Category Archives: Myth-Busting

Georgi Dimitrov to Stalin on the Question of “Social-Fascism”

Dimitrov to Stalin, 1 July 1934. Original in Russian. Type-written, with handwritten comments by Stalin.

1.7.34

From C. Dimitrov

Dear Com. Stalin!

The enclosed draft outline of [my] speech shows how I see the essence of the speech regarding the 2nd point of the agenda of the congress. In addition, I would like to raise in our forthcoming conversation the following questions:

I. On Social Democracy [1]

1. Whether it is correct to refer to social democracy indiscriminately as social-fascism. By taking such a position, we have frequently blocked our way to social democratic workers. [2]

2. Whether it is correct to consider social democracy everywhere and at all times the main social base of the bourgeoisie. [3]

3. Whether it is correct to consider all leftist s[ocial] d[emocratic] groups as a major threat under any conditions. [4]

4. Whether it is correct to treat all the leading cadres of s[ocial] d[emocratic] parties and of the reformist trade unions indiscriminately [5] as conscious traitors of the working class. One can expect, after all, that in the course of struggle quite a few [6] of today’s leading functionaries of the s[ocial] d[emocratic] parties and of the reformist trade unions will choose the path of revolution along with the s[ocial] d[emocratic] workers. It is in our interest to facilitate this transition for them and thus accelerate the transition of the s[ocial] d[emocratic] workers to our side.

5. Whether it is time to abandon useless discussion about the possibility or the impossibility of winning over the reformist trade unions instead of clearly formulating the task for its members to transform these trade unions into an instrument of the proletarian class struggle. [7]

6. The question of unifying the revolutionary and reformist trade unions without making the recognition of the hegemony of the Communist Party a necessary condition. [8]

II. On the United Front

1. The necessity to modify our united-front tactics in response to the changed conditions. Rather than using them exclusively [9] as a maneuver to expose social democracy without seriously attempting to forge a real workers’ unity through struggle, we must turn them into an effective factor in developing the mass struggle against the offensive of fascism. [10]

2. The necessity to reject the idea that the united front can only be built from below, and to stop regarding any simultaneous appeal to the leadership of a s[ocial] d[emocratic] party as opportunism. [11]

3. The necessity to launch the active initiative by the masses without petty tutelage of the Communist parties in their relations with the organs of the united front. Not to declare the hegemony of the Communist Party but to assure the actual leadership by the Communist Party. [12]

4. The necessity to radically alter our attitude toward s[ocial] d[emocracy] and non-party workers in all our mass work, agitation, and propaganda. It is essential to go beyond the general statements about the treason of social democracy, and to explain to the workers, concretely and patiently, what the social democratic policy of cooperation with the bourgeoisie is leading to and has already led to. [13] [It is essential] not to dump everything on the s[ocial] d[emocratic] leaders but to point out the responsibility of the s[ocial] d[emocratic] workers themselves, to make then think about their own responsibility and to look for the right way of struggle, etc. [14]

III. Regarding the Comintern Leadership

It is essential to change the methods of work and leadership in the Comintern, taking into account that it is impossible effectively to oversee from Moscow every detail of life of all 65 sections of the Comintern, which find themselves in very different conditions (parties in the metropolis and parties in the colonies, parties in highly developed industrial countries and in the predominantly peasant countries, legal and illegal parties, etc).

It is necessary to concentrate on the general political guidance of the Communist movement, on assistance to the parties in basic political and tactical questions, on creating a solid Bolshevik leadership in the local Communist parties, and on strengthening the Communist parties with workers while reducing the heavy bureaucratic apparatus of the ECCI.

It is essential to further promote Bolshevik self-criticism. Fear of this [self-criticism] has at times led to failure to clarify important political problems (questions of the current stage of the crisis and of the so-called military-inflationary juncture, the assessment and lessons of the Austrian events, etc.).

It is impossible to change the methods of leadership and work in the Comintern without partially renewing the cadres of the Comintern workers.

It is especially essential to secure close ties between the Comintern leadership and the Politburo of the VKP(b).

 

Footnotes

[1] This subhead is also underlined by hand.

[2] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “As to the leadership – yes; but not ‘indiscriminate.’”

[3] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “Of course not, in Persia.”

[4] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “in the major cap[italist] countries – yes.”

[5] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “Objectively – yes; consciously – some [of them].”

[6] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “‘Quite a few’ – not; some – yes.”

[7] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “It is time.”

[8] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “Conditions are necessary.”

[9] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “Against whom is this thesis [directed]?”

[10] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “[We] must.”

[11] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “Nevertheless, the United Front from below is the foundation.”

[12] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “No doubt, but against whom is this thesis [directed]?”

[13] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “Correct.”

[14] In the margin, handwritten by Stalin: “Yes!”

From “Dimitrov and Stalin, 1934-1943: Letters from the Soviet Archives” by Alexander Dallin and F.I. Firsov, pp. 13-16.

Grover Furr: The Ukrainian Famine: Only Evidence Can Disclose the Truth

USFSP_Korotzer9

No detective can solve a crime without carefully and objectively studying the evidence. Likewise, no one can know what actually occurred in history without studying, in an objective manner, the relevant primary sources – the evidence. I have spent decades in studying the primary sources concerning many specific events of the Stalin period. Mark Tauger has studied the primary sources on Soviet agriculture for more than 25 years.

Louis Proyect has not done this. Consequently he has no chance of discovering the truth, or of recognizing it when he sees it. He is inevitably doomed to “believe” whatever fits his preconceived ideological bias, and to reject everything else. This is fatal to any attempt to learn what really happened.

Louis Proyect’s attack on me and on Mark Tauger (“What Caused the Holodomor?” Cp March 24, 1971) is ideology masquerading as history. It is replete with falsehoods. I’ll concentrate on the lies Proyect tells about me and my research. I hope that Mark Tauger will respond to Proyect’s ignorant accusations against his research.

Proyect begins his article by stating: “Furr’s political life revolves around celebrating Stalin’s greatest achievements—such as they were.” This is false. My goal is not to “celebrate” Stalin, or anyone or anything. In my research I aim to discover the truth about Soviet history of the 1930s, using the best primary-source evidence and maintaining scrupulous objectivity.

I agree with historian Geoffrey Roberts when he says:

In the last 15 years or so an enormous amount of new material on Stalin … has become available from Russian archives. I should make clear that as a historian I have a strong orientation to telling the truth about the past, no matter how uncomfortable or unpalatable the conclusions may be. … I don’t think there is a dilemma: you just tell the truth as you see it.

(“Stalin’s Wars”, Frontpagemag.com February 12, 2007. At http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/35305.html )

The common or “mainstream” view of Stalin as a bloodthirsty tyrant is a product of two sources: Trotsky’s writings of the 1930s and Nikita Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” to the XX Party Congress in February, 1956. This canonical history of the Stalin period – the version we have all learned — is completely false. We can see this now thanks mainly to two sets of archival discoveries: the gradual publication of thousands of archival documents from formerly secret Soviet archives since the end of the USSR in 1991; and the opening of the Leon Trotsky Archive at Harvard in 1980 and, secondarily, of the Trotsky Archive at the Hoover Institution (from where I have just returned).

Khrushchev Lied

In its impact on world history Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” is the most influential speech of the 20th century. In it Khrushchev painted Stalin as a bloodthirsty tyrant guilty of a reign of terror lasting more than two decades.

After the 22nd Party Congress of 1961, where Khrushchev and his men attacked Stalin with even more venom, many Soviet historians elaborated Khrushchev’s lies. These falsehoods were repeated by Cold War anticommunists like Robert Conquest. They also entered “left” discourse through the works of Trotskyists and anarchists and of “pro-Moscow” communists.

Khrushchev’s lies were amplified during Mikhail Gorbachev’s and Boris Eltsin’s time by professional Soviet, then Russian, historians. Gorbachev orchestrated an avalanche of anticommunist falsehoods that provided the ideological smokescreen for the return to exploitative practices within the USSR and ultimately for the abandonment of socialist reforms and a return to predatory capitalism.

During 2005-2006 I researched and wrote the book Khrushchev Lied. In my book I identify 61 accusations that Khrushchev made against either Stalin or, in a few cases, Beria. I then studied each one of them in the light of evidence available from former Soviet archives. To my own surprise I found that 60 of the 61 accusations are provably, demonstrably false.

The fact that Khrushchev could falsify everything and get away with it for over 50 years suggests that we should look carefully at other supposed “crimes” of Stalin and of the USSR during his time.

Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’

From 1980 till the early 1990s Pierre Broué, the foremost Trotskyist historian of his day, and Arch Getty, a prominent American expert in Soviet history, discovered that Trotsky had lied, repeatedly and about many issues, in his public statements and writings in the 1930s. In my book Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’ (2015) I discussed the implications of these lies by Trotsky and of some additional lies of his that I discovered myself. They completely invalidate the “Dewey Commission,” to whom Trotsky lied shamelessly and repeatedly, as well as Trotsky’s denials in the Red Book and elsewhere of the charges leveled against him in the First and Second Moscow Trials.

Challenging the “Anti-Stalin Paradigm”

I have not reached these conclusions out of any desire to “apologize” for – let alone “celebrate” — the policies of Stalin or the Soviet government. I believe these to be the only objective conclusions possible based on the available evidence.

The conclusions I have reached about the history of the Soviet Union during the Stalin period are unacceptable to people who, like Proyect, are motivated by prior ideological commitments rather than by a determination to discover the truth “and let the chips fall where they will.”

The “anti-Stalin paradigm” is hegemonic in the field of Soviet history, where it is literally “taboo” to question, let alone disprove as I do, the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Cold War falsehoods about Stalin and the Stalin period. Those in this field who do not cut their research to fit the Procrustean bed of the “anti-Stalin paradigm” will find it hard if not impossible to publish in “mainstream” journals and by academic publishers. I am fortunate:  I teach English literature and do not need to publish in these “authoritative” but ideologically compromised vehicles.

Those who, like Proyect, are motivated not to discover the truth but to shore up their ideological prejudices think that everybody must be doing likewise. Therefore Proyect argues not from evidence, but by guilt by association, name-dropping, insult, and lies.

A few examples:

Guilt by association: Proyect claims that I am “like” Roland Boer, Roger Annis, and Sigizmund Mironin.

Name-dropping: Davies and Wheatcroft are well-known and disagree with Tauger, so – somehow – they are “the most authoritative,”  “right” while Tauger is “wrong.”

Insult: Tauger is complicit in “turning a victim into a criminal.”

Proyect: “…it seems reasonable that Stalin was forced to unleash a brutal repression in the early 30s to prevent Hitler from invading Russia—or something like that.” In reality neither I nor Tauger say anything of the kind.

Lies: Proyect quotes a passage from Tauger’s research about the Irish potato famine and then accuses Tauger of wanting to exculpate the British:

“The British government responsible? No, we can’t have that.”

But the very next sentence in Tauger’s article reads:

“Without denying that the British government mishandled the crisis…”

Proyect is a prisoner of the historical paradigm that controls his view of Soviet history. A few examples:

* Proyect persists in using the term “Holodomor.” He does not inform Cp readers that Davies and Wheatcroft, whose work he recommends, reject both the term “Holodomor” and the concept in the very book Proyect recommends!

* Proyect: “…no matter that Lenin called for his [Stalin’s] removal from party leadership from his death-bed.”

But, thanks to careful research by Valentin Sakharov of Moscow State University, even “mainstream” researchers know that this note, like “Lenin’s Testament,” is probably a forgery:

There is no stenographic original of the “Ilich letter about the [general] secretary.” In the journal of Lenin’s activities kept by the secretarial staff there is no mention of any such “Ilich letter.” … not a single source corroborates the content of the January 4 dictation. Also curious is the fact that Zinoviev had not been made privy to the “Ilich letter about the [general] secretary” in late May, along with the evaluations of six regime personnel. The new typescript emerged only in June. (Stephen Kotkin, Stalin 505)

* Proyect: “Largely because of his bureaucratic control and the rapid influx of self-seeking elements into the party, Stalin could crush the opposition…”

However, in his 1973 work Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution Stephen Cohen wrote:

But machine politics alone did not account for Stalin’s triumph. … within this select oligarchy, Stalin’s bureaucratic power was considerably less imposing…. By April 1929, these influentials had chosen Stalin and formed his essential majority in the high leadership. They did so, it seems clear, less because of his bureaucratic power than because they preferred his leadership and politics. (327)

* Proyect: “Stalin’s forced march did not discriminate between rich and poor peasants.”

But in 1983 James Mace, a champion of the Ukrainian Nationalist fascist collaborators, wrote about the role of “committees of poor peasants,” komitety nezamozhnykh selian, in supporting collectivization. There is much other evidence of peasant support for collectivization.

Conclusion

Correctly understood, history is the attempt to use well-known methods of primary-source research in an objective manner, in order to arrive at accurate – truthful — statements about the past. Very often the result is disillusioning to those who cling to false ideological constructs, even when those constructs constitute the “mainstream” of politicized historiography.

No one who does not try to discover the truth and then tell it without fear or favor, is worthy to be called a historian, regardless of how famous, honored, or “authoritative” he or she may appear to be.

Distortions and lies about Soviet history of the Stalin period predominate everywhere, including Ukraine, Russia, and in the West. These lies mainly consist in repeating Trotskyist and Khrushchevite lies, in defiance or in willful ignorance of the primary-source evidence now available.

The newly-available evidence from archival sources necessitates a complete rewriting of Soviet history of the Stalin period and a complete revision of Stalin’s own role. This exciting yet demanding prospect is of great importance to all who wish to learn from the errors, as well as from the successes, of the Bolsheviks, the pioneers of the communist movement of the 20th century.

Notes

Information about my published books, in all languages, is on my Home Page. There too you can find links to all of my published articles, some in Russian only, on Soviet history.

Communist League: On Terrorism

REPRINT FROM COMBAT – Journal of the Communist League – March 1975.

TERRORISM OR REVOLUTION?

The last decade has witnessed the emergence of a number of terrorist groups in various countries, together with the adoption of terrorist tactics by a number of national liberation groups. Britain for example, has experienced the bombing campaigns of the “Angry Brigade,” purporting to be a protest against corporatist and racist legislation and of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, purporting to form part of the Irish struggle for national liberation. In some countries, such as India, even groups claiming to be “Marxist-Leninist” pursue terrorist tactics.

IT IS THEREFORE IMPORTANT THAT WE SHOULD BE CLEAR ON THE MARXIST-LENINIST ATTITUDE TOWARDS TERRORISM.

A “Punishment for Opportunism”

The victory of revisionism in the international communist movement has transformed the Communist Parties of most countries into parties which objectively serve the interests of monopoly capital by preaching the illusion of “peaceful, parliamentary transition to socialism.” These parties are seen ever more clearly by those who have become rebels against the evils of modern capitalist society to have become “left-wing” opportunist parties, drawn more and more into the political machinery of the capitalist state as instruments of deception of the working people.

In the absence of scientific parties of socialist revolution, it is inevitable that rebelliousness should manifest itself to a certain extent in the form of unscientific “leftist” activity such as terrorism.

In speaking of anarchism of which terrorism is one of the two fundamental concepts (the other being repudiation of the state in all its forms), Lenin made precisely this point when he described it as “a sort of punishment for opportunism” in the working class movement:

“Anarchism was often a sort of punishment for the opportunist sins of the working class movement. Both monstrosities mutually supplemented each other.”

(V. I. Lenin: “’Left-wing Communism’, An Infantile Disorder”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 71).

Petty-bourgeois Rebelliousness

The rebelliousness which manifests itself in the form of terrorism is essentially that of persons drawn from, or with the outlook of, the petty-bourgeoisie:

“Petty-bourgeois revolutionariness, which smacks of, or borrows something from anarchism . . in all essentials falls short of the conditions and requirements of sustained proletarian class struggle. . . The small proprietor, the small master, (a social type that is represented in many European countries on a wide mass scale) . . easily becomes extremely revolutionary, but is incapable of displaying perseverance, discipline and staunchness. The petty bourgeois in a ‘frenzy’ over the horrors of capitalism is a social phenomenon which, like anarchism, is characteristics of all capitalist countries. The instability of such revolutionariness, its barrenness, its liability to become swiftly transformed into submission, apathy, something fantastic, and even into a ‘mad’ infatuation with one or another bourgeois ‘fad’ — all this is a matter of common knowledge.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid; p. 70-71).

The petty bourgeoisie is a class which is in process of rapid destruction by monopoly capital – so that, anarchism must be seen as a political reflection of the desperate and futile striving of the petty bourgeois to retain his individual freedom:

“The philosophy of the anarchists is bourgeois philosophy turned inside out. Their individualistic theories and their individualistic ideal are the very opposite of socialism. Their views express, not the future of bourgeois society, which is striding with irresistible force towards the socialisation of labour, but the present and even the past of that society, the domination of blind chance over the scattered and isolated small producer.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and Anarchism”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p. 73).

“The point is that Marxism and anarchism are built up on entirely different principles in spite of the fact that both come into the arena of struggle under the flag of socialism. The cornerstone of anarchism is the individual, whose emancipation, according to its tenets, is the principal condition for the emancipation of the masses, the collective body. According to the tenets of anarchism, the emancipation of the masses is impossible until the individual is emancipated. Accordingly, its slogan is: ‘Everything for the individual’. The cornerstone of Marxism, however, is the masses, whose emancipation, according to its tenets, is the principal condition for the emancipation of the individual. That is to say, according to the tenets of Marxism, the emancipation of the individual is impossible until the masses are emancipated. Accordingly, its slogan is: “Everything for the masses!”

(J. V. Stalin: “Anarchism or Socialism?”, in: “Works”,’ Volume 1; Moscow; 1952; p. 299).

Terrorism and economism (the theory that the working class can be expected to engage only in economic, and not political, struggles) have common, roots in the “theory of spontaneity” — which rejects the possibility of elevating the working class to socialist consciousness through the propaganda and day-to-day leadership of a vanguard party:

“The Economists and the modern terrorists spring from a common root, namely, subservience to spontaneity… At first sight, our assertion may appear paradoxical, for the difference between these two appears to be so enormous: one stresses the ‘drab everyday struggle’ and the other calls for the most self-sacrificing struggle of individuals. But this is not a paradox. The Economists and terrorists merely bow to different poles of spontaneity: the Economists bow to the spontaneity of the ‘pure and simple’ labour movements while the terrorists bow to the spontaneity of the passionate indignation of the intellectuals, who are either incapable of linking up the revolutionary struggle with the labour movement, or lack the opportunity to do so. It is very difficult indeed for those who have lost their belief, or who have never believed that this is possible, to find some other outlet for their indignation and revolutionary energy than terror.”

(V. I. Lenin: “What Is to be Done?”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 2; London; 1944; p. 94).

“The present-day terrorists are really ‘economists’ turned inside out, going to the equally foolish but opposite extreme.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Revolutionary Adventurism in Collected Works”, Volume 6 Moscow; 1961; p. 192.

Thus terrorism — like economism — reflects the lack of faith of the petty bourgeoisie in the masses of the working people. Reviewing a leaflet issued by the Socialist-Revolutionaries in 1902, Lenin remarks:

“The April 3 leaflet follows the pattern of the terrorists’ latest arguments with remarkable accuracy. The first thing that strike’s the eye is the words: ‘we advocate terrorism, not in place of work among the masses, but precisely for and simultaneously with that work’. They strike the eye particularly because these words are printed in letters three times as large as the rest of the text. But just read the whole leaflet and you will see that the protestation in bold type takes the name of the masses in vain. The day “when the working people will emerge from the shadows’ and ‘the mighty popular wave will shatter the iron gates to smithereens’ ‘alas’ (literally, ‘alas!’) ‘is still a long way off, and it is frightful to think of the future toll of victims!’ Do not these words ‘alas, still a long way off’ – reflect an utter failure to understand the mass movement and a lack of faith in it?”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p.190-91).

“Individual” Terrorism

In repudiating terrorism, Marxist-Leninists are speaking, of course, of what is generally termed “individual terrorism”, such acts as the assassination of a reactionary judge or the planting of a car-bomb outside the office of a government department.

In the sense of “attempting to strike terror into an enemy” Marxist-Leninists by no means reject the use of terrorism.

The socialist revolution can be brought about only against the armed men who form the core of the machinery of force of the capitalist state, and one of the aims of armed struggle is to strike terror into the enemy and so facilitate his defeat.

Again, one of the functions of a state is to strike terror into those who might attempt to overthrow it. Thus, the dictatorship of the working class which must be installed on the victory of the socialist revolution has as one of its aims to strike terror into the overthrown capitalist class, and its active supporters, so as to restrain their desire to overthrow the power of the working class.

Marxist-Leninists, therefore, repudiate individual terrorism not on the grounds that terrorism — in the sense of striking terror into the enemy – is unethical, but because acts of individual terrorism harm the cause they purport to serve:

“In principle we have never rejected, and cannot reject terror. Terror is one of the forms of military action that may ..be perfectly suitable and even essential at a definite juncture in the battle, given a definite state of the troops and the existence of definite conditions. But the important point is that terror, at the present time, is by no means suggested as an operation for the army in the field, an operation closely connected with and integrated into the entire system of struggle. Without a central body and with weakness of local revolutionary organsations, this in fact, is all that terror can be. We, therefore, declare emphatically that under the present conditions such a means of struggle is inopportune and unsuitable; that it diverts the most active fighters from their real task, the task which is most important from the standpoint of the interests of the. movement as a whole, it disorganises the forces not of the government, but of the revolution.”

(V. I.,Lenin: “Where to Begin”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 5;
Moscow; 1961; p. 19).

“Of course, we reject individual terrorism only out of considerations of expediency; upon those who ‘on principle’ were capable of condemning the terror of the Great French Revolution, or the terror in general employed by a victorious revolutionary party which is besieged by the bourgeoisie of the whole-world – upon such people even Plekhanov in 1900-0, when he was a Marxist, and a revolutionary, heaped ridicule and scorn.”

(V. I. Lenin: “‘Left-wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder”, in: ‘Selected Works”, Volume 10; London; 1946;.p.72).

While no one individual is generally capable of planning and carrying out a series of terrorist acts, such acts constitute “individual terrorism” in so far as the organisations involved in them are extremely small, composed of a few skilled persons (usually petty bourgeois intellectuals), and secret (to the working class if not to the police).

The Spurious Arguments for Terrorism

The advocates of terrorism argue that terrorist acts weaken the capitalist state machine and so assist the revolutionary process.

But if a judge is assassinated, there are a dozen reactionary barristers waiting to step into his shoes; if a courthouse is destroyed, it can be rebuilt at the cost of the working people. The strength of the state relative to that of a small terrorist group, and the protective measures which the state has the power to take when a threat of terrorist acts becomes apparent, causes terrorism to be directed increasingly against the less well defended — because less important — aspects of the state. Indeed, this process often results in the activity of terrorist groups, in an effort to evade the defences erected by the state degenerating into mere indiscriminate acts of destruction in which working people are killed and maimed.

Reviewing the leaflet of the Socialist-Revolutionaries already mentioned, Lenin poured scorn on the illusion that the state, could be significantly weakened by acts of terrorism:

“Just listen to what follows: ‘every terrorist blow, as it were, takes away part of the strength of the autocracy and transfers (!) all this strength (!) to the side of the fighters for freedom’ . ‘And if terrorism is practised systematically (!) it is obvious that the scales of the balance will finally weigh down on our side’. Yes, indeed, it is obvious to all that we have here in its grossest form one of the greatest prejudices of the terrorists: political assassination of itself ‘transfers strength.”

(V.I.Lenin “Revolutionary Adventurism”, In: “Collected Works”, Volume 6, Moscow; 1961; p. 191).

The advocates of terrorism also argue that terrorist acts “excite” the masses to greater revolutionary enthusiasm.

This theory too was discussed by Lenin:

“It would be interesting to note here the specific arguments that ‘Svoboda’ (a terrorist group– Ed.) advanced in defence of terrorism. It . . . stresses its excitative significance. . . . .It is difficult to imagine an argument that disproves itself more than this one does! Are there not enough outrages committed in Russian life that a special ‘stimulant’ has to be invented? On the other hand, is it not obvious that those who are not, and cannot be aroused to excitement even by Russian tyranny will stand by ‘twiddling their thumbs’ –even while a handful of terrorists are engaged in a single combat with the government? The fact is, however, that that the masses of the workers are roused to a high pitch of excitement by the outrages committed in Russian life, but we are unable to collect, if one may put it that way, and concentrate all these drops and streamlets of popular excitement, which are called forth by the conditions of Russian life to a far larger extent than we imagine, but which it is precisely necessary to combine into a single gigantic-flood.. . Calls for terror . . are merely forms of evading the most pressing duty that now rests upon Russian revolutionaries, namely, to organise all-sided political agitation. ‘Svoboda’ desires to substitute terror for agitation, openly admitting that ‘as soon as intensified and strenuous agitation is commenced among the masses its excitative function will be finished”‘

(V I Lenin: “What Is. to be Done?.”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 2. London; 1944; p. 96-97).

“Nor does the leaflet eschew the theory of excitative terrorism. ‘Each time a hero engages in single combat, this arouses in us all a spirit of struggle and courage’, we are told. But . . . single combat has the immediate effect of simply creating a short-lived sensation, while indirectly it even leads to apathy and passive waiting for the next bout, We are further assured that ‘every flash of terrorism lights up the mind’ which unfortunately, we have not noticed to be the case with the terrorism preaching party of the Socialist-Revolutionaries.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Revolutionary Adventurism” in: “Collected Works”; Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 193).

A Pretext for Repression

The Marxist-Leninist case against terrorism is not merely that it amounts
to a repudiation of the need for the political mobilisation of the masses
of the working class — the force which alone is capable of smashing the
state machinery of force of monopoly capital:

‘Their tactics (i.e., of the anarchists — Ed.) . . . amount to a repudiation of the political struggle, disunite the proletarians and convert them in fact into passive participators in one bourgeois policy, or another.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and Anarchism”; “Collected Works”; ‘Volume 10, Moscow; 1963; p. 73).

In fact, far from weakening the state, acts of terrorism provide the pretext for the strengthening of the state machinery of force and for the imposition of repressive measures against the genuine progressive movement — measures which, without that pretext, would arouse much more vigorous opposition from the working people. In this respect, terrorist groups, whatever their intentions, objectively assist monopoly capital.

Thus, the counter-productive hi-jacking of civilian airliners by Arab terrorists was, used by King Hussein of Jordan as the pretext for a war of extermination in September 1970 against the Palestine liberation forces in Jordan, an act necessary to the new policy of US imperialism in the Middle East.

And in Britain terrorist acts have provided the pretext for the strengthening of Special Branch., for police raids on the homes of-anti-fascists and the offices of anti-fascist organisations, for pressure to reduce the rights of defendants in political trials, for the repeated army/police manoeuvres at London Airport, and for the “draconic” powers given to the police by the Labour government.

Agents Provocateurs

An agent of the class enemy who succeeds in entering a revolutionary, or pseudo-revolutionary, organisation is generally an agent of the state intelligence service. His aim, in doing so may simply be to collect information about the members, leaders, strength, etc.; of the organisation for the benefit of the state (that is, to act as a spy), or it may also be to seek to incite the members of the Organisation to commit a terrorist act which would provide a pretext- — a pretext that would seem a reasonable one to wide sections of working people — for some repressive measure or measures on the part of the state (that is, to act as an agent provocateur).

Where it is not possible to incite a terrorist group to commit a terrorist act desired by the state, this may be performed directly by the intelligence service itself. And where one or more terrorist groups exist, it is difficult or impossible for an outsider to know whether a particular act of terrorism has been carried out by such a group or by the intelligence service. In either case, however, the act may provide the pretext for some repressive measure or measures on the part of the state directed at the genuine progressive movement.

The most notorious example of such a terrorist act carried but by the state itself is, of course, the burning of the Reichstag in 1933 to provide the pretext for the repression of the Communist Party of Germany, even though that party was completely opposed to the carrying out of such acts of terrorism.

Within a genuine revolutionary organisation, it, is difficult to distinguish an agent provocateur from an honest, but misguided, exponent of “left” adventurism; indeed this distinction can be made, not on the basis of political analysis, but only by means of counter-intelligence activity which reveals the agent’s connection with the state.

But an agent provocateur is powerless to incite an act of terrorism on the part of a genuine revolutionary organisation unless there is support for such acts on the part of a majority of the members. The cardinal task, therefore, is to expose terrorism politically to its honest, but misguided, supporters, thus isolating the agent provocateur and opening the way to his exposure to the members and supporters of the organisation and his expulsion from it:

“We must get the workers to understand that while the killing of spies, agents provocateurs and traitors may sometimes of course, be absolutely unavoidable, it is highly undesirable and mistaken to make a system of it, and that we must strive to create an organisation which will be able to render spies innocuous by exposing them and tracking them down. It is impossible to do away with all spies, but to create an organisation which will ferret them out and educate the working class masses is both possible and necessary.

(V. I. Lenin. Footnote to: ‘ Letter to a Comrade on Our Organisational Tasks”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 245).

And, of course, given a partially clandestine organisation with adequate security measures and tight discipline, the harm which agents may do to a Marxist-Leninist Party may be limited, and they can even be compelled to do positive Party work – as Lenin pointed out in the case of the tsarist police agent Roman Malinovsky:

“In 1912 … an agent provacateur, Malinovsy got into the Central Committee, of the Bolsheviks. He betrayed scores and scores of the best and msot loyal comrades, caused them to be sent to penal servitude and hastened the death of many of them. If he did not cause even more harm than he did, it was because we had established proper coordination between our legal and illegal work. As a member of the Central Committee of the Party and a deputy in the Duma, Malinovsky was forced, in order to gain our confidence, to aid us in establishing legal daily paper. While with one hand Malinovsky sent scores and scores of the best Bolsheviks to penal servitude, and to death, with the other he was compelled to assist in the education of scores and scores of thousands of new Bolsheviks through the medium of the legal press.”

(V.I. Lenin: ‘Left-wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 85).

Guerrilla Warfare

Socialist revolution involves armed struggle — that is civil war – between, on the one hand, the machinery of force under the leadership of it’s Marxist-Leninist vanguard party, and on the other hand – the machinery of force of the capitalist state.

Guerrilla warfare is a form of armed struggle waged by relatively small
units of armed men against a considerably stronger armed force – in the
case of revolutionary guerrilla warfare against the armed force of a
reactionary state. The essence of guerrilla military tactics is to make
localised “hit-and-run” attacks on the weakest and most exposed sectors of the enemy’s forces, so nibbling away at his strength without the losses to one’s own forces that would result from a direct confrontation with his main forces.
Thus, revolutionary guerrilla warfare must be seen as a development of the struggle for socialist revolution — when this has reached the stage of armed struggle:

Firstly, before this armed struggle has reached the stage of a country-wide armed uprising, and

Secondly, when it has reached the stage of a country-wide armed uprising in the intervals between major engagements:

“The phenomenon in which we are interested (i.e., guerrilla warfare – Ed.) – is the armed struggle. It is conducted by individuals and by small groups […] Guerrilla warfare is an inevitable form of` struggle at a time when the mass movement has actually reached the point of an uprising and when fairly large intervals occur between the ‘big engagements’ in the civil war [….] An uprising cannot assume the old form of individual acts restricted to a very short time and to a very small area. It is absolutely natural and inevitable that the uprising should assume the higher and more complex form of a prolonged civil war embracing the whole country […] Such a war cannot be conceived otherwise than as a series of a few big engagements at comparatively long intervals and a large number of small encounters during these intervals. That being so — and it is undoubtedly so – the Social-Democrats (i.e., Marxist Leninists – Ed.) must absolutely make it their duty to create organisations best adapted to lead, the masses in these big engagements and, as far as possible, in these small encounters as well.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Guerrilla Warfare”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216, 219, 222-23).

Revolutionary guerrilla warfare has three principal aims:

Firstlyto weaken the military and para-military armed forces of the capitalist state (and of fascist militia) by killing their officers and men:

“The Party must regard the fighting guerrilla operations of the squads affiliated or associated with it as being, in principle, permissible and advisable in the present period; [….] the paramount immediate object of these operations is to destroy the government, police and military machinery, and to wage a relentless struggle against the active Black Hundred Organisations (i.e. rural fascist-type organisations — Ed.) which are using violence against the population and intimidating it.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for Unity Congress of RSDLP, 1906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p. 154).

“In the first place, this (guerrilla – Ed.) struggle aims at assassinating individuals, chiefs or subordinates, in the army and police.”

(V.I. Lenin: “Guerrilla Warfare”,- in: “Collected Works”, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216).

Secondlyto give practical military training to working class leaders:

“The character of these fighting guerrilla operations must be adjusted to the task of training leaders of the masses of the workers at a time of insurrection, and of acquiring experience in conducting offensive and surprise military operations.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for Unity Congress of RSDLP, 1906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p.154).

Thirdly, to confiscate funds in the possession of the capitalist
class for the use of the revolutionary movement:

“In the second place, it (i.e., guerrilla warfare — Ed.) aims at the confiscation of monetary funds both from the government and from private persons. The confiscated funds go into the treasury of the Party, partly for the special purpose of arming and preparing for an uprising, and partly for the maintenance of the persons engaged in the struggle we are describing.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Guerrilla Warfare”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216).

“Fighting operations are also permissible for the purpose of seizing funds belonging to the enemies, i.e., the autocratic government, to meet the needs of insurrection, particular care being taken so that the interests of the people are infringed as little as possible.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for Unity Congress of RSDLP, l906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p.154).

(So deep was the respect for private property inculcated in the minds of a majority of the delegates to the 1906 Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, that the congress approved guerrilla warfare for the purpose of killing soldiers and police, but rejected Lenin’s clause approving it for the purpose of confiscating funds from the ruling class for the financing of the revolutionary movement).

At first glance, the distinction between terrorism (which Marxist-Leninists oppose), and revolutionary guerrilla warfare (which Marxist-Leninists support) seems blurred. In fact, however, the distinction is quite clear.

In the first place, guerrilla warfare becomes a correct revolutionary tactic only when it has the support of the mass of the working people in the locality in which it is carried out:

“Fighting guerrilla organisations must be conducted ….. such a way as . .to ensure that the state of the working class movement and the mood of the broad masses of the given locality are taken into account.”

(V. I.. Lenin: Draft Resolution to Unity Congress of RSDLP 1906, In “Collected Works”; Volume l0; Moscow; 1961; p. 154).

In the second place, and following from the above, guerrilla war becomes a
revolutionary tactic only when the class struggle has been elevated, as a result of correct day-to-day leadership by the Marxist-Leninist Party, to the stage where the mass of the working people have come to see the armed-forces of the capitalist state and the fascist bands as their irreconcilable enemies who must be fought — for only then will this guerrilla warfare have the support of the mass of the working people in the locality in which it is carried out. Terrorist acts, on the other hand, are carried out before this stage has been reached and in isolation from the class struggle of the working people:

“This act (i.e., the assassination of Sipyagin –Ed) was in no way connected with the masses, and moreover could, not have been by reason of the very way in which it was carried out –that the persons who committed this terrorist act neither counted on nor hoped for any definitive action nor support on the part of the masses. In their naivete, the Socialist-Revolutionaries do not realise that their predilection for terrorism is most intimately linked with the fact that, from the very outset, they have always kept, and still keep, aloof from the working class movement, without even attempting to become a party of the revolutionary class which is waging the class struggle.”

(Lenin: “Revolutionary Adventurism”; In “Collected Works” Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 189).

In the third place, guerrilla warfare becomes a correct revolutionary tactic in the special circumstance that it is conducted under the control of the Marxist-Leninist Party:

“Fighting guerrilla organisations must be conducted under the control of the Party.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for the Unity Congress of RSDLP, l906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow, 1961; p. 154).

The principles of guerrilla warfare advocated by “Che” Guevara are,thus completely opposed to the principles of Marxism-Leninism:

“The revolutionary guerrilla force is clandestine. It is born and develops secretly […] The guerrilla force is independent of the civilian population in action as well as in military organisation; consequently it need not assume the direct defence of the peasant population […] Eventually the future People’s Army will beget the party […] The people’s army will be the nucleus of the party, not vice versa. The guerrilla force is the political vanguard in nuce, and from its development a real party can arise […] That is why, at the present juncture, the principal stress must be laid on the development of guerrilla warfare and not on the strengthening of existing parties or the creation of new parties’,”

(R. Debray: “Revolution in the Revolution?”; London; 1968; p.41, 105, 115).

The castroite principles of guerrilla warfare form part of an anti-Marxist
Leninist revolutionary strategy which serves the interests of the national
bourgeoisie of a colonial-type country with a weak state machinery of
force. (This question is analysed in more detail in “The Theory of the
in: RED VANGUARD,. No. l; p.83f).

Contemporary Lessons

The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an armed force of the Irish national-liberation movement. It is, however, not led by a Marxist-Leninist Party of the working class, which does not at present exist in Ireland, but by representatives of the Irish national bourgeoisie, who wish for independence from Britain in order to develop the country as an independent capitalist state.

As long as the Provisional IRA was seen by the people of the Catholic areas of Northern Ireland as their defence against the armed forces and police of the colonial regime, and the fascist bands which had the “open support of the police, it had their enthusiastic support. To the extent however, that the IRA has turned to tactics of terrorism, often of an indiscriminate character in which working people have been killed and maimed, this support has been whittled away — and this has tended to make terrorism, increasingly the only form of activity which it is physically able to undertake.

In Britain, too, the effect of indiscriminate bombing by the Provisional IRA has been to alienate sympathy from the Irish national-liberation struggle among the British working class, which is, objectively, the ally of the Irish people in the struggle against their common enemy British imperialism.

The use that British imperialism can make of a movement whose activity is predominantly of a terrorist character was pointed out in a recent issue of CLASS AGAINST CLASS on the plan under consideration by the British imperialists for the creation of a united neo-colonial Ireland by creating the pretext for the military intervention in Northern Ireland of the army of the Republic of Ireland:

“The aim is, under the slogan of ‘allowing the people of Northern Ireland to settle their own problems’, to permit the restoration of a fascist-type of state machine in Northern Ireland dominated by the right-wing Protestant leaders. These leaders are already pledging themselves to the pogroms against the ‘Catholic population which will inevitably follow — that, is, they are pledging themselves not to carry out such pogroms unless the Provisional IRA renews its campaign.”

(“Ireland: New Tactics of British Imperialism”; in: CLASS AGAINST CLASS, No. 6; June 1974; p. 8).

The British imperialists calculate that the Provisional IRA, as a result of its turn to tactics of terrorism, has lost too much strength and support to be capable of defending the Catholic population, so that the call for the “protective” intervention of the armed forces of the Republic will come from the Catholic working people of Northern Ireland themselves.

Again, one of the most important tasks facing the British working class is the organisation of an anti-fascist united front, properly organised and with a correct tactical programme. Even at this early stage of the anti-fascist movement, certain maoist groups (such as the “Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) and trotskyite groups (such as the International Marxist Group) have begun to launch assaults upon the police during anti-National Front demonstrations. But an assault upon the armed forces of the state becomes a correct tactic of revolutionary guerrilla warfare in a developed capitalist country only when the class struggle has reached a much higher level of development and when it is directed by a Marxist-Leninist Party, which does not yet exist in Britain.

Such assaults on the police as that which took place in Red Lion Square
in 1974, being completely premature, constitute mere terrorism, which tends to disorganise the embryo anti-fascist movement and provide the pretext for police violence and repressive measures on the part of the state against genuine anti-fascists “Leftist” groups which carry out such actions at the present time are objectively assisting fascism.

Conclusion

Terrorism, whatever the motives of the terrorists, objectively serves the interests of the forces opposed to social and national liberation. It is necessary for Marxist-Leninists, therefore, to expose terrorism for what it is, and to wage a principled and consistent struggle against this ideology, in line with Lenin’s formula:

“Bolshevism grew, took shape and became hardened, in long years of struggle against petty-bourgeois revolutionariness, which smacks of, or borrows something from, anarchism, and which in all essentials falls short, of the conditions and, requirements of the sustained proletarian class struggle.”

(V. I. Lenin.: ‘”Left-wing’ Communism”, an Infantile Disorder”, in: “Selected Works Volume .10; London; 1946; p.70).

Source

Bruce Cumings on the North Korean Economy

“My spirits brightened, however, when former Congressman Stephen Solarz, long interested in Korean affairs, found a ‘brilliant and breathtaking’ study by a CIA analyst and concluded it was for North Korea ‘what the Rosetta Stone was to ancient Egypt’. So rare and privileged was the author’s knowledge that it took him a decade to get the CIA to declassify the book. Helen-Louise Hunter was for two decades a ‘Far East Specialist’ in the CIA, which is where her first book appeared (if that is the right word) as a long internal memorandum. Here was the solution to another problem we hear a lot about from the Beltway pundits: ‘a country about which we knew virtually nothing’ (in Solarz’s words). That is, we have trouble penetrating and surveilling them: how scary!

Hunter’s work has some excellent information on arcane and difficult to research subjects like North Korean wage and price structures, the self-sufficient and decentralized neighborhood living practices that mostly eliminated the long lines for goods that characterized Soviet-style communism, and the decade of one’s young life that almost every North Korean male is required to devote to military service in this garrison state. She points out the many achievements of the North Korean system, in ways that would get anyone outside the CIA labeled a sympathizer – compassionate care for war orphans in particular and children in general, ‘radical change’ in the position of women (‘there are now more college-educated women than college-educated men’), genuinely free housing, preventive medicine on a national scale accomplished to a comparatively high standard, infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine, ‘no organized prostitution,’ and ‘the police are difficult, if not impossible, to bribe’. The author frequently acknowledges that the vast majority of Koreans do in fact revere Kim Il-Sung, even the defectors from the system whose information forms the core evidence for her book. According to Prince Sihanouk, a close friend of Kim’s who frequently stayed for months at a time in the North, ‘Kim ha[d] a relationship with his people that every other leader in the world would envy”; he described it as ‘much closer’ than his own with the Cambodian people (where he is both venerated and highly popular).

American cheerleaders for the South never tire of saying that its GNP is ten times larger than North Korea’s; certainly it is much larger, but if, say, the World Bank were to value goods and services in the North in terms of what the equivalents would cost in the United States, as it did for China after it opened up, the North’s GNP would mushroom overnight. In Hunter’s account of the DPRK when its economy was still reasonably good, about twenty years ago, she found that daily necessities were very low priced, luxuries vastly overpriced. Rents were so nominal that most housing was effectively free, as was health care, and ‘the government subsidizes the low prices of rice, sugar, and other food necessities, as well as student uniforms and work clothes.’ All homes in the country had electricity by 1968, far ahead of where the South was at the time. To take a measure close to home, she estimates that a husband and wife who were both university professors would be able to save about 50 percent of their monthly salaries. Rice and corn, the major staples, were rationed by the state, as were cooking oils, meat, soy sauce, bean curd, and kimch’i. Other things – fruits, vegetables, nuts, noodles, beer – could be purchased at low prices, with meats and luxury food overvalued. The general egalitarianism of the society was remarkable, in her view, even if the elite lived much better than the mass.”

 – Bruce Cumings, “North Korea: Another Country,” The New Press, New York, 2003, pp. 194-196.

Misunderstandings Regarding Proletarian Leadership and the Peasant Question in Marxism

“Present-day thinking on Marx and Engels’s strategy is often muddled by a curious misunderstanding. We tend to visualise a contrast between ‘developed’ countries like Germany, France and England on the one hand and ‘backward’ ones like Russia on the other. But how ‘developed’ were countries like Germany, France and England in 1848 or 1871? Only in England did the working class, if defined in an extremely loose sense, form a majority of the population. In France, and even more so in Germany, it formed a small minority. As soon as one realises that in Marx’s lifetime France and Germany were overwhelmingly peasant countries, his comments on revolutionary strategy in such states acquire a different significance from the one usually attributed to them.

In the Manifesto, the German communists were advised to join with the bourgeoisie against the absolute monarchy and its feudal hangers-on. But after the democratic revolution the workers should *immediately* begin the struggle against the bourgeoisie. The overthrow of the monarchy was the ‘immediate prologue of a proletarian revolution.’ Two years later, Marx and Engels expected a revolution of the petit bourgeois democrats. Subsequently, the proletarians should again *immediately* form ‘revolutionary workers’ governments’ in order to ‘make the revolution permanent, until all more or less propertied classes are removed from power, [and] state power has been conquered by the proletariat.’ Although the completion of this process would take a ‘rather long’ period, there was no hint of waiting with the second, proletarian, revolution until the workers formed a majority of the population. A few months later, Marx ridiculed those communists who aimed for an immediate proletarian revolution in Germany. He warned the workers that they might perhaps be fit to rule only after fifty years of civil war. But in 1856 he regained his optimism. The victory of the ‘proletarian revolution’ in Germany depended on the possibility of backing it up by a ‘second edition of the Peasant War.’ Under such conditions, its chances of success looked excellent.

As we saw in the previous chapter, Marx called for a ‘dictatorship of the working class’ in the predominantly peasant France of 1850. He expected the peasants to accept the urban proletariat as their natural leader, because only an ‘anti-capitalist, proletarian government’ could stop their social degradation. And once the French peasants understood where their true interests lay, then, Marx said, ‘*the proletarian revolution will obtain that chorus without which its solo song becomes a swan song in all peasant countries*.’ And Marx and Engels did not hesitate to call the Commune a workers’ government. Had Paris been triumphant, the peasant majority would have recognised the ‘spiritual leadership’ of the cities, and the workers as their ‘leaders and educators’, their ‘natural representatives.’ Hunt quotes a particularly interesting comment by Marx in his 1874-75 notebooks on Bakunin, which summarises Marx’s view on the matter very well:

A radical social revolution depends on particular historical conditions of economic development; they are its prerequisites. Thus a revolution is possible only where, together with capitalist production, the industrial proletariat occupies at least an important place within the population. And to have any chance of success it must mutatis mutandis be able immediately to do at least as much for the peasants as the French bourgeoisie during its revolution did for the French peasants of the time.

‘An important place within the population’–no more. In summary, in the predominantly peasant countries of the continental Western Europe of his day, Marx hoped for the establishment of democratic republics under proletarian minority governments supported by the peasantry.”

– Erik van Ree, “The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin”

Frederick Engels on ‘Anarchist Nonsense’

Since 1845 Marx and I have held the view that one of the ultimate results of the future proletarian revolution will be the gradual dissolution of the political organisation known by the name of state. The main object of this organisation has always been to secure, by armed force, the economic oppression of the labouring majority by the minority which alone possesses wealth. With the disappearance of an exclusively wealth-possessing minority there also disappears the necessity for the power of armed oppression, or state power. At the same time, however, it was always our view that in order to attain this and the other far more important aims of the future social revolution, the working class must first take possession of the organised political power of the state and by its aid crush the resistance of the capitalist class and organise society anew. This is to be found already in The Communist Manifesto of 1847, Chapter II, conclusion.

The anarchists put the thing upside down. They declare that the proletarian revolution must begin by doing away with the political organisation of the state. But after its victory the sole organisation which the proletariat finds already in existence is precisely the state. This state may require very considerable alterations before it can fulfil its new functions. But to destroy it at such a moment would be to destroy the only organism by means of which the victorious proletariat can assert its newly-conquered power, hold down its capitalist adversaries and carry out that economic revolution of society without which the whole victory must end in a new defeat and in a mass slaughter of the workers similar to those after the Paris Commune.

Does it require my express assurance that Marx opposed this anarchist nonsense from the first day it was put forward in its present form by Bakunin? The whole internal history of the International Workingmen’s Association is evidence of this. From 1867 onwards the anarchists were trying, by the most infamous methods, to conquer the leadership of the International; the main hindrance in their way was Marx. The five-year struggle ended, at the Hague Congress of September 1872, with the expulsion of the anarchists from the International; and the man who did most to achieve this expulsion was Marx.”

– Frederick Engels, “Letter to Philipp Van Patten in New York”

Isaac Asimov Reviews ‘1984’

Originally published in The New York Times.

REVIEW OF 1984

By Isaac Asimov

I’ve been writing a four-part article for Field Newspaper Syndicate at the beginning of each year for several years now and in 1980, mindful of the approach of the year 1984, FNS asked me to write a thorough critique of George Orwell’s novel 1984.

I was reluctant. I remembered almost nothing of the book and said so – but Denison Demac, the lovely young woman who is my contact at FNS, simply sent me a copy of it and said, ‘Read it.’

So I read it and found myself absolutely astonished at what I read. I wondered how many people who talked about the novel so glibly had ever read it; or if they had, whether they remembered it at all.

I felt I would have to write the critique if only to set people straight. (I’m sorry; I love setting people straight.)

A. THE WRITING OF 1984

In 1949, a book entitled 1984 was published. It was written by Eric Arthur Blair under the pseudonym of George Orwell.

The book attempted to show what life would be like in a world of total evil, in which those controlling the government kept themselves in power by brute force, by distorting the truth, by continually rewriting history, by mesmerising the people generally.

This evil world was placed only thirty-five years in the future so that even men who were already in their early middle age at the time the book was published might live to see it if they lived out a normal lifetime.

I, for instance, was already a married man when the book appeared and yet here we are less than four years away from that apocalyptic year (for ‘1984’ has become a year that is associated with dread because of Orwell’s book), and I am very likely to live to see it.

In this chapter, I will discuss the book, but first: Who was Blair/Orwell and why was the book written?

Blair was born in 1903 into the status of a British gentleman. His father was in the Indian civil service and Blair himself lived the life of a British Imperial official. He went to Eton, served in Burma, and so on. However, he lacked the money to be an English gentleman to the full. Then, too, he didn’t want to spend his time at dull desk jobs; he wanted to be a writer. Thirdly, he felt guilty about his status in the upper class. So he did in the late 1920s what so many well-to-do American young people in the 1960s did. In short, he became what we would have called a ‘hippie’ at a later time. He lived under slum conditions in London and Paris, consorted with and identified with slum dwellers and vagrants, managed to ease his conscience and, at the same time, to gather material for his earliest books.

He also turned left wing and became a socialist, fighting with the loyalists in Spain in the 1930s. There he found himself caught up in the sectarian struggles between the various left-wing factions, and since he believed in a gentlemanly English form of socialism, he was inevitably on the losing side. Opposed to him were passionate Spanish anarchists, syndicalists, and communists, who bitterly resented the fact that the necessities of fighting the Franco fascists got in the way of their fighting each other.

The communists, who were the best organised, won out and Orwell had to leave Spain, for he was convinced that if he did not, he would be killed From then on, to the end of his life, he carried on a private literary war with the communists, determined to win in words the battle he had lost in action.

During World War II, in which he was rejected for military service, he was associated with the left wing of the British Labour party, but didn’t much sympathise with their views, for even their reckless version of socialism seemed too well organised for him. He wasn’t much affected, apparently, by the Nazi brand of totalitarianism, for there was no room within him except for his private war with Stalinist communism. Consequently, when Great Britain was fighting for its life against Nazism, and the Soviet Union fought as an ally in the struggle and contributed rather more than its share in lives lost and in resolute courage, Orwell wrote Animal Farm which was a satire of the Russian Revolution and what followed, picturing it in terms of a revolt of barnyard animals against human masters.

He completed Animal Farm in 1944 and had trouble finding a publisher since it wasn’t a particularly good time for upsetting the Soviets. As soon as the war came to an end, however, the Soviet Union was fair game and Animal Farm was published. It was greeted with much acclaim and Orwell became sufficiently prosperous to retire and devote himself to his masterpiece, 1984.

That book described society as a vast world-wide extension of Stalinist Russia in the 1930s, pictured with the venom of a rival left-wing sectarian. Other forms of totalitarianism play a small role. There are one or two mentions of the Nazis and of the Inquisition. At the very start, there is a reference or two to Jews, almost as though they were going to prove the objects of persecution, but that vanishes almost at once, as though Orwell didn’t want readers to mistake the villains for Nazis. The picture is of Stalinism, and Stalinism only.

By the time the book came out in 1949, the Cold War was at its height. The book therefore proved popular. It was almost a matter of patriotism in the West to buy it and talk about it, and perhaps even to read parts of it, although it is my opinion that more people bought it and talked about it than read it, for it is a dreadfully dull book – didactic, repetitious, and all but motionless.

It was most popular at first with people who leaned towards the conservative side of the political spectrum, for it was clearly an anti-Soviet polemic, and the picture of life it projected in the London of 1984 was very much as conservatives imagined life in the Moscow of 1949 to be.

During the McCarthy era in the United States, 1984 became increasingly popular with those who leaned towards the liberal side of the political spectrum, for it seemed to them that the United States of the early 1950s was beginning to move in the direction of thought-control and that all the viciousness Orwell had depicted was on its way towards us.

Thus, in an afterword to an edition published in paperback by New American Library in 1961, the liberal psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm concluded as follows:

‘Books like Orwell’s are powerful warnings, and it would be most unfortunate if the reader smugly interpreted 1984 as another description of Stalinist barbarism, and if he does not see that it means us, too.’

Even if Stalinism and McCarthyism are disregarded, however, more and more Americans were becoming aware of just how ‘big’ the government was getting; how high taxes were; how increasingly rules and regulations permeated business and even ordinary life; how information concerning every facet of private life was entering the files not only of government bureaux but of private credit systems.

1984, therefore, came to stand not for Stalinism, or even for dictatorship in general – but merely for government. Even governmental paternalism seemed ‘1984ish’ and the catch phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’ came to mean everything that was too big for the individual to control. It was not only big government and big business that was a symptom of 1984 but big science, big labour, big anything.

In fact, so thoroughly has 1984-ophobia penetrated the consciousness of many who have not read the book and have no notion of what it contains, that one wonders what will happen to us after 31 December 1984. When New Year’s Day of 1985 arrives and the United States is still in existence and facing very much the problems it faces today, how will we express our fears of whatever aspect of life fills us with apprehension? What new date can we invent to take the place of 1984?

Orwell did not live to see his book become the success it did. He did not witness the way in which he made 1984 into a year that would haunt a whole generation of Americans. Orwell died of tuberculosis in a London hospital in January 1950, just a few months after the book was published, at the age of forty-six. His awareness of imminent death may have added to the bitterness of the book.

B. THE SCIENCE FICTION OF 1984

Many people think of 1984 as a science fiction novel, but almost the only item about 1984 that would lead one to suppose this is the fact that it is purportedly laid in the future. Not so! Orwell had no feel for the future, and the displacement of the story is much more geographical than temporal.

The London in which the story is placed is not so much moved thirty-five years forward in time, from 1949 to 1984, as it is moved a thousand miles east in space to Moscow. Orwell imagines Great Britain to have gone through a revolution similar to the Russian Revolution and to have gone through all the stages that Soviet development did. He can think of almost no variations on the theme. The Soviets had a series of purges in the 1930s, so the Ingsoc (English Socialism) had a series of purges in the 1950s. The Soviets converted one of their revolutionaries, Leon Trotsky, into a villain, leaving his opponent, Joseph Stalin, as a hero. The Ingsoc, therefore, convert one of their revolutionaries, Emmanuel Goldstein, into a villain, leaving his opponent, with a moustache like Stalin, as a hero.

There is no ability to make minor changes, even. Goldstein, like Trotsky, has ‘a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard’. Orwell apparently does not want to confuse the issue by giving Stalin a different name so he calls him merely ‘Big Brother’.

At the very beginning of the story, it is made clear that television (which was coming into existence at the time the book was written) served as a continuous means of indoctrination of the people, for sets cannot be turned off. (And, apparently, in a deteriorating London in which nothing works, these sets never fail.)

The great Orwellian contribution to future technology is that the television set is two-way, and that the people who are forced to hear and see the television screen can themselves be heard and seen at all times and are under constant supervision even while sleeping or in the bathroom. Hence, the meaning of the phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’.

This is an extraordinarily inefficient system of keeping everyone under control. To have a person being watched at all times means that some other person must be doing the watching at all times (at least in the Orwellian society) and must be doing so very narrowly, for there is a great development of the art of interpreting gesture and facial expression. One person cannot watch more than one person in full concentration, and can only do so for a comparatively short time before attention begins to wander. I should guess, in short, that there may have to be five watchers for every person watched. And then, of course, the watchers must themselves be watched since no one in the Orwellian world is suspicion-free. Consequently, the system of oppression by two-way television simply will not work.

Orwell himself realised this by limiting its workings to the Party members. The ‘proles’ (proletariat), for whom Orwell cannot hide his British upper-class contempt, are left largely to themselves as subhuman. (At one point in the book, he says that any prole that shows ability is killed – a leaf taken out of the Spartan treatment of their helots twenty-five hundred years ago.)

Furthermore, he has a system of volunteer spies in which children report on their parents, and neighbours on each other. This cannot possibly work well since eventually everyone reports everyone else and it all has to be abandoned.

Orwell was unable to conceive of computers or robots, or he would have placed everyone under non-human surveillance. Our own computers to some extent do this in the IRS, in credit files, and so on, but that does not take us towards 1984, except in fevered imaginations. Computers and tyranny do not necessarily go hand in hand. Tyrannies have worked very well without computers (consider the Nazis) and the most computerised nations in today’s world are also the least tyrannical.

Orwell lacks the capacity to see (or invent) small changes. His hero finds it difficult in his world of 1984 to get shoelaces or razor blades. So would I in the real world of the 1980s, for so many people use slip-on shoes and electric razors.

Then, too, Orwell had the technophobic fixation that every technological advance is a slide downhill. Thus, when his hero writes, he ‘fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. He does so ‘because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink-pencil’.

Presumably, the ‘ink-pencil’ is the ball-point pen that was coming into use at the time that 1984 was being written. This means that Orwell describes something as being written’ with a real nib but being ‘scratched’ with a ball-point. This is, however, precisely the reverse of the truth. If you are old enough to remember steel pens, you will remember that they scratched fearsomely, and you know ball-points don’t. This is not science fiction, but a distorted nostalgia for a past that never was. I am surprised that Orwell stopped with the steel pen and that he didn’t have Winston writing with a neat goose quill.

Nor was Orwell particularly prescient in the strictly social aspects of the future he was presenting, with the result that the Orwellian world of 1984 is incredibly old-fashioned when compared with the real world of the 1980s.

Orwell imagines no new vices, for instance. His characters are all gin hounds and tobacco addicts, and part of the horror of his picture of 1984 is his eloquent description of the low quality of the gin and tobacco. He foresees no new drugs, no marijuana, no synthetic hallucinogens. No one expects an s.f. writer to be precise and exact in his forecasts, but surely one would expect him to invent some differences.

In his despair (or anger), Orwell forgets the virtues human beings have. All his characters are, in one way or another, weak or sadistic, or sleazy, or stupid, or repellent. This may be how most people are, or how Orwell wants to indicate they will all be under tyranny, but it seems to me that under even the worst tyrannies, so far, there have been brave men and women who have withstood the tyrants to the death and whose personal histories are luminous flames in the surrounding darkness. If only because there is no hint of this in 1984, it does not resemble the real world of the 1980s.

Nor did he foresee any difference in the role of women or any weakening of the feminine stereotype of 1949. There are only two female characters of importance. One is a strong, brainless ‘prole’ woman who is an endless washerwoman, endlessly singing a popular song with words of the type familiar in the 1930s and 1940s (at which Orwell shudders fastidiously as ‘trashy’, in blissful non-anticipation of hard rock).

The other is the heroine, Julia, who is sexually promiscuous (but is at least driven to courage by her interest in sex) and is otherwise brainless. When the hero, Winston, reads to her the book within a book that explains the nature of the Orwellian world, she responds by falling asleep – but then since the treatise Winston reads is stupefyingly soporific, this may be an indication of Julia’s good sense rather than the reverse. In short, if 1984 must be considered science fiction, then it is very bad science fiction.

C. THE GOVERNMENT OF 1984

Orwell’s 1984 is a picture of all-powerful government, and it has helped make the notion of ‘big government’ a very frightening one.

We have to remember, though, that the world of the late 1940s, during which Orwell was writing his book, was one in which there had been, and still were, big governments with true tyrants – individuals whose every wish, however unjust, cruel or vicious, was law. What’s more, it seemed as though such tyrants were irremovable except by the chance of outside force. Benito Mussolini of Italy, after twenty-one years of absolute rule, was overthrown, but that was only because his country was suffering defeat in war.

Adolf Hitler of Germany, a far stronger and more brutal tyrant, ruled with a steel hand for twelve years, yet even defeat did not, in itself, bring about his overthrow. Though the area over which he ruled shrank and shrank and shrank, and even though overwhelming armies of his adversaries closed in from the east and west, he remained absolute tyrant over whatever area he controlled – even when it was only over the bunker in which he committed suicide. Until he removed himself, no one dared remove him. (There were plots against him, to be sure, but they never worked, sometimes through quirks of fate that seemed explainable only by supposing that someone down there liked him.)

Orwell, however, had no time for either Mussolini or Hitler. His enemy was Stalin, and at the time that 1984 was published, Stalin had ruled the Soviet Union in a ribbreaking bear hug for twenty-five years, had survived a terrible war in which his nation suffered enormous losses and yet was now stronger than ever. To Orwell, it must have seemed that neither time nor fortune could budge Stalin, but that he would live on forever with ever increasing strength. – And that was how Orwell pictured Big Brother.

Of course, that was not the way it really was. Orwell didn’t live long enough to see it but Stalin died only three years after 1984 was published, and it was not long after that that his regime was denounced as a tyranny by – guess who – the Soviet leadership.

The Soviet Union is still the Soviet Union, but it is not Stalinist, and the enemies of the state are no longer liquidated (Orwell uses ‘vaporised’ instead, such small changes being all he can manage) with quite such abandon.

Again, Mao Tse-tung died in China, and while he himself has not been openly denounced, his close associates, as ‘the Gang of Four’, were promptly demoted from Divinity, and while China is still China, it is not Maoist any longer.

Franco of Spain died in his bed and while, to his very last breath, he remained the unquestioned leader he had been for nearly forty years, immediately after that last breath, Fascism abruptly dwindled in Spain, as it had in Portugal after Salazar’s death.

In short, Big Brothers do die, or at least they have so far, and when they die, the government changes, always for the milder.

This is not to say that new tyrants may not make themselves felt, but they will die, too. At least in the real 1980s we have every confidence they will and the undying Big Brother is not yet a real threat.

If anything, in fact, governments of the 1980s seem dangerously weak. The advance of technology has put powerful weapons – explosives, machine guns, fast cars into the hands of urban terrorists who can and do kidnap, hijack, gun down, and take hostages with impunity while governments stand by more or less helplessly.

In addition to the immortality of Big Brother, Orwell presents two other ways of maintaining an eternal tyranny.

First -,present someone or something to hate. In the Orwellian world it was Emmanuel Goldstein for whom hate was built up and orchestrated in a robotized mass function.

This is nothing new, of course. Every nation in the world has used various neighbours for the purpose of hate. This sort of thing is so easily handled and comes as such second nature to humanity that one wonders why there have to be the organised hate drives in the Orwellian world.

It needs scarcely any clever psychological mass movements to make Arabs hate Israelis and Greeks hate Turks and Catholic Irish hate Protestant Irish – and vice versa in each case. To be sure, the Nazis organised mass meetings of delirium that every participant seemed to enjoy, but it had no permanent effect. Once the war moved on to German soil, the Germans surrendered as meekly as though they had never Sieg-Heiled in their lives.

Second – rewrite history. Almost every one of the few individuals we meet in 1984 has, as his job, the rapid rewriting of the past, the readjustment of statistics, the overhauling of newspapers – as though anyone is going to take the trouble to pay attention to the past anyway.

This Orwellian preoccupation with the minutiae of ‘historical proof’ is typical of the political sectarian who is always quoting what has been said and done in the past to prove a point to someone on the other side who is always quoting something to the opposite effect that has been said and done.

As any politician knows, no evidence of any kind is ever required. It is only necessary to make a statement – any statement – forcefully enough to have an audience believe it. No one will check the lie against the facts, and, if they do, they will disbelieve the facts. Do you think the German people in 1939 pretended that the Poles had attacked them and started World War II? No! Since they were told that was so, they believed it as seriously as you and I believe that they attacked the Poles.

To be sure, the Soviets put out new editions of their Encyclopaedia in which politicians rating a long biography in earlier editions are suddenly omitted entirely, and this is no doubt the germ of the Orwellian notion, but the chances of carrying it as far as is described in 1984 seem to me to be nil – not because it is beyond human wickedness, but because it is totally unnecessary.

Orwell makes much of ‘Newspeak’ as an organ of repression – the conversion of the English language into so limited and abbreviated an instrument that the very vocabulary of dissent vanishes. Partly he got the notion from the undoubted habit of abbreviation. He gives examples of ‘Communist International’ becoming ‘Comintern’ and ‘Geheime Staatspolizei’ becoming ‘Gestapo’, but that is not a modern totalitarian invention. ‘Vulgus mobile’ became ‘mob’; ‘taxi cabriolet’ became ‘cab’; ‘quasi-stellar radio source’ became ‘quasar’; ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’ became ‘laser’ and so on. There is no sign that such compressions of the language have ever weakened it as a mode of expression.

As a matter of fact, political obfuscation has tended to use many words rather than few, long words rather than short, to extend rather than to reduce. Every leader of inadequate education or limited intelligence hides behind exuberant inebriation of loquacity.

Thus, when Winston Churchill suggested the development of ‘Basic English’ as an international language (something which undoubtedly also contributed to ‘Newspeak’), the suggestion was stillborn. We are therefore in no way approaching Newspeak in its condensed form, though we have always had Newspeak in its extended form and always will have.

We also have a group of young people among us who say things like ‘Right on, man, you know. It’s like he’s got it all together, you know, man. I mean, like you know -‘ and so on for five minutes when the word that the young people are groping for is ‘Huh?’

That, however, is not Newspeak, and it has always been with us, too. It is something which in Oldspeak is called ‘inarticulacy’ and it is not what Orwell had in mind.

D. THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION OF 1984

Although Orwell seemed, by and large, to be helplessly stuck in the world of 1949, in one respect at least he showed himself to be remarkably prescient, and that was in foreseeing the tripartite split of the world of the 1980s.

The international world of 1984 is a world of three superpowers: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia – and that fits in, very roughly, with the three actual superpowers of the 1980s: the United States, the Soviet Union, and China.

Oceania is a combination of the United States and the British Empire. Orwell, who was an old Imperial civil servant, did not seem to notice that the British Empire was in its last throes in the late 1940s and was about to dissolve. He seems to suppose, in fact, that the British Empire is the dominant member of the British-American combination.

At least, the entire action takes place in London and phrases such as ‘the United States’ and ‘Americans’ are rarely, if ever, mentioned. But then, this is very much in the fashion of the British spy novel in which, ever since World War II, Great Britain (currently about the eighteenth strongest military and economic power in the world) is set up as the great adversary of the Soviet Union, or of China, or of some invented international conspiracy, with the United States either never mentioned or reduced to the small courtesy appearance of an occasional CIA agent.

Eurasia is, of course, the Soviet Union, which Orwell assumes will have absorbed the whole European continent. Eurasia, therefore, includes all of Europe, plus Siberia, and its population is 95 per cent European by any standard.

Nevertheless, Orwell describes the Eurasians as ‘solid-looking men with expressionless Asiatic faces’. Since Orwell still lives in a time when ‘European’ and ‘Asiatic’ are equivalent to ‘ ‘hero’ and ‘villain’, it is impossible to inveigh against the Soviet Union with the proper emotion if it is not thought of as ‘Asiatic’. This comes under the heading of what Orwellian Newspeak calls ‘double-think’, something that Orwell, like any human being, is good at.

It may be, of course, that Orwell is thinking not of Eurasia, or the Soviet Union, but of his great bête noire, Stalin. Stalin is a Georgian, and Georgia, lying south of the Caucasus mountains, is, by strict geographic considerations, part of Asia.

Eastasia is, of course, China and various dependent nations. Here is prescience. At the time Orwell was writing 1984, the Chinese communists had not yet won control of the country and many (in the United States, in particular) were doing their best to see that the anti-Communist, Chiang Kai-shek, retained control. Once the communists won, it became part of the accepted credo of the West that the Chinese would be under thorough Soviet control and that China and the Soviet Union would form a monolithic communist power.

Orwell not only foresaw the communist victory (he saw that victory everywhere, in fact) but also foresaw that Russia and China would not form a monolithic bloc but would be deadly enemies.

There, his own experience as a Leftist sectarian may have helped him. He had no Rightist superstitions concerning Leftists as unified and indistinguishable villains. He knew they would fight each other as fiercely over the most trifling points of doctrine as would the most pious of Christians.

He also foresaw a permanent state of war among the three; a condition of permanent stalemate with the alliances ever-shifting, but always two against the strongest. This was the old-fashioned ‘balance of power’ system which was used in ancient Greece, in medieval Italy, and in early modern Europe. Orwell’s mistake lay in thinking there had to be actual war to keep the merry-go-round of the balance of power in being. In fact, in one of the more laughable parts of the book, he goes on and on concerning the necessity of permanent war as a means of consuming the world’s production of resources and thus keeping the social stratification of upper, middle, and lower classes in being. (This sounds like a very Leftist explanation of war as the result of a conspiracy worked out with great difficulty.)

In actual fact, the decades since 1945 have been remarkably war-free as compared with the decades before it. There have been local wars in profusion, but no general war. But then, war is not required as a desperate device to consume the world’s resources. That can be done by such other devices as endless increase in population and in energy use, neither of which Orwell considers.

Orwell did not foresee any of the significant economic changes that have taken place since World War II. He did not foresee the role of oil or its declining availability or its increasing price, or the escalating power of those nations who control it. I don’t recall his mentioning the word ‘oil’.

But perhaps it is close enough to mark Orwellian prescience here, if we substitute ‘cold war’ for ‘war’. There has been, in fact, a more or less continual ‘cold war’ that has served to keep employment high and solve some short-term economic problems (at the cost of creating long-term greater ones). And this cold war is enough to deplete resources.

Furthermore, the alliances shifted as Orwell foresaw and very nearly as suddenly. When the United States seemed all-powerful, the Soviet Union and China were both vociferously anti-American and in a kind of alliance. As American power decreased, the Soviet Union and China fell apart and, for a while, each of the three powers inveighed against the other two equally. Then, when the Soviet Union came to seem particularly powerful, a kind of alliance sprang up between the United States and China, as they co-operated in vilifying the Soviet Union, and spoke softly of each other.

In 1984 every shift of alliance involved an orgy of history rewriting. In real life, no such folly is necessary. The public swings from side to side easily, accepting the change in circumstance with no concern for the past at all. For instance, the Japanese, by the 1950s, had changed from unspeakable villains to friends, while the Chinese moved in the opposite direction with no one bothering to wipe out Pearl Harbour. No one cared, for goodness’ sake.

Orwell has his three great powers voluntarily forgo the use of nuclear bombs, and to be sure such bombs have not been used in war since 1945. That, however, may be because the only powers with large nuclear arsenals, the United States and the Soviet Union, have avoided war with each other. Were there actual war, it is extremely doubtful that one side or the other would not finally feel it necessary to push the button. In that respect, Orwell perhaps falls short of reality.

London does, however, occasionally suffer a missile strike, which sounds very much like a V-1 or V-2 weapon of 1944, and the city is in a 1945-type shambles. Orwell cannot make 1984 very different from 1944 in this respect. Orwell, in fact, makes it clear that by 1984, the universal communism of the three superpowers has choked science and reduced it to uselessness except in those areas where it is needed for war. There is no question but that the nations are more eager to invest in science where war applications are in clear view but, alas, there is no way of separating war from peace where applications are in question.

Science is a unit, and everything in it could conceivably be related to war and destruction. Science has therefore not been choked off but continues not only in the United States and Western Europe and Japan, but also in the Soviet Union and in China. The advances of science are too numerous to attempt to list, but think of lasers and computers as ‘war weapons’ with infinite peaceful applications.

To summarise, then: George Orwell in 1984 was, in my opinion, engaging in a private feud with Stalinism, rather that attempting to forecast the future. He did not have the science fictional knack of foreseeing a plausible future and, in actual fact, in almost all cases, the world of 1984 bears no relation to the real world of the 1980s.

The world may go communist, if not by 1984, then by some not very much later date; or it may see civilisation destroyed. If this happens, however, it will happen in a fashion quite different from that depicted in 1984 and if we try to prevent either eventuality by imagining that 1984 is accurate, then we will be defending ourselves against assaults from the wrong direction and we will lose.

Source

Stalin & the Myth of the ”Old Bolsheviks”

Introduction

One often hears Trotskyists, Anarchists and bourgeois propagandists accuse Joseph Stalin of killing all or at least most of the so-called ”Old Bolsheviks” and thus being able to allegedly distort the true meaning behind Bolshevism/Leninism. Here I won’t be getting into a thorough debate about what is or is not the real core ideology of Bolshevism but I would like to examine the accusation that Stalin ”killed the Old Bolsheviks”.

1. Who were the so-called ”Old Bolsheviks”?

According to the groups mentioned above, i.e. left-communists, Trotskyists, Anarchists and Right-Wingers the term ”Old Bolshevik” typically refers to people such as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rykov etc.

They allege that these people represented ”real Bolshevism” and that Stalin killed them to implement his ”Stalinist distortion of Bolshevism”.

But what makes these people ”Old Bolsheviks”? Sure enough some of them such as Zinoviev were long standing members of the Bolshevik party, but is that all that we’re talking about? Zinoviev, Kamenev & co. had numerous disagreements with Lenin, the founder and leader of Bolshevism so can they truly be called Bolsheviks at all? Second of all, there are many people who were also longtime members of the Bolshevik Party yet they don’t get the same status of being called ”Old Bolsheviks”.

We can only conclude that the Right-Winger, Trotskyist and their ilk define ”Old Bolsheviks” merely as people who were killed by Stalin. That is their only qualification.

2. The Real Old Bolsheviks

Interestingly Right and ”Left” critics of Stalin don’t seem to consider the following group of people Old Bolsheviks despite the fact that they obviously were – or at least ignore them when arguing that ”Stalin killed the Old Bolsheviks”.

Note: The Bolshevik faction ”RSDLP(B)” emerged in 1903-1907. The RSDLP itself was founded in 1898.

Stalin             (joined the RSDLP in 1899. Bolshevik as early as 1903)
Kalinin          (joined the party in 1898. Bolshevik at least as early as 1905)
Voroshilov    (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1903)
Orjonikidze   (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1903)
Sverdlov       (joined the RSDLP in 1902. Bolshevik as early as 1903)
Molotov        (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1906)
Kaganovich   (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1911)

These people were not killed by Stalin, in fact they were his allies and I would argue much better Bolsheviks then Zinoviev & co. However for some reason they do not seem to count.

3. Were Zinoviev, Kamenev & Bukharin really such good Bolsheviks?

I think it can be demonstrated rather easily that Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Trotsky & co. were not particularly good Bolsheviks and for that reason calling them ”Old Bolsheviks” (that Stalin ’murdered’ to distort bolshevism) seems dubious.

Zinoviev & Kamenev:
Lenin himself wanted Z. & K. expelled from the Bolshevik party altogether due to their treachery on the eve of the October Revolution. Z. & K. opposed the revolution and criticized it in a bourgeois newspaper, thus revealing the Bolsheviks plan to overthrow the government to the class-enemy.

”When the full text of Kamenev’s and Zinoviev’s statement in the non-Party paper Novaya Zhizn was transmitted to me by telephone, I refused to believe it… I no longer consider either of them comrades and that I will fight with all my might, both in the Central Committee and at the Congress, to secure the expulsion of both of them from the Party… Let Mr. Zinoviev and Mr. Kamenev found their own party”
–LENIN, ”Letter to Bolshevik Party Members” (18th Oct. 1917)

Bukharin:
Despite being known as a Right-Winger for his views on economic policy, Bukharinists used to be thought of as a Left-Communist faction in the party. This is in the main due to their adventurism and opposition to the Brest-Litovsk peace-treaty.

Lenin slammed the actions of Bukharin & the ”Left”-communists in ”Peace or War?”

”…he who is against an immediate, even though extremely onerous peace, is endangering Soviet power.”

He also attacked Bukharin on the economic front in 1921 in his work ”Once Again On the Trade Unions: On the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin”.

Trotsky:
Mentioning Trotsky in this context is perhaps superfluous but I will do it for the sake of thoroughness. He joined the party only in 1917 and cannot be called an Old Bolshevik in any case. Initially he was a Menshevik (1903-1905), then a member of the ultra-opportunist August Bloch (1907-1913) which Lenin ridiculed, opponent of the Zimmerwald Left that Lenin supported (1914-1916) and finally the semi-Menshevik Mezhraiontsy which ceased to exist in 1917. His disagreements with Lenin are too numerous to mention.

He was a longtime enemy of Lenin prompting Lenin to refer to him as a ”Judas”, ”Swine”, ”Scoundrel”, “bureaucratic” helper of the liberal bourgeois and calling his theory of Permanent Revolution both ”absurd” and half-menshevik. Instead of providing quotations sources for the claims will be at the end or otherwise this section would be too lengthy.

Lenin also attacked Trotsky for his flip flopping on the Brest peace deal and his ridiculous economic policy & poor handling of the trade unions together with Bukharin.

4. The Bloc of Rights & Trotskyites

In 1921 at the 10th congress of the RCP Lenin argued for the banning of factional cliques in the Bolshevik party. This was accepted and factions were either expelled or they capitulated. However after his death various factional groups sprung up. In 1927 Trotsky, Zinoviev & Kamenev were expelled from the party for factionalism after organizing an anti-party demonstration, though Z & K. later capitulated to Stalin.

Trotsky was exiled from the USSR, while Zinoviev & Kamenev were marginalized. The Bukharinists also lost the debate against Stalin & the majority. By 1932 Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev & Bukharin had all lost their legitimate political power. Trotsky created a secret conspiratorial anti-soviet group which was joined by Z. & K. and later various Bukharinites. This group became known in the Soviet media as ”The Bloc of Rights & Trotskyites”.

This is the real reason for which these people were later arrested & executed. They wished to carry out destabilization against the Soviet government which was already worried about foreign Fascist invasions. All of this was denied by anti-soviet elements for decades but the discovery of various letters from Trotsky and his associates has proven it without a shadow of a doubt.                     

”…The proposal for a bloc seems to me to be completely acceptable.”
Trotsky to Sedov

”The bloc is organised, it includes the Zinovievists, the Sten–Lominadze Group and the Trotskyists…”
Sedov to Trotsky

One fights repression by means of anonymity and conspiracy…”
–Trotsky to Sedov

”As far as the illegal organisation of the Bolshevik-Leninists in the USSR is concerned, only the first steps have been taken towards its re-organisation.”
Trotsky (Dec. 16 1932)

Source: Library of Harvard College 13905c, 1010, 4782 quoted in Pierre Broué’s The “Bloc” of the Oppositions against Stalin

Whether or not you believe the actions of Trotsky & co. to be justified it is dishonest to claim they were framed or unjustly murdered for their so-called Bolshevism. They fought against the Soviet government and lost.

5. Conclusions: Will the Real Old Bolsheviks please Stand up?

Stalin did not in fact kill the Old Bolsheviks, he killed anti-Soviet renegades whose Bolshevik credentials were questionable at best. The real Old Bolsheviks were people like Kalinin and Voroshilov who supported Lenin since the beginning through thick and thin, not flip-flopping opportunists like Zinoviev who stabbed Lenin in the back when ever it was advantageous.

LENIN QUOTES ON TROTSKY:

”…Trotsky’s (the scoundrel… this swindler … pays lip-service to the Party and behaves worse than any other of the factionalists.”
–LENIN CW 34 p. 400 (1909)

”At the Plenary Meeting Judas Trotsky made a big show of fighting liquidationism…”
–LENIN ”Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame” (1911)

Trotsky… proclaiming his absurdly Left ‘permanent revolution’ theory.”

–LENIN ”Disruption of Unity Under Cover of Outcries for Unity” (1914)

Trotsky’s… theory has borrowed… from the Mensheviks…”
–LENIN ”On the Two Lines in the Revolution” (1915)

”The Bolsheviks helped the proletariat consciously to follow the first line… liberal bourgeoisie was the second… Trotsky is in fact helping the liberal-labour politicians in Russia…”
– LENIN, Ibid.

”What a swine this Trotsky is—Left phrases, and a bloc with the Right…”
–LENIN ”Letter to Alexandra Kollontai” (1917)

”It is Trotsky who is in “ideological confusion”… There you have an example of the real bureaucratic approach: Trotsky… Trotsky’s “theses” are politically harmful…”
–LENIN ”The Trade Unions, The Present Situation And Trotsky’s Mistakes” (1920)

”Comrade Trotsky is essentially wrong on all his new points… Trotsky and Bukharin have produced a hodgepodge of political mistakes”
–LENIN ”Once Again On The Trade Unions: The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin” (1921)

Source

John Callaghan on Rajani Palme Dutt and Evidence for the Moscow Trials and Anti-Soviet Conspiracies

On pages 279-280 of the book Rajani Palme Dutt: A Study in British Stalinism by John Callaghan (Lawrence & Wishart 1993), the author writes the following:

“… the evidence points overwhelmingly to Dutt’s satisfaction with the Communist record. In preparing his book on The Internationale, for example, he had considered the inclusion of an anecdote to illustrate the ‘basic guilt of the accused’ [in the Moscow Trials]. Fortunately, although Dutt changed his mind about publication, this curious fragment survives and acquires an especially sinister light today in view of the fact that the Soviet state itself eventually admitted the falsity of the charges brought against the leading Bolsheviks in question. Dutt’s ‘evidence’ concerns ‘a lengthy day’s visit to the village at some distance from Moscow’ where Bukharin and Radek were at work in the summer of 1935. Here ‘under the seal of absolute secrecy’ they apparently ‘gave him a serious and alarming account… of the net in which they had become involved and of the dilemmas with which they were faced’. Dutt was told in very general terms, with no names mentioned, of how ‘opposition to the party, however much it might be felt to be justified at a given moment, can lead by its own logic step by step into the camp of counter-revolution’. He was accordingly advised to never enter this ‘fatal path of conflict with the party’ and retired with ‘the memory of this talk… like a nightmare’ weighing on his mind during the ensuing period. At first Dutt tried to convince himself that these old ‘friends and comrades’ had presented ‘an allegory to test him’ but he had ‘a lurking suspicion’ that their confessions of guilt were true and only failed to report them to the party by taking refuge in the ‘cowardly evasion’ that he had no grounds for certainty concerning their sins. Thus ‘when the trials followed, of Radek, and subsequently of Bukharin, it was as if a weight were lifted from the writer’s [Dutt’s] consciousness that, however terrible, the facts at last were out’. Dutt now read the trial statements of both men and as he did so ‘he felt as if he were reading the same story a second time, since their narrative corresponded so closely with what they had told him on that summer’s day and evening in 1935, even with many of the same phrases.'”

The source given is: Dutt, ‘Radek-Bukharin conversations ommitted from The Internationale’, 11 March 1964, CPGB archive.

Stalin’s Four Attempts at Resignation

Joseph Stalin was elected as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU in April 1922 during the 11th Congress of the Party. Between then and until his death, he asked to be relieved of his duties as General Secretary a total of four times — all of which were rejected.

On Lenin’s motion, the Plenum of the Central Committee, on April 3, 1922, elected Stalin …  [as the] General Secretary of the Central Committee, a post at which he has remained ever since.

Alexandrov, G. F. Joseph Stalin; a Short Biography. Moscow: FLPH, 1947, p. 74

Stalin’s first attempt at resignation (likely in 1925) from the post of General Secretary was at a meeting of the Central Committee after the 13th Congress (held in May 1924). This was rejected unanimously by all the delegations, including Trotsky. Stalin remarked on this later in 1927 in a speech at a meeting of the Central Committee:

It is said that in that “will” Comrade Lenin suggested to the congress that in view of Stalin’s “rudeness” it should consider the question of putting another comrade in Stalin’s place as General Secretary. That is quite true.

Yes, comrades, I am rude to those who grossly and perfidiously wreck and split the Party. I have never concealed this and do not conceal it now. Perhaps some mildness is needed in the treatment of splitters, but I am a bad hand at that.

At the very first meeting of the plenum of the Central Committee after the Thirteenth Congress I asked the plenum of the Central Committee to release me from my duties as General Secretary. The congress itself discussed this question. It was discussed by each delegation separately, and all the delegations unanimously, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev, obliged Stalin to remain at his post.

What could I do? Desert my post? That is not in my nature; I have never deserted any post, and I have no right to do so, for that would be desertion. As I have already said before, I am not a free agent, and when the Party imposes an obligation upon me, I must obey.

A year later I again put in a request to the plenum to release me, but I was again obliged to remain at my post. What else could I do?

The next two attempts to resign from the post of General Secretary was a year after in 1926 and later in 1927. The British historian Robert Service who specialized in Russian history wrote about this in his biography of Stalin:

On 27 December 1926, he wrote to Sovnarkom Chairman Alexei Rykov saying: ‘I ask you to release me from the post of Central Committee General Secretary. I affirm that I can no longer work at this post, that I’m in no condition to work any longer at this post.’ He made a similar attempt at resignation on 19 December 1927.

All three of these previous attempts were rejected. The last attempt to resign was in 1952, about five months before Stalin’s death, during a meeting of the Central Committee where he urged the Central Committee to relieve him of his duties. This too was rejected. 

In a speech given by him to the Central Committee that mainly criticized Molotov for some of his decisions, he was interrupted near the end of the speech by someone from the floor.

VOICE FROM THE FLOOR – We need to elect comrade Stalin as the General Secretary of the CC CPSU and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

STALIN – No! I am asking that you relieve me of the two posts!

MALENKOV – coming to the tribune: Comrades! We should all unanimously ask comrade Stalin, our leader and our teacher, to be again the General Secretary of the CC CPSU.

Originally posted by Socialist Musings.

Grover Furr on Archival Evidence for the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites

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“Shortly after the Leon Trotsky Archive at Harvard’s Houghton Library was opened in January 1980, Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué discovered letters between Leon Sedov and his father Trotsky that proved the existence of a bloc between Trotskyites and other opposition groups within the USSR. Sometime in the middle of 1932 Sedov informed his father as follows:

“[The bloc] is organized. In it have entered the Zinovievites, the Sten-Lominadze group and the Trotskyites (former ‘[capitulators]’). The group of Safar. Tarkhkan has not formally entered yet – they stand on too extreme a position; they will enter in a very short time. – The declaration of Z. and K. concerning their enormous mistake in ’27 was made during negotiations with our people concerning the bloc, immediately before the exile of Z and K.” [70]

About the same time American historian Arch Getty was discovering that Trotsky had secretly sent letters to at least Radek, Sokol’nikov, Preobrazhenskii, Kollontai, and Litvinov. The first three had been Trotskyites before publicly recanting their views. Getty did not find the letters – only the certified mail receipts for them. Getty realized this meant that the Trotsky Archive has been ‘purged.’ These letters had been removed. Other materials had undoubtedly been purged as well. [71]

The only reason to “purge” the archives would have been to remove materials that would have seemed incriminating – that would have negatively impacted Trotsky’s reputation.As an examination of the question of the letter to Radek shows, the letters that we know were removed proved, at the very least, that Trotsky lied during the 1930s by claiming he never maintained contact with oppositionists inside the USSR when, in reality, he was doing so, and by claiming that he would never agree to a secret bloc between his supporters and other oppositionist groups in act he had done precisely that.

Evidently Broué found the implications of this fact very disturbing. He never mentioned Getty’s discoveries of Trotsky’s letters to his supporters and others inside the USSR or the purging of the Trotsky archive, even though Broué cites the same Getty publications (an article and a book) in a very positive manner. [72]

Therefore it has been well established by scholars by the mid-1980s that a Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc did in fact exist and that it was formed in 1932 and that Zinoviev and Kamenev were personally involved. Sedov also foresaw the entry into the group of Safarov, who in any case had a group of his own.

In an interview with the Dutch social-democratic newspaper Het Volk during the second half of January 1937, at the time of the Second Moscow Trial, Sedov stated, in a slip of the tongue, that “the Trotskyists” had been in contact with the defendents at the First Moscow Trial of August 1936. [73] Sedov specifically named Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov. Concerning Radek and Piatakov Sedov went on to say that “[t]he Trotskyists have had much less contact with them than with the others. To be exact: no contact at all.” That is, Sedov tried to withdraw his “slip” about Radek and Piatakov.

But Sedov did not even try and retract the information that preceded it: that “the Trotskyists” had indeed been in contact with “the other”: Smirnov, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. This interview, “slip of the tongue” included, was published in a provincial edition of Het Volk on January 28, 1937. It was noticed by the Communist press, which called attention to Sedov’s “slip of the tongue.” (Arbeideren, Oslo, February 5, 1937; Abejderbladet, Copenhagen, February 12, 1937.) Thanks to Getty we now know that the Communist press was correct. Sedov’s remark really was a “slip of the tongue.” We know that Sedov was lying because Getty had found evidence of Trotsky’s letter to Radek. Trotsky has indeed been in touch with Radek. Sedov’s first remark, about “much less contact,” was accurate.

Therefore we have good, non-Soviet evidence, confirmed by the Trotsky Archive, of the following:

  • A “bloc” of Zinovievites, Trotskyites, and others including at least the Sten-Lominadze and, perhaps, the Safarov-Tarkhanov group (with whom they were in any case in touch) and involving Zinoviev and Kamenev themselves, was indeed formed in 1932.
  • Trotsky had indeed been in touch with Zinoviev and Kamenev, as well as others, probably through his son and chief representative Sedov.
  • Trotsky was indeed in touch with at least Radek and Piatakov.
  • Trotsky really did send a letter to Radek, who was in Geneva at the time, in the Spring of 1932, just as Radek testified in the January 1932 Moscow Trial.
  • There is no reason to accept Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué’s conclusion that thus bloc was “ephemeral” and died out shortly after it was formed, because we know the Trotsky Archive was purged at some time, while Broué had no evidence to support that statement.

[….]

The Harvard Trotsky archive yielded to Broué and Getty unmistakable evidence that the “bloc” did exist; that Trotsky was in contact with the bloc’s members and his own supporters inside the USSR, and that Trotsky lied consistently about all these matters both in the Bulletin of the Opposition and to the Dewey Commission. No scholar today denies this. Kirilina, Lenoe, and Egge simply ignore the whole matter.

The NKVD of the 1930s termed the complexly-interlocking set of oppositional conspiracies the “klubok,” or “tangle.” If any of these conspiracies were acknowledged to have existed, it would be hard to deny the existence of the rest, since all the defendants implicated others in a chant that, directly or indirectly, connected them all. Admitting that the bloc of Trotskyites and Zinovievites did in fact exist would present the danger of a “slippery slope” to any historian who wanted to deny the validity of the other conspiracies. For once it is conceded that the first alleged underground opposition conspiracy really did exist, and therefore that both the Khrushchev and Gorbachev official reports, rehabilitations, and official historians were lying, it logically follows that other conspiracies, which these same sources also denied, might have existed too.

 – Grover Furr, “The Murder of Sergei Kirov: History, Scholarship and the Anti-Stalin Paradigm,” pages 131-133, 136.

Footnotes

[70] Harvard, Trotsky Archive 4782 p. 1; see Broué in Cahiers Leon Trotsky 1980 p. 36; Broué, “Party Opposition to Stalin…” p. 100.

[71] Other materials were certainly removed – “purged” – with traces of their removal remaining. For example, excerpts from a discussion between Trotsky and Sedov concerning the slogan “remove Stalin” (‘ubrat Stalina’) remain in the archive, but the full letters from which the excerpts were made are not there.

[72] We will examine this whole question in detail in a forthcoming work.

[73] “Het process te Moskou. Wie niet wil bekennen al doodgeschoten?” Het Volk 28 Jan. 1937 pp. 1 and 5. My sincere thanks to Sven-Eric Holmstrom for tracking down this article and generously providing me with a copy.

The Soviet Union Looks To Its Health

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The Bolshevik Revolution not only overturned the political and economic system that was based on exploitation but also brought with it a revolutionary reorganisation of the entire society. One of the major component was the reorganisation and implementation of a socialist health care system, which took care of the citizen from their cradle to grave.

The Soviet health care found its support and admiration even in the Western countries. The British health care expert Sir Arthur Newsholme, in his work “Red Medicine: Socialized Health in Soviet Russia” that was based after his fact finding visit to the Soviet Union, mentioned about the grand success of the socialist health care in following words:

            Our description of what has been accomplished in medical administration may easily be regarded as giving a distorted and too favorable view of medico-social developments in Russia. Our statements are open to this accusation, which has been similarly urged against the particulars given in the many earlier volumes which have described personal observations made by foreign visitors to the U.S.S.R. Doubtless we were shown the best of what exists in Russia. The same would hold equally good if any foreign visitors came with influential introductions to inspect medical and public health work in England or America. We realized all the time that we were seeing the best that the U.S.S.R. had succeeded in developing. But when this best was seen repeated in many cities visited by us, and when it was everywhere frankly stated that their arrangements were not yet complete, that the dearth of doctors made more adequate provisions difficult for a few years; and when we were told openly of the great difficulties which were being experienced in extending the medical provisions of cities to the vast rural communities of Russia, and of the only partial success hitherto achieved in overcoming these difficulties, we were forced to the conclusion that we were not being victimized by a “window-dressing” display; and that, indeed, a marvelous reformed and extended medical service had been organised in Russia, the methods and procedures of which the rest of the world would do well to study.

Below we are reproducing an article from the American journal of Worker Medical Advisory Board, Health and Hygeine published in 1935. In this article the author gives a succinct account of how the socialist health care worked in the Soviet Union during time of Stalin.

—- Editor, Other Aspect (8/7/2016)  


ALONG with every tremendous stride it has taken in developing industrial and agricultural progress, the Soviet Union has taken the necessary steps to safeguard and improve Soviet workers’ health. Rest homes, sanitariums, “keep the-baby healthy” stations and hospitals grew up alongside great factories and on giant collective farms. When plans were made to build a city, as at Magnitogorsk, these plans included first and foremost abundant provision for taking care of the health of the workers.

American engineers have reported, on their return from the Soviet Union, their surprise at the manner in which new plants were set up. Before the foundations of the factory or mill were laid, homes for the workers who were to build the factory were erected. The Americans pointed out that in the United States the factory is the first consideration. Workers can always be housed in the rudest sort of shacks. In the Soviet Union, where prevention of ill health is of paramount importance, the homes are built first.

The successful completion of the first Five Year Plan in four years and the carrying out of the Second Five Year Plan at as great a speed, requires great physical and mental effort for the Soviet workers. The physical welfare of the shock brigaders, the heroes of labor who set the pace for the other workers, is the greatest concern of the Soviet government. Every precaution is taken to maintain and ensure the good health of the workers.

The keyword in health matters in the Soviet Union is prevention. In the United States and other capitalist countries, we do not go to a doctor or clinic until we are sick. In the Soviet Union, where health is cared for on presentation of a union card, not on presentation of a fee, the workers are trained and urged to go to the clinics at the slightest sign of something wrong or likely to go wrong. A worker who has fever will be sent by the factory doctor to the clinic. This worker, assured that he does not lose his job and knowing that he will be paid while away, soon learns to prevent ill health.

In the United States, the worker who goes to a clinic is oppressed by the feeling of “charity.” 12 The clinics are meant only for those who cannot pay for private treatment and this is felt by every worker. In addition, these clinics, especially in the smaller towns, are overcrowded. It is sufficient here to give some figures on the clinics of the Soviet Union. This does not cover other working conditions, conditions in the home, rest homes, etc.

In 1932, the All-Union Public Health Conference adopted a plan to cover the entire Union with a network of clinics. This plan is part of the second Five Year Plan and is to be completed by 1937. Now, in 1935, much has already been accomplished.

The plan is based on the principle that three types of clinics are needed to cover the general and specific needs of each industrial centre. The clinics are set up and staffed according to the population. These clinics are: the Polyclinic, which handles general work. This includes aD . x-ray department and a clinical laboratory where examinations of blood, sputum, urine, etc., are made. There are also two special type clinics which take care of the patients referred by the Polyclinic. Here the special branches of medicine are covered.

These three types of clinics, the Polyclinic and the two special clinics, are combined in one unit. The number of units and the number of doctors, nurses and attendants is determined by the size of the city or town. For towns larger than 60,000, clinics are established in the ratio of one unit for each 50,000. Thus, in Moscow, Unit No. 1 serves 46,000 people, Unit No.2 serves 55,000. The fifth unit is equipped to handle an even greater number. It serves 65,000. On the other hand, in Colomna and Podolak, cities with less than 60,000 population, there is one unit to each city.

1750 visits daily or more than 500,000 visits per year. The staff of each unit consists of doctors, nurses, technicians and clerical help. The number of doctors in each speciality has been carefully worked out according to the requirements. The largest units, with 50 doctors, cover every speciality. Where the smaller units, in the APRIL, 1935 .. villages or small towns, do not cover a speciality, the standard unit is called upon.

The staff of this standard unit is grouped according to the following:

General medical doctors (internists) ……………….. 7

General medical doctors to answer calls………….. 9

Surgeons ……………………………………………………… 5

Pediatricians (diseases of childhood) ……………… 5

Gynecologists (diseases of women) ……………….. 3

Eye doctors ………………………………………………. 2

Ear, nose and throat ………………………………………. 2

Dentists ……………………………………………………. 8

Neuropathologists (diseases of nervous system)…. 1

Skin and venereal diseases …………………………….. 3

Laboratory Chief …………………………….. …………… 1

Roentgenologist (X-ray doctor)………………………. 2

Physio·therapist (treatments with electricity, etc.).. 1

Phthisiologist (specialist in tuberculosis) …. 1

These units are clinics and are not to be confused with prophylactic stations, maternity clinics, baby health stations, rest homes, sanitoria, hospitals for acute and chronic diseuea and other institutions under the All Union Department of Public Health.

From the above will be seen the fundamental difference between public health in the Soviet Union and in the United States. In the Soviet Union all health is public health. Workers do not go to a clinic as a last resort, after being unable to pay a private doctor. They go to the clinic as a matter of course, as part of the public health policy of the Soviet Union for the prevention of sickness.

Source: Health and Hygiene, The Magazine of the daily Worker Medical Advisory Board, Vol 1, No.1 April 1935

Source

Michael Parenti: Is Nicaragua More Democratic Than the United States?

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[From: Covert Action Information Bulletin, Number 26, Summer 1986]

To justify the policies of attack, encirclement, embargo, and destabilization directed against Nicaragua, the Reagan administration has charged that the Sandinista government is on the road to totalitarianism, that it denies religious and political freedom and is a threat to the security of its neighbors. The goal of U.S. policy, claims President Reagan, is to bring about a pluralistic open society in Nicaragua, a goal that never loomed very large during the fifty years of the Somoza dictatorship. More recently in a book on the Nicaraguan revolution. journalist Shirley Christian echoed this line, arguing that the contra war was a justifiable attempt ”to force the Sandinista Front into accepting major structural changes toward an open political society.”

In response to this position, supporters of the Sandinista revolution have argued that Nicaragua does have a pluralistic society, is attempting to make a better life for its people, has no aggressive designs upon its neighbors, and instead is itself being invaded along two of it borders. Others have shown that by every standard, Nicaragua’s elections have been more open and democratic than El Salvador’s and its society more humane than most others in Latin America.

Indeed it can be further argued that by every standard Nicaragua is a more democratic society than the one waging aggression against — and I do not mean Honduras. By every major democratic criterion, Nicaragua comes off looking better than the United States. Let us begin with a comparison of the national elections held in November 1984 in both the United States and Nicaragua [1]

Popular Participation

One crucial measure of an open political system is the degree of popular participation. Most voting studies in the United States and elsewhere find that nonvoters show a high degree of alienation from the political process; they believe voting is not a means of effecting changes, and they often fail to see a meaningful choice in the candidates presented to them. (This is the view also of a surprisingly large number of persons who vote in the United States.) Therefore a comparison of the respective rates of turnouts in the Nicaraguan and U.S. election might be worth pondering for a moment.

The turnout in the United States in the 1984 election was little less than 53 percent of the eligible voters, one of the lowest of any western nation. Yet the press took little note of this and instead treated Reagan’s reelection as a landslide victory and democratic mandate. In contrast, voter turnout was nearly 82 percent in Managua and 75.4 percent in Nicaragua as a whole. Yet this turnout was described in the U.S. press as “disappointing” because the Sandinistas had hoped for an 80 percent national turnout. (Left unmentioned was the fact that in Nicaragua the voting was voluntary, unlike most Latin American countries.)

Range of Political Choice

Elections that offer little choice are said to be wanting in democratic standards. The choice in Nicaragua was noticeably wider and more democratic than in the United States. Seven parties ran for seats in the national assembly and for the presidency, representing a broad ideological range: from those on the far left (who damned the FSLN for its moderate policies and for allegedly betraying the workers and peasants) to those on the center and right (who accused the FSLN of exercising a rigid control over the country, wrecking the economy and leading Nicaragua to war). All these charges and countercharges were reported and debated extensively in the public and private press in Nicaragua.

In the United States the choice was limited largely to Democrats and Republicans, who in many races are often hard to tell apart. True, there were a variety of minor parties but these were not accorded the same opportunity for participation as were the various opposition parties in Nicaragua, as we shall see.

Access to the Ballot

A variety of parties may compete in an election but if they are denied roughly equal conditions of competition or access to the ballot or shoved to the side of the political arena, it cannot be said that democratic competition exist. In the U.S. all fifty states have laws, written and enforced by Republican and Democratic officials, regulating party access to the ballot — often in ways restrictive enough to keep smaller parties from participating, thus depriving the electorate of the freedom to choose someone other than a Democrat or a Republican. Minor parties are often required to gather a large number of signatures on nominating petitions in a limited time. Thus in Pennsylvania third-party state-wide candidates must collect 36,000 signature in a three-week period; in Maryland candidates are required to collect over 55,000 signatures in a short time. Sometimes a 5 percent requirement for signatures has been interpreted to mean 5 percent of voters from every district within the state — an impossible task for a third party whose base might he confined to a few urban areas.

In some states votes who are registered with the major parties are not allowed to sign or circulate minor-party nominating petition. Petitions are sometimes thrown out by hostile officials on trivial and sometimes unlawful technicalities. (as happened to the Communist Party in Illinois and Connecticut in recent elections) compelling minor parties to pursue expensive court battles that further drain their financial resources.

In some states minor parties must pay exorbitant filing fees: $5,000 Louisiana for an independent candidate. To get on the ballot in all 50 states, a third party would have to expend an estimated $750,000 in filing fees and other expenses and collect 1.2 million signatures, a feat accomplished in 1984 by no third party. And the trend is toward less and less ballot access: in the last 12 years, sixteen states have tightened the restrictions. Between 1980 and 1984, for example, the states of Indiana and North Dakota quadrupled the number of signatures required to get on the ballot.

In Nicaragua, in striking contrast, the electoral law favors the smaller political parties. In 1984 any party could register to field candidates by merely presenting a national directorate and two representatives from each of the country’s nine regions. One of the parties that so registered, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) asked to withdraw from the contest four days before election day. The Electoral Council ruled that it was too late for a party to pull out but that individual candidates could withdraw their names if they chose. None did so.

Accessibility to the Electorate

Being on the ballot does little good if the bulk of the voters have never heard of you or never hear *from* you. Third parties in the United States are given almost no national media coverage during campaigns. News media focus exclusively on the two major parties, failing even to report the votes that third parties get on election day (usually between one and two million all together), thus treating the minor parties as if they do not exist. Lacking the huge sums available to the major parties, especially the Republicans, the smaller parties are unable to buy major media time and space of their own. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 finances the major parties, giving each tens of millions of dollars for their presidential campaigns, but the smaller parties can obtain federal funds only after they glean 5 percent of the national vote (about 4 million votes for any one party) In sum, they cannot get the money until they get the 5 percent, but they cannot yet the percent until they get the money.

In contrast, the Nicaraguan electoral law provided public financing of 9 million cordobas ($321,000) for each participating party *regardless of size* and guaranteed an equal amount of time each day on the state-run radio stations and television channels. Each party was also permitted to receive unlimited funds from private donors, including people and organizations outside Nicaragua, a provision that worked to the advantage of the centrist and rightist parties. As the campaign got under complaints from the participating parties led to changes in the electoral law, including an increase in radio and television time, an additional 3 million cordobas in government campaign funds for each party, and a lengthening of the campaign period. Parties were also guaranteed access to products in short supply in Nicaragua: paper. printing facilities, transportation and gasoline. The various parties also produced their own party newspapers, together with leaflets and billboards.

Absence of Coercion

Instances of coercion and harassment of candidates have not been an unusual occurrence in U.S. elections. In the United States third-party candidates especially those of a pronouncedly leftist hue have run into difficulties of this sort. Harassment may not be confined to the candidates themselves but may include their supporters and canvassers. In 1972 in Vermont persons who merely signed Communist Party ballot petitions found their names publicized by town clerks in an effort to embarrass them into withdrawing their signatures. Generally though, in modern times American elections have not been marked by violence nor by any serious degree of threat against candidates. The coercions are largely of the legal kind noted earlier which work well enough against third parties. In regard to individual voters, however, it should be noted that not every American citizen has the right to an uncoerced vote, as testified by the continuing need for a Civil Rights Voting Act, the renewal of which President Reagan opposed.

Turning to Nicaragua, we find there were serious acts of violence and murder in the 1984 election — all committed by the force supported by the Reagan administration. The contras killed the presidents of two polling stations and two volunteer workers involved in registration. In the Jinotega mountains, one polling station worker’s throat was cut by the contras in front of his wife and family. On election day a member of the electoral police was shot to death by contras in La Tronica. In all, twelve election workers lost their lives in assaults by counterrevolutionaries .

The election was less than flawless in its procedures, but the overall performance was one that the Nicaraguan democracy can be proud of. There was free and open campaigning in every area of the country except in some war zones. According to estimates by the Supreme Electoral Council, there were some 250 public rallies. In general the election was characterized by untrammeled and vigorous political debate. If the FSLN was instituting a totalitarian regime, it was going about it in the wrong way.

About five of the public rallies were marred by incidents of violence but no serious injuries were reported. During the first months of the campaign a number of parties also reported that their campaign workers had been harassed by members of the FSLN, or that their posters had been destroyed. The Sandinista leadership denounced these incidents and they seemed to diminish thereafter. In addition, several rallies held by the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Committee (CDN). a coalition of conservative business-oriented parties that abstained from the election, were disrupted by fights between CDN supporters and Sandinista counterdemonstrators. These rallies were technically illegal since the CDN had refused to participate in the election and indeed spent its time during the campaign attacking the electoral system itself. Once the CDN decided to conduct what seemed like a sabotage of the electoral effort (in the eyes of FSLN supporters), clashes with counterdemonstrators were difficult to avoid.

Because of these incidents, Arturo Cruz claimed that he was attacked by ‘mobs’ and that free electoral competition did not exist. It should be recalled that the country is at war and that Cruz openly identified with the enemy and was not at any time functioning as a legal or serious candidate. When Cruz, a banker in Wellington, arrived in Managua five months before the election, the CDN suddenly announced he would be their unified presidential candidate. Without officially registering as a candidate, Cruz toured the country for several days, drawing small crowds As suddenly as he arrived, he left, announcing he would not run under the prevailing electoral conditions. Throughout this period the U.S. media and the U.S. government described him as the “major opposition candidate” and treated his nonparticipation as evidence that the election was an unfair and meaningless exercise. In conflict with this view is the one expressed in the report, cited herein, by U.S. citizens in Nicaragua:

In general, our perception of the electoral campaign period is that the harassment and fistfights were scattered incidents that did not affect the generally free atmosphere of the electoral process. We found our neighbors and co-workers unafraid to voice their opinions, and heard and read virulent criticism of the FSLN. We know of no pressure on Nicaraguan to vote for the Sandinista Front. In particular, we found no truth in the charge made by _La Prensa_ that the cards which entitle families to receive subsidized food allotments were controlled in a concerted effort to influence Nicaraguans” votes. We conclude that the electoral campaign provided Nicaraguans with abundant information on which to base a free decision about their vote.

A similar conclusion was reached by the 460 official observers from all over the world who were free to check out all aspects of the voting process and ballot counting. None of the eleven participating parties filed any charges of fraud.

System of Representation

The FSLN won 64.9% of the vote, a victory that was only a few percentage points higher than the one enjoyed by Ronald Reagan in 1984. The two runner-up parties, both center-rightist, won 13% and 9% respectively. The National Assembly seats were allocated according to proportional representation so that minority parties were assured of 35 of the 96 seats (including six seats that under the electoral law are allotted to the losing presidential candidates of each party). All this was dismissed by Reagan as “an electoral farce without any meaningful political opposition.”

In contrast, the single-member-district electoral system used in the United States is much less representative and therefore less democratic. The party that polls a plurality of the vote, be it 40, 50 or 60 percent, wins 100 percent of a district’s representation, while smaller parties, regardless of their vote, receive zero representation. Proportional representation provides a party with legislative seats roughly in accordance with the percentage of votes it wins, thus assuring minor parties of some parliamentary presence. But the single-member, winner-take-all system magnifies the strength of the major parties and leaves the minor parties with a percentage of seats (if any) that is far lower than its percentage of votes. The winner-take-all system deprives third parties not only of representation but eventually of voters too, since not many citizens wish to “waste” their ballots on a party that seems incapable of establishing a legislative presence

Minorities

There are other criteria by which the American and Nicaraguan democracies might he compared. For instance, there is the treatment of minorities. Much is made of the Sandinistas’ forced relocation of Miskito Indians during a time of serious border attack, a policy that quickly proved not only wrong but in some instances wrongful. Today Managua is now trying to undo its previous policy and resettle the Miskito on their lands, an approach that compares favorably with the U.S. treatment of Native American Indians, to say the least, and with the forced relocation of the Japanese into concentration camps during World War II, uprooting them from California communities, that — unlike Nicaragua — were never threatened by enemy invasion. Nor did the U.S. government ever compensate the Japanese for the losses they sustained in the way of homes, businesses and farms

Political Dissent

There is the more general question of Freedom of communication for dissenting ideas. La Prensa is not the only opposition voice in Nicaragua. About half of the radio and television stations in the country are privately owned and most of these give the government a daily ideological pounding that makes National Public Radio look like the tepid establishment mouthpiece it is. The various political parties also produced their own newspapers during the campaign. There is a war going on in Nicaragua. The country is encircled by hostile forces. has endured invasions on both of its borders and has suffered much loss of life and destruction of property. Yet the censorship imposed is no worse and probably less restrictive than what the U.S. government imposed during World War II, and Managua’s treatment of dissenters and collaborators has been far more tolerant and liberal than the treatment accorded Tory sympathizers during and immediately after the American revolution or dissenters who received long prison terms during World War I.

In the United States, dissenting views that go beyond the mainstream. or even much left of center, are rarely allowed time or space in the major media, but are consigned to small-circulation magazines that teeter on the edge of insolvency. In short, there is a greater plurality of ideas, ideologies, and debate in Nicaragua than in the United States. On this score Nicaragua is a more open, more pluralistic society. It may not always remain so however. Subject to enough threat and siege, assault and murder, the Nicaraguans will start tightening up, choosing security over dissent, survival over pluralism. Indeed, it is miraculous that they haven’t already done so. The signs are there; President Daniel Ortega has said: “In the hardest moments we have to convert the defeats into more ideological unity, more political unity … [and] more organization.” (Miami Herald, August 4, 1985).

If the U.S. Government were really interested in encouraging pluralistic dissent in Nicaragua it would pursue a policy quite the opposite of the one now in the saddle, offering Managua friendship and support and the hope for peaceful independence and security. Democracy is a delicate flower that does not do well when repeatedly stomped upon.

Religious Freedom

The Reagan administration has charged that there is religious persecution in Nicaragua. But the Catholic church is alive and well. Elements of its clergy and laity can be found playing prominent roles on both sides within Nicaragua, struggling hard to build — or destroy — the revolution. Religious practice is not interfered with. The Rev. Miguel Gray, a Nicaraguan Baptist minister, hailed the religious freedom enjoyed in that country and pointed to the building of 19 additional churches since 1979 in a desperately poor country where not too many buildings of any kind are going up.

The level of religious tolerance in the United States today is as good as might be found anywhere. But in recent years the disturbing intolerance manifested by such groups as the Moral Majority, and the President’s open association with the religious Right, including his announcement that “ours is a Christian nation,” might cause us to give more attention to the question of religious tolerance here at home.

Human Needs

If democracy means more than a set of procedures but implies something, about the substantive conditions of life, then here too poor Nicaragua looks better than rich America in the era of Ronald Reagan. Decades of colonialism, Somocista pillaging, earthquake, revolution and counterrevolution, have left Nicaragua with a legacy of extreme poverty, yet the very worst is not happening to the poor citizens of that country as it is to the poor on the streets in Washington D.C.; no one is starving and no one has been tossed aside like so much human refuse.

Finally, in comparing Nicaragua with the United States. we might consider the degree to which each country is interfering with the political development and security of the other. As Reagan himself aptly put it: “Democracies do not spend a lot of money on arms, build large armies or invade or destabilize their neighbors.” With typical Orwellian inversion he was aiming this remark at Nicaragua but it applies most perfectly to hi own administration, which spends more money on arms and more time destabilizing and invading neighbors than we could ever imagine Nicaragua doing. The truth is also inverted when Reagan calls the Sandinistas “terrorists.” To be sure, there is plenty of terrorism going on in Nicaragua and plenty being exported to other countries in Central America, but it is conducted by contra mercenaries and Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran death squads and military, all financed and advised by the U.S.

Those “democratic socialist” critics on the left, who give qualified and skittish support to Nicaragua, who are quick to point out how they have “problems” with some of the things the Sandinistas are doing, who impose flawless democratic standards upon a tiny country that is under mortal siege from the Yankee Colossus, those critics might want to consider the realities of the situation. It is the United States which should be the object of their professedly democratic concerns; it is the U.S. which falls so dismally short of practicing the democratic pluralism it preaches to others, exporting violence and terrorism and pummeling a smaller neighbor that is trying to develop a democratic society of its own.

If one criterion of democracy is that a country not act like a thug and aggressor in its dealings with another country even to the point of refusing to show up in (world) court to defend itself when so charged — then United States under Reagan comes off looking tar less fair, less open, and less democratic than Nicaragua.

(*) Michael Parenti writes and lectures frequently on U.S. domestic and foreign politics. His most recent book is _Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media_ (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1986).

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Stalin’s ‘Anti-Semitism’

 

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The accusation that Stalin was an anti-Semite is a strange one. Neither Stalin’s written texts nor his actions indicate anti-Semitism. Indeed, they indicate precisely the opposite, as I will show in a moment. So those who wish to make the accusation have to rely on hearsay – second- and third-hand snippets from passing conversations, whether from an estranged daughter or from those within and without the USSR who were not favourably disposed to Stalin.[1] And once such a position is ‘established’, it is then possible to read some of his actions and written comments in such a light. For instance, the ‘anti-cosmopolitan’ campaign of the late 1940s becomes a coded ‘anti-Semitic’ campaign. Or the ‘doctors plot’ of 1952-53 – in which leading doctors were suspected of seeking to assassinate government officials – is seen as an excuse for a widespread anti-Semitic purge and deportation,[2] halted only because of Stalin’s death (we may thank Khrushchev for this piece of speculation). However, the only way such an assumption can work is that many doctors in the Soviet Union were Jewish; therefore the attack on doctors was anti-Semitic. Equally, even more doctors were Russian, but for some strange reason, the plot is not described as anti-Russian.

Unfortunately for Stalin’s accusers, even the hearsay indicates that Stalin was opposed to the deep-rooted anti-Semitism of Russian culture. During the anti-cosmopolitan campaign of 1948-49 – which was actually anti-capitalist in the wake of the Second World War – it became the practice in some journal articles to include, where possible, the original family names in brackets after the Russian name. Sometimes, such original names were Jewish. When Stalin noticed this he commented:

Why Mal’tsev, and then Rovinskii between brackets? What’s the matter here? How long will this continue …? If a man chose a literary pseudonym for himself, it’s his right…. But apparently someone is glad to emphasise that this person has a double surname, to emphasise that he is a Jew…. Why create anti-Semitism?[3]

Indeed, to the Romanian leader, Gheorghiu-Dej, Stalin commented pointedly in 1947, ‘racism leads to fascism’.[4] At this point, we face an extraordinary contradiction: those who would accuse Stalin of anti-Semitism must dismiss his deep antipathy to fascism and deploy the reductio ad Hitlerum. If one assumes, even subconsciously, that Hitler and Stalin were of the same ilk, then it follows that Stalin too must be an anti-Semite. Apart from the sheer oxymoron of an anti-fascist fascist, this assertion seems very much like the speculative thought bubble that becomes ‘true’ through a thousand repetitions.[5]

I prefer to follow a rather conventional approach, instead of relying on hearsay, gossip and speculation. That approach is to pay attention to his written statements and actions. These are rather telling. Already in ‘Marxism and the National Question’ (1913), in which Stalin deals extensively with the Jews and the Bund (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia), he points out that dispersed minorities such as the Jews would be given the full range of protections, in terms of language, education, culture and freedom of conscience, within a socialist state. This would become his standard position, reiterated time and again and contrasted with the tsarist autocracy’s fostering of pogroms.[6] It was also reflected in extensive programs among Jews, including the fostering – not without problems and failures – of Yiddish, Jewish institutions and the significant presence of Jews at all levels of government.[7]

From time to time, Stalin had to deal with outbursts of anti-Semitism that still ran deep in Russian culture (thanks to the residual influence of tsarist autocracy). For example, in 1927 he explicitly mentions that any traces of anti-Semitism, even among workers and in the party is an ‘evil’ that ‘must be combated, comrades, with all ruthlessness’.[8] And in 1931, in response to a question from the Jewish News Agency in the United States, he describes anti-Semitism as an ‘an extreme form of racial chauvinism’ that is a convenient tool used by exploiters to divert workers from the struggle with capitalism. Communists, therefore, ‘cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism’. Indeed, in the U.S.S.R. ‘anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system’. Active ‘anti-semites are liable to the death penalty’.[9]

This was no empty boast, as those who accuse Stalin of anti-semitism seem to assume. It is worth noting that article 123 of the 1936 Constitution ensured that this position was law.[10]Active anti-Semitism, even racial slurs, were severely punished. It may be surprising to some, but one of the key tasks of the NKVD (precursor to the KGB) was to counteract waves of residual anti-Semitism.[11] Yes, one of the jobs of the infamous secret police of the USSR was to root out anti-Semitism.

Further, the ‘affirmative action’ program of the Soviet Union,[12] enacted in Stalin’s capacity as Commissar for Nationality Affairs (1917-24), was explicitly a program in which territories of identifiable ethnic minorities were established, with their own languages and forms of education, the fostering of literature and cultural expression, and local forms of governance. As for dispersed minorities, even within such regions, they were provided with a stiff framework of protections, including strong penalties for any form of racial denigration and abuse. Already in 1913 Stalin had prefigured such an approach, specifying among others ‘the Jews in Poland, the Letts in Lithuania, the Russians in the Caucasus, the Poles in the Ukraine, and so on’.[13] They too – in a program of indigenization (korenizatsiia)[14] – should be able to use their own languages, operate their own schools, law-courts and soviets, and have freedom of conscience in matters relating to religion. Indeed, by the mid-1930s the Jews too were identified as a ‘nation’ with territory, having the Jewish Autonomous district in Birobidzhan.[15] This importance of this move (part of Crimea had also been proposed) is rarely recognised. It eventually failed, but it was the first move towards Jewish territory in the modern era.[16]

A final question: what about the attacks on Judaism as a religion? In 1913, Stalin wrote of the ‘petrified religious rites and fading psychological relics’[17] fostered by pockets of the ‘clerical-reactionary Jewish community’.[18] Is this anti-Semitic? No, it is anti-religious. Judaism too was subject anti-religious campaigns, which had the result not so much of divorcing Jews from their religious ‘roots’ but of producing a profound transformation in Jewish institutions and culture, so much so that one can speak of a ‘sovietisation’ of Jewish culture that produced Jews who were not religious but proud of contributions to Soviet society.[19]

What are we to make of all this? Do the hearsay and implicit assumptions speak the truth, or do Stalin’s words and actions speak the truth? I prefer the latter. But if we are to give some credence to the hearsay, then it may indicate a profoundly personal struggle for a Georgian, who was brought up with an ingrained anti-Semitism, to root it out in the name of socialism.

[1] For useful collections of such hearsay, see Erik Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism  (London: Routledge Curzon, 2002), 201-7; Erik Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 8, no. 1 (2007).

[2] Jonathan Brent and Vladimir P. Naumov, Stalin’s Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953  (New York: HarperCollins, 2003); Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar  (London: Phoenix, 2003), 626-39.

[3] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[4] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[5] As a small sample, see Benjamin Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 138-45; Vojtech Mastny,The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years, vol. Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1996), 157-58, 162; Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice  (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), 33-38; Philip Boobyer, The Stalin Era  (London: Routledge, 2000), 78; Konstantin Azadovskii and Boris Egorov, “From Anti-Westernism to Anti-Semitism: Stalin and the Impact of the ‘Anti-Cosmopolitan’ Campaigns of Soviet Culture,”Journal of Cold War Studies 4, no. 1 (2002); Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, 310-12; Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007), 264; Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” 45; Paul R. Gregory, Terror By Quota: State Security from Lenin to Stalin (An Archival Study)  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 53, 265.

[6] I. V. Stalin, “The Russian Social-Democratic Party and Its Immediate Tasks,” in Works, vol. 1, 9-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1901 [1954]), 20-21; I. V. Stalin, “Rossiĭskaia sotsial-demokraticheskaia partiia i ee blizhaĭshie zadachi,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 11-32 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1901 [1946]), 21-23; I. V. Stalin, “To the Citizens: Long Live the Red Flag!,” in Works, vol. 1, 85-89 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1905 [1954]); I. V. Stalin, “K grazhdanam. Da zdravstvuet krasnoe znamia!,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 84-88 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1905 [1946]); I. V. Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” in Works, vol. 2, 300-81 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1913 [1953]), 319-21; I. V. Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” in Sochineniia, vol. 2, 290-367 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1913 [1946]), 308-10; I. V. Stalin, “Abolition of National Disabilities,” in Works, vol. 3, 17-21 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1917 [1953]), 17; I. V. Stalin, “Ob otmene natsionalʹnykh ogranicheniĭ,” in Sochineniia, vol. 3, 16-19 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1917 [1946]), 16; I. V. Stalin, “The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question: Theses for the Tenth Congress of the R. C. P. (B.) Endorsed by the Central Committee of the Party,” in Works, vol. 5, 16-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1921 [1953]), 17, 27; I. V. Stalin, “Ob ocherednykh zadachakh partii v natsionalʹnom voprose: Tezisy k Х s”ezdu RKP(b), utverzhdennye TSK partii,” in Sochineniia, vol. 5, 15-29 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1921 [1947]), 16, 26; Stalin, “Concerning the Presentation of the National Question,” 52-53; Stalin, “K postanovke natsionalʹnogo voprosa,” 52-53.

[7] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 58-71, 77-84; Anna Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), xv-xvi.

[8] I. V. Stalin, “The Fifteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.), December 2-19, 1927,” in Works, vol. 10, 274-382 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1927 [1954]), 332; I. V. Stalin, “XV s”ezd VKP (b) 2–19 dekabria 1927 g,” in Sochineniia, vol. 10, 271-371 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1927 [1949]), 324.

[9] I. V. Stalin, “Anti-Semitism: Reply to an Inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States,” in Works, vol. 13, 30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1931 [1954]), 30; I. V. Stalin, “Ob antisemitizme: Otvet na zapros Evreĭskogo telegrafnogo agentstva iz Аmerik,” in Sochineniia, vol. 13, 28 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1931 [1951]), 28.

[10] I. V. Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” in Works, vol. 14, 199-239 (London: Red Star Press, 1936 [1978]), article 123; I. V. Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” (Moscow: Garant, 1936 [2015]), stat’ia 123. This also applied to the earliest constitutions of republics, such as the RSFSR, Ukraine and Belorus. See Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 52-57.

[11] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 84-88; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 169, 186-87.

[12] Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001); Terry Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” in A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin, ed. Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin, 67-90 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[13] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 375-76; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 362. See also the exposition of the seventh and ninth clause of the Party Program, concerning equal rights, language and self-government in I. V. Stalin, “The Social-Democratic View on the National Question,” in Works, vol. 1, 31-54 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1904 [1954]), 42-46; I. V. Stalin, “Kak ponimaet sotsial-demokratiia natsionalʹnyĭ vopros?,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 32-55 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1904 [1946]), 43-47.

[14] Korenizatsiia, a term coined by the Bolsheviks, is ‘derived directly not from the stemkoren- (“root”—with the meaning “rooting”) but from its adjectival form korennoi as used in the phrase korennoi narod (indigenous people)’ Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” 74.

[15] Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” article 22; Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” stat’ia 22.

[16] For a little detail, see Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 71-76.

[17] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 310; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 300.

[18] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 374-75; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 361.

[19] Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939, 1-43.

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Socialism and Bureaucracy

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In the following article, A. Clark examines the problem of bureaucracy from the point of view of a society going through a process of socialist transformation. He suggests that the continually advancing technological revolution in the field of computerisation and the communication and information revolution will serve as the material base to resolve most or even all of the problems associated with bureaucracy.

THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION ENCOUNTERS BUREAUCRACY

The first successful socialist seizure of power by the working class did not end, but rather more aptly started with the problems of bureaucracy. Lenin’s initial optimism on having curtailed bureaucracy and its nefarious influence was short-lived. This was replaced by a more realistic view of the nature of the problem. In 1922, Lenin noted that

‘If we take Moscow with its 4,700 communists in responsible positions, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can be said that the communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth, they are not directing, they are being directed’. (Lenin: Vol. 33, pp.288-289)

Here Lenin identifies what was to become a perennial theme of the Russian socialist revolution – the relation between the communists and the soviet bureaucracy, which included the struggle between them. Pre-Revolutionary Russia had behind it a long bureaucratic tradition and this bureaucratic past was superimposed, so to speak, on the new revolution. But in addition to the superimposition of this bureaucratic past on the new revolution, there was the fact that the state increasingly began to direct all aspects of the national economy. Even the collective farms, which emerged after the collectivisation drive in the 1930s, although not state institutions, were not completely autonomous from the state. The extension of state ownership and therefore the role of the state in the economy were bound to increase the size of the state administration and therefore a tendency towards bureaucracy was reinforced.

The increase in the size of the means of administration as a consequence of the extension of the regulatory influence of the state over the economy is not necessarily identical with what is referred to as the problem of bureaucracy, although it is often related to it. In other words, bureaucracy and administration are not the same thing even if usually closely related.

The view that state ownership necessarily leads to an increase in bureaucracy is not a valid argument, although it is a favourite argument for those who want to argue a case against socialism. Most theorists on bureaucracy disagree about the exact meaning of the term, and indeed, the problem of bureaucracy will arise mostly in cases where a bureaucracy is incompetent and dysfunctional. The soviet bureaucracy was a case in point. It had largely been inherited from Tsarism. Lenin had considered that, if the soviet bureaucracy rose to the level of competence of a bureaucracy that existed in one of the advanced bourgeois democratic republics, this would have constituted a big step forward for the Workers State. Had Russia gone through a long period of a bourgeois democratic republic, the problems of bureaucracy as it applies to the functional side of the question may hardly have arisen at all, at least no more than in an advanced capitalist country.

In historical terms Russia skipped a long period of bourgeois democratic development, and so the problems of bureaucracy were posed in a rather sharp, and at times, aggressive manner. To the functional side of the question of bureaucracy were added the socio-political problem of the state bureaucracy, or its leading stratum, consolidating itself into a special, privileged caste elevated above the masses.

BUREAUCRACY AND COUNTERREVOLUTION

The struggle against the soviet bureaucracy consolidating itself into a special privileged caste, which could usurp political power, or subvert the struggle for socialism, is part of the history of the Russian socialist revolution. Lenin in his writings on soviet bureaucracy refers to bureaucratic ‘grandees’. Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter, mentions Stalin’s reference to a ‘damned caste’. [1]

Stalin’s role here was decisive. He was in the forefront of the anti-bureaucratic struggle, which included the struggle against the soviet bureaucracy turning itself into a caste, which could potentially seize political power. This has been described by one writer as Stalin’s anti-bureaucrat scenario. [2] Thus in the middle and late 1930s the struggle against the enemies hiding in the soviet bureaucracy came to a head. Even as early as 1919, Lenin had pointed out that

‘The Tsarist bureaucrats began to join the Soviet institutions and practice their bureaucratic methods, they began to assume the colouring of communists and, to succeed better in their careers, to procure membership cards of the Russian Communist Party’. (Lenin: March 1919, Vol. 29; p.183)

The nature of these purges has confused many bourgeois writers on the revolution. Pseudo-left elements, especially Trotskyists, misconstrue the purges completely suggesting that they represented counterrevolution. In reality, the purges were directed against the counterrevolution, which is the emerging new consensus of the more serious writers although they are anti-Stalinist.

That Trotsky could convince his small band of devotees that the purges were counterrevolutionary is not altogether surprising. After losing political power, Trotsky eventually abandoned the Leninist view on combating bureaucracy. Lenin had argued that the struggle against bureaucracy was a long-term process.
Trotsky rejected this view when he found himself outside of the communist party. On the question of fighting bureaucracy, Trotsky went over to a short-term perspective, misleading those who were ignorant or foolish enough to follow him, to believe that the problems arising from bureaucracy could be resolved by means of a ‘political revolution’. This is precisely what Lenin had warned against, i.e., making a political platform out of the issue of bureaucracy.

Trotsky, rejecting Lenin on this issue and his slogan of ‘political revolution’ against the soviet bureaucracy could only serve the interest of bourgeois democratic counterrevolution. It is perhaps necessary to add here that when the Stalinist leadership turned against soviet bureaucracy, they were not going against Lenin’s advice on how to combat bureaucracy. [3] The Stalinist drive against the soviet bureaucracy served several different purposes. For Stalin, like Lenin, there could be no talk of smashing or overthrowing the soviet bureaucracy. While Trotsky and his supporters were putting forward the ultra-left theory about a counterrevolutionary ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy, the Stalinists, guided by Marxism-Leninism saw the issue not in terms of overthrowing the supposedly counterrevolutionary soviet bureaucracy but rather purging the counterrevolutionary elements in the soviet bureaucracy.

It is clear that Marxist-Leninists, like Stalin, rejected Trotsky’s short-term strategy for fighting bureaucracy based on the idea of a political revolution. Trotsky had reached this conclusion not because it was scientifically correct, but rather because he saw it as the only means of regaining political power. On the question of fighting bureaucracy, Stalin adhered to Lenin’s line.

The more serious bourgeois researchers into these matters come closer to the truth than any Trotskyist interpretation, thus Getty, when referring to the purges of the middle and late 1930s concludes that

‘The evidence suggests that the Ezhovschchina – which is what most people mean by the ‘Great Purges’ – should be redefined. It was not the result of a petrified bureaucracy stamping out and annihilating old radical revolutionaries. In fact, it may have been just the opposite. It is not inconsistent with the evidence to argue that the Ezhovschchina was rather a radical, even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy’. (J. Arch Getty: The Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party reconsidered – 1933-1938; p.206) [4]

In Getty’s view, then, the Stalinist purges constitute a radical, ‘even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy’. This was certainly the apogee of radical Stalinist anti-bureaucratism. For Stalin the soviet bureaucracy had to be purged of all actual and potential counterrevolutionary elements. It was not a question of overthrowing the soviet bureaucracy, as the ultra-left Trotskyists would have, but rather of purging it of all counterrevolutionary elements. Many believe that the Soviet Union would not have stood up to the later Nazi aggression had this action not been taken.

Stalin’s anti-bureaucratic credentials can therefore be clearly established, although the problems of bureaucracy remained and could not be solved until society had reached a higher technical level.

In one form or another, to one degree or another previous socialist regimes have had to face this problem. The Titoite revisionists of Yugoslavia saw the solution in terms of decentralisation. In socialist Albania, the Cultural Revolution, with bureaucracy as one of its targets, began when in 1966 the Central Committee sent an open letter to all party members attacking the evils of bureaucracy. There began a significant reduction in the size of bureaucracy and Albania copied the Maoist line. Those bureaucrats who remained had to spend one month each year performing service in manual labour to keep them in touch with the working class and peasantry.

In truth though, this approach, whether in China or Albania, had no long-term benefits. It did however succeed in alienating the administrative staff, who naturally saw themselves as victims and were resentful of the disruption caused to the economy by these anti-bureaucratic drives.

As previously pointed out, the struggle against bureaucracy in a socialist country has two sides to it. First, there is the struggle against the dysfunctional aspect of bureaucracy. This includes the gradual reduction of the size of bureaucracy, while improving its administrative performance. The other aspect of this struggle is that aimed at preventing the bureaucracy, in particular its managerial layers separating itself from the rest of society – and becoming a privileged caste which can seize political power. Because bureaucracy has no particular ideology or ownership of property holding it together the possibility of it actually seizing political power is rather more problematic than is often realised.

THE WITHERING AWAY OF THE STATE AND BUREAUCRACY

For Marxists, the state is the inevitable product of class society. As classes fade away, the state in the sense of bodies of armed men and all its appurtenances, for the repression of one class by another will fade away. Bureaucracy is one of the forms in which state power in class society expresses itself. The function of the state is to defend a particular social set-up and its ruling class. This applies to socialist society with the same force as it applies to capitalist society. As long as capitalism and the bourgeoisie exist all talk about the withering away of the state is foolhardy in the extreme.

The Soviet State illustrates this point clearly. It had to grow in power and strength in order to resist the pressure of imperialism and world reaction. Those, like the Yugoslav revisionists who attacked Stalin for not promoting a premature withering away of the state, simply demonstrate their anarchist and anti-Marxist conceptions of this process. The state rises and falls with class society. Its departure from the historical stage cannot precede the departure of classes.

Just as Marxist-Leninists want a state that serves socialism, they want the bureaucracy to serve socialism as well. Stalin’s struggle with the soviet bureaucracy is well known and documented. This struggle was certainly inevitable. The essence of this struggle was to get the bureaucracy to serve the interest of socialism. But Stalin understood the contradictory nature of the struggle against bureaucracy. He knew the communist must struggle against bureaucracy while using it at the same time. Bureaucracy is a means of administration by specialists, which is deployed in the interest of socialism by the political leadership of the working class, while at the same time fighting its negative aspects.

When the state takes over the running of industry this can lead to an increase in its administrative functions, and hence bureaucracy. However, it is wrong to view an increase in administrative bureaucracy as a logical result of socialism per se. It is rather a result of the technological level of the given society. Thus, the state of technology comes into play when we consider the extent of the process of bureaucratisation. In other words, the process of bureaucratisation is determined by science and technology.

In today’s world of the continuing rapid advances in the technological revolution, with no end in sight, administrative systems are bound to reflect technological advances. This would suggest that administrative systems will decrease in size while increasing in their ability to process and control information. The old views that state ownership and socialism lead inevitably to an increase in administrative bureaucracy will no longer be plausible. Implicit in all this is the withering away of the state and bureaucracy.

This process, i.e., the withering away of the state and bureaucracy is part of the process of achieving communist society based on advancing technological revolution. For these reasons, it is incumbent on serious Marxists to reject pseudo-left Trotskyist theories that bureaucracies under socialism can be overthrown by means of ‘political revolutions’.

A. Clark.

Notes

[1] Svetlana Alliluyeva: 20 Letters to a Friend; p. 174.

[2] See Lars Lih’s introduction to: Stalin’s Letters to Molotov.

[3] The term ‘Stalinist’ refers to those who supported Stalin.

[4] The word ‘Ezhovschchina’, from the name Ezhov, sometimes spelt Yezhov, was the name of Nikolai Ezhov, who replaced Yagoda as head of Soviet security and subsequently put in charge of the purges.