The Unknown Revolution, Book Two : Part 05, Chapter 07
(1882 - 1945) ~ Bolshevik-Aligned Leader of the Russian Nabat Anarchists : March of 1920 saw him taken to Moscow, where he would remain prisoner until October, when he and many other anarchists were released by virtue of a treaty between the Soviet Union and Makhno's army. Voline then returned to Kharkov, resuming his old activities... (From : Rudolph Rocker Bio.)
• "Yet there is consolation to be had. The masses learn through all too palpable first hand experience. And the experience is there." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "Socialism, so mighty in Germany, Austria and Italy, has proved powerless. 'Communism', itself very strong, especially in Germany, has proved powerless. The trade unions have proved powerless. How are we to account for this?" (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "As we know, there it was an authoritarian state communism (Bolshevism) that scored a stunning and rather easy victory in the events of 1917. Now, these days, nearly seventeen years on from that victory, not only is communism proving powerless to resist fascism abroad, but, where the regime within the USSR itself is concerned, the latter is more and more often being described more and more deliberately as 'red fascism'." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
Part 05, Chapter 07
Despite the numerous works and studies containing abundant documentation and irrefutable details of the pretense of “Soviet achievements”, many persons continue to believe obstinately in this myth. For many such pretend to know and understand things without examining them closely, and without taking the trouble to read what has been published [about the questions before them].
Various naive individuals, with complete confidence in the statements made by partizans of the U.S.S.R., sincerely believe that the marvelous “achievements” of the only “Socialist State” prepare the ground for the coming of true and integral Communism.
But we who know that country, we who follow closely what is happening there, and what is revealed there, can appreciate the real value of the Bolshevik “conquests” and their “feats of valor” up to the present.
A profound and detailed analysis of that value is not our theme, but we must reply, at least briefly, to five pertinent and natural questions:
Does State capitalism, to which, according to the admissions of sincere Communists themselves, Bolshevism has led in Russia, achieve at least significant results from the purely industrial, agricultural, or cultural point of view?
Does it make progress in these fields?
Has it succeeded in giving an impetus to a country which was backward industrially, technologically, politically, and socially?
Could it, one day, by reason of the progress made, facilitate the social transformation and the transition to the Socialist society of tomorrow?
Can this State capitalism be regarded as a transitional stage [on the road] toward Socialism, an inevitable and indispensable stage in a country such as Russia was before the Revolution?
Many of [their defenders] contend that, under the existing conditions, the Bolsheviki did the maximum possible. By reason of the rudimentary state of industry, technology, and the general education of the masses, they aver, the only conceivable goal in this country was the installation in power of an intellectual elite which, by compulsion, would force the people to make up for the retardation, create a powerful industry, a modern technology, a progressive agriculture, and an exemplary educational system.
This task [the argument of the defenders continues] was the only one that could be attempted. And it was indispensable in Russia. The Bolsheviks were the only ones to understand this and to consecrate themselves resolutely to it, not stopping for any reason nor for any obstacle. And they were completely, right in mercilessly sweeping away all those who might have Werfered with that preparatory work. For the immediate future of the country and also that of Socialism in general depended on these necessary and urgent achievements.
The preceding chapters, we hope, give reason to reflect on ihe soundness of these assertions.
We complete our broad exposition with a few facts, figures ind precise statements.
An excellent method for discovering the real achievements and the real situation of the Bolshevik State exists. But only if one knows the country, its history, its language, its customs, and especially only if one knows how to read the Soviet press. It is regrettable that, except under these essential conditions, such investigation is hardly practicable outside of Russia.
This method is that of scanning regularly the newspapers which appear in Russia, particularly Izvestia and Pravda.
The Bolshevik government knows very well that, except in a few instances, these papers are not being read abroad. Counting, on the one hand, upon ignorance of what is really happening in the U.S.S.R., and on the other hand, upon the effects of its immense and intensive propaganda, the Stalin regime feels itself amply protected from inopportune revelations. Forced to admit and explain certain weaknesses to its own population, it may do it in full security. Therefore it tolerates certain admissions in its newspapers, while controlling, naturally, their object, their appearance, and their scope.
From admission to admission, the regular and attentive reader of the Soviet press inevitably reaches enlightening conclusions.
In studying the Russian newspapers, the following features especially should occupy the attention of the researcher:
Reports of congresses, and particularly the delegates’ speeches.
Local reportage and correspondence.
The editorials and principal articles, written to order and always developed according to the same model, have for years assumed the same invariable character.
Each article begins with a hymn to “achievements” effected. In such and such a field, it asserts, as a rule, we have made giant strides. Everything is going marvelously. “The Party and the Government” (a sacred formula, repeated many times in each article) have made such and such a decision, have applied such and such a measure, or promulgated such and such a decree. Therefore we are sure (it slips imperceptibly into the future tense) that, from now on, this or that will be done; that, in the very near future, such and such progress will be made; that directly such and such a result will be achieved, et cetera.
This part makes up two thirds of the article. Then unfailingly comes a “but”, a “however”, or a “nevertheless”.
But, the article continues, the Party and the Government are obliged to state that, according to the latest reports received, the present achievements are still far from attaining the necessary results; that, at present, only this or that has been done. And there follow figures and data in astonishing disproportion to the forecasts.
The further you read, the more you realize that while the future is going to be splendid the actual present is deplorable; negligence, serious errors, weaknesses, impotence, disorder, confusion are usually cited in such an article. And it is sure to continue with desperate appeals: “Forward! Faster! It is necessary that we regain control of ourselves! It is high time that production increased! Less waste! Let those responsible be called to order! The Party and the Government have done their duty. It is up to the workers to do theirs, et cetera.” Often, too, the article concludes with threats against the unfortunate “responsible parties” and those who remain deaf to the appeals of the Party and the Government in general.
Nothing is more typical of the Soviet press than this aspect. It has been repeated day after day for 20 years.
Reports of the congresses [of the various divisions of the U.S.S.R. political system] are notably edifying if one takes the trouble to scan closely the speeches of the delegates.
All those delegates of course belong to the privileged working-class “aristocracy”. All these speeches resemble one another like drops of water.
Each speech begins with an immoderate glorification of Stalin: the great, the genial, the well-loved, the venerated, the superman, the wisest man of all peoples and all centuries. Then each delegate declares that in his region — or his field — unheard-of efforts are being made to fulfill the orders of the Party and the Government, and to please the adored Vodj. Then they hold out beautiful promises for the future. Finally, they nearly all servilely enumerate all that the Party and the Government have already done “for the workers”. By way of example, the delegate usually cites his own case.
This part of the speech is generally the most curious. Working zealously, and having scored these results, the delegate says, he has been able to win such and such an advancement, which has enabled him now to have a stylish home, nice furniture, a phonograph, a piano, et cetera. And he hopes to do still better in order to attain a way of life even more agreeable.
“He is eminently right, our great Stalin,” the delegate cries. “Life in the U.S.S.R. is becoming happier, more comfortable every day.” Frequently he concludes his speech on a note that is naive to the point of absurdity: “The authorities have promised me, as a recompense for my efforts, this or that (a fine bicycle, for instance). The promise has not yet been kept, but I am waiting patiently, with confidence in my government...” (Prolonged applause from the congress).
The purpose of these speeches, deliberately inspired, is clear. They say to the workers: “Work with zeal, obey the authorities, venerate your Vodj, and you will manage to rise from the herd, and create for yourself a genteel, bourgeois existence.”
And this propaganda bears fruit. The desire to “rise” stimulates the energies of thousands of individuals in the “Soviet” Union. The example of those who “rise” redoubles this energy. The dominant caste makes its profit. But Socialism? Have patience, poor dupes.
And the reporting, local correspondence, and summaries enable us to get an approximate and suggestive idea of a multitude of daily facts, of those “little nothings” which in reality compose and characterize existence.
At the end of such a study, one becomes sufficiently clear about the social level and real spirit of “the first Socialist country”. Naturally, of course, the study of this documentation must be completed by the reader with the scanning of magazine articles, statistics, et cetera.
What, then, are our conclusions about the concrete achievements in the U.S.S.R.?
Ahead of everything else, there exists a field in which the “Soviet” power has beaten all records — that of propaganda: more precisely, that of lying, deception, and bluff.
In this field the Bolsheviks have revealed themselves as past masters, Commanding all avenues of information, publicity, [and communication], they have, on the one hand, surrounded the country with a veritable protective wall across which they allow to pass only what corresponds to their plans, and, on the other hand, they utilize every possible means to maintain an incredibly powerful enterprise of imposture, trickery, stage setting, and mystification.
This deceitful propaganda all over the world is of a scope and intensity without equal. Considerable sums of money are devoted to it. Throwing dust into the eyes [of other peoples] is one of the principal tasks of the Bolshevik State. Newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, books, photographs, moving pictures, radio, expositions, demonstrations, “testimonies” — all methods, one more tricky than the next — are employed.
Undeniably, the “Soviet” government makes large use of direct or indirect subsidies abroad. Among the “Friends of the Soviet Union”, for example, there are writers who are “friends” primarily because this title permits them to sell their literary output in the U.S.S.R. or to gain other advantages.
But propaganda by word having proved insufficient, the Bolshevik government has masterfully organized deception through fact.
No one may enter the Russian domain without special authorization, which is exceedingly difficult to obtain, unless one gives certain guarantees of sympathy for the regime. No one can travel through the country freely, nor examine independently what interests him. On the other hand, the Government has patienhyand meticulously set up a showy facade. It has rigged up a great display of promises to show to the dazzled world. It sets up this scaffolding on every occasion. The “workers’ delegations”, authorized to spend a few weeks in Russia from time to time, and abominably duped (if their members are sincere), serve its purpose. And the same is true of the overwhelming majority of “tourists” or isolated visitors who travel in that country under the vigilant eye of spies, without being able to understand what is really going on around them.
Factories, collective farms, museums, canteens, and parks for sport, play, and rest are all prepared in advance, in special places, and tricked out in such a way that the poor traveler remains dumbfounded without becoming aware of the imposition. And even when he sees something really good or beautiful, he does not realize that it concerns only the 10,000,000 privileged persons and not at all the 160,000,000 exploited proletarians.
If the bourgeoisie of other countries also have recourse to “window dressing”, Bolshevism uses “super-window dressing”, so that in our times still, and despite the testimony of sincere witnesses, millions of workers in all the other lands do not know the truth about the U.S.S.R.
Let us pass on to other achievements.
Here we shall deal with the bureaucracy, the new bourgeoisie, the Army, and the police.
We already know that the Bolshevik State has succeeded in developing with dizzying speed a tremendous bureaucracy, unequaled and incomparable, a bureaucracy which alone forms today a privileged “aristocratic” caste of more than 2,000,000 individuals. It has succeeded also in dividing the population of the “Socialist” State into at least 20 categories of wage-earners. And they have reached an inequality of social conditions never before existent in private capitalist States. The lowest categories receive from 100 to 150 rubles a month. The higher categories receive 3,000 rubles and more.
The “Soviet” Union includes a State bourgeoisie, a bourgeoisie which lives luxuriously, possessing sumptuous villas, with carriages, and servants, et cetera.
The Bolshevik State has militarized the ranks of the directing party itself, by forming, especially from among the Bolshevist youth a “special Army corps”, a sort of State police. And it was with the help of such a special corps that the Lenin government stamped out the revolutionary uprising in Kronstadt in 1921, and with the same aid, the Stalin regime pitilessly drowns in blood the strikes, demonstrations, and revolts which occur in the country from time to time, but of which, naturally, the Bolshevik press does not breathe a word.
Such as it was — chained, castrated, bureaucratized, bourgeoisi-fied, regimented, corrupted, and petrified — the Russian Revolution, as we have said, was powerless to impose itself upon the world. The Bolsheviki ended by realizing this. They understood, too, that under these conditions, they almost inevitably, soon or late, would have to do so with the same method that served them in imposing themselves upon Russia — armed violence.
From then on, they applied themselves relentlessly to the forging of the indispensable instrument of this method: a powerful modern army. Their mining production and their heavy industry particularly were brought into play to carry out this project. The task was achieved to a certain extent. They ended by creating a regular army, patterned after all the armies in the world, mechanically disciplined, blindly devoted to the Power, secured by ranks and decorations, well fed, well dressed, and equipped with the “last word” in materiel. This army has become an imposing force.
Finally. Bolshevism knew how to form a powerful police force, partly regular, but primarily secret, a police force which is perhaps the best in the world, since it has succeeded up to now, in keeping down a subjugated, deceived, exploited, and impoverished population. It has known how, especially, to raise spying to the level of a civic virtue. Every member of the Communist Party — even every loyal citizen — is expected to help the G.P.U., to point out suspicious cases to it, to spy, to denounce.
In the last analysis, the Bolshevik power has succeeded in reducing to complete slavery 160,000,000 individuals, for the purpose of leading them one day — by an infallible method, it claims — to freedom, prosperity, and real Communism. Meanwhile, with its administration wholly bureaucratized, with its etonomy totally nationalized, and with its professional army andrk§»mnipotent police, this power has managed to create a bureaucratic, military, and police State par excellence, a model of a totalitarian State; an incomparable dominating and exploiting mechanism; a real capitalist State.
All these “feats of valor” and “achievements” are undeniable.
What can be said of the others?
Before we do anything else, we must establish, unequivocally, that, according to the admissions of the Bolshevik authorities themselves, admissions which were forced, indirect, but adequately precise, the [carrying out of] the three greatest tasks of the Russian capitalist State have been a complete fiasco. Those tasks were:
The famous “industrialization” of the country.
The celebrated “five-year plans”.
The tremendous “collectivization of agriculture”.
To be sure, they have imported into the U.S.S.R. an imposing array of machines, apparatuses, and equipment of all kinds. They have erected modern houses in certain large cities, and in certain places, workers’ homes, which, however, are very badly built. They have achieved, with the help of foreign engineers and technicians, a few gigantic constructions such as the Dnieprostroi dam, the Magnitogorsk furnaces, the vast Sverdlovsk machine works, and the famous Bielooserski canal. Finally, they have resumed — after a stoppage due to the years of stress — mining exploitation, the production of oil, and the regular functioning of factories. But any regime or nation would have done this under penalty of disappearing [if it did not].
For us the problem has an entirely different meaning. In all that has been accomplished by the Bolshevik State, can one see real achievements that are of interest from our point of view? Can one observe a real general progress of the nation, a progress which puts it on the road to the emancipation, both social and cultural, of the laboring masses, on the road to Socialism, to [real] Communism? Does the activity of the Bolshevik government create in the country an indispensable condition for such an evolution? Has it really achieved a rough sketch of a new society? That sums up the whole problem.
The industrialization of a country can be really productive and progressive only if harmonized with its general and natural development. And such industrialization can be useful socially only if it is in harmony with the whole economic life of the nation, and if, consequently, its effects can be usefully assimilated by the population. In the contrary case, it may lead to impressive, but socially useless, building.
One can erect all that one wishes when one possesses certain means and especially if there can be recourse to enslaved labor, submissive to the commands of the State-employer, and paid by the latter as it sees fit. The [solution of the] problem, however, does not consist of effecting mechanical achievements but of being able to put them at the service of the goal pursued.
A forced industrialization, imposed upon a population which is not prepared for it from any point of view, cannot fulfill this necessary role. To want to industrialize from above a country with a labor populace which is only a downtrodden, inert, miserable herd, is to want to industrialize a desert.
In order that a country be industrialized effectively, it must possess one of two essential elements: either an energetic, powerful, and rich bourgeoisie or a population that is master of its own fate — that is to say free, conscious of its needs and of its acts, desirous of progress, and determined to organize itself to attain it. In the first case, the bourgeoisie must command a market capable of rapidly absorbing the output of industrialization. In the second, this assimilation and the industrialization are assured by the powerful enthusiasm of the whole population on the march toward progress.
The Russian Revolution suppressed the bourgeoisie. The first condition, therefore, did not exist at that time. The second remained. It was necessary to give free scope to the collective evolution of a people of 170,000,000 individuals, a people spontaneously ready to accomplish a tremendous social experiment: to build a society on an absolutely new basis, not capitalist and not statist. It was necessary, simply, to help that people to achieve the experiment.
Immense technical progress being an accomplished fact in the world, and a rapid industrialization and an abundance of products also being, in our time, materially possible, there were no insurmountable obstacles that a powerful human collectivity, carried away by a prodigious ardor, and aided by all the mature forces available, could not have overcome and have reached the desired goal. Who knows what the world would be like today if this course had been followed?
But the Bolshevik Party was completely unaware of that task. Having seized the vacant throne, it wanted to substitute itself for the ousted bourgeoisie and the free creative mass. It suppressed both conditions to replace them with a third: dictatorial power, which stifled the real breath of the Revolution — the boundless enthusiasm of millions of human beings for the cause — which dried up all the living sources of real progress, and barred the way to the effective evolution of society. The result of such an error was inevitable: “mechanism”, a mechanism without life, without soul, without creativity.
We know today, on the basis of exact and irrefutable data, that, except for the military sector, the Bolshevik “industrialism” led, in the overwhelming majority of cases, to all sorts of sterile installations and constructions, especially in so far as the real, economic, social, and cultural progress of a people was concerned.
We know that 75 per cent, of all these huge buildings remain without purpose, and either do not function at all or function badly.
We know that the thousands of machines imported from abroad are for the most part rapidly put out of commission, abandoned, or lost.
We know that the present labor force in the U.S.S.R., a labor force that is only a herd of slaves working reluctantly and in a brutalized way for the profit of the State-employer, does not know how to handle those machines, nor how to use them, and finally, that the population does not get any benefit from them. Only the equipment of the Army has been improved, to a certain extent.
We know that the people — 160,000,000 individuals out of 170,000,000 — live in terrible conditions of poverty and moral brutalization.
The pretended “industrialization” of the U.S.S.R. is not a praiseworthy accomplishment. It is not an “achievement of the Socialist State”, but a State-capitalist enterprise, forced, after the failure of “war Communism” and then of the N.E.P., to play its last card. That consists of deluding its own subjects, and also the people of other countries, by the fictitious and illusory grandeur of its projects, in the hope of maintaining itself “until better times”.
The “industrialization” of the U.S.S.R. is just a bluff, nothing more. Likewise the “five-year plans” are nothing but an immense bluff, following that of the “industrialization”. On the basis of precise facts and figures, we hold that these plans have been a total failure. This is beginning to be recognized almost everywhere.
As for the “collectivization”, we already have said enough about that. The reader has seen what it represents in reality. We repeat that such “collectivization” can never be the real solution of the agrarian problem. It is far from being Socialist, or even a social, achievement. It is a system of useless and absolutely sterile violence. We contend that the peasant will be won over to the cause of the Social Revolution only by means which have nothing in common with this return to medieval serfdom, in which the feudal lord is replaced by the State lord.
Could one construct, let us say, not Socialism, but simply a healthy and progressive economy, on such a basis?
Let us look at a few facts and figures concerning the five-year plans.
In 1939 the U.S.S.R. announced the results of the third five-year period.
Through the run of the first two such periods, the Soviet press complained unceasingly of considerable delays in the execution of the plans. Extraction of coal and other minerals, exploitation of oil wells, metallurgical production, textile production, the progress of heavy industry and all other industries, extension of railroads and improvement of their rolling stock — in short, economic activity in all fields was greatly below the quotas and the forecasts. Passing from one five-year period to another, [the various industries] remained far behind the results expected.
The genial dictator raged, arrested, executed.
But lzvestia was forced to admit, indirectly, in a series of articles (appearing in August-November, 1939), the failure of the [economic plan for the] third period. That journal stated that steel and iron production in October, 1939, was below that of October, 1938; that the output of all the branches of the metallurgical industries had fallen off; and that several blast furnaces had to be shut down for lack of coal and metal.
The situation became critical to such a point that at the end of September the Soviet press ceased to report the monthly figures.
According to the data published in that press, the locomotive works, in the course of the first two five-year plans, realized only 50 per cent, of their quotas. The number of freight cars was increased by a number greatly below the official forecast. The fabulous enterprises such as Dnieprostroi and Magnitogorsk functioned badly. Several of those enterprises underwent long stretches of enforced inactivity. The gigantic projects of electrification were achieved only to an insignificant degree.
The People’s Commissar, Kossyguin, declared in May, 1939, that the country’s textile enterprises were poorly equipped and technically inadequate to operate at the necessary level of production. And he complained of a lack of contact between the textile industry on the one hand, and the producers of raw material on the other.
“The textile enterprises do not receive enough linen, hemp, or wool. Yet great quantities of flax rot in the fields. The hemp harvest waits indefinitely to be made into thread. And as for wool, the elementary rules of sorting and cleaning are neglected in its preparation, which greatly handicaps the making of cloth. And one may say the same thing about the preparation of silk cocoons.”
Thus one could cover pages and pages with precise facts and figures, appearing in the Bolshevik press, and pertaining to all fields, to prove incontestably the failure of the five-year plans.
In describing the lamentable condition of all the Soviet industries, one has an embarrassment of choices.
According to the admissions of Izvestia (in several of its issues in January, 1940) the coal mining industry doesn’t know how to use the new machines. That is one of the reasons for the insufficient output.
The Bolshevik papers of July 30, 1939, were given over largely to Railroad Transport Day. Admissions therein are exceptionally edifying. [Some of them follow].
Generally, rails are supplied by the [plants] in very inadequate numbers, and their quality is bad. Four big plants make rails in the U.S.S.R. For some time they have stopped making rails of first quality. So the railroads must be content with those of second or third class. But of these up to 20 per cent, are unusable.
When tracks were being repaired in July, 1939, the great Kuznetski works suddenly stopped all delivery of rails. The reason? Lack of equipment for boring holes. And in general, indispensable spare parts for repair work were not sent out, which held up all such work.
Three huge plants which make various parts for railroads very often interrupt delivery because of lack of steel, of tools, or for other reasons. One case was cited where a plant was short only 180 poods (three and a quarter tons) of metal. Nevertheless, all deliveries were held up, and the railroads were short 1,000,000 repair parts.
Frequently, too, the plants deliver certain parts, and neglect to provide others, equally indispensable. The rails are on hand, but they rust away and deteriorate for lack of fishplates, for example.
The authorities have raged in vain. The Government has sent out an S.O.S. call and fixed “responsibility” in vain. All these measures remain ineffective and the official reports are compelled to state, from time to time, that one of the reasons for all those rieficiencies is “the absence of all interest, of all spirit, among the laboring masses”. According to admissions by competent agencies, me indifference of the workers approaches sabotage. And they also speak of “excessive centralization”, of “bureaucracy”, of “general negligence”.
But to talk doesn’t mean to remedy. No remedy exists. Instead, it is necessary to condemn the whole system.
According to other admissions by the Bolshevik press, the extraction of all minerals as well as of naphtha suffers from lack of organization. Output in these fields remain low, despite the use of machines (which are frequently in very bad condition), and despite all official measures. Pravda, in certain issues in December, 1939, stated that coal production in the Urals was steadily falling. And about the same time the papers complained of an inextricable mess in the chemical industry.
Elsewhere we learn that the “Red Proletariat” plant, which, Pravda says, is in the advance guard of the metallurgical industry, manages to produce only 40 per cent, of its quota, “because of great technical and administrative disorder”.
We could continue citing examples into infinity.
In all fields, the industrial situation in the U.S.S.R. has always been lamentable, and remains so in our day. Industrialization is only a myth. There are machines, but there is no industrialization.
Concerning the “collectivization”, one could cite volumes with illuminating data taken from the Soviet press.
We will simply cite a few facts, culled at random from the Russian papers.
Dealing with the harvest of 1939, Socialist Agriculture for August 8 states that everywhere work is very much delayed, and often to the endangerment of the crops. In places, too, the harvest is nearly non-existent. According to the agricultural section of the Communist Party’s central committee, the main reason for this is insufficiency of technical means, due, in its turn, to negligence, disorganization, heedlessness, and delays of all sorts. For instance, the indispensable parts for machines in use do not arrive in time, or come in inadequate quantities.
Erection of repair shops is greatly behind schedule everywhere. For example, a center which contracted to build 300 workshops by a certain date, completed only 14. Another built only eight out of 353 promised. And in the Kursk distridt only three repair shops out of 91 planned have been completed.
Moreover, the same periodical explains, the harvest work this year (1939) is in difficulties because great quantities of wheat have been battered down by inclement weather. And instructions about j adapting the machines to thresh fallen wheat are always lacking.
Finally, the agrarian paper continues, the force of skilled harvest workers has been considerably diminished this year because, in many places, the machine operators and mechanics have not yet been paid for last year. Why? The answer is that these workers are paid only after the kolkhoz has paid its taxes. And in many places those taxes are yet to be paid.
Izvestia and Socialist Agriculture both said that in 1939, because of all these mishaps, 64,000,000 hectares of wheat less than in 1938 would be harvested by August 1.
The Soviet press in November, 1939, complained of considerable delays in the harvesting of potatoes and other vegetables. This was laid to lack of men and horses, inadequate deliveries of gasoline, and especially to negligence by the kolkhozniki (members of the co-operative).
Izvestia for November 4 admitted that by October 25 the sovkhoz had made only 67 per cent, of their obligatory grain deliveries; that the kolkhozes had fulfilled only 59 per cent, of their mandatory payments; and that, by the same date, only 34 per cent, of the quota of potatoes and 63 per cent, of other vegetables had been supplied by the kolkhozes to the State.
In July, 1939, a Congress of State Cattle Breeders in the Ukraine reported: 1. That there were then many kolkhozes without any cattle (45 per cent, in Khirguisie, 62 per cent, in Tadjiki, 17 per cent, in the Ryazin district, 11 per cent, in that of Kirovsk, and 34 per cent, in the Ukraine); 2. That a great many kolkhozes possessed an insufficient number of cattle, and that, in the Ukraine, nearly 50 per cent, of those collective farms had less than 10 cows each (“only just enough so that one can smell a cow a little” the reporter jokes); 3. That, in general, the number of head of cattle has greatly diminished in the U.S.S.R. since the collectivization.
And the most curious thing is that, as everywhere else, no really frank, practical, and effective measure can be devised. Need one continue?
These facts, these admissions, and these complaints have prevailed for 20 years. And in many other fields in the “Soviet” Union, one could also pursue this enumeration into infinity.
In the U.S.S.R. those circumstances are given notable attention. One conforms the necessary extent to the requirements of the authorities, and — “one gets on as best one can”.
Abroad, until recently, nothing of this was known. Now the truth begins to be revealed ....
The latest measures taken by the Bolshevik government to stimulate the activity of the kolkhozes are typical.
In the summer of 1939 certain official literature, for example, The Constructive Work of The Party, No. 10, asserted that the essential evil of the Soviet system was “the slight interest of the farmer in doing high quality work and in obtaining good harvests”. Inspired from above, the press got busy on this subject.
And in January, 1940, Izvestia declared that “the Party and the Government” had made a decision to enhance the economic interest of the collective farmers. Toward that end, it explained, “each collective farmer must be assured that any increase in the harvest effected by him will remain at the disposal of the kolkhoz and serve to imprcve its economy.” (This had not been the case previously). And it added that it was exceedingly important to “develop the creative initiative of the mass of collective farmers.”
Finally, in a decree dated January 18, 1940, the Party’s central committee and the Council of People’s Commissars accorded the kolkhozes a certain amount of economic independence. Each kolkhoz was given tie right to establish its own crop plan — which, naturally, must always be “validated by the official authorities”.
Obviously it is unnecessary to point out that that sort of collective farm N.E.P. will come to nothing. It is only a maneuver of the Stalinist regime due primarily to its reverses in the Finnish War, and practically negated by the whole situation. Moreover, the peasant mass is fully aware of this machination; it received the “reform” with utter indifference.
We have touched upon it here because it shows the true nature of Bolshevist “collectivization”.
In general this pretended, forced, “collectivization”, undertaken for the purpose of subjugating the peasants completely to the State and representing a new form of serfdom, cracked in all its parts. What we have just seen leaves no doubt on that score.
And the Soviet press is compelled to insist more and more upon the seriousness of the struggle between the “individual sector” and the “socialist sector” in the agriculture of the U.S.S.R. The latter is neglected, abandoned, and openly sabotaged by the peasants on the slightest pretext and by a thousand methods. Finally, the situation is regarded as being “exceedingly serious”. The few seeming concessions are attempts to awaken in the collective farmers an interest in their kolkhozes and to combat the tendencies contrary to that interest.
But there cannot be the slightest question that these attempts will fail. The struggle of the peasants against serfdom will continue.
Having dealt with the material side of the U.S.S.R. story — the economic, industrial, and technical aspects — let us look at certain other fields which may be called spiritual.
Three points need special clarification:
The problem of educating the people.
The emancipation of women.
The religious problem.
I regret that I am not able to dwell at length on each of these topics. But such a task would require too much space, and is not the purpose of this work. So I shall confine myself to establishing certain essential characteristics.
For years the ignorant and the interested have pretended that, having found the Russian domain in a state of complete, almost “savage”, ignorance, the Bolsheviki have made “giant strides” on the road of general culture, training, and education. Foreign travelers, having visited one large Russian city or another, tell us of marvels that they have seen “with their own eyes”.
Have I not heard it stated, with the utmost assurance, that before the Bolsheviks stepped in “there were hardly any public schools in Russia,” and that today “there are splendid ones nearly everywhere there”? Have I not heard it said by a lecturer that “before the Revolution there were only two or three universities in the country and that the Bolsheviks have created several”? Do they not say that before the Bolsheviks nearly all the Russian people did not know how to read or write and that now such total illiteracy has almost disappeared? Do they not say — I mention it only as an example of the ignorance and false assertions concerning Russia — do they not say that under the Czars the [industrial] workers and peasants were forbidden by law to receive secondary and higher education?
As for the travelers, it is true that they can observe and even admire, in the larger cities of the U.S.S.R., some beautiful modern schools, well equipped and well organized — in the first place, because such model schools are fixtures in all the great cities of the world (a visitor could have made the same observation in Czarist Russia); in the second place, because the installation of such schools is part of the decorative and demonstrative program of the Bolshevik government.
But it is clear that the situation in a few large cities proves nothing about the conditions in the countryside, especially in a land as vast as the “Soviet” Union. A traveler there who wanted to arrive at conclusions based on the truth would have to see things and follow their development from day to day, for at least several weeks, in the depths of the country, in various small cities, in the villages, on the collective farms, and in factories far from the great centers. But what traveler who may have had such an idea has been able to obtain authorization to do anything about it? As for the myths of the sort just described, we already have shown their real worth in other parts of this work.
No one contends that the training and education of the Russian people was sufficiently widespread prior to the Revolution. (Indeed, it was not adequate in any country. There was merely a difference of details and shades). No one claims that the number of persons who couldn’t read or write in Czarist Russia was not very large and that popular instruction there was not very back- 1 ward in comparison to certain Western nations, but between that and the statements I have just quoted there is a considerable gap.
It is fairly simple, however, to establish the exact truth.
Before the Revolution the network ofprirnary, secondary, and higher schools in Russia was already fairly impressive, although not adequate. It was primarily the teaching which was defective: the programs, methods, and means were lamentable. Naturally, the Government was unconcerned with the real education of the people. As for the municipal and private schools, supervised by the [Romanov] authorities, and compelled to follow the official curriculum, they could not accomplish much, though they did effect some achievements.
But the purported “enormous progress” of the Bolshevik regime [in the educational field] actually was mediocre. To be convinced of this it suffices, as in other matters, to follow the official Soviet press closely. As elsewhere, its lamentations and admissions on this theme, for years, have been highly eloquent.
Let us examine a few more or less recent citations:
According to the general declarations and official figures, teaching in the U.S.S.R. is going forward in a more than satisfactory manner. The number of pupils in the primary and secondary schools attained, in 1935–36, the imposing figure of 25,000,000; the number of students in the higher schools was raised to 520,000. In 1936–37 the respective figures were 28,000,000 and 560,000. Finally, in 1939, the score was 29,700,000 and 600.000. Neatly 1,000,000 students received technical training — industrial, commercial, agricultural, et cetera. The courses for adults throughout the country were numerous. And desire for education was intense.
Of course it is natural that a government arising from a revolution and pretending to be popular would try to satisfy the aspirations of the people for a good education. It is normal that this regime should submit the national educational system to fundamental reforms. Any post-revolutionary government would have done as much.
But in judging the work of the Bolshevik government intelligently, the official quantitative figures are not enough. The real problem is how to discover what the quality and the value of this new education is. It is necessary to question whether that gov-evnment has succeeded in organizing education to assure good, serious, valuable, and solid training. And it is essential to know whether the training and education in the U.S.S.R. are capable of developing men who can create a new life, militants for Socialist activity.
To these fundamental questions the Soviet press itself, by its admissions through the years, has replied in the negative.
First, we must state that education in the Russian domain is not adequate for everyone. In fact, higher education is not free. The majority of students [in the higher schools] are on State scholarships. And the others? A sizable number of youths are deprived of higher education which thus becomes a privilege depending upon the pleasure of the Government. And there are other defects much more serious.
For years the same statements and complaints [about education] have repeatedly appeared in the columns of the Soviet newspapers, notably these:
The Government has not yet succeeded in producing a sufficient quantity of school books. The bureaucracy, centralism, administrative slowness, et cetera, prevent it. (The president of the directing committee of the higher schools, a certain Kaftanov, had to admit in a speech that the higher schools were completely without text-books. A si all quantity was finally published in 1939, but a goodly part of these were merely reprints of pre-revolu-tionary volumes).
The same compl; int, from year to year, about school equipment. Its scarcity, cr its exceedingly bad quality, seriously impedes the work of education.
The number of school buildings is [appallingly] insufficient. I It increases very slowly, which creates a grave obstacle to real educational progress. And the existing edifices are in a wretchedly bad state, and those newly constructed — always in haste and carelessly — are defective and rapidly deteriorate.
However, the defects mentioned are not the most important.
A much more profound evil paralyzes the work of education in the U.S.S.R. — the lack of teachers and professors.
Ever since 1935 Izvestia, Pravda, and other Soviet journals have abounded in admissions and tears in connection with this subject. According to those admissions, the organization of a teaching force does not at all correspond to the country’s needs. In 1937, for instance, only 50 per cent, of “the plan” for teachers was fulfilled.
Hundreds and sometimes thousands of teachers are lacking : in some districts. But that is not all. Those who exercise the teaching function are far from being duly qualified. Thus about two thirds of the secondary school teachers have not had a university training. Likewise two thirds of the elementary teachers lack secondary education.
The Soviet press complains bitterly of the crass ignorance of the teachers, and cites numerous astounding examples of their incompetence and ineptness.
To sum up — in reality, training and education in the U.S.S.R. ! are in a lamentable state. Outside of the great cities and the artificial facade, there are not enough schools, teachers, equipment, or text books. The school buildings lack elementary facilities for hygiene and often lack heating. In the depths of the country, popular education is in a state of incredible abandonment. It amounts to absolute chaos.
Under these conditions are not the pretended “90 per cent, of the population” who are more or less literate simply another myth?
The Soviet press itself answers this question. From year to 1 year it speaks of the absence of the most elementary education, and of a very low cultural level, not only among the masses of people, but among the student youth, teachers, and professors.
All efforts of the Government to remedy this state of affairs have not succeeded. The general circumstances, the very basis of the Bolshevik system, constitute insurmountable obstacles to any effective improvement of the situation. The whole tendency of the Russian educational set-up prevents its success. For it disseminates propaganda, rather than providing education or training. It fills the heads of the students with the rigid doctrines of Bolshevism and Marxism. No initiative, no critical spirit, no freedom to doubt or to examine, is tolerated.
All education in the U.S.S.R. is permeated with a scholastic spirit: moribund, dull, curdled. The general lack of freedom of opinion, the absence of all independent action or discussion, and therefore the absence of all exchange of ideas in a land where only the Marxist dogma is allowed — all this prevents the people from getting any real education.
The travelers — observers necessarily superficial, and often naive — admire the cultural and sport institutions which they have seen “with their own eyes” during a few quick official visits to Moscow, Leningrad, and two or three other cities.
But note what we find in the journal Trud:
The miners of the Donetz Basin put the following questions to the governmental authorities there: “What is the use of the levies made on our wages for the purpose of maintaining the ‘Palace of Culture’ in Gorlovka?” (The fact that this protest was published was a rare circumstance).
In 1939 (the miners declared) the cost of maintaining that institution reached several million rubles. The budget of the “Miners’ Club” alone amounted to 1,173,000 rubles. Out of this sum, 700,000 were paid to the motion picture industry for the rental of films which no one came to see because of their bad quality. The other 400,000 rubles went for maintenance of the personnel. As for the miners, they did not profit at all from the money they were obliged to pay out.
The “Palace of Culture”, (the miners’ complaint continues), is surrounded by a garden solemnly called “the Park”. A considerable sum of money has been deducted from their wages to fix up this garden. With that money a huge entrance gate has been erected, a gate flanked by several concrete turrets. But [those in charge of the project] forgot to build a wall around the garden. The garden is there with its luxurious entrance, but without a wall. No one profits from it, for it is in a state of abandonment.
Also “they” have erected a theater, a platform, a shooting gallery, even a bathing place. But none of these installations function for the miners. They are there only to show the latter the ease with which the responsible officers of workers’ organizations waste the money of the workers. These officers have laid out for themselves a little garden, a private corner called “the Garden of the Miners’ Committee”. But the miners themselves — the workers who paid for the “Palace”, the “Club”, the “Park”, and the “Garden of the Miners’ Committee” — they have only the dusty streets of Gorlovka at their disposal.
By a [seeming] miracle, this complaint found its way into the columns of Trud. One must suppose that for some reason the authorities could not refuse this publicity to the miners, and that it had been decided in high places to right their complaint and apply penalties. But it is certain that for one such case publicized, thousands of others remain unknown.
A stifling dogmatism, absence of all individual life, of all free spirit, of all moral enthusiasm; a lack of vast and passionate perspectives; the rule of the barracks spirit, of a suffocating bureaucracy, of flat servility and careerism; desperate monotony of an empty and colorless existence, regulated in even the slightest details by the mandates of the State — such are characteristics of education and “culture” in the U.S.S.R.
Who can be astonished that, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda (Young Communist Truth), a profound disillusionment and a spirit of “dangerous” boredom have invaded the ranks of that country’s student youth? Their whole environment exercises a depressing influence on the young.
And according to certain admissions in the Soviet press, a great number of the students attend their courses only because of compulsion, and with no real interest in them. Many of them pass their nights playing cards.
The following lines were found in the diary of a young student:
“I am bored. I am terribly bored. Nothing significant or remarkable, neither among men or events. What am I waiting for? Good, I will complete my course. Good, I will be an engineer. I will have two rooms, a stupid wife, an intelligent brat, and 500 rubles a month salary. Two meetings a month. And then? ... When I ask myself if I would feel any regret about leaving this life, I answer: No, I shall leave it without great regret.”
Much noise has been made about “the emancipation of women by the Bolsheviks”. Real equality of the sexes, abolition of legal marriage, freedom of women to dispose of their bodies, and the right to abortion — all these “beneficences” have been sung and glorified by the advance-guard press of all the nations.
These “achievements” also belong to the realm of myths. The reader knows that ideas about the equality and freedom of the sexes,” with all of the practical consequences, were harbored a long time ago — long before the Revolution — by the advanced Russian circles. Any government stemming from the Revolution was obliged to take account of and sanction that state of affairs.
So there was nothing specifically Bolshevik in this development. The attainments of the Bolshevik government actually occupy only a very modest place. Incontestably that regime wanted to apply the principles enunciated. But again, the essential question is: Did it succeed? And again, we could fill pages — supported by documented facts — to demonstrate that it has failed lamentably, and that its own system, with its practical consequences, has compelled it to let everything go, to retreat, to retain only the myth and the bluff.
Legal marriage has not been abolished in the U.S.S.R. Instead, it has been simplified, or, rather, it has become civil, while before the Revolution it was compulsorily religious. It must even be noted that divorce, which, while civil, is regulated by a series of pecuniary conditions and penal measures.
Examining the marriage registry, one finds a large proportion of weddings concluded between very young women and old but highly placed men. This proves that in the U.S.S.R., as everywhere else, and more so, marriage is a “business”, and not a free union of love, as the Bolsheviki would have it believed. And that is entirely natural so long as the capitalist system, under another form, remains intact in that domain. Only the form has changed; the basis and all of its effects remain.
Having failed in their attempt to construct a Socialist State, and having succeeded in building a capitalist State (the other State can be imagined), the Bolsheviks were obliged, as in all other fields, to retreat in everything that concerns the relations between the sexes: family, children, et cetera.
This was inevitable. [The situation in that field could be modified only if the whole society were to be changed fundamentally. If that whole is not made over completely, if only the form changes, then all the customs, including the relations between the sexes, [and concerning] the family and children do not change either, except formally. Fundamentally, they remain what they were previously, while changing in appearance.
That is what happened in the U.S.S.R. Beginning with the month of May, 1936, all the “advanced principles” were discarded little by little. A [new] series of laws regulated marriage, divorce, the responsibility of spouses, et cetera.
This legislation has purely and simply reestablished, although under new forms, the basis of “the bourgeois family”. Free disposal of their bodies has been forbidden to women. Right to abortion has been strongly restricted. Today it is permitted only in exceptional cases, on the advice of a physician, and under specified circumstances. Abortion, and even the suggestion of it, if it takes place without legal authorization, is severely punished.
Prostitution is widespread in the U.S.S.R. To be convinced of this, and also of the low level of “Soviet” customs in general, one merely needs, regularly and minutely, to run through the daily news summaries, the local correspondence, and kindred departments in the Russian press.
As for “equality of the sexes”, that principle having prevailed for a long time in advanced Russian circles, the Bolsheviki naturally accepted it. But like the other glorious social or moral theses, it has been perverted, in its turn, as a result of the general deviation of the Revolution. Concretely, in the U.S.S.R., it is a question of “equality” in work, not in wages. The woman works the same as the man, but she receives lower pay. Therefore this “equality” permits the State to exploit the woman even more than the man.
Let us dwell briefly on the important subject of religion.
It is argued that the Bolsheviks were right about religious prejudices. This is an error, the source of which, again, is ignorance of the facts.
The Bolshevik government has succeeded, through terror, in suppressing public worship for a time. As for religious sentiments, far from having extirpated them, Bolshevism, with its methods and its “achievements”, and in spite of its propaganda, has, on the contrary, either rendered them, more intense, among some, or simply transformed them among others.
Before the Revolution, and especially after 1905, religious sentiments were in a state of decline among the popular masses, which did not fail seriously to worry the popes and the Czarist authorities. Bolshevism succeeded in reviving them under another form.
Religion will be killed not by terror, not by propaganda, but by the effective success of the Social Revolution with its happy consequences. The anti-religious seeds which fall upon the fertile soil of that success will give it a bountiful harvest.
The objection is sometimes made to me that the Bolshevik government has done all it could to achieve such and such a success, and that it is not its fault if its efforts have not been crowned with total success.
Precisely. The more the good will of that regime can be demonstrated, the more will it become clear that the real Social Revolution and real Socialism cannot be achieved by the governmental and statist system.
“The Communist government, on its part, has used all of its good will to succeed,” it is said to me.
I do not say the contrary. But the problem is not that. It is not a question of knowing whether the Government wanted or did not want to do this or that. It is a question of knowing whether it succeeded. The more it is proved that a government has not succeeded despite all of its good will, the more it becomes clear that a government could not succeed.
“The Government could not do any more.”
Then why did it prevent other elements from trying? If it saw that it was impotent, it had no right to forbid others to act. And who knows what those other elements might have been able to achieve?
Why did the Government not succeed?
“The backward state of the country prevented it. The backward masses were not ready.”
But nothing is actually known about this, since the Bolsheviki deliberately prevented the masses from acting. It is as though one were astonished because someone could not walk after someone else had tied his feet.
“The other elements of the left did not want to co-operate with the Bolsheviks.”
But those elements did not want to submit blindly to the orders and exigencies of the Bolsheviki, which they considered evil. Then they were prevented from speaking and acting.
“The capitalist encirclement...”
Exactly — the capitalist encirclement could impede a government and make it degenerate. But it never could have prevented or caused to degenerate the free action of millions of men, ready, as we have seen, to achieve, with prodigious enthusiasm, the real Revolution.
To speak of a “betrayal of the Revolution”, as Trotsky does, is an “explanation” outside, not only of any Marxist or materialist conception, but of the more ordinary common sense.
How was this “betrayal” possible, and the day after such a beautiful and complete revolutionary victory?
That is the real question.
In reflecting, in examining the situation closely, the least initiated wiil understand that this alleged “betrayal” did not fall from the sky; that it was the “material” and rigorously logical consequence of the very manner in which the Revolution was conducted.
The negative results of the Russian Revolution were only the conclusion of a certain process. And the Stalinist regime was only the inevitable resuit of the procedures used by Lenin and Trotsky themselves. What Trotsky calls “betrayal” is in reality the unavoidable effect of a slow degeneration due to false methods.
Precisely: the governmental and statist procedure leads to “betrayal”, that is, to the bankruptcy which today permits “betrayals” — the latter being only a striking aspect of this bankruptcy. Other procedures might have led to other results.
In his blind partiality (or rather, in his inconceivable hypocrisy) Trotsky commits the most obvious of confusions, unpardonable in his case; he confuses the effects with the causes.
Crudely deceiving himself (or pretending to fool himself, lacking other means to defend his thesis), he takes the effect (betrayal by Stalin) for the cause. An error — or rather, maneuver — which permits him to overlook the essential problem: What made “Stalinism” possible?
“Stalin has betrayed the Revolution.” That is simple. It is, however, too simple to explain anything at all.
Nevertheless, the explanation is plain. “Stalinism” is the natural result of the bankruptcy of the real Revolution, and not inversely; and the bankruptcy of the Revolution, to carry the thought further, was the natural consequence of the false course on which Bolshevism led it.
In other words, it was the degeneration of the thwarted and lost Revolution which led to Stalin, and not Stalin which made the Revolution degenerate.
When attacked by the disease, the revolutionary organism could have resisted it victoriously by means of the free action of the masses; but since the Bolsheviks, guided by Lenin and by Trotsky himself, had taken from them all means of self-defense against the evil, inevitably the latter ended by invading the whole organism and killing it.
The “betrayal” was possible, for the laboring masses did not react either against its preparation nor against its accomplishment. And the masses did not react because, totally subjugated by their new masters, they swiftly lost both the meaning of the real Revolution and all spirit of initiative, of free action and reaction. Chained, subjugated, dominated, they felt the uselessness — what am I saying? — the impossibility, of all resistance. Trotsky participated in person in reawakening the spirit of blind obedience among the masses, of dull indifference to everything that went on “above”. The masses were beaten, and for a long time. From then on, any “betrayal” became possible.
In the light of all this, we invite the reader to use his own judgment about the Bolshevik “achievements”.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
No comments so far. You can be the first!
<< Last Work in The Unknown Revolution, Book Two
Current Work in The Unknown Revolution, Book Two
Part 05, Chapter 07
Next Work in The Unknown Revolution, Book Two >>
All Nearby Works in The Unknown Revolution, Book Two