant that it was a highly personal feeling. And this brings us to the point where I want to remark; as a driving factor, personal relations are, above all, only an idea and they prevail over others only in blood feud situations. But they are such an involution of history, that they lie to the side of the main path and the majority of the people never have to go through them. In the Civil War, there were other ruling ideas. To readers who reject the civil war on humanitarian grounds I say; yes, of course, the war might never have been if one side had given up and gone over to the other side. But which side would have had to give up, I won't say. Another argument appears; "The peasants were forcibly drafted into the Red Army." Yes, true enough, and into the White as well. But, in the end, when a man finds himself with a rifle, it is an expression of his conviction, his agreement or disagreement. And if one side or another was victorious, this signifies that either it had the greater numbers or its partisans were more reliable in their cohesion and determination. 

    Now as to the economic side of things. "War Communism," under which everything was seized from the peasants, except the very minimum; this was, in no way, communism, it was the resurrection of the earliest feudal relations, from the period in which the feudalism still had an estate form. But, in general, war is a feudal phenomenon, for war has no other basis; and wars will exist until such time as society finally liberates itself from all feudal hangovers. That is to say, "war communism" is not a dash ahead, but a return to a simpler way of life, a retreat back a few thousand years. And for an end to war, it is necessary to build an economic life, corresponding to demands of the times. But how? 

    I want to warn those who, in a fashion incomprehensible to me, snatch at the propositions of Boris Bazhanov[4], about Lenin's phrase on the revision of "all our opinions about socialism;" this is no refutation, and if there is a revelation hidden in it, it is no revelation for us. Lenin wrote one small article, really only half an article, published long before the NEP in 1919, entitled "Economics and Politics in the Epoch of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat." This is what he said there, "Theoretically, there can be no doubt that, between capitalism and communism, there lies a certain transition period. This can not unite within it the characteristics and attributes of both these social management structures."

    I am not adducing this quotation by way of a theoretical argument, it proves something different; namely, that Lenin had achieved theoretical clarity on this question at that time, and even earlier. I think, that in this opinion on socialism, there is nothing to be revised. "Not only for Marxists, but for every educated person, familiar, in one way or another, with the theory of development, the necessity of an entire historical period which is distinguished by the characteristics of a transitional period, must be self-evident." This citation is on the same page as the preceding one. 

    But, in order to create the diesel engine, apart from a knowledge of physics, both engineering skill and experiment are needed. Which brings us to the mistakes in constructive solutions which we perceive as obstacles today, which have rolled off the shoulders of the previous generation and become our oppressive burden. It is now that we must revise all our opinions about socialism. 

    So let's get busy. 

    Here is a reflection for those who understand the necessity of socialism. As for that revelation, which Lenin's thought comprehended, life itself, albeit with some delay, leads us by the hand and proves it to us in all its obviousness. Then, to those who try to read into the phrase mentioned above the complete bankruptcy of socialism, we can say, "away with this nonsense, you are not cut out to be an ally of Lenin's. Moreover, I must set our discussion aside; this is a different question and you prove nothing about our history with it, this is a question of worldwide experience."

    Thus, the NEP was a constructive attempt to answer the demands of the transition period, and a successful attempt at the start; with the help of the NEP, catastrophic impoverishment was averted. Yet it gave birth to quite a few problems. In fact, we will get to discuss these a little later. 

    Meanwhile, let us recall one more questions from Lenin's time, the national question. Lenin wrote a great deal on the question of national self-determination, everyone remembers this. But I want to recall that he was just as insistently an opponent of national autonomy in the party. This has been partly forgotten. Lenin was a dialectician and clearly saw the dialectic in the national question. Yes, the proletariat of the "great" nation" must support the right of every "little" nation to secession. But this does not mean that the "little" proletariat must welcome such a secession. Rather the opposite. Although, should it appear that the proletariat can take power only on condition of secession, then it should take power and agree to the secession. But again, it must be borne in mind in this context, that it will be necessary to struggle against autarchy and separatism and eventually to defeat it. 

    What is important for us today? Dialectical thinking suggests, and it follows from a Leninist understanding, that the state and the proletarian party must occupy diametrically opposed positions on the national question. The state cannot take into consideration national separatism; it is all-embracing and necessarily reacts to the needs even of its most backward citizens. But the party is obliged to support, to the extent that this is possible, the international interests of the advanced fraction, defending on its behalf the corresponding right, whether this fraction is in the majority or the minority. For without such opposition, these questions could, in no way, be resolved; and if something were clarified, it could only be their complexity and intractability. 

    Further, we must not leave the Leninist period in the history of the Soviet state without reading the "Last Letter and Articles," dictated by Lenin in the final months of his productive life, the material which has come to be known as Lenin's political, Last Will and Testament. Bukharin, for example, in his 1929 speech, considered the sum of these works to be a scheme for the future, interpreting them, it is true, in his own key. Whereas others sought in them ideological direction, requiring clarification and completion. But let us try to read them in another way, as a preview of what could only be foreseen. More exactly; what problems were agitating Lenin at that time? In fact were the principal ones not questions? 

    This is the list we obtain; 

  • The danger of splits in the party. 
  • The composition of the cadre in the higher party leadership. 
  • The necessity of having workers and peasants in the leadership who had not lost their direct links with production and the productive milieu. 
  • The correlation between scientific planning and administrative decisions. 
  • The national question, in its ideological and practical aspects. 
  • The liquidation of illiteracy in the countryside, and the general raising of literacy and culture. The strengthening of party links between town and country. 
  • On cooperation and state capitalism. But his was already quite concrete, more of an answer than a question. Yet the question clearly was this; what is the socialist path to the organization of production and the distribution of goods? 
  • The readiness of Russia for socialism. And the ability to cope with tasks as they arose. 
  • The uselessness of a bureaucratic apparatus, which, in its fundamentals, had been copied from the Russian autocracy. 
  • The effectiveness of the means for reconstructing the administrative system. 
  • These are the questions, and, word of honour, I have invented none of it. These are not the questions of today transposed to the past. You can read it all for yourself, it isn't a lot; Volume 45, pages 343-406[5]

    It seems that we are through with illiteracy. But as for the rest? Why was Lenin's advice no help? 

    Let us try to answer. But not right away. 

    5

    Stalin. Further discussions on Stalin, and long discussions. Once again for many people these are unacceptable and thus difficult to the point of impossibility. 

    Impossibility! Here, I regret, the word is not an hyperbole. Many times I have tried to explain in such discussions, what it means to "have a living position," and what it means to "reason as a materialist." I did not succeed; they understood only who had such a position and who reasoned materialistically. 

    There are questions which can be decided by a ballot; these are questions which are, in the end, tied to our desires, interests and willingness to take risks. But this is not all. There are also questions which voting cannot decide. This is the case wherever objective laws of nature are in force, where knowledge rather than opinion is concerned. In science and technology, they will readily accept all this, but not in the social sciences. 

    For example, here is how they try to argue; Lenin was very successful at inventing slogans. He would toss a slogan to the crowd, and the crowd would organize itself and act in the way he wanted them to. And had their been another man, no less talented in such matters, he might have thought up a different slogan and the crowd would have gone in the other direction. Then there is an entirely different sort of person. Quite simply, they understand; Lenin did not invent slogans, he discovered them in the masses themselves, in their interests. The masses would never have gone anywhere for some other slogans that you might have thought up, even if they were three times more talented. There is some margin for error of course, but only within the limits of precision of each individual's understanding. 

    For the first group I can suggest nothing, other than the possibility that, through reading my work, they may notice; such an opinion exists. With the second group, discussions are much more serious. Although, both for the first and second, the text remains the same. 

    So, Stalin. 

    In his "Letter to the Congress," Lenin remarks in passing on the shortcomings and sometimes on the merits of six leaders. Relations between Stalin and Trotsky he saw as the possible source of a split. Hence, Lenin had already assumed that, although for the time being it was scarcely noticeable, Stalin was supported by no less important a section of the party than that that followed the more widely known Trotsky. Or, perhaps it was not in Stalin and Trotsky themselves that the point lay, but in the bolshevism of Stalin and the non-bolshevism of Trotsky? 

    The bolshevism of Stalin is nowhere called in to question in the letter. But let us take a look at the shortcomings that Lenin saw in Stalin. Would he be able to use the power of General Secretary with sufficient caution? Stalin was too crude, and this shortcoming was intolerable in the post of General Secretary. And obliquely; he demanded a General Secretary differing from Stalin in having "only one advantage, namely, more tolerant, more loyal, more attentive to the comrades, less capricious etc." But all this appears in the context of the possibility of a split; "this is no trifle, or is a trifle that can assume a decisive significance."

    There are no doubts about the bolshevism of Stalin here, nor, it is true, apparently a confirmation either. Except for one thing, were it not for the crudeness, Lenin would have found Stalin entirely suitable for the post of General Secretary, the General Secretary of the Leninist bolshevik party. But Trotsky was not suitable; it never entered Lenin's head to avoid the split by entrusting "unlimited authority" to the hands of Trotsky. Although he considered Stalin and Trotsky, to an equal extent, to be the "two most outstanding leaders of the present CC." Nor did Lenin consider any of the other leaders that the party possessed at the time, whom he listed and discussed in the letter, to be suitable. 

    Why? 

    Lenin was a materialist thinker. In putting before a meeting of the CC any particular question, Lenin always knew that the decision would be taken in accordance with historical necessity. The details apart, regarding the form of activity, everything had to be decided according to the opinion of the majority, for it would fall to them to act. When Lenin gave someone a mission, he foresaw the results of activity in all possible variants. And he foresaw the sum of the results of all activity, taking into consideration the general picture. 

    Neither Trotsky, nor Zinoviev, Kamenev or Bukharin were materialist thinkers. Concerning Pyatakov, it is true, I cannot confidently make such a judgement as the result of lack of sufficient familiarity with his activities. But this changes nothing. All of them successfully worked under the leadership of Lenin. This was no accident. Lenin placed and directed them into the specific conditions in which their specific capabilities acquired the highest efficiency. And it was no accident that they loved Lenin; this was the subconscious confirmation that the Leninist mission brought them more success and satisfaction than their own self-direction would have. 

    Clearly, this quality of Lenin's; the continuous correlation of logic, science and experience with the specific time and circumstances, with the specific talents and possibilities of people, conferred on the the party that particularity which is called bolshevism. Consider for example Julii Martov, or equally Trotsky, both repeatedly discovered remarkable, theoretical treasures; however the ability to correlate these with the actual course of social development was possessed neither by the one nor by the other. 

    Of all of Lenin's circle, of all the highest echelons of the party leadership, only one man was worthy of comparison to Lenin in this regard; Stalin. 

    Stalin was a materialist thinker. 

    Stalin could lead the party and the state through the difficulties and surprises of this period of its establishment. 

    But Stalin could not replace Lenin. 

    I have not yet spoken about the fact that Stalin had less dynamic thinking and a less profound understanding of historical processes. But, it was not given, fully formed, to Stalin to take the place of Lenin in high party relations; clearly these were not duties, not formal relations. 

    It seems to me that, at the start, Stalin very much avoided the limelight. He waited; suppose, after the liberation from the tutelage of Lenin, that someone with the gift of materialist thinking, had broken through. Clearly, under good leadership, people capable of and incapable of such thinking are practically indistinguishable... Had such a person appeared, Stalin would have been their reliable support; people with materialist thinking easily come to a mutual understanding. 

    Perhaps I am wrong and Stalin never had such a hope. He clearly had the opportunity to evaluate many people in the debates over the Brest peace. Whatever the case, whether a little sooner or a little later, it became clear to Stalin that taking full and complete responsibility had fallen to him. 

    This is usually considered to be the start of the period of Stalin's battle for unlimited personal power. And from the foregoing point of view, for full control over the situation and the development of events. 

    Was such complete control needed? And more to the point, the personal control of one man? Was it not more important to build a system of collective leadership, which would insure against personal arbitrariness, where all questions would be decided in a collegial fashion? 

    We frequently compare the political system of the USSR with the political systems of the capitalist countries. They have a rich experience, having tried many variants, and not one effective variant is based on totalitarian control. 

    Now this is what I want to call your attention to. The socialist state with its state ownership of the means of production is, apart from everything else, still an economic system. And it is a system on a gigantic scale. 

    The company, the enterprise serves as an analogy in the capitalist world. A single company, and not the whole economy. Each company, whether headed by an individual entrepreneur or by a general director, is authoritarian. 

    Whatever storms might occur at the highest levels of bourgeois politics, the stability of the economy is secured by the stability of the separate systems. The owners are unchanged. The owners are neither elected nor overthrown. It is they who secure the unity of the plan and its implementation, the (economic) policies and their realization. 

    Of course, the owners do change, companies are inherited and sold. But this process is spread out, stochastically, over time. And that which one inheritor might destroy, or the change of political direction which one purchaser might bring about, these are trifles, small ripples in the sea of economic life. 

    The people's socialist economy is quite another thing. This company simply does not have the right to go bankrupt. Nor to make essential mistakes in its choice of direction. And, as with any capitalist company, it cannot allow lack of coordination in its economic mechanism or defects in its administrative systems. On the other hand it is considerably more difficult for it to defend these structures against political storms. Nor can it expect help or protection from any quarter. 

    Such were the responsibilities that Stalin took upon himself. And, in order to accomplish the essential tasks, he needed both a reliable series of administrative systems and, more importantly, freedom from the thoughtless zigzags of collegial voting. 

    I have still not passed judgement as to whether this was good or bad, and I beg you, dear reader, not to rush to judgement either. Perhaps it would have been better not to undertake the construction of a socialist economy, perhaps the best thing would have been to let things slide, to wait for a complete collapse and then to see what economic form would have arisen spontaneously. Perhaps. But Stalin made his choice. And the actions of Stalin, which each of us wants to assess and judge from the level of his own contemporary outlook, is entirely contained in this choice. 

    We still have to discuss other actions of Stalin. But the first of these actions, of an historically significant scale, was this one. 

    6

    If, at the start of the 20's, there had been, in the party leadership, more materialist thinkers, then, in the first place, Stalin might not have been fated to become Lenin's successor, and, in the second place, it would have been easier for the successor to build a new system of relations without Lenin. 

    Stalin could not utilize the mechanism which served Lenin; without Lenin, there was no such mechanism. Stalin could not even utilize those relations which had formed around him during Lenin's illness, for these too depended greatly on Lenin's authority. The system had to be built anew. 

    It was essential to install, in key posts, people for whom the authority of Stalin was just as high as Lenin's was in his time, or even better, unquestionable. The party leaders of the first wave could, in no way, see in Stalin a leader; for them he appeared to be, in the best case, a coordinator. 

    Yes, this was a struggle for power. But not between this individual and that one, (for no one, apart from Stalin, really aspired to it) but for the construction, for the founding of a functioning system of administration. And those who neither wanted nor were able to join in, those whose activities complicated its construction, had to give up their places for others. 

    It would have been foolish to undertake the administration of the country without undertaking the resolution of these problems. Now, Stalin's guile is often spoken of, particularly in this period. But guile consists in inventing new subterfuges each time an obstacle, which needs to be overcome, arises on one's path. Guile was a small part of his nature, and occurred in him only episodically. For Stalin it was sufficient to become conscious of a task, for him, at each step, for the rest of his life, to work toward its resolution, completely independent of whatever obstacles might come into view. 

    Now we know what a system of all-embracing total control Stalin built. And we know at what cost. We should take note of this as his second action. 

    Before Stalin lay many mistakes. I am not speaking about unavoidable mistakes, for these are only small misfortunes, I am speaking about essential mistakes. When gaining ground by the method of trial and error, every trial includes within it coping with the errors. 

    It might seem, that having undertaken such a labour, this would oblige me, were I not also willing to judge all Stalin's acts en masse, to illuminate each of his mistakes, one after the other, engraving them, as they say, "with needles in the corner of the eye." 

    In actual fact this is completely wrong. We can judge mistakes in two ways; either from the perspective of our contemporary problems, bringing to the assessment all the emotions to which our problems give birth, or in an objectified fashion, that is, assuming in the subject, the personage, the existence of definite aims, which we have established or guessed at, and consider the errors he committed in movement toward these aims. 

    I can permit myself neither the one nor the other. In their place I will set forth two further approaches. The first is hierarchical. Let us suppose that our historical subject has a supreme aim. In the process of its achievement, it will be broken up into a set of parallel and serial stages, in the course of which these aims will be achieved. And so, in the end, we can break the whole down into the tiniest separate actions. If we sympathize with the supreme aim, then we can, in the light of new historical knowledge, review every level of the pyramid and give our assessment of the correctness of the breakdown at each level and also point out improved variants. That is if we sympathize. But what if we do not sympathize... Then we are sympathizing with some other historical subject, acting in the given overview as a passive individual. Of course, we can set up a hierarchy of aims and stages for a different, active, historical figure, but our task must be something different; it is to indicate those points, where the passive individual that interests us could have actively intervened, and perhaps, at a single stroke, chopped down and transformed the entire pyramid. From this perspective we clearly cannot be reproached for leaving out the details; they are nothing for us. The second approach is pragmatic. This is when we establish some correspondence between our personal aims and those of the historical subject we are studying, then comparing his path with that lying before us. The similarity in this case may be very one-sided, and this is permissible, but what is important is that the analogy should be drawn only to a corresponding extent. 

    Why have I spoken in such detail about these approaches, why have I spent so much of the reader's time on them? It is because the whole point lies here. Those who themselves dream of unbounded personal power, have the absolute right to investigate the Stalinist epoch from this angle; from this position they can judge the tasks and the mistakes, and since they can observe the historical result, perhaps, understand and evaluate them. I however, in so far as I see a completely different task before me, am, for the moment, lacking the privilege of passing judgement. What we bring to the point of comparison, we must take from the corresponding aims, then it will be revealed what is within our jurisdiction and what is not. 

    But then I have also not refrained from passing certain judgements. So it should be bourne in mind, although I have necessarily studied our entire history to make these assessments, it is not by history or by Stalin that they will be characterized, but by me, myself, on questions from which I may be unable to separate myself. 

    And now let us simply note objectively; many mistakes lay before Stalin. But he did not have the right to make them. 

    7

    Stalin and the NEP. Speaking about Lenin, we only just touched on the NEP, as form discovered for the realization of a theoretical notion. The NEP was then just a baby. 

    It needed six years for its infancy, and it cut its baby teeth. Two of them, both on top. 

    Firstly, for the NEP-capitalists, Soviet power appeared as fetters, even tighter than those of the autocracy on the bourgeoisie. And capital began to broaden its field with its habitual methods, buying soviet bureaucrats left and right. 

    Secondly, once again it took the form of a shortage of bread. The peasant had bread, but he did not want to sell it. So as a consequence, he didn't try to produce it. 

    For lovers of logic problems, here everything is clear. Corruption had to be stopped short and the peasant provided with a better selection of goods, he would then sell his bread. In general, it was not against the NEP that it was necessary to fight but against its insufficiency. What can you say in the face of a correct decision? But somehow, in principle, it didn't suit everyone. It definitely did not suit Stalin. 

    Bukharin said, "Enrich yourselves!" 

    But what for? 

    For this question obviously arises here. Under capitalism, you can amass millions upon millions with aim of acquiring General Motors and squeezing Ford out of the automobile market. But under Soviet Power? The NEP was devoid of real stimuli, only in its early stage did it stimulate enterprise, later it became a limit, here it had reached the limit. To go further it would be necessary to remove these limits, to give the Nepmen a parliament, so that they could regulate themselves. 

    Before perestroika, the question had repeatedly, in many situations, arisen, of borrowing what was best from the West and applying it for ourselves. For example, when meat became scarce, they decided to raise the purchase price, for, so they said, this would stimulate the development of production. But, so that the wages of shepherds and herdsmen would not rise to unseemly levels, they also limited the number of head for each worker. But with this also the whole herd. The production of meat fell again and the prices rose. This is known as the "the tale of the white steer."[6] But, with a black one, it seems to me that things would have turned out no better. 

    In the end, we will have to come up with an idea, and I am getting there. But for this it is essential to be materialist thinkers. In 1928, Stalin sought contact with Bukharin. If you like, Bukharin was the well-known party figure whose recognition Stalin had, above all, hoped for. True his hopes were in vain, they were not justified; and in 1929 Bukharin was still living with the same beautiful but incomplete ideas as he had had before, not noticing that life had already dealt them a death blow. 

    To put it succinctly, Stalin not only resolved to go it alone, but somehow saw problems which he alone could resolve. He himself understood that it was not between socialism and capitalism that he was choosing, that choice was straightforward, and not just for him. But only from an understanding of this choice would it have been possible to project the path forward, and no one had such an understanding. This is why it became routine within the system founded by Stalin, which simply believed in him, and which made little or no impression on those remaining outside it, that no further interpretation could be engaged in. 

    Thus the course was set for industrialization. This was one action. And for collectivization; this was a second, independent action. 

    The necessity of industrialization was clear to everyone. But Trotsky and his supporters hoped to increase the tempo by means of requisitioning from the peasants. Bukharin declared that this would undermine cereal production, the supply of raw materials for export and industry, and called for a search for moderation. Stalin understood that neither the first nor the second would resolve the problem of industrialization. 

    The only way out of these dead ends was a paradoxical solution, a revolutionary idea. Stalin invented his own path, the path of mass collectivization. Now we are becoming conscious of the cruelty of this process through fragmentary recollections and through the horrifying face of rehabilitated statistics. But we must also bear in mind that the directions, set forth in the ideas of Trotsky and Bukharin, could not, in principle, have produced a similar political-economic result. Perhaps the sum of the achievements of Stalin's methods were not necessary? Perhaps. And perhaps, the same or even greater results might have been obtained along a different path, in another direction? This, I don't know, I have neither hit upon nor met with an intelligent proposal; nor do I know how judge this, nor how much time would have be required. 

    8

    A small note on one, not so very historic, event; at the beginning of the thirties, the 'partmaximum' was abolished. 

    What was the 'partmaximum'. Until its abolishment, the following situation existed; the wages of a communist in a leading post were not defined by the official pay scales, but were fixed by the corresponding party organ, and were fixed with a limit of the average wages of workers. The 'partmaximum' was the maximum wage, and not all leading communists received it. The following situation was far from rare; the chief engineer of a factory, a non-party specialist might receive 500 roubles, whereas the director, a communist, got 150 and could get no more. 

    So this limitation was abolished. There is much here that I can understand. Well, you took a guy from the factory, a nobody, but he became the director; whereas a guy who had studied management, became a specialist, had perhaps completed night school, had no personal prospects. And again, under such conditions, how could you recruit leading communists? Send them all through higher education? But this was constrained by the fact that if you remained a worker, you could earn more than the average, but with a diploma this was impossible. And why should you struggle? For the workers - yes. But so that the non-party specialist could live like a bourgeois, so much better than the party members... 

    There is much that I can understand, but it interests me greatly, what would have happened if, instead of this simple abolition, a different order had been established, if the leaders had been presented with the following choice; "either leave the party and get the full rate for your work, without limitation, or remain in the party and on 'partmaximum.'" And, in order to avoid mutual resentment, "we are not excluding you, but assigning you to administrative work." I would very much like to know what the consequences would have been. But this is not my fate. 

    9

    The year 1937. I write these numbers with horror, as though I were occupying a place on the lawyers bench before a key session of the Stalin tribunals. Attracting a thousand stares; does he really dare to pipe up with something by way of justification? 

    Actually, one's attitude to the "great terror" has become a touchstone for us, a sort of password. Do you condemn it? Decisively and irrevocably? Then you are a supporter of perestroika! Do you have doubts? Then you are a Stalinist... Ivan the Terrible and his 'oprichnina'[7] have acquired, so it seems, the quality of a criterion. But Alexander the Great has not. Why? 

    My position, of course, is different, it is located outside this framework. But one fear has not desserted me. In both camps, among Stalinists and anti-Stalinists, there are to be found people who have not readdressed their emotions to the present day, and search in history, as we have laid out, for points of support. To us, perhaps together, it falls to investigate the details, which is why I would not want to be considered the enemy only because, for me, explanations of the type "paranoia" or "unbridled intoxication with personal omnipotence" explain nothing, or because assurances as to the aboriginal justice of the chosen path do not calm me down. 

    And now, in essence. That, after the October revolution, the countries ruling apparatus was, in large part, inherited from Czarism, is no secret. Lenin wrote quite a lot about this. Moreover, there is an objective cause here; society cannot, all at once, take on a different, unfamiliar form, it must approach this step by step, in stages. So too the Stalinist system, repeated the form of the feudal state, perhaps expressing this even more clearly. This remark characterizes the specific conditions. 

    Now for the rest. Any human being, in leading any cause whatever, even if he perfectly meets the needs of this cause, can not find himself, eternally, in such a close correspondence with it. Particularly if the cause itself develops and the external conditions change with remarkable speed. 

    If the cause is personal, then the man himself decides when to give it up. But if it is a cause entrusted to him, then, understandably, it is the interests of those who have entrusted it to him that rule. 

    With what qualifications did the leaders, after the revolution, arrive at their posts? It can certainly be said that whatever they were, so too they remained. These people were, as a rule, energetic and diligent, they were gripped by the cause, but the cause itself did not remain on the spot, it hurried forward. 

    We are, habitually, kind; specifically we sympathize with definite people. Were this not the case, literature and art would, in general, not exist. Yet, though this is true abstractly, we frequently appear terribly cruel, but this is not noticed at all. For example, we dismiss a man 58 years of age, and we grumble; will we be lucky enough to make it to a pension. But the fact that, perhaps, only two more years were required for him to make such a breakthrough in science or a branch of production, or the management of the whole society, as the whole of society will not be able to catch up to or patch over in an entire decade, this sphere of abstraction we do not see. 

    Progress is a cold word, but to oppose it is not somehow soft and gentle, but a degradation; and if there is some heat to be felt from this word, then it is the heat of decay. Progress is the child of abstract kindness, and Leonid Ilyich[8] avoided conflict, never offending specific people. Newton and Watt, Diesel and Oppenheimer are the bearers of abstract kindness. And in this realm the atomic bomb is not evil, nor the hydrogen, nor the neutron either, these all broaden our scientific horizons. The evil arises in another realm, the realm of application, where Diesel can appear to be evil, fertilizer too, even medicine. 

    But we are people, we are living through a sickness when abstract goodness manifests itself in specific evil, and cannot but manifest itself in this way. Society continuously invents mitigating forms; a send-off with a pension, honourable discharge, transfer to specially created, work-free duties, all within the limits of decency, but clearly behind all of this there is someone saying something quite crude and specific, that this post will be taken away from that person. 

    The more society develops, the more need we have for abstract goodness. While our consciousness lags behind, and it is time that we clarified this, we cannot live without this goodness and its cruelty, and we must find appropriate forms for them and reconcile ourselves to them. 

    So then, for the working class, and for all the soviet lands and for the socialist economy, the opportune renewal of the composition of the leadership was very important. Because those who had rebuilt the factories from ruins, were not prepared to improve production, and those who were perfecting it were not able to cope in a timely fashion. And leaving them at their accustomed leadership posts meant spending the peoples money for nothing, cheating the expectations of the whole country and indeed, beyond our borders, of the world's proletariat, and in general to turn the forward movement into empty stomping around on the spot. 

    And now let us put ourselves in the position of such an exhausted leader. "I built this factory out of twigs, (possible variations; I built it in the empty steppe from nothing, filled in the swamp with wheelbarrows, hewed the cliff with pickaxes) I didn't sleep at night, I was without a crust of bread but I loaded, I dug, I pulled, I led, I shed my own blood; and now, here you are. They have sent a boy with a diploma, the son of an intellectual (actually, where else could you get educated people back then) who was still running barefoot under the table during the civil war to replace me. It's not necessary, I am still here."

    Stress, of course. But for just one man this would still be nothing, he would survive somehow, watching the others. It is much more terrible when such stress hits an entire generation, but this is exactly how it was. 

    Of itself, the feudal structure, my recollection of which in the early sections was not, I hope, for nothing, imparted a feeling, at the very least, that this was a lifetime conquest, if not eternal. And there you have it. The people of this generation gathered, talked, rewrote, exchanged ideas, went into details and came to a consciousness of there own rightness and the unanimous understanding that Stalin led the struggle with the old party comrades. 

    The reason that I have touched on psychological factors is that, in the given case, it was they, rather than personal aspects, that stereotyped the formation of a definite layer, and this was the layer of the leaders who were authoritative and influential, both in the party and among the people. 

    When the member of the electoral commission at the XVIIth party congress, V.M. Verkovik, declared that 123 or 125 votes against the election of Stalin to the Central Committee had been cast, this may well have been true; although obviously, it can neither be corroborated nor refuted. But there were those who voted against. There were. The year was 1934. 

    The necessity of renewing the leading cadre, of course, does not contain within it the necessity of repression. Around the world such a process of renewal goes on uninterruptedly, though in periods of sharp change the state of affairs becomes greatly intensified, and that's it, it occurs without tragedy. Without mass tragedy at least. 

    Twice Stalin built a mass company; and to some extent this is explicable by the fact that start of the leadership career of all of them was tied to one date, the date of the revolution. In 1927 the renewal of the cadre proceeded under the banner of the struggle against Trotskyism. Ten years later in 1937... 

    In these ten year cycles there lies some sort of law-like regularity. Mao Tse-Tung too indicated such a periodicity for his cultural-revolutionary shake-ups: 8-10 years. 

    In 1937, the top was for Stalin. But it is not hard see what would have happened if the advantage had lain with this very leadership layer. It would have come to power under the utterly Brezhnevite slogan, "We must let people work calmly," and would have brought all forward movement to a halt, in despair, in the face of a not very high barrier. True, the ideas of perestroika would have arisen in one form or another for by then the ultimate stagnation of those times would have been visible. 

    Once more, I want to underline, that in all the preceding considerations there is not the slightest motivation to justify mass repression. They are only concerned with the fact that in its economic development the country had real difficulties, which demanded a resolution. Here were the real demands, and they were not at all arbitrary, which served as the initial impulse to launch the terror mechanism. 

    Here is what it is important for us to understand from history, for before us lies resolving our future, and in it we may meet with such difficulties. If we can, having been alienated by the arbitrariness of Stalinist ideas, concern ourselves only with ensuring that a person such as Stalin does not appear at the helm, then, who knows, perhaps we will be able to push aside the problems that appear without finding ourselves with a new helmsman, not quite Stalin, but acting like Stalin, and having no other path. And if we can comprehend, how to change the conditions in such a way that we do not meet with these difficulties or so that we are prepared to obtain a more successful outcome from them, then the lesson of history will not have been given to us in vain. 

    I have one more argument which permits an understanding of Stalin's activity. It does not justify it, no, but it brings us nearer to understanding that historical conformity to law, to which our society is subordinated. I will, of course, set it forth, but not right away. First, we need one more small section to initiate our theoretical renewal, for, without this in support, our investigation would be difficult. 

    And there is one more question. Let us suppose that Stalin resolved the question of renewal of the leadership in the interests of the economy, the country and the ruling class. But wasn't Stalin himself growing old, was change not demanded from him. 

    Perhaps it was necessary to change him. But how? 

    10

    In Russia, in 1917, the Great October Socialist Revolution took place. This phrase, which in the not so distant past was a banality for every schoolchild, is today under attack from various directions. Did this revolution bring socialism? Was socialism what we needed? Did the October Revolution bring socialism from the very beginning? Unlike D'Artagnan, I don't have the possibility of fencing with my opponents all at once, I am compelled to change horses and continue along the path. For me this phrase has lost none of its truth. 

    So what is socialism? Socialism is proletarianism, as the originator of this term, Grigorii Isaev, put it; that is the epoch of the mastery of the proletariat. This, in no way, is a departure from Marx, who saw as the first step "the transformation of the proletariat into the ruling class" and as the second, the economic power of "the state, i.e. the proletariat organized as the ruling class."

    I am a Marxist, but I have already given notice that this does not mean that I am not ready for dialog with people whose thinking lies beyond the limits of Marxism. Any original thought, if it has, in its crowning moment, a definite idea, can be considered. And even if it is not original, this is possible so long as the author does not turn away from such inventiveness. But now, the question is not one of debate; if it is necessary, we can debate later. At the moment, if you like, what is most important is something else; I am a Marxist, and have undertaken this investigation from positions which coincide with the views of those who created history in the period under investigation. 

    I want to draw the attention both of those who are ready to debate, and those who are reading these notes with sympathy and understanding, to one, not very large, perhaps even insignificant, strengthening of the Marxist position, which permeates almost every note. This is no accident. This is the transfer of the argument from the realm of "belief or non-belief in Marxism in general," or the "necessity of Marxism or lack thereof" to a different realm; does the science of Marxism help us to investigate our own history. 

    Thus, in October 1917, the Russian proletariat achieved victory. In the October revolution and thereafter in the course of the Civil War, the proletariat proved itself to be the ruling class. Now it was, precisely, the proletariat that won the victory, and not the bolsheviks; the bolsheviks only took upon themselves the organization of the proletariat and its cooperation with the peasantry. In general, in great social upheavals it is not parties that struggle and win, but classes; the parties are only noticeable in the struggle thanks to the fact that they express the interests of one class or another. 

    With a new ruling class, come new economic relation. In order to strengthen them, in order to give them form, a new "state, i.e. the proletariat organized as the ruling class" is also necessary. 

    Difficulties always arise here. The bourgeoisie, long since, found the forms for its state. Great Britain conducted its search between the revolution and the civil war in the seventeenth century. France went through this between the occurrence of the two bourgeois revolutions and the trial of the Paris Commune. The United States went through it in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War of the North against the South. 

    With the entrance onto the historical stage of a new class new problems arise. The socialist state must be the expression of the will of the proletariat. But the expression of its desire is not valid once and for all, its will puts forward ever newer demands which change together with the development of the proletariat itself. 

    The ability of Lenin to comprehend the interests of the proletariat is proven both in his pre-revolutionary activities and in his work as the head of the state. Strictly speaking, it defined bolshevism and secured the link between the party and the working class, including during the Civil War. 

    But in Stalin too this continuous contact with the interests of the working class is to be found. If in the first two discussions with Trotskyism it was still possible to speak of the role of Lenin's authority, then the discussion of 1924-25 proceeded without Lenin, however, support for Stalin's line in it had also been predetermined. Just as in the struggles with the succeeding oppositions 

    And now we must touch upon the completely unacceptable question, which, I know, cannot help but cause pain, but it is essential that we clarify it. The very possibility of Stalin's repression of well-known and popular activists of the party directly proves the closeness of his ties to the working class, the reliability of his support. Brezhnev, for example, even if he had very much wanted to, could never have conducted any significant repression against the leading layer; this layer would have swiftly swept him away, for it was none other than this layer that he relied upon. 

    To those who are convinced that the power of Stalin was based on the power of the repressive organs I offer the following objections. 

    In the first place, no such organs are social forces. It is only classes that constitute these forces and all such organs function only while the classes permit it. 

    In the second place, the repressive organs are not a mechanism, they are people whose service brought them together into a certain system. And if circumstances compel them to serve a smaller social force against a larger, or even to actively participate in a confrontation between equal forces, splits in them are inevitable. Let us say that Brezhnev had demanded action against the leading layer from the KGB, then this organ would simply have gone over to the side of the leading layer. And if Andropov had not resolved this personally, he would have found someone from his inner circle to take the lead in this transformation. I deliberately mentioned Brezhnev here in order to illustrate the general situation. As regards the specific factors, remember the role of the Semichastnii[9] in 1964. 

    So then, at least in the thirties, the power of Stalin depended on his solid support within the working class. Expressions of the type "on the undeveloped working class," or "on the backward part of the working class," are unacceptable. If, in the working class of that time, there had been more developed and more powerful forces, then people would have been found who would have, on this basis, built politics more powerful than those of Stalin. 

    Lenin represented the interests of the working class jointly with the whole party leadership. Whereas Stalin represented these interests practically alone. This was how the picture turned out, this was the process that took place at the summit of leadership. So the fact that, for some time, Stalin became particularly concerned for his own life, possibly, is explained not by personal fear, but by a feeling of responsibility, a recognition of the uniqueness of this position. 

    While the party had an opposition, Stalin's form of expression of the interests of the working class were checked by debate with the opposition. But once the opposition had been liquidated, Stalin had arrived at the position of taking decisions without the slightest prior supervision. 

    Certainly from the perspective of the working class, this was a strange sort of rulership. Decisions were taken in its interests, but not by it. The development of a ruling class also consists in, having taken an incorrect decision, appreciating for itself all the results of its miscalculation, studying and avoiding them, and in the end, building a system in which it keeps for itself all the key levers. The soviet working class found itself to have completely lost all this. And clearly it was only by following such a path that it created its bourgeois institutions. "Stalin thinks for us!" This was the truth, but it was nothing to be proud of. The great leader himself put a stop to mistakes, and corrected them when he could. But the working class, liberated from the necessity of thought, remained in the dark, socially unenlightened, and squandered even that which it had gotten in the revolutionary struggle. These were conditions in which the growth of working class consciousness was impossible. 

    11

    I am now approaching a crucial point, at which we can finally reach completion. Although there is still life left in our investigation of Stalin, and there remain some events, consideration of which can enrich our knowledge and understanding of history, still, we can draw some conclusions. The historical material that we have already assimilated, allows us to do the most important thing, to produce a confrontation between the positions. And not just that. 

    I will now express some not altogether persuasive ideas, so please pay close attention. There is neither the time nor the need to prove them in detail, for they concern me personally, my opinions, rather than the historical investigation which we have undertaken together. We may discuss that which interests you in my ideas on another occasion, if the reader and the writer both want to. 

    I believe that the Marxist idea that the worldwide socialist revolution would begin with the conquest of power by the proletariat in one or a few of the most developed capitalist countries is insufficiently precise. The point is not just that in practice things turned out differently, the point is that they were unavoidably otherwise. I think that, had the proletarian revolution not taken place in Russia, it would have happened in Germany. And that afterwards, an absolutely typical bourgeois revolution would have occurred in Russia. That is to say the priority in the breakthrough to the future could have been granted by history to just exactly one of these two countries. 

    Therefore the construction of socialism in one country, taken separately, is not, for me, a problem, it requires no proof, it is rather an inevitability, requiring only the correct paths for its realization. 

    From which, naturally, it follows that the course, which Lenin undertook without serious doubt, the course of building socialism in Russia, I consider correct. But... 

    But then there are the problems, posed in section four, which defeated Lenin, defeated Stalin, and which continue to be unresolved up to the present day, which tells us that, clearly, there was a foundational defect which hindered their resolution. 

    Or, was this just the pushing aside of the working class from the management of the state, about which we spoke in the preceding section. Surely this hindered the development of the proletariat. Clearly, this also hindered the resolution of these unresolved problems?... 

    "The proletariat, organized as the ruling class." To me this thesis is obvious. The feudal state is the feudal class organized as the ruling class. The bourgeois - the bourgeoisie. Is there anything secret in this? 
     

    What organizes the feudals? Land and weapons. 

    What organizes the bourgeoisie? Capital and commodity exchange. 

    What organizes the proletariat? Production and ... 
     

    Organization! This is the point; if the initial impulse to organization of the proletariat was given by joint participation in production, then the further development of this process can only come from self-directed proletarian organizations, penetrating the whole class from top to bottom and side to side, arising and disintegrating, based entirely on the good will and enthusiasm of the activists, their creation. 

    Organization lies in organizations! There is nothing secret here. Can there be any doubt? 

    But, come on now, let us take a look. Amidst the pre-revolutionary Russian proletariat there were; mutual societies, unions, national links and parties - not just the bolsheviks but all the rest too. Here there was something that could ripen, there was a means for the formation of opinion, here there was a field for the search for truth. 

    And after the revolution? The communist party became the ruling party and all the rest were banned. But the ruling party is absolutely not self-directing. It is tied with the interests of the government and expresses its interests, and these cannot coincide for long with the interests of the proletariat. Unions? But they too were subordinated to the ruling party, as were all the remaining and newly arising organizational forms. 

    But let us work through another variant in detail; suppose, having formed the government of the 25th of October the party had thrown those taking up the state posts off of its membership list, while the party itself remained with the proletariat. What would have happened? 

    To separate, does not mean to become enemies. At the beginning, the party would have, in the most active way, helped the foundation of the new government, to the extent that the party defined its tasks. But the more solidly power was established, the more this would have revealed stagnation. And the more active the party attack became, the more urgently it would have demanded change. And when the possibilities of the old system became exhausted, the party could have pushed in a new wave of leaders. Once again dismissing them from its membership roster. 

    This is a simplification. But is not a simplification in essence but in exposition. The proper language does not yet exist for such an exposition, this will have to be invented along the road. But in order for us to consider this approach, let there be this simplification, look how many problems this permits us to resolve. Take for example Lenin's problems. 

    And at once it we can see that a large number of the problems simply drop away. The danger of splits? Cadre Composition? But for the class these are not problems. A split in the government? A change of administration? A split in the party? Let there be two, even four. And the correspondence between scientific and administrative decisions. Having studied the problems themselves, the parties will permit you not even one mistake. So too with mistakes in national and cultural policy. As for the organization of production and distribution, go ahead, try things out, but there will be neither successes nor failures that go unappraised. The 'rabkrin'[10] too will become the entire self-directed political system. 

    So, in the end, it is only when I understand that the basis of socialist society can only be a self-directed political system, linked to the proletariat in many ways, but independent of the government and more importantly not subordinated to it, a system which continuously supports the organization of the working class and is ready to interfere in the activities of the state when things go wrong, it is only then that I am able to pass judgement on Stalin. 

    This judgement is dialectical. And for those interested in the emotional side, I will put it more plainly, ambivalent. 

    Socialism is impossible in the presence of a ruling party. And, however much effort a person, whether Stalin or someone else, did not put into the realization of this idea, that much is wasted effort. And all the victims are in vain, and for them there can be no justification. 

    But clearly there is another side. Although it was substandard socialism, it did endure for a few decades and illuminated the most important difficulties. Had it not been so, humanity might have gone on bruising itself blindly again and again, passing through a hundred Paris communes, each time paying the price in blood because it was unwilling to pay the price in the attentive study of history. 

    And this is what concerns us; it would be absolutely unforgivable were we not to utilize the knowledge that we have already paid for, and instead were to go on, not analysing the path we have travelled, and thus kept paying and paying and paying these payments all over again. 

    1989

    Notes

    [1] Sysyphus was a mythological king who was condemned for eternity to push a huge boulder up a hill all day, whereupon, at night, it rolled back down. 

    [2] General L. G. Kornilov (1870-1918) led an insurrection against the Provisional Government in August 1917. He later became a commander in the White Army and was killed near Yekaterinodar. 

    [3] Pavlik (Paul Trofimovich) Morozov (1918-1932) was a Pioneer and participated in the struggle against the kulaks during the collectivization. He was born to a poor peasant family and exposed the hostile actions of the kulaks who later, brutally murdered him. According to legend, he informed the authorities that his own father was a kulak. 

    [4] Boris Bazhanov was a popular publicist for prerestroika in its early days. Today hardly anyone remembers him. 

    [5] The reference is to the Collected Works in Russian. This material is also reproduced in Lenin's Selected Works, Progress Publishers, 1975, Volume III, pages 679-726.

    [6] This Russian saying is used in situations where someone, trying to make sense of events, but missing the key point, repeatedly returns to their starting point. The reference to a steer of a different color in the next sentence, is intended to indicate that the authorities had not only missed the boat regarding meat production, but many other things as well. 

    [7] The special administrative elite established in Russia by Ivan IV. 

    [8] Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the CPSU from 1964 to 1982. 

    [9] Semichastnii was the head of the KGB at the time of Kruschev's removal. This removal took place at a plenum of the CC of the CPSU, which, understandably was prepared in the strictest secrecy. What was to take place at this plenum, or even that it was to be held at all was known only to 3-4 people. It had to be unexpected, and thus kept secret from Kruschev's supporters; Kruschev himself was on vacation at the time. Two hundred members of the CC had to be collected from all over the vast country. Because of the huge time differences between the time zones of Kaliningrad and Vladivostok many members had to be literally dragged from their beds, pulled out of baths at their dachas or grabbed off the toilet by the KGB. They were so stunned that they hardly needed to be forcibly bundled into the airplanes and carted off to Moscow. Clearly, such an almost war-time operation could only have been carried out by the all-powerful Commitee for State Security (KGB). Semichastnii carried it off brilliantly! And, within a few months he was bundled of into retirement by Brezhnev. 

    This story clearly confirms the fact that the army, state security or any other conspirators and putschists, although they can carry out a coup, cannot bring it about themselves, but only on behalf of classes or other important social forces, to whom, in the last analysis, they must turn over power later. 

    [10] A soviet contractonym for Worker's and Peasant's Inspectorate. This organ of state control existed in the USSR from 1920 through 1932. It is best known through Lenin's work "How we should reorganize the Rabkrin."

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