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Class war

Kuromiya  showed how Stalin presented industrialization as a class war of the oppressed against the old ruling classes.

This idea is correct. Nevertheless, through untold numbers of literary and historical works, we are told to sympathize with those who were repressed during the class wars of industrialization and collectivization. We are told that repression is `always inhuman' and that a civilized nation is not allowed to hurt a social group, even if it was exploiting.

What can be said against this so-called `humanist' argument?

How did the industrialization of the `civilized world' made? How did the London and Paris bankers and industries create their industrial base? Could their industrialization have been possible without the pillage of the India? Pillage accompanied by the extermination of more than sixty million American Indians? Would it have been possible without the slave trade in Africans, that monstrous bloodbath? UNESCO experts estimate the African losses at 210 million persons, killed during raids or on ships, or sold as slaves. Could our industrialization have been possible without colonization, which made entire peoples prisoners in their own native lands?

And those who industrialized this little corner of the world called Europe, at the cost of millions of `indigenous' deaths, tell us that the Bolshevik repression against the possessing classes was an abomination? Those who industrialized their countries by chasing peasants off the land with guns, who massacred women and children with working days of fourteen hours, who imposed slave wages, always with the threat of unemployment and famine, they dare go on at book length about the `forced' industrialization of the Soviet Union?

If Soviet industrialization could only take place by repressing the rich and reactionary five per cent, capitalist industrialization consisted of the terror exercised by the rich five per cent against the working masses, both in their own countries and in dominated ones.

Industrialization was a class war against the old exploiting classes, which did everything they possibly could to prevent the success of the socialist experience. It was often accomplished through bitter struggle within the working class itself: illiterate peasants were torn out of their traditional world and hurled into modern production, bringing with them all their prejudices and their retrograde concepts. The old reflexes of the working class itself, used to being exploited by a boss and used to resisting him, had to be replaced by a new attitude to work, now that the workers themselves were the masters of society.

On this subject, we have vivid testimony about the class struggle inside one of the Soviet factories, written by a U.S. engineer, John Scott,  who worked long years at Magnitogorsk.

Scott  was not Communist and often criticized the Bolshevik system. But when reporting what he experienced in the strategic complex of Magnitogorsk, he made us understand several essential problems that Stalin had to confront.

Scott  described the ease with which a counter-revolutionary who served in the White Armies but showed himself to be dynamic and intelligent could pass as a proletarian element and climb the ranks of the Party. His work also showed that the majority of active counter-revolutionaries were potential spies for imperialist powers. It was not at all easy to distinguish conscious counter-revolutionaries from corrupted bureaucrats and `followers' who were just looking for an easy life.

Scott  also explained that the 1937--1938 purge was not solely a `negative' undertaking, as it is presented in the West: it was mostly a massive political mobilization that reinforced the antifascist conscience of the workers, that made bureaucrats improve the quality of their work and that allowed a considerable development of industrial production. The purge was part of the great preparation of the popular masses for resisting the coming imperialist invasions. The facts refute Khrushchev's  slanderous declaration that Stalin did not adequately prepare the country for war.

Here is John Scott's  testimony about Magnitogorsk.

`Shevchenko  ... was running (in 1936) the coke plant with its two thousand workers. He was a gruff man, exceedingly energetic, hard-hitting, and often rude and vulgar ....

`With certain limitations ..., Shevchenko  was not a bad plant director. The workers respected him, and when he gave an order they jumped ....

`Shevchenko  came from a little village in the Ukraine. In 1920, Denikin's  White Army occupied the territory, and young Shevchenko,  a youth of nineteen, was enlisted as a gendarme. Later Denikin  was driven back into the Black Sea, and the Reds took over the country. In the interests of self-preservation Shevchenko  lost his past, moved to another section of the country, and got a job in a mill. He was very energetic and active, and within a surprisingly short time had changed from the pogrom-inspiring gendarme into a promising trade-union functionary in a large factory. He was ultra-proletarian, worked well, and was not afraid to cut corners and push his way up at the expense of his fellows. Then he joined the party, and one thing led to another --- the Red Directors Institute, important trade-union work, and finally in 1931 he was sent to Magnitogorsk as assistant chief of construction work ....

`In 1935 ... a worker arrived from some town in the Ukraine and began to tell stories about Shevchenko's  activities there in 1920. Shevchenko gave the man money and a good job, but still the story leaked out ....

`One night he threw a party which was unprecedented in Magnitogorsk .... Shevchenko  and his pals were busy the rest of the night and most of the next consuming the remains ....

`One day ... Shevchenko  was removed from his post, along with a half-dozen of his leading personnel .... Shevchenko  was tried fifteen months later and got ten years.

`Shevchenko  was at least fifty per cent bandit --- a dishonest and unscrupulous careerist. His personal aims and ideals differed completely from those of the founders of Socialism. However, in all probability, Shevchenko  was not a Japanese spy, as his indictment stated, did not have terrorist intentions against the leaders of the party and the government, and did not deliberately bring about the explosion (that killed four workers in 1935).

`The `Shevchenko'  band was composed of some twenty men, all of who received long sentences. Some, like Shevchenko,  were crooks and careerists. Some were actual counter-revolutionaries who set out deliberately to do what they could to overthrow the Soviet power and were not particular with whom they cooperated. Others were just unfortunate in having worked under a chief who fell foul of the NKVD.

`Nicolai Mikhailovich Udkin,  one of Shevchenko's  colleagues, was the eldest son in a well-to-do Ukrainian family. He felt strongly that the Ukraine had been conquered, raped, and was now being exploited by a group of Bolsheviks ... who were ruining the country .... He felt, furthermore, that the capitalist system worked much better than the Socialist system ....

`Here was a man who was at least a potential menace to the Soviet power, a man who might have been willing to cooperate with the Germans for the `liberation of the Ukraine' in 1941. He, also, got ten years.'


Scott,  op. cit. , pp. 175--180.

`During the course of the purge hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats shook in their boots. Officials and administrators who had formerly come to work at ten, gone home at four-thirty, and shrugged their shoulders at complaints, difficulties, and failures, began to stay at work from dawn till dark, to worry about the success or failure of their units, and to fight in a very real and earnest fashion for plan fulfillment, for economy, and for the well-being of their workers and employees, about whom they had previously lost not a wink of sleep.'


Ibid. , pp. 195--196.

`By and large, production increased from 1938 to 1941. By late 1938 the immediate negative effects of the purge had nearly disappeared. The industrial aggregates of Magnitogorsk were producing close to capacity, and every furnace, every mill, every worker, was being made to feel the pressure and the tension which spread through every phase of Soviet life after Munich. `The capitalist attack on the Soviet Union, prepared for years, is about to take place ...' boomed the Soviet press, the radio, schoolteachers, stump speakers, and party, trade-union, and Komsomol functionaries, at countless meetings.

`Russia's defence budget nearly doubled every year. Immense quantities of strategic materials, machines, fuels, foods, and spare parts were stored away. The Red Army increased in size from roughly two million in 1938 to six or seven million in the spring of 1941. Railroad and factory construction work in the Urals, in Central Asia, and in Siberia was pressed forward.

`All these enterprises consumed the small but growing surplus which the Magnitogorsk workers had begun to get back in the form of bicycles, wrist watches, radio sets, and good sausage and other manufactured food products from 1935 till 1938.'


Ibid. , pp. 253--254.

next up previous contents index
Next: An economic miracle Up: Socialist industrialization Previous: Heroism and enthusiasm

Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995