The destruction of Soviet Russia as the land of Sovietism and the temporary stabilization of capitalism is said by the Trotskyists to date from the death of Lenin. The process most certainly has been speeded since that time. There can be no doubt that Stalin perpetuated and developed the undermining of the Soviet Republic. Trotsky was quite wrong too make Stalin solely responsible. The present demi-god of Russian bureaucracy but continued the work Lenin began. Stalin hastened the degeneration. That degeneration was the inevitable product of the defeat of the German Revolution in 1923, and the subsequent isolation of the Soviet Union. It is possible that Lenin’s reaction to the 1923 movement would have been distinct from that of Stalin and more useful to the general revolutionary cause but it is certain that, as regards the collapse of Socialism in Russia, Stalin had an able master in Lenin.
The world situation from 1918 to 1921 was favorable to the myth — promoted by the Trotskyists, that Leninism was much superior to Stalinism. The Communist International and its hired satellites in all countries talk nonsense when they refer to Comrade Lenin and Comrade Stalin in the same breath. There is no comparison between the two men and it is perfectly clear from their records that there was no sympathy between them. The mantle of Lenin has not fallen upon Stalin any more than the mantle of Jesus has fallen upon the Pope of Rome. On the other hand Lenin was not the uncompromising revolutionary and Stalin is not the perfect Communist anti-Christ. The diiference between the parts played by these two men is explainable partly in the terms of their distinct genius, but it is cqually explainable also in the different circumstances that confronted them.
In the time of Lenin the peculiar equilibrium which prevailed in the capitalist world opposed the capitalist anxious to fight but incapable of victory, to the communist incapable of fighting but unconvinced of defeat. The foreign capitalist did try to overthrow the Soviets between 1918 and 1921. White adventurers were financed by the British Governmerit and honored by the British king. But the White adventure did not go very far, for the revolutionary peasants and workers of Russia were too determined in their resistance to such alien invasions, and the international proletariat was convinced that Soviet Russia was the Workers’ Fatherland. The capitalist class found it was incapable of achieving the task it had set itself; namely the overthrow of the social revolution in Russia. The international proletariat discovered it could not overthrow the capitalist world outside of Russia. And so it came about that Socialist Russia, developing its own germs of anti-Socialism, lived side by side with an external capitalist world, that contained its own germs of Socialism and revolution. The communists grew tired and with the internal struggle developed into tired bureaucrats. The capitalists grew tired and facing their own problems of the economic debacle turned from militarism to diplomacy. Under these circumstances, unless the working-class could develop a spirit of revolutionary aggression, it was inevitable that capitalist stabilization would outstrip Socialist revolution and the counter-revolution would develop itself in Russia not with the aid of the bayonet but through the power of economy. It was under pressure of these events that Lenin developed his New Economic Policy, a policy which, on his own confession, he intended to introduce not in 1921, but in 1918.
Lenin’s speech to the International Communist Congress, 1921, was published in the Communist Review, London, for August, 1921. The report was verbatim. The speech was divided into four parts : (1) International Situation; (2) Position in Russia; (3) The New Policy towards Peasants; (4) Russia and the Word Revolution. Our concern is with part 3, in which Lenin described the New Policy towards the peasants. He defined this policy as “ a proletarian sacrifice for the Revolution “’ and declared that it implied a system of State Capitalism. He added :
“ But this is a new form of capitalism — State Capitalism. State Capitalism in a capitalist society, and State Capitalism in a proletarian Society are two entirely different things. In the first case, it means that Capitalism is controlled and recognized in the interests of the bourgeoisie and against the proletariat. In the second case, it is promoting the interests of the proletariat ... we exist in the midst of capitalist States. We are alone just now, and until the revolution in highly developed industrial countries has freed us from this, we are compelled to pay toll to international capitalism. We will thus win time; and this means winning everything.”
Whether Lenin was right or wrong in his development of the N.E.P. it is certain that his conclusions were wrong. The N.E.P. did not give time to Soviet Russia but it did give time to the counter-revolution. Addressing the Moscow Soviet in 1922, Lenin declared that ” we have dragged Socialism into everyday life,” and he added the prophecy: ” Russia of N.E.P. will become Socialist Russia.” This was preparing the way for the Stalin gospel of “ Socialism in One Country “ and finally for the defeat of Soviet Russia and the entrenchment of the counter-revolution in the socalled Socialist Fatherland. It does not follow that Leninism would have become Stalinism. It does not follow that Lenin’s policy would have been Stalin’s policy. But one is justified in concluding that Leninism was not identical with Socialism and that it did contain within itself those germs of menace which have since staggered every thinking revolutionist as the fully-matured Robespierrean policy, Stalinism.
In Russia to-day one has a police system and also a system of political persecution which probably excels that of the Czardom and is second only to that of Fascism, as expressed in the regimes of Italy and Germany. Whereas Fascism operates nationally, Stalinism operates internationally; and under the guise of proletarian revolution, that Hitler and Mussolini could never assume, excommunicates with a ruthless zeal that has been equaled only by the Papacy in its medieval prime.
Persecution and excommunication began in 1920; and to put aside the persecution of the Anarchists, and their unjustifiable imprisonment and exile without trial, there is on record the persecution of Mjasnikov and his Bolshevik Anti-Parliamentarian comrades which date back to that time. Whatever may he said about the Anarchist possessing a petty peasant psychology and being therefore inclined to counter-revolution, it cannot be denied that Mjasnikov and his comrades were old Bolsheviks and had fought as Bolsheviks in the Bolshevik uprising. It was not until Trotsky himself was in exile that he felt the need to assist Mjasnikov who was experiencing a worse exile. But Mjasnikov’s first imprisonment and exile met with no protest from Trotsky who was then at the height of his power as Commissar of War and could never have anticipated the fate that afterwards overtook him; that is, not unless he recalled as warnings the events of the French Revolution.
Passing over the intervening years, it may help us to understand the real issues in the Soviet Union, if we consider the Kirov assassination and the executions that followed it. Following the assassination of Kirov 117 people were executed without public trial and the Chief of Police and several of his officers were sentenced to long years of imprisonment to be served in concentration camps not for being parties to the assassination but for not having been able to prevent it. If such brutal and bloody terrorism had taken place under the Czar the Socialist movement of the world would have risen in protest.
It is not possible to believe that the group who assassinated Kirov was a White Guard Terrorist group. Neither is there any reason to believe that the assassination of Kirov was the work of Zinoviev and Kamenev and the Bolshevik opposition. Victims of a false trial these two old Bolsheviks and close colleagues of Lenin during years of struggle and exile, were made by the upstart hirelings of the Communist Party, by men who had not a tenth of their culture or revolutionary experience, to appear as criminal imbeciles. who knowing that they were going into imprisonment and exile — and death, as it proved finally — made stage speeches admitting their responsibility and terming the assassination criminal counter-revolution. There was never the least evidence that Zinoviev and Kamenev, with their clear understanding of Socialist principles and past attitude towards assassination had been parties to a plot against the life of any member of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
The persons who were implicated, according to the Stalinist bureaucracy, in the assassination of Kirov must have been between the ages of 13 and 18 at the time of’ the Russian Revolution and therefore had no real connection with the Bolshevik Opposition. Nor were they connected with the White Guards. They were known to be workers and were native Russians. Many of the persons executed had nothing whatever to do with the small group that must have planned the assassination, some actually having been in prison at the time of the assassination. It is obvious, therefore, that although the assassination of Kirov may have been the result of a protest against some of the crimes of Stalinism, the assassination was seized upon as a pretext to suppress working-class struggle and the building of a working-class movement in Russia. What Stalinism fears is the rise of a genuine Communist Party in Russia and like all despotism it must murder thought at all cost and at whatever pretext it can discover. It is a great pity that Azef the notorious is dead. He would have found a boon companion in Stalin and would have been more completely at home under the present police regime in Russia than he was under that of the Czar.
The Trotskyists compare the fake trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev, and in particular the secret condemnation of the 117 men who were executed without any pretense of a trial, with the trial of the leaders of the Social Revolutionary party in the summer of 1922. This was in the days of Lenin and Trotsky. These leaders were charged with responsibility for an organized campaign of terrorism and sabotage. The trial took place in the former Hall of the Nobles, at that time the headquarters of the Moscow Trade Unions. Mass publicity was given to all the actions of the defendants. The accused were allowed foreign Counsel, one being Vandervelde. The accused were convicted of the assassination of Voladarsky, of an attempt on the life of Lenin, and of dynamiting bridges. The death sentence was passed but commuted to periods of imprisonment. Trotsky appeared before the Executive Committee of the Communist International and asked that body to approve of this commutation.
The Trotskyists ask why did this take place at the trial of the Social Revolutionists in 1922, and why was there so much speed and’ secrecy in the case of the 117 in January, 1935. The answer is obvious. A mass trial would have shown that there were no Czarist generals, no British agents, no high-priced saboteurs on trial, but plain workers and former members of the Communist Party. The mass trial would have brought out the fact that the Soviets were no longer organs of proletarian democracy, that the Trade Unions were merely organs of State oppression and not defensive organizations of the working-class, that the Communist Party existed in name only as a mask for an insufferable bureaucratic despotism. The mass trial would have demonstrated the bankruptcy of Communism in Russia and the desperate insolvency of the Communist International. A mass trial in open Court, under the glare of full publicity would have evoked proletarian sympathy for the persons accused, and hatred for the masqueraders who were prosecuting and judging.
All this is perfectly true, but a further deduction follows : which is, that whilst the Soviet Republic publicly tried the Social Revolutionists in 1922, it secretly condemned the Anti-Parliamentarians and the Anarchists. Might we not therefore draw a parallel between the secret condemnations of 1922 and the secret condemnations of 1935? And if that is so might we not say that Leninism lead to Stalinism ?
When one considers that the existing Communist Party has one sole purpose, the unprincipled defense of the present government of the Soviet Republic, and that its official foreign policy is destined to secure recognition of that government by all the capitalist nations of the earth, one understands that the existing Communist Party of the Soviet Union stands not for Communism either in Russia or outside, but for the stabilization of capitalism throughout the world. Which only goes to show that Soviet Russia is not, and never was, the Socialist Fatherland.