MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | Martin Nicolaus

24  Conclusion

    There is much more that could be said, but it is time to sum up and to conclude this series of articles on the recent developments in the USSR.

    One general point emerges from the investigation: a retrograde change in character, from progressive to reactionary, can take place not only in individual persons but also in the social systems of whole countries, at least for a time. In the long run the emancipation of oppressed classes and nations is inevitable, but in the short run there are bound to be twists and reverses.

    Frederick Engels' observations on the end of the Middle Ages in Germany are instructive on this point. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Engels wrote, the German peasants had almost totally stripped off their bondage and serfdom and become "free men." But after the middle of the 15th century they suffered a reverse. There came "the rise of a second serfdom." "Serfdom appeared in a second edition," Engels wrote, adding that this "new serfdom" was by no means milder than the earlier one. Only later did the peasants reemancipate themselves. (Letters to Marx, Dec. 15 & 16, 1882, quoted in Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations, E. J. Hobsbawm, ed., pp. 145-147.)

    In this connection Engels criticized the bourgeois

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historian Maurer for clinging to the ". . . prejudice that since the dark Middle Ages a steady progress to better things must surely have taken place -- this prevents him from seeing not only the antagonistic character of real progress, but also the individual retrogressions." Similarly today, the view that Soviet history since October 1917 has been steady progress to better things -- a view which fails to see the recent retrogression -- must be criticized without qualification as a mere prejudice, not a scientific judgment.

    The Soviet working class, the evidence here presented tends to indicate, is living no longer under socialism, but under a second edition of state-monopoly capitalism, much as in the days of the czars. Of course, history does not literally repeat itself. We should not expect to see the present-day authorities promenading in brocade robes and holding court amidst clouds of incense. The costumes and forms have changed, and not only they. The Soviet proletariat today is immensely stronger in absolute and relative numbers, in concentration and cultural level, than it was at the turn of the century. Its subjugation, but also its resistance and its revolutionary development proceed on a higher basis.

    Nonetheless, when all the differences are weighed and set aside, the essential sameness is clear. Once again the Soviet proletariat is a ruled class rather than ruling. It is deprived of property in the means of production, as it was before the socialist revolution. Once again the fruit of its labor goes mainly to fatten an army of parasite functionaries and officials, whose main contingent are indistinguishable from the "personifications of Capital" Marx described.

    Does this mean that the nearly 40 years during which the proletariat held state power in the USSR were an illusion, or a mistake, or a waste of time? On the contrary. To be sure, the period held its share of illusions and mistakes. How could it be otherwise, being the pioneer venture of its kind? The struggles of this period brought immense progress to the Soviet people, and made immeasurably great contributions to the worldwide struggle against imperialism and all reaction. The Soviet

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workers and peasants, led by the Communist Party, lit up the road ahead for all the oppressed and exploited of the world. This can never be depreciated or forgotten.

    The present-day Soviet authorities claim to be the successors and heirs of the revolutionary deeds of the Soviet people. Any careful examination of this claim will show, however, that the only continuity lies in some of the words and phrases the revisionists repeat. They have in fact made a complete, sharp break with the revolutionary line of development and attacked one after another of its principal strengths and achievements. Beginning with a vicious slander of the leadership of Stalin, the revisionists went on to put the Soviet state property on the auction block, to wreck the central coordinating offices of industry, to purge Marxist-Leninists from the party, to break with the central teachings of Marxism, to break up the unity of the socialist camp and other actions of an anti socialist, anticommunist character. Khrushchev's and Brezhnev's true political lineage goes back not to Stalin and Lenin, but to the leaders of the right- and "left"-opportunist factions whom the party defeated earlier and who became renegades and sell-outs.

    The Soviet revisionists' real class character comes out most clearly from the measures they introduced to transform the relations of production in the Soviet economy. We have seen how the revisionist leaders hypocritically label this "new economic system" of theirs an "advance to communism," and how they turn Lenin on his head in an effort to justify their move (part 16).

    What actually are the basic features of the "new economic system?" The Soviet workers' labor power is turned into a commodity again; the scourge of unemployment is reintroduced; there is unrestricted intensification of labor and speedup. The workers are deprived of all rights at the point of production and of all means of support when they are "released" to join the reserve army of the unemployed.

    This is no advance toward communism. It has nothing in common with socialist relations of production. It is the restoration of the basic production relation that defines the capitalist system and gives it its character as a system of

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wage slavery and exploitation.

    Right along with that, the revisionists converted the principal means of production in industry from social property into commodities again. Instead of a planful allocation of means of production in accordance with the political priorities of the working class and its allies, there is the chaotic, anarchic countrywide commerce in means of production according to the narrow, conflicting interests of buyers and sellers. This is nothing but a second edition of the main line in the original development of capitalism in Russia, which Lenin analyzed the first time around in 1899.

    These fundamental changes gave free play to the drive by the management of each enterprise to increase "its" profits to the maximum. The revisionist rulers of the USSR have thrown away socialist motives and socialist incentives and have enthroned maximum profits as the mainspring and highest goal of production, distribution, investment and the provision of services.

    No wonder the revisionists' "new economic system" is plagued by crises, no wonder the future appears indeterminate and unpredictable to them, no wonder their national economic "planning" has become a dead letter as they are forced to admit! No matter how thoroughly capitalist monopolies take over al! areas of economic life no matter how far the capitalist state merges with them -- and nowhere in the world is state-monopoly capitalism more completely developed than in the USSR! -- the system remains capitalist through and through, and cannot conquer the anarchy of production; it can only reproduce the chaos on a higher level.

    These basic features of the revisionists' "new economic system" were not framed by their architects as a temporary tactical retreat required by circumstances, as was the case with the first phase of the New Economic Policy of Lenin. They are meant, on the contrary, to be permanent. Nor do these "new" relations hold sway in a strictly limited, isolated pocket of economic life, so that they could be characterized as untypical. On the contrary: they are the main lines of a comprehensive system that was deliberately and with aforethought imposed on the

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entire USSR. and whose implementation was more than 70% complete already at the end of 1968 -- the year, not coincidentally, of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Capitalism has been fully restored; there can be no doubt about that.

    The new Soviet bourgeoisie, whom the system enriches at the workers' expense, did not drop from the sky. It was spawned by the objective survivals of capitalism -- "bourgeois right" -- within socialist society. It took form under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and was outwardly completely assimilated to its environment. For decades this bourgeoisie had neither power nor property, but it was therefore all the hungrier and more ruthless in pursuit of them. How the different bourgeois elements found each other, how they organized and evolved a common consciousness and program are matters we know little about. Even without being privy to the details of their conspiracies against the revolutionary government, however, we can gain some insights into their particular features from their life history as a class.

    The bourgeoisie of all countries lies, cheats and deceives. This is the "second nature" of this class. The Soviet bourgeoisie, however, surpasses almost all others because it lies even about its own basic identity as a class. U.S. imperialist ideology, by comparison, encrusted in deceit as it is, usually contains at least the frank admission that they are capitalists running a capitalist system. But the Soviet bourgeoisie, having grown up under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, has from the beginning denied its own name. In this it imitates the last-ditch disguises adopted by the most reactionary sect of the bourgeoisies of Germany and Italy 40 years ago, who likewise pretended that they were not capitalist but "socialist" to try to fool the masses.

    Such demogagy is not only "second nature" for the present Soviet bourgeoisie, it has been its nature from the start. In its lexicon capitalism is "communism," revisionism is "Leninism," imperialist invasion is "solidarity," exploitation is "aid," bullying is "peace making," lackeys and compradors are "patriots" following an "independent policy," right-wingers are

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"leftists," fascism is "democracy" and reaction is "progress." There is no more despicable hypocrisy in all the world than the systematic Soviet revisionist inversion of the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism.

    A second point follows directly. The basic amendments which the Soviet revisionists led by Khrushchev introduced into Marxist-Leninist theory all have a smooth, harmonious ring. There is the "state of the whole people" and the "party of the whole people," as if class society were one big happy family; and Khrushchev's three "peacefuls" (peaceful coexistence, peaceful competition, peaceful transition) touch the same melody. But this did not prevent that same Khrushchev in June 1964, when a majority of the leadership of the "party of the whole people" voted him out, from resorting to classic gorilla tactics of military intervention. The revisionist rule was clinched by force and is maintained by force. To understand that the "new" Soviet theories of the state and of international relations are false, anti-Marxist, social-pacifist and revisionist is to see only half the picture, and to miss the essential part at that. The Soviet revisionists' "harmonious" and "peaceful" fallacies are a cover for a class that employs violence to advance its reactionary interests, both domestically and abroad, as freely as any other class of its kind. It has a less bloodspattered image than U.S. imperialism today partly because it conceals itself more effectively, partly because it has stepped more recently onto the scene.

    Despite its newness on the imperialist stage, however the Soviet finance-capitalist bourgeoisie is not a more "youthful" class, in the sense that youth means a fresh revolutionary spirit and the hope of the future. True, the Soviet socialist-talking imperialists (social-imperialists for short) are gaining ground and influence in a number of areas of the world as U.S. imperialism weakens and declines. Soviet social-imperialism is engaged in a strategic offensive, while U.S. imperialism is going down. The vicious thrashings-about of U.S. imperialism are those of a hardened mass murderer on his deathbed. But the present Soviet rulers represent a class that was already dead and disposed of by the revolutionary Soviet people

nearly 70 years ago and which has crept up out of its intended tomb to establish a second empire over the living.

    Unlike the bourgeoisies that now rule in other countries, who began their present reigns typically by a revolt against a more reactionary class, the rule of the current Soviet bourgeoisie has never had a progressive content. Having usurped power from a more progressive class -- indeed from the most revolutionary class in world history -- the Soviet bourgeoisie of today is more than merely an obstacle to progress; it is a leap backward, a momentous historic reversal. Its rule inspires with hope only the most moribund sections of the world's other bourgeoisies, who pray and scheme that they will obtain somehow a similar second lease on life. It is more "advanced" than U.S. imperialism only in the ultrareactionary sense that Hitler and Mussolini represented a more "advanced" stage of imperialist, state-monopoly capitalist decay and desperation.

    What will be the consequences of the retrogression in the USSR for the world situation is a question which this is not the time or place to explore. One thing is certain, however, if history teaches anything. This is that in one way or another, sooner or later, the monstrous revival of wage slavery and imperialist tyranny that has fastened itself on the USSR will be swept away again by a second edition of the great October Revolution. The restoration of the capitalist order in this era of proletarian revolution can be no more solid and permanent than was the effort to restore the "thousand-year Reich" in Germany.

    "'Tis the final conflict" -- so runs the first line of the chorus of the Internationale. If it is interpreted in a narrow, literal sense, this idea, applied to the proletarian seizures of state power in this century, is premature. As the Soviet experience has so starkly and tragically demonstrated, the conflict between the two antagonistic classes continues throughout the socialist period and will not be finally settled for a long time. No tragedies, no setbacks, no episodes of restoration, however, can dim the literal truth and power of the climactic lines of Eugene Pottier's anthem of the working class: