THE INTERNATIONAL MARXIST LENINIST REVIEW interviews T. Clark on the role of Stalin in the Soviet anti-bureaucracy struggle, and examines the meaning of the concept 'Stalin against the Soviet bureaucracy’.

In this interview, Clark exposes the trotskyist theory of a ‘counterrevolutionary soviet/stalinist bureaucracy’ as an ‘abstraction’ which ignores the contradictions and heterogeneity within the former soviet bureaucracy and which is typical of trotsky’s type of reasoning. This type of reasoning was criticised by V. I. Lenin in the trade union debates of the early 1920s. Clark contrasts the trotskyist theory of a ‘counterrevolutionary soviet bureaucracy’ with the marxist-leninist theory of ‘counterrevolutionary elements within the soviet bureaucracy’, explaining that only on this concrete basis could the struggle against soviet bureaucracy be understood and taken forward.

 IMLR:  How did Marxist-Leninists arrive at the concept of ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’, and what is the actual meaning of this concept?

TC:  Marxist-Leninists arrived at the concept of ‘Stalin against the Soviet bureaucracy’ from studying many works on the Russian revolution. You are right to ask what is the actual meaning of this concept because it is not as self-explanatory as it appears. One can speak of Stalin being against Soviet bureaucracy, or Stalin being against ‘the’ Soviet bureaucracy, this would be to speak of two different although related concepts. To speak of Stalin being against Soviet bureaucracy means to be against such things as red tape, bureaucratic inefficiency and, indeed, everything, which can go wrong with a bureaucracy. On the other hand, to speak of Stalin being against ‘the’ Soviet bureaucracy is to regard the bureaucracy as a collective entity. To be against the Soviet bureaucracy in this sense is to view it, or rather its higher stratum, as a caste, or potential caste. However, the concept of ‘Stalin against the Soviet bureaucracy’ actually entails the struggle against the shortcomings of bureaucracy on the one hand, and on the other, the fight against a certain stratum of bureaucrats. The former is what can be referred to as the technical opposition to the negative sides of bureaucracy, which is common in all societies, while the latter represents a ‘political’ opposition to a section of the bureaucracy.

 IMLR: So you are saying that Stalin’s opposition to the Soviet bureaucracy had both a functional aspect to it, as well as a political side?

 TC:  This is true. We should not confuse Stalin’s opposition to the negative aspects of Soviet bureaucracy with the political struggle against a certain stratum of the bureaucracy. Stalin’s political struggle against the bureaucracy refers primarily to the struggle against the potential consolidation of a caste in the process of formation.

 IMLR:  Were you in any way influenced by Lars Lih’s concept of Stalin’s anti-bureaucrat scenario, and did this lead to the related concept of ‘Stalin against the Soviet bureaucracy’? There seems to be an affinity between these two concepts.

 TC:  No. I was not actually influenced by Lih’s perspective concerning Stalin’s anti-bureaucrat scenario. I came across Lih’s views in the introduction to ‘Stalin’s Letters to Molotov’. However, I was surprised by the similarities between Lih’s views and the one that Marxist-Leninists had already arrived at including myself mostly it seems independently of each other. I decided to give this conceptualisation a name and I choose ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’ after about five years of reflection and research on the matter. It was while I was developing the notion of ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’ that I discovered the amazing confirmation of this notion in Lih’s arguments.

 IMLR:  What similarities did you notice between the concept you have presented and Lih’s?

 TC:  The essence of Lih’s view is that in Stalin’s anti-bureaucrat scenario, ‘class-motivated hostility is the main reason bureaucrats do not follow directives’. (Lars Lih: Stalin’s Letters to Molotov; p.15)

 Thus for Stalin there was a concealed class struggle going on at the level of the state bureaucracy where the Marxist-Leninists were in combat with the masked enemies of the party and of socialism. Some of these masked enemies were in the party itself. This, in essence, is what the concept of ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’ refers to. This is basically the same as Lih’s ‘Stalin’s anti-bureaucrat scenario’, although the concept I put forward contains a more multi-dimensional content. Lih shows that this view of the bureaucracy, which was held by Stalin, was derived from Lenin,

 ‘Since Lenin also viewed public administration as a dramatic struggle against the class enemy’. (Op. cit. p.16)

 In other words, for both Lenin and Stalin there was a class struggle going on at the level of public administration. Some members of the Soviet public administration bureaucracy were, in fact, hidden enemies of the revolution and socialism, and the Bolsheviks knew this all along, indeed from the very first days of coming to power.

 IMLR:  When you say the Bolsheviks knew this all along, what actions did they take?

 TC:  Well, we know that from the earliest days of the ‘October’ revolution the Communists found themselves in charge of the old Tsarist government bureaucracy. Certain elements within this bureaucracy tried to subvert the directives and policies of the new government. Therefore, the contradictions between sections of the old bureaucracy and the new communist leaders was bound to lead to trouble, resulting in dismissals and purges and so on. What is more, the contradiction between sections of the bureaucracy and the leaders of the revolution never completely went away. Sometimes this struggle was open; at other times it was hidden, but it was always there to one degree or another.

 IMLR:  Was there a stage where this struggle ever reached a climax, or turning point?

 TC:  We see a climax or a turning point in the 1930s.  This was of course facilitated by the introduction of the 1936 Soviet Constitution. The Marxist-Leninists around Stalin upheld the principle of the secret ballot, which was in favour of the masses. It was with this Constitution in the background that the new wave of purges unfolded and was directed against corrupt elements in the bureaucracy and party.

 IMLR:  So you are saying that the ‘Stalin Constitution’ of 1936 gave the masses and the radicals the green light to take on sections of the Soviet bureaucracy?

 TC:  The 1936 Constitution certainly helped. The provision of the secret ballot made the masses and the pro-Stalin radicals more confident in taking on those members of the government administration and other institutions that were regarded as rotten enemies of the people and of the revolution, without fear of reprisals from the bureaucrats.

 IMLR:  The notion that the purges in the 1930s were aimed at the enemies of the revolution is the exact reverse of the Trotskyist view. How do you account for this; what is the explanation, in your opinion, of this contradiction?

 TC:  You only need to look statistically at the type of elements who formed the majority of those purged in the higher and middle level administration to determine who the purges were aimed at, and we need only add to this the Bolshevik or Leninist view of public administration

 ‘…as a dramatic struggle against a class enemy’. (Lars Lih: Stalin’s Letters to Molotov; p.16)

 to see concretely that the 1930s purges were directed in their essence at the enemies of the revolution.

The view, promoted by Trotsky, that the purges of the 1930s were Thermidorian in character was the exact opposite to the reality. The facts show that the purges were against the Thermidorian elements in the Soviet bureaucracy. If some Trotskyist, leftist elements were removed by these purges, it was because the hidden bloc of ‘Rights and Trotskyites’ objectively served the Thermidorian elements.

 IMLR:  So how did Trotsky arrive at his conclusion, which found expression in his Major theoretical work, ‘Revolution Betrayed’, and what do you consider to be the aim of this work?

 TC:  In the 1930s, following the gains in the advance towards socialism, which Trotsky himself openly recognised, Trotsky was faced with the real possibility of isolation and losing the support of his sympathisers outside of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union itself, many of his supporters had already deserted him. This was also a time when western progressive opinion was running in favour of the Soviet Union and its leadership, especially after the counterrevolution coming to power in Germany, followed by the outbreak of the Spanish civil war between left and right in 1936. Simply put, Trotsky wrote  ‘Revolution Betrayed’ in a desperate effort to prevent himself losing further support at the level of progressive opinion internationally. This was in essence a damage limitation exercise on the part of Trotsky.

 IMLR:  What do you consider to be the central theme of this work, i.e. ‘Revolution Betrayed’?

 TC:  I think the central theme of this work is connected to its basic motive, this being to undermine support for the Soviet Union and Stalin at an intellectual level.

 IMLR:  How does Trotsky go about doing this?

 TC:  Due to the successes of the Soviet Union in this period, which were not without sacrifices, Trotsky was afraid of losing support, so he ended up  distorting Marxism and presented the result as a scientific, i.e., Marxist critique of the Soviet Union. For instance, we all know that in this period, the Soviet Union was a society undergoing socialist transformation, but Trotsky’s critique is based on the view that the Soviet Union was not socialist. Trotsky’s position was helped by the claims of the leadership that the society was socialist. The correct view, in my opinion, was that the Soviet Union was in a process of socialist transformation.

 IMLR:  So you are saying Trotsky’s work was made easier when the leadership made premature claims that the Soviet Union had reached socialism?

 TC:  When such claims were made it was not so much that they were wrong as such, but rather that they were one-sided. I think the term one-sided is a far more correct concept than ‘premature’. Thus, such a claim was one-sided in the sense that the process of socialist transformation of society proceeds at different tempos in the different spheres of society. A society undergoing socialist transformation is a contradictory society, combining features of the past and features of the future. The Soviet Union was such a society. Marx says the new society is stamped with the birthmarks of the old society. Trotsky’s criticism of the Soviet Union in ‘Revolution Betrayed’ is primarily a criticism of these birthmarks and there is no point in denying that these birthmarks existed. The point is that Trotsky presented this criticism as justification for his campaign to remove the leadership, or more pertinently, to hold on to his dwindling support.  Another point about the Soviet Union in the 1930s is that it was a society preparing for war not peace. Thus if there is any meaning to the term ‘Stalinism’ I would suggest it be considered in connection with the idea of the country preparing for war in a specific concrete historical situation. This was, in many respects, a new continuation of war communism after the abandonment of NEP. In this preparation for war, Trotsky predicts in ‘Revolution Betrayed’ that

 ‘If the war should remain only a war, the defeat of the Soviet Union would be inevitable’. (L. Trotsky: Revolution Betrayed; New Park; p.227)

 IMLR: But surely, Trotsky recognised the Soviet Union as a transitional society?

 TC:  Yes, Trotsky recognised that the Soviet Union was a transitional society, but it seems mostly in an abstract sense, because in the ‘Revolution Betrayed’ we find him, believe it or not, denouncing Marx’s view on the nature of economic laws under socialism which is the first stage of communist society. This stage is characterised by bourgeois right, which means unequal reward for unequal work, which continues in the distribution and exchange under socialism. This is the principle of from each according to his abilities, to each according to his work. Trotsky confuses this stage with the higher stage of communism where the principle becomes, ‘from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs’. This is what Trotsky has to say about the former principle for socialism put forward by Marx in the ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’

 ‘This inwardly contradictory, not to say nonsensical, formula has entered, believe it or not, from speeches and journalistic articles into the carefully deliberated text of the fundamental state law. It bears witness not only to a complete lowering of the theoretical level in the lawgivers, but also to the lie with which, as a mirror of the ruling stratum, the new constitution is imbued’. (L. Trotsky: Revolution Betrayed; New Park; p.258)

 If Trotsky confuses the economic distinction between the two stages of communist society, its lower and higher stage it can only be concluded that his recognition of the transition period was, from the economic standpoint, of an abstract character. This confusion introduced by Trotsky has pervaded the thinking of other ultra-left writers. A good example of this is the Japanese ultra-left writer, Kan’ichi Kuroda who is critical, but sympathetic to Trotsky, and who in his work ‘Stalinist Socialism: A Japanese Marxist’s Perspective’ claims that the dictatorship of the proletariat does not exist under socialism and confuses the whole question of the transition period, in truly Kautskyan fashion. This work, translated by the ‘Anti-Stalinism Study Group’, amongst other things, claims that in a socialist society  ‘…even the workers’ state is withered away’. (Kan’ichi Kuroda: Stalinist Socialism: A Japanese Marxist’s Perspective; p.61)

 IMLR:  But Trotskyists nevertheless present ‘Revolution Betrayed’ as a theoretical masterpiece of Marxism when in fact it clearly refutes Marx himself. How do you generally regard this work?

 TC:  This work may be a masterpiece of Trotskyism, but it is no masterpiece of Marxism, as the above passage quoted from Trotsky clearly shows. This confusion about the basic principle of socialism as distinct from the higher phase of communist society is so amazing that I had to read it several times over to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me. As I said this work was written to undermine support for the Soviet Union, or more specifically, Stalin, in an attempt to forestall the collapse of Trotskyism.

 IMLR:  How was Trotsky able to make such a blatant error, which amounts to an open repudiation of Marxism, and get away with it?

 TC:  I may be wrong, but it is hard to believe that this was a conscious distortion by Trotsky, although I cannot entirely rule this out. Yet, it is hard to imagine that anyone claiming to be a Marxist could perpetrate such a distortion while knowing it could be so easily exposed. I do not put this past Trotsky however because we know that in a similar vein he attacked Stalin for upholding Lenin’s view of the possibility of socialism in one country as part of the world revolutionary process, implying that Stalin was the author of this view. What this suggest, if we give Trotsky the benefit of the doubt, is that he had a relatively superficial knowledge of some Marxist text. However, we do find in Trotsky a tendency to distort what his opponents have said, or had written in the interest of factional considerations. This seems to be a tendency in other pro-Trotsky writers. Take Daum, for example, he writes that Stalin declared in 1927

‘ “…only a civil war could oust the bureaucracy from power’. (Walter Daum: The Life and Death of Stalinism- A Resurrection of Marxist Theory: p. 155)

 Now, what Stalin said, if I remember correctly, in referring to the  pro-Trotsky oppositionists was something to the effect of ‘…only a civil war can remove these cadres’.

 And in the same work, Daum, who claims to have resurrected Marxist theory, not only from Stalinists but also from orthodox Trotskyists, quotes a passage from Stalin referring to the 1936 constitution, which said that

 ‘…our working class, far from being bereft of the instruments and means of production, on the contrary possess them jointly with the whole people’. (J. V. Stalin: On the Draft Constitution of the USSR: Problems of Leninism; pp. 382-395. Quoted in Daum: Op. cit. p.178)

 Daum says about the above passage: ‘So much for the Maoist claim that the “State of the whole people” was a counterrevolutionary Khrushchevite invention that overturned everything that Stalin stood for’. Daum refers to the above passage from Stalin as a ‘lying and convoluted theory’. But any fool can see that Stalin, referring to the working class possessing the means of production jointly with the whole people is not the same as, and cannot be confused with, the Khrushchevite revisionist talk about the ‘State of the whole people’.  If Trotsky can openly repudiate Marx on the question of the basic economic principle under socialism as distinct from the higher phase of communism why should anyone be surprised if we find him attacking Stalin for defending Lenin on socialism in one country as the initial stage of the world revolutionary process. We should therefore be even less surprised if a pro-Trotsky writer like Daum distorts Stalin in two instances and in the latter case falsely accusing Stalin of originating the Khrushchevite revisionist theory of the ‘State of the whole people’.

IMLR:  We are in fact looking at the concept of ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’. How does this concept stand in relation to Trotsky’s concern for the increase of social differentiation in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and the question of the Soviet bureaucracy?

 TC:  Firstly let me say that the theory of  ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’ is derived from facts. All the serious bourgeois writers mention it in one form or another. Stalin was in an almost constant state of conflict with the Soviet bureaucracy. No one who writes history seriously disputes this. In fact, the Trotskyists can hardly disputes this either. What they can do is distort the facts to support their argument that Stalin was the ‘leader of the counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy’.

 IMLR:  What I want firstly is your view on the question of social differentiation in the Soviet Union. This is a major point Trotsky is making in ‘Revolution Betrayed’.

 TC:  Faced with the successes of the Soviet Union in the 1930s, which is recognised by Trotsky himself, although he chooses to call this counterrevolution and betrayal, Trotsky, as I previously said, wrote ‘Revolution Betrayed’ to prevent the collapse of his movement because many people began to desert Trotsky at this time. However, this did not mean Trotsky made no valid points, or observed certain negative facts, but these facts were, in my view, interpreted from an incorrect theoretical standpoint. I have already mentioned Trotsky’s open break and rejection of Marx’s view concerning the economic difference between the lower and higher stage of communist society. So, what does Trotsky have to say about social differentiation in the Soviet Union under Stalin in the 1930s? In ‘Revolution Betrayed’ we find him making the following remark:

 ‘The distribution of this earth’s goods in the Soviet Union, we do not doubt, is incomparably more democratic than it was in Tsarist Russia, and even than it is in the most democratic country of the West. But it has little in common with socialism’. (L. Trotsky: Revolution Betrayed; New Park; p.143)

 There are two things of interest in this statement. Although Trotsky claims that Stalin was promoting counterrevolution, he contradicts this claim by the confession that under Stalin the distribution of goods were more democratic than under Tsarism and ‘…even than it is in the most democratic country of the West’.  This is not a pro-Stalin writer speaking or making pro-Soviet propaganda. This confession comes from the pen of Trotsky himself. He says clearly that the distribution of goods was more democratic than even in the most advanced democratic country of the west. Yet, according to Trotsky and his followers Stalin was supposed to be leading a counterrevolution. This makes no sense to me at all. And what does Trotsky mean when he says this has little in common with socialism? Trotsky is wrong on this point, but even those who agree with him would have to confess that his remark about things being distributed more democratically than even in the advance west would suggest that under Stalin things were certainly moving in the direction of socialism. Anyone who agrees with the above confession by Trotsky would have to reject the claim than Stalin was leading counterrevolution. The question of which general direction was the Soviet Union moving under Stalin’s leadership is the decisive test concerning revolution and counterrevolution. Trotsky refutes his own claim that Stalin was on the wrong side. The issue of social differentiation must be approached from within this general context.

 IMLR:  For Trotsky social differentiation had led to a privileged bureaucracy, alienated from the masses, with it’s own selfish material interests. How was this possible?

 TC:  I think the very backwardness of the society inherited by the communists made social differentiation to one degree or another inevitable. Other factors were involved as well, such as the need to encourage the development of a skilled labour force. Anyone who imagine it is possible to rid society of social differentiation overnight cannot be taken seriously. But as I indicated, even Trotsky points out that the distribution of goods in the Stalin period was more democratic than in the most advance western countries at the time. So although the Soviet Union was moving in a socialist direction in this period there was still significant evidence of the existence of privileges in that society.

 IMLR:  Why was social differentiation unavoidable at that stage in relation to bureaucracy and how did it find expression?

 TC:  The Soviet Union was undergoing a process which was dual in nature. The process of modernisation was combined with the process of socialist transformation, under very backward conditions; furthermore, this was taking place under the constant threat of imperialist invasion. This is the general background, which we need to have in mind when we come to consider social differentiation in the Soviet Union. Neither the working class, the party, or socialism was strong enough to prevent the process of social differentiation leading to the emergence of a privileged stratum in the Soviet bureaucracy. This elite enjoyed certain privileges based on seniority and status. Socialism cannot dispense with administrative and technical specialists. The backward conditions in which the revolution occurred meant that these people had to be won over, so to speak, to work for the state and socialism, to develop the material conditions for socialism. Privilege found expression in special shops, better housing for leading officials, etc.

 IMLR:  When did all this begin, that is, the emergence of this privileged layer within Soviet society?

 TC:  Some writers argue that it began in the civil war period when the survival of the Bolsheviks was hanging on a thread. The survival of the regime depended on attracting military and technical specialists. I think this is as good a place to start as any if we are considering the origins of privilege in the Soviet Union. Contrary to the image which the Trotskyists like to display on the left, Trotsky was one of the leading pioneers in supporting certain privileges for the commanding stratum in the Red Army. Thus, it is important to expose the argument or the idea that the existence of a privileged elite began with the Stalin period.

 IMLR:  So you are saying that Trotsky promoted privilege when he was in power?

 TC:  What I am saying is that he stood for privileges for the officer level in the Red Army. Eventually this Trotskyist system was extended to the top key personnel in the Soviet State bureaucracy. In fact when Stalin and some of his supporters was against even the use of the former military servants of the Tsarist regime, Trotsky was not only staunchly in favour of using them, which was necessary, but also in favour of extending certain privileges to the officer class to help ensure loyalty.

IMLR:  In other words you are saying what Trotsky applied to the officer ‘class’ in the army was also applied to the officer ‘class’ in the Soviet bureaucracy?

 TC:  Precisely. What I mean is that neither Soviet bureaucracy, or the existence of a privilege elite was the creation of Stalin. In Trotskyist narratives, it is easy to walk away with the opposite conclusion. The influence of the Red Army in Soviet political culture has been commented on by several writers. For instance, although she writes from a bourgeois perspective, Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick remarks that

 ‘To a considerable extent, the Red Army had to fill the gap left by the breakdown of the civilian administration: it was the largest and best functioning bureaucracy the Soviet regime possessed in the early years with the first claim on all resources’. (S. Fitzpatrick: The Russian Revolution; p.68)

 So that in the early years of the revolution, the Red Army, with Trotsky at its head, with a rank-and-file and a privileged officer class, became a model for the Soviet State bureaucracy, and Sheila Fitzpatrick argues that

 ‘In fact, the rationing system under War Communism favoured certain categories of the population, including Red Army personnel, skilled workers in key industries, Communist administrators and some groups of the intelligentsia’. (Sheila Fitzpatrick; op. cit. p.73)

 IMLR:  Nevertheless, in his ‘Revolution Betrayed’, Trotsky argues that it is not the structures of the army which determine the social structures of the state. Do you agree with this proposition?

 TC:  I think here Trotsky presents the argument abstractly. What is necessary is look at the concrete origins of a particular State. What we find in the case of Russia is that the old Tsarist State collapsed as a result of war and revolution. Soon the Red Army became the largest and most powerful institution in the Soviet State. After the civil war, many military people went over to work in the civilian administrative apparatuses. So contrary to what Trotsky says, in this particular concrete case, the Red Army was one of, if not the most important influences determining the structures of the state. One aspect of the structure of the Red Army was that, in order to gain the co-operation of the former military servants of the Tsarist regime, the officer class in the army, with the approval of Trotsky, who was the acting chief of the army at the time, was granted certain privileges and this was considered as an expediency.

 IMLR:  What you seem to be saying is that the question of social differentiation in the Soviet Union cannot be understood abstractly outside of the real historical context, and that a concrete approach is necessary. Am I right that you are suggesting that this approach show that the leader of the Red Army at the time, Trotsky, developed the policy of granting privileges to the officer class in the army. This policy was then generally applied to key officials in the state bureaucracy, to its ‘officer class’ so to speak.

 TC:  Yes. The origins of the system of granting privileges to certain key personnel can partly be traced right back to Trotsky. I am not making a moralistic point here, because this could hardly have been done without Lenin’s knowledge who would have regarded it as a temporary necessity. Yet, there can be little doubt that Trotsky was one of the original authors of granting such privileges back in the civil war days.

 IMLR:  So the emergence of a privileged elite in the Red Army and in the other parts of the top echelons of the State apparatus can be traced back to Trotsky?

 TC:  Privilege was granted to certain select groups, as Fitzpatrick shows, in order to save working class political power from collapsing under the strain of the civil war. This can be justified as a short-term measure if it saves working class power from collapsing. However, viewed long term, it turns into its opposite, promoting the downfall of this power. This is because if a privileged stratum emerges in a country undergoing socialist transformation, parts of this stratum can become the vehicle for revisionist ideology and restorationist tendencies if the balance of forces changes against socialism. The former Soviet Union is living proof of this process in action. Yes, the origin of granting privileges can be traced back to Trotsky.

 IMLR:  The Trotskyists would argue that the point about privilege leading to counterrevolution was the very point that Trotsky was later to make. How do you answer this?

 TC:  After losing power Trotsky warned that the emergence of a privileged stratum in the Soviet Union would form the basis for capitalist counterrevolution, but his explanation of this process was, in my view, of an abstract nature. No one can doubt the danger of a privileged stratum in a society undergoing socialist transformation, but one needs the right approach in reacting to it. Lenin wrote that

‘specialists – as a separate stratum, which will persist until we have reached the highest stage of development of communist society…’(See: Lenin: Vol. 33; p.194) should be given better conditions than they enjoyed under capitalism, thus win them over to the building of socialism. But, beyond a certain point, under certain conditions, this can work against socialism, and we need to keep this in mind.

 IMLR:  What do you mean by ‘abstract’ in the above context and how does this relate to the notion of ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’?

 TC:  Well, Trotsky employs the category of a ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy’ but Marxist-Leninists argue that this is an abstract presentation of the issue. Furthermore, it is this type of abstraction which tends to characterise Trotsky’s theoretical thought. These types of generalised statements and ideas can lead to unfortunate consequences if not given concrete content. What in fact emerges is a contradiction between Trotsky’s foundational categories and actual concrete reality.

 IMLR:  Yes, but what is this contradiction are you referring to?

 TC:  What I am referring to is that there was never such a thing as a ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy’, or ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’.

 IMLR:  In view of what has happened in the former Soviet Union I can almost hear Trotskyists laughing at you here. Elaborate your point.

 TC:  Well let them laugh. A sense of humour never did anyone any harm. This concept of Trotsky’s was abstract, too abstract to be of any use to communists. If Trotsky had spoken of counterrevolutionary elements within the Soviet bureaucracy whom needed to be unmasked and purged, no Marxist-Leninists could disagree with him. However, to speak of a counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy was nonsense. On the other hand, to speak of counterrevolutionary, revisionist elements in the Soviet bureaucracy and the need to purge them would be to make a concrete statement.

 IMLR:  Are you therefore saying that Trotsky was not aware of the different elements that made up the Soviet bureaucracy?

 TC:  Of course he was aware that the bureaucracy, even at the highest level, contained different elements, but he lacked a theoretically concrete understanding of the significance of this recognition for political purposes. That is why Trotsky and the Trotskyists speak of a counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy, failing to realise the theoretical importance of distinguishing the revolutionary from the counterrevolutionary elements. To prove my point I need only add that in some of his writings Trotsky speaks of the ‘dual’ nature of the bureaucracy, but does not draw the right conclusions which would have provided the basis for a correct political strategy. His recognition that the Soviet bureaucracy was not homogeneous was secondary to his view about a counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy. So that his proposals and admonition to his followers that in the event of counterrevolutionary attempts they should join with the Stalinists against the Right was negated by his concept of a ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy’. The term ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy’ was a political statement that Trotsky, in practice, if not in theory, regarded the Soviet bureaucracy as homogeneous.

 IMLR:  You are therefore suggesting that on this question, the basic difference between Marxist-Leninists and Trotskyism is that the former recognised the heterogeneous nature of the Soviet bureaucracy as a main determinant for strategy towards it, while the Trotskyist, in practice, failed to take this heterogeneity into account?

 TC:  This is true. That is why while Marxist-Leninists refer to the need to purge the bureaucracy, unmasking the concealed enemies of socialism; Trotskyism, on the other hand, refer to the need to make a ‘political’ revolution against the bureaucracy. This is to throw the baby out with the bath water. In his letter to M.F. Sokolov, Lenin challenges this pseudo-left approach to fighting bureaucracy. He explained that while it was possible to throw out the capitalist and the landowners, bureaucracy was another matter because

 ‘…you cannot “throw out” bureaucracy in a peasant country, you cannot “wipe it off the face of the earth”. You can only reduce it by slow and stubborn effort’. (V. I. Lenin: Vol. 35; p. 492; May 16, 1921)

 Lenin argued against Sokolov that

 ‘To “throw off” the “bureaucratic ulcer”, as you put it in another place, is wrong in its very formulation. It means you don’t understand the question’. (Ibid.)

 And continuing to press his point home, Lenin observed

 ‘To “throw off” an ulcer of this kind is impossible. It can only be healed. Surgery in this case is an absurdity, an impossibility; only a slow cure – all the rest is charlatanry or naïveté…You are naïve, that’s just what it is, excuse my frankness’. (Ibid.)

 Lenin advised Sokolov that the struggle against bureaucracy must be pursued

 ‘…according to the rules of war’. (Ibid.)

 This was because, in Lenin’s view at the time

 ‘The struggle against bureaucracy in a peasant and absolutely exhausted country is a long job, and this struggle must be carried on persistently, without losing heart at the first reverse’. (V. I. Lenin: Vol. 35; p.493; May 16, 1921)

 Lenin concluded

 ‘ “Throw off” the “chief administration”? Nonsense. What would you set up instead? You don’t know. You must not throw them off, but cleanse them, heal them, heal and cleanse them ten times and a hundred times. And not lose heart’. (Ibid.)

 Already in this letter by Lenin we see a rejection of what would become the later Trotskyist line; the call for political revolution as a solution to the problems of Soviet bureaucracy. Trotsky was to justify this line with the argument that the Soviet bureaucracy had become a new ruling caste.

 IMLR:  The Trotskyist narrative paints Stalin as being the representative of the Soviet bureaucracy. How does this relate to their views of the bureaucracy?

 TC:  Well, as I explained previously, in Trotskyism the Soviet bureaucracy is presented as a pure abstraction. It is not only ‘conservative’ but it is also Thermidorian and therefore thoroughly counterrevolutionary. For Trotsky the Soviet bureaucracy was the ‘most counterrevolutionary force in the international working class movement’. How absurd can you get? Where for Lenin the most counterrevolutionary force in the working class was the Social Democracy, the watchdogs of imperialism, for Trotsky it was the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’. In Trotskyism, Stalin was supposed to be the leader of this abstraction, the ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy’. Even one of the most anti-Stalin bourgeois writers rejects this Trotskyist view of the bureaucracy. For instance, R. C. Tucker writes that

 ‘Trotsky’s theory of the Soviet Thermidor, although not without elements of truth, was seriously flawed. As later events showed it erred in its image of the Bolshevik ruling stratum as a soddenly conservative if not counterrevolutionary force’. (R. C. Tucker: Stalin: p.391)

 Therefore, we see that even for a writer who writes with a bourgeois and anti-Stalin perspective, Trotsky’s theory of a counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy was an ‘abstraction’, that is to say a superficial way to go about looking at things. Thus, the anti-Stalin Tucker can argue that

 ‘…the ruling bureaucracy, in which many old Bolsheviks were still represented in leading positions, was not accurately described as “Thermidorian”. Its unresponsiveness to Trotsky’s position was not rooted in counterrevolutionary inclinations. Nor was its receptivity to “socialism in one country” a sign of indifference to socialism as a universal goal’. ( Tucker:  Op. Cit. p.392)

 These views, although containing distortions, are closer to the truth than the views of the Trotskyists.

Tucker, although writing from an anti-Stalin perspective, challenges some of the core assumptions of Trotskyism. For instance, he argues that

 ‘Not without justification did Stalin, for example, still find it expedient in 1926 to speak to his party audience of the impetus that the USSR could give the world revolution by its success in building a socialist society’. (Tucker: ibid. p.392)

 We can disregard the word ‘expedient’ here because Stalin’s position was not based on expediency as regard the possibility of building socialism in one country as part of the revolutionary process. Tucker writes that

 ‘If Trotsky’s picture of the bureaucracy as a Thermidorian group was inaccurate, he was likewise mistaken in his view of Stalin as its mere instrument and personification, who owed his political success to his mediocrity’. (Tucker: ibid. p.392)

 Therefore, to answer your question about how Trotsky viewed Stalin and how this relates to their conception of the Soviet bureaucracy, I would argue the following: Trotsky was defeated by Stalin in the struggle over policies in the 1920s, which was also a struggle for power; this made the latter ‘counterrevolutionary’ in Trotsky’s eyes, and the Soviet bureaucracy which Stalin was trying to direct had to become counterrevolutionary too.

 IMLR: But nevertheless you are not saying the same as what Tucker is saying, are you?

 TC:  Tucker, although anti-Stalin, comes closer to the truth on this issue than the Trotskyists. Obviously, one reason for this is that he is not motivated by factional considerations as such. He recognises that Trotsky’s theory that the Soviet bureaucracy was a counterrevolutionary group was inaccurate, in other words an abstraction. He comes closer to the truth without reaching it. In fact, there are two possible abstractions. The first is the Trotskyist one that the Soviet bureaucracy was ‘counterrevolutionary’, and the opposite abstraction that the Soviet bureaucracy was ‘revolutionary’. Those who adopt the latter position are faced with the problem of explaining why both Lenin and Stalin found it necessary to promote purges of the bureaucracy. Therefore, Marxist-Leninists do not speak of a ‘revolutionary’ or ‘counterrevolutionary’ Soviet bureaucracy as such. They recognise that the Soviet bureaucracy contained counterrevolutionary elements that wore a communist mask, therefore it was the duty of the party leadership to unmask these elements within the bureaucracy and purge them.

 IMLR:  The general Marxist-Leninist consensus is that when Stalin was leading the Soviet Communist Party, the counterrevolutionary, revisionist elements were not in the ascendancy. Do you subscribe to this view?


TC:  Generally I subscribe to this view, although of course, in reality the picture was somewhat more complex. Marxist-Leninists criticise Trotsky for presenting simplistic pictures, such as a ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy’. What was closer to the truth was that the Marxist Leninists were on many issues in a minority in the party and some of the organs of state power, but they were able to hold on to some decisive key positions. Forget what you read in bourgeois or Trotskyist literature about the ‘Stalinist’ hold on the Soviet State. Nothing would have been easier than to drive the ‘Stalinists’ from power had the working class masses not stood behind them. I use the term ‘Stalinist’ here simply to refer to those who supported Stalin.

 IMLR:  This seems to be the opposite of the Trotskyist position, which argues that the ‘Stalinists’ were able to defeat Trotsky and come to power because they had the support of the Soviet bureaucracy. How do you reply to this?

 TC:  If I was presenting my case on this simplistic level I would argue that most, or at least enough of the top bureaucrats supported the Rightists and that consequently if success in the inner party struggle depended on support from the bureaucrats, the Rightist would have come to power. If you defend the Trotskyist view that most of the bureaucrats supported the pro-Stalin people, you arrive at the absurd position of having to explain why the constant purges. Stalin would be a very inexplicable individual and leader indeed, if, unlike other political leaders, and contrary to normal reasoning, he thought that the best way to remain in power was to devote so much time purging and removing from office his ardent supporters. Trotskyism is responsible for the simplistic and incorrect view that the Soviet bureaucracy was composed of mainly enthusiastic supporters of Stalin. This view, however, is clearly contradicted by the repeated purges, especially the purges of the 1930s. We are told by Tucker, who, as I said is an anti-Stalin writer, that the Bukharinist right ‘…had considerable influence in the Soviet government bureaucracy, over which Rykov presided as premier and in Tomsky’s trade union hierarchy’. (Tucker: Stalin: 411)

 IMLR:  What, in your view, was the extent of support for Stalin in the Soviet bureaucracy?

 TC:  It is not possible to give a precise figure about the extent of support for Stalin and his group in this context. Only general statement can be made as to the extent of support at the level of the bureaucracy. I will only say that the extent of support was probably highest among those office holders closer to the working people.

 IMLR:  Trotsky promoted the theory of a ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy’, but Marxist-Leninists while rejecting this theory recognised that there were counterrevolutionary elements to be found within the bureaucracy and that it was necessary to unmask them. Where did these counterrevolutionary, or Thermidorian elements come from?

 TC:  They came from Russia’s past and this past had a long bureaucratic tradition, which was of the subject of social satire for generations of Russian writers. Bureaucracy was considered one of the constant banes of Russian life. J. N. Westwood remarks that

 ‘Bureaucracy and bureaucratic practice were (and remained) a pervasive and depressive feature of Russian life’. (J. N. Westwood: Endurance and Endeavour- Russian History, 1812-1986. Third Edition; p.163)

 Stalin in debates with the Trotsky and Zinoviev oppositions explains very clearly the nature of the Thermidorian danger to the revolution. It is important to mention this because in Trotskyism the impression is always given that that Stalin and his supporters were not aware of the thermidorian danger. Thus in 1927 Stalin remarked in referring to the opposition that

 ‘They say that there are certain elements in the country who betray tendencies towards a restoration, towards a Thermidor. But no body has ever denied that. Since antagonistic classes exist, since classes have not been abolished, attempts will always, of course, be made to restore the old order’. (J. V. Stalin: Works 10; Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954; p. 92)

 After the Russian socialist revolution, the Bolsheviks inherited this huge bureaucratic apparatus, made up of former servants of the Tsarist regime. In 1919, Lenin made the observation that

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

 And as we know, for Lenin the Soviet State was a bureaucratically distorted State,

 ‘…a workers state with bureaucratic distortions’. (See Lenin, Vol. 32; p.48)

 However, after the revolution increasing numbers of workers were promoted into the administration. But, the question of who was directing who was still of concern to Lenin and this led him to remark that

 ‘If we take Moscow with its 4, 700 communists in responsible positions, and if we take the huge bureaucratic machine, that gigantic heap, we must ask: who is directing whom.’ (See Lenin, Vol. 33; pp. 288-289)

 For Lenin the answer was clear enough and he observed that

 ‘I doubt very much whether it can be said that the communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth, they are not directing, they are being directed’. (Lenin: ibid.)

 Having taken over the administrative apparatus from the former Tsarist State, the Bolsheviks had to restructure this ‘huge heap’ and promote worker communists to it. Measures were proposed to fight bureaucracy and create a more efficient system, but the bureaucracy still grew and the ‘Workers and Peasants Inspection’, which had Stalin as its nominal head, had marginal influence in combating the bureaucratic malady. Lenin refused to put its failure on Stalin, which the Trotskyists attempted to do at a later stage. Lenin recognised that Stalin could not be blamed for the failure of ‘Rabkrin’ because his other duties in the civil war period and after prevented him from giving Rabkrin his full attention. In fact, Lenin blamed the failure of the Workers’ and Peasants Inspection on Russia’s low cultural level inherited from the past, and in exonerating Stalin for its failure, Lenin remarked in a letter to Joffe that

 ‘…fate had not allowed [Stalin] even once in three and a half years to be either People’s Commissar of Workers’ and Peasants Inspection or of Nationalities. That’s a fact’ (Lenin. Vol. 45; p.100)

 We can only assume that since Joffe was a supporter of Trotsky, Lenin, even at this early stage was attempting to nip in the bud mendacious rumours that the failures of Rabkrin should be placed at Stalin’s door. The Trotskyist attacks on Stalin over this question collapses ignominiously for all to see. The author of this collapse is Lenin himself.

 IMLR:  What was the brief of the Workers and Peasants Inspection; how was it to go about fighting what Lenin considered the evils of bureaucracy?

 TC:  Lenin sponsored a decree on February 7, 1920 which created the ‘Peoples’ Commissariat of Workers and Peasants Inspection’, otherwise known as Rabkrin. It was given full powers to begin the struggle against the evils of bureaucracy. The Peoples Commissariat for this department, was Stalin, who, as I said, because of the pressures of other duties was unable to give the work his full attention, or according to Lenin, any attention at all.

Lenin wanted Rabkrin to enlist the help of non-party workers and peasants in the task of fighting bureaucracy, but he regarded this as a difficult task because

 ‘It is no easy matter to enlist for the state administrative work rank-and-file workers and peasants who for centuries have been downtrodden and intimidated by the landowners and capitalists’. (Lenin: Vol. 30, p.64)

 For Lenin, therefore, part of the key in the struggle against the evils of bureaucracy was, through Rabkrin, to enlist non-party people, and he remarked that

 ‘At a time when hostile elements are trying by every method of warfare, deceit and provocation to cling to us and take advantage of the fact that membership of the government party offers certain privileges, we must act in contact with the non-party people’. (Lenin: Vol. 30; pp. 415-416)

 Therefore, it is absolutely clear that Lenin’s strategy for fighting what he considered to be the evils of bureaucracy was partly based on a strategy of gaining the support of the masses of non-party people. Some will debate whether this was a utopian strategy at the best of times let alone in the conditions which the Soviet masses found themselves in after the civil war. However, what is not debatable is that Lenin based the struggle against the evils of bureaucracy on a long-term perspective, which even Trotsky recognised before he turned the matter into a factional issue.

 IMLR:  Why do you say some may regard this struggle, involving the enlistment of the non-party masses, as utopian?

TC:  Well for Lenin the struggles against the evils of bureaucracy meant, firstly, the need to rectify its dysfunctional aspects. Mass involvement in the fight to rectify the negative aspects of bureaucracy in the immediate post civil war period may have been based more on rhetoric than anything else, and as I said above Lenin himself recognised that it would be a difficult to get the masses involved in this project. It is not surprising that Rabkrin had little success in this respect and it is no use putting the blame for this at Stalin’s door, as the Trotskyist attempted to do, disregarding the fact that Lenin completely exonerated Stalin from being responsible for the shortcomings of Rabkrin. What is more probable is that the conditions of the Soviet masses at the time made them politically indifferent to the question of bureaucracy in any active way. This is one reason why Lenin’s call for a long-term strategy to combat bureaucracy makes sense. However, Lenin soon came to realise not only the long-term aspect of this struggle but also the complicated nature of the fight against the evils of bureaucracy. In his article ‘Better Fewer, But Better’ Lenin had moved a long way from the view he took in ‘State and Revolution’ that any cook could administer the state. In fact now he proposed that there should be an exam for prospective candidates who wanted to work in Rabkrin. (See Lenin: volume 33; p. 493) and he wanted Rabkrin to be

 ‘…the model for our entire state apparatus’. (V. I. Lenin: CW. Vol. 33; p.492)

 Also, Lenin suggested that candidates to work in this Commissariat should be drawn from

 ‘…our Soviet higher schools’. (Lenin: ibid. p.493)

 He argued that this was because

 ‘…it would hardly be right to exclude one or another category beforehand’. (Lenin: ibid. p. 493)

 For Lenin Some of Rabkrin’s appointees would also be required to study the theory of organisation, and he suggested sending them to the advanced Western European countries to familiarise themselves with the technique of modern administration. (See: Vol. 33; p.494) In short, Lenin seemed to have moved to the position that administration was something which required professionalism and a relative high level of culture. It was this element which the Soviet workers were lacking at the time. Indeed, Lenin came to regard administration as a science, thus appointees to Rabkrin would be expected to

 ‘…undergo a special test as regards their knowledge of the principles of scientific organisation of labour in general, and of administrative work, office work, and so forth, in particular’. (V. I. Lenin: CW. Vol. 33; p.485)

 The Lenin in ‘Better Fewer, But Better’ observed that, the Soviet workers at the time were mostly not sufficiently educated to take on the task successfully, and he remarked that

 ‘They would like to build a better apparatus for us, but do not know how’. (Op. cit. p.488)

 Thus, it was necessary to bring in and train a professional cadre for this work, who would be fused with the masses. Improving the state apparatus would require great patience, and Lenin argued that the Soviet Union

‘…lacked enough civilisation to enable us to pass straight to socialism, although we have the political requisites for it’. (Vol. 33; p.501)

 And he suggested that

 ‘…in matters of our state apparatus we should now draw the conclusion from our past experience that it would be better to proceed more slowly’. (V. I. Lenin: ‘Better Fewer, But Better, in: CW. Vol. 33; p. 487)

 To fight the bureaucratic defects of the state apparatus, Lenin noted, would

 ‘…take many, many years’. (Vol. 33; p. 488)

 This is a central hallmark of Marxism-Leninism, in contrast to Trotskyism, the recognition that the struggle against the negative side of Soviet bureaucracy would require a long period.

 He argued that in the struggle for a better State apparatus

 ‘…we must not make the demands that are made by bourgeois Western Europe, but demands that are fit and proper for a country which has set out to develop into a socialist country’. (V. I. Lenin. Vol. 33; p.489)

In fighting for a better administration, he noted that in this struggle

 ‘…devilish persistence will be required, that in the first few years at least work in this field will be hellishly hard’. (See: Vol. 33; p. 490)

 For Lenin, when considering the question of improving the state apparatus

 ‘…there can scarcely be anything more harmful than haste’. (Vol. 33; p. 490)

 This was a lesson which the Trotskyists were to caste overboard in their bid for power.

 Lenin called for the new Rabkrin to reject the approach

 ‘…which plays entirely into the hands of our Soviet and Party bureaucrats’. (See: Vol. 33. P.494)

 And he insisted that

 ‘…we have bureaucrats in our Party offices as well as our Soviet offices’. (Ibid. p. 494)

 Lenin argued that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should be given universal powers so that

 ‘The function of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection cover our state apparatus as a whole, and its activities should affect all and every state institution without exception: local, central, commercial, purely administrative, theatrical, etc.-in short all without exception’. (V. I. Lenin: Vol. 33; p.496)

 The conclusion Lenin came to was that

 ‘…only by thoroughly purging our government machine, by reducing to the utmost everything that is not absolutely essential in it , shall we be certain of being able to keep going’. (V. I. Lenin: CW. Vol. Pp. 501-2; March 2, 1923)

IMLR:  But Trotsky, having first supported the Leninist view on how to fight bureaucracy, later departed from this view. Do you think this was only out of factional motives?

 TC:  Yes. I think we are dealing here with factional motives. I do not think it is possible to separate Trotsky’s position on bureaucracy from his other political considerations and these considerations led to Trotsky changing is position and opposing the realistic view that the fight against Soviet bureaucracy should be based on a long-term strategy. Another point is that although Trotsky did not call the bureaucracy a class, nor did he ever regard it as a class, nevertheless his whole approach to the struggle against bureaucracy was as if it was a class. The Soviet bureaucracy was not a class; rather they were employees of the state. These employees could be sacked, purged or demoted at any time by the party, and many were. Therefore, Trotsky was right to say that the bureaucracy was not a class, but he was wrong to treat it as if it was a class. I am of course speaking of bureaucracy as a whole. That is to say the bureaucracy as a whole was not a class but this does mean to say it did not contain members of former classes and the possibility for the rise of new bourgeois elements within the state and industrial apparatus and even in the communist party itself. Of course, the political representatives of the new bourgeois elements who rise in the communist movement are the revisionists on the right.

 IMLR:  How did Trotsky actually view the Soviet bureaucracy theoretically?

 TC:  I think it is necessary to make a distinction between Trotsky’s critique of Soviet bureaucracy and Trotsky’s theory of Soviet bureaucracy. The two are not the same thing. When Trotsky criticises the excessive privileges of the top bureaucrats, I think such criticism is valid. This is where many of those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists fall down. They have nothing to say about the existence of a privileged stratum in the Soviet Union and how it came about. They idolise the Russian socialist revolution, rightly praising its achievements, but completely ignore its shortcomings. This is especially the case with the revisionists in the communist movement. Some Marxist-Leninists also shied away from the issue because they feared giving the enemies of communism a stick to beat the Soviet Union with. Trotsky’s theory simply says that a privileged bureaucracy came to power in the post Lenin period and led a reaction to the October revolution. This was summed up, Trotsky explained, in the theory of socialism in one country. A privilege social stratum certainly emerged after the revolution. Trotsky should certainly know about it because as I explained earlier, he sponsored its formation in regard to the top leaders in the Red Army. The revolution in a backward country was forced to make a concession to these elements, to buy their services, so to speak. All the Bolshevik leaders recognised this openly, particularly Lenin who viewed the matter with his characteristic sobriety. He also recognised, that specialists, as a separate stratum would continue to exist until we reach the highest stage of communism

 ‘Now we have to resort to the old bourgeois methods and agree to pay a very high price for the “services” of the bourgeois experts. All those who are familiar with the subject appreciate this, but not all ponder over the significance of this measure being adopted by the proletarian state. Clearly this measure is a compromise, a departure from the principles of the Paris Commune and of every proletarian power, which call for the reduction of all salaries to the level of the average worker, which urge that careerism be fought not merely in words, but deeds’. (V. I. Lenin: CW. 27; PP. 248-9)

 For Lenin paying high salaries to experts was

 ‘…a step backward on the part of the socialist Soviet State power, which from the very outset proclaimed and pursued the policy of reducing high salaries to the level of the wages of the average worker’. (V. I. Lenin: Vol. 27; p. 249)

 Lenin remarked that our enemies

 ‘…will giggle over our confession that we are taking a step backward. But we need not mind their giggling’. (ibid; p.249)

 Lenin openly admitted this retreat from communist principles and wanted the masses to know, because

 ‘To conceal from the people the fact that the enlistment of bourgeois experts by means of extremely high salaries is a retreat from the principles of the Paris Commune would be sinking to the level of bourgeois politicians’. (ibid; p.249)

 It is not possible to have a socialist revolution in a backward society, where 80 or 90 percent of the population is made up of the peasantry without making concessions. NEP was a concession to the capitalists; privileges were a concession to the bureaucrats and other experts. In other words, material conditions forced the communists to act against their principles and views in order to save the revolution. Can anyone seriously believe that Lenin or Stalin wanted capitalists or privileged bureaucrats, of course they did not, but they had to put up with them, keeping them in check, thus saving the revolution until such time that they could dispense with them. But in spite of all these concessions, which were alien to the ultimate aims of the revolution, we find Trotsky conceding in ‘Revolution Betrayed’ that under Stalin this worlds goods were more democratically distributed than even in the most advanced capitalist countries of the west. That this was written by Stalin’s archenemy speaks volumes.

 IMLR:  Marxist-Leninists reject the view that a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy came to power in the Soviet Union, and you say that Trotsky’s position on bureaucracy raises important points. Can you elaborate on this?

 TC:  What Marxist-Leninists reject is the view that a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy came to power in the period of Stalin. Under Stalin, the bureaucracy was kept in check, just as under Lenin the NEP capitalist were kept in check. The picture begins to change in the post Stalin period. I think the criticism of Stalin by the Trotskyists is so unfair that I cannot take it seriously. Honestly, look at the problems Stalin had to face, or for that matter, anyone in a similar position. Firstly the problem of industrialising a backward country, which thankfully Stalin achieved in record time to thwart the intentions of imperialist fascism. Secondly, the problem of fighting the internal counterrevolution. Thirdly the problem of educating millions of peasants and workers. Fourthly, the problem of building up strong armed forces. Fifthly, the problem of starting to bring socialism to millions of people under adverse conditions. Sixthly, the problem of fighting sabotages. Seventhly, the problem of trying to stop an imperialist united-front against the Soviet Union from emerging. Eighthly, the problem of preventing the disintegration of the Soviet Communist Party, Ninthly, the problem of holding a multi-national Soviet Union together. Tenthly, the problem of innovation, of being the first to lead the transition to socialism with no previous models or experience. These are some of the problems which Stalin had to face and find solutions to. And, finally, we should not forget the aid Stalin gave to the development of the international communist movement. Whom, may I ask would want to be in Stalin’s position? Yet, in spite of all these multitude of problems Trotsky admits that under Stalin material goods were more democratically distributed than under Tsarism and than under the most advance capitalist countries of the west. Read Trotsky’s description:

 ‘Gigantic achievements in industry, enormously promising beginnings in agriculture, an extraordinary growth of the old industrial cities, and a building of new ones, a rapid increase in the numbers of workers, a rise in cultural level and cultural demands-such are the indubitable results of the October revolution, in which the prophets of the old world tried to see the grave of human civilisation. With the bourgeois economists we have no longer anything to quarrel over. Socialism has demonstrated its right to victory, not on the pages of  Das Kapital, but in an industrial arena  comprising a sixth part of the earth’s surface-not in the language of dialectics, but in the language of steel, cement and electricity. Even if the Soviet Union, as a result of internal difficulties, external blows and the mistake of its leadership, were to collapse-which we firmly hope will not happen-there would remain as an earnest of the future this indestructible fact, that thanks solely to the proletarian revolution a backward country has achieved in less than ten years successes unexampled in history’. (Trotsky: Revolution Betrayed; New Park; p.8; 1936)

 What Trotsky could not bring himself to admit is that all this was achieved under J. V. Stalin’s leadership. In one breath, Trotsky praises the achievements of the Soviet Union, but because this was all achieved by his rival he calls this ‘the revolution betrayed’. Trotsky fails to explain how a counterrevolutionary leadership could have brought these ‘successes unexampled in history’.

 IMLR:  What other interesting points Trotsky’s position on bureaucracy raise, in your view?

 TC:  Well, for Trotsky, bureaucracy resulted from the isolation of the revolution. Lenin attributed bureaucracy to the backward, petty bourgeois character of Russia. In my view both proposition are debatable. The fact is that bureaucracies run all modern societies. There is little reason to suppose that a socialist society, the first stage in the transition to communism, will be very different in this respect. The ‘bureaucracy’ is an agency for the implementation of government policies and decisions. It is the servant of the state and the ruling class in power. The bureaucrats, regardless of their status, are paid employees.

 In fact, the First Congress of the Comintern, held in 1919, advocated that

 ‘…Soviet power must steadily build up a huge administrative apparatus and centralise its organisation, and, at the same time draw increasing layers of the working people into direct administrative work’. (See: Theses, Resolution and manifestos of the First Four Congress of the Third International; p.44)

 Resolutions such as these gave no indication of what drawing increasing numbers of working people into administrative work actually look like in practice. Yet at the same time it sanctions the creation of a ‘huge administrative apparatus’, oblivious to the problems of bureaucracy that we would expect to arise therefrom.

 IMLR:  This leads me to the question of what is ‘bureaucracy’ and what did Trotsky mean by bureaucracy?

 TC:  Generally, any formal and structured organisation with a hierarchy of officials is referred to as a  ‘bureaucracy’. Modern bureaucracies arise out of the increasing complexities of life in industrialised societies. Bureaucracy, as a form of organisation arises on the basis of the division of labour to meet the administrative needs of society. In Trotskyism we read about the need to overthrow the Soviet, or ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy, but we are not told what they intend to replace it with, or even how society, at the present stage is going to manage without a bureaucracy as long as the division of labour exist. When Trotsky speaks of bureaucracy it is obvious that he is referring to a particular stratum within the bureaucracy, consequently his use of the term is highly misleading in this context. Lovell, who does not write from a Marxist-Leninist perspective, argues that Trotsky does not analyse bureaucracy as such

 ‘Trotsky does not tell us much at all about the Soviet bureaucracy, even though he claimed to analyse it and its power’. ( David W. Lovell: Trotsky’s Analysis of Soviet Bureaucracy; p.4)

 IMLR:  Are you suggesting that he identifies the concept of bureaucracy with a particular stratum within it?

 TC:  I am certainly saying this, but I am also suggesting that he politicise the concept in such a way as to lead him to false conclusions. When you ask what the term ‘bureaucracy’ actually signifies, the first thing I can say is that all theorists of bureaucracy have given the term their own interpretation, but no one has interpreted the concept in the political or ideological way that Trotsky does. For instance, he argues that the doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’ is the political line, or ideology of the Soviet, Stalinist bureaucracy.

 When we trace the development of the concept ‘bureaucracy’, we find that modern concepts of bureaucracy arose in the 19th century and the bourgeois sociologist, Max Weber’s concept of bureaucracy became very influential in the bourgeois social sciences. There were previously three types of regimes. The Typology was Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy. Weber extended this typology to include Bureaucracy. However, the first academic study of the term bureaucracy was when Robert Von Mohl expressed concern at the various uses of this term. Mohl argued that everyone was talking about bureaucracy, yet no one appeared to have given it thought. (Martin Albrow: Bureaucracy; p. 124)  Mohl suggested that although this term was used to give the impression of knowledge and political sophistication, it, more often than not, concealed ignorance about its subject matter.

 The term ‘bureaucracy’ is derived from the French word bureau, which was originally a writing desk with a chest of draws. The 19th century French writer, Balzac once described bureaucracy as ‘The giant powers wield by pigmies, come into the world. It is also suggested that possibly Napoleon retarded its influence for a while, ‘for all things and all men were forced to bend to his will’. Balzac’s 1836 novel Les Employes was regarded as a half treatise on bureaucracy. In his book “The Kings Servants” (1961),

The British historian G. E. Aylmer reviews different concepts of bureaucracy to find one suitable for his study of the civil service of Charles I. Aylmer concludes that historians will find it most useful to

 ‘…to think of bureaucracy as referring to certain methods of administration’. (In: Albrow; p.99)

 This definition includes such attributes as ‘…professionalism, regular hierarchy, division into departments, and heavy reliance on written records’. (Albrow: p.99)

 From this standpoint argues Aylmer ‘…England can be said to have a bureaucracy since the Twelfth Century’. (Albrow: p.99)

 Most theorists on bureaucracy agree that the above features listed by Aylmer are universal, but Albrow remarks ‘…it would be wrong to suppose that the universality of these features is non-controversial’. (Albrow; p.99)

 Bureaucracy is often regarded as the administrative staff, and a standard English dictionary definition defines bureaucracy as ‘government by central administration’ and this is associated with ‘officialism' or officials of such government, and bureaucrats are often regarded as people who are unimaginative; the word bureaucracy is popularly used to express the frustration which people encounter when dealing with public officials. The problems of bureaucracy seem to affect all societies to varying degrees, for instance on January 29th, 1968, the British House of Commons debated a Conservative motion condemning  ‘…the continual growth of bureaucracy’. (Albrow; p.13) One concept of bureaucracy ‘is that the people who are appointed are not responsible to the people whose life they affect’. (Ibid.) Sometimes the term ‘bureaucracy’ is associated with administrative efficiency, at other times the opposite, administrative inefficiency is meant. Some writers use the term bureaucracy as a synonym for the ‘Civil Service’. The term may also be used for summing up the basic feature of organisational structure and it may also be used to refer to a body of officials in the dictionary sense, or alternatively to mean the ‘routine’ of administrative procedure. One thing is certain is that there is an absence of unity between theorists about what the term ‘bureaucracy’ actually signifies. Albrow warns that he ‘does not aim to set up a new theory of bureaucracy, nor even a new concept’, and refuses to take the position of an arbitrator between the competing views, i.e., ‘…to label one or other as “authoritative”’. Albrow reduces his task to one of giving an account of the various views and theories of bureaucracy.

 IMLR: I think the question of the definition of bureaucracy involves a great deal of competing theories, at least from the non-Marxist perspective. Are there different types of bureaucracies and did the early Marxist movement theorise on the question of bureaucracy?

TC:  In S. N. Eisenstadt’s ‘Political Systems of Empires (1963) four types of bureaucracies are given. (1) Service-orientated to the rulers and major social strata, (2) Totally subservient to the ruler (3) autonomous and orientated to its own advantage, (4) Self-orientated but also serving the people in general rather than any specific strata. (Albrow; p. 96) These different models of bureaucracies probably correspond to societies at different stage of political development. Marx dealt with the question of bureaucracy not from the administrative point of view but rather in general terms regarding its role in society, and we see this in his “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law”.

In this critique, Marx opposes the Hegelian view, which represents bureaucracy as the universal class. Marx argues that bureaucracy

 ‘…was based upon the modern division between state and civil society’. (In: David W. Lovell: From Marx to Lenin; p.47)

 Whereas for Hegel the bureaucracy embodied the general interest, for Marx the bureaucracy represented a particular interest. The bureaucracy ‘…would be abolished, and real universality achieved, when the antithesis between state and civil society was overcome, and when individuals ceased to separate the general interest from themselves as something alien and over-arching’. (ibid. p.47) For Marx bureaucracy was an attribute of the state and he argued that bureaucracy had the state in its possession. Who controlled the bureaucracy therefore controlled the state. For Marx, bureaucracy, like the state, could only possess any semblance of independence where classes had not fully developed. In “The German Ideology” Marx puts forward the thesis that

 ‘The independence of the state is only found nowadays in those countries where estates have not completely developed into classes…where consequently no section of the population can achieve dominance over the others…’(ibid. p.47)

 It seems that for Marx, the question of the structure of bureaucracy was of secondary importance, which is understandable from the Marxist perspective, which views the relation of production as ultimately directing the superstructure of society. Since bureaucracy could only represent particular interests, Marx looked for a universal class not at the level of bureaucracy, but at the level of the proletariat. It was this class which represented the universal interest. This raises important questions. If bureaucracy represents particular interests and the working class is the embodiment of the general interest, there must necessarily arise a conflict between the two. However, in concrete experience things may not be as simple as this. In real life, a bureaucracy may not be totally opposed to the general interest, and it is hard to see how it could remain absolutely opposed to the general interest and retain any form of legitimacy. Certainly, the typologies of the different kinds of bureaucracies given by S. N. Eisenstadt, suggests there are bureaucracies which while looking after their own interest, strive to serve the general interests as well rather than a particular strata. The question naturally arises about what happens to a bureaucracy in a society, which no longer rests on private property. In a society undergoing a process of socialist transformation, the bureaucracy would still control the state in an administrative sense. Consequently, the question is reduced to who exercises control over the bureaucracy. In other words, what political class controls the bureaucracy? A socialist ‘bureaucracy’ would refer to a bureaucracy that serves socialism and the new political ruling class, the proletariat. Albrow offers the view that

 ‘The idea of bureaucracy arose out of a concern for the proper place of the official in modern government’. (Albrow: Bureaucracy; p.106)

 And 19th century writers on the subject contrasted bureaucracy with democracy, because

 ‘They discerned numerous ways in which the use and usage of public officials subverted democratic values’. (ibid; p.106)

 John Stuart Mill, a bourgeois political writer from the 19th century, characterised bureaucracy as ‘a practice which keeps the citizen in relation to government like that of children to their guardian’. ( Mill: Principles of Political Economy, Vol. 2, Chapter 11; ‘Limits of the province of Government’, p.528)

 For Mill there was a sharp contradiction between bureaucracy and representative democracy. The term ‘bureaucracy’ is applied to several different situations: government by officials, public administration, private administration, i.e., non-public bodies, the administration of any organisation, rational organisation, i.e., administrative efficiency, or non-rational organisation, i.e., administrative inefficiency. The meaning of the term has constantly changed, while retaining a certain core identity. Bureaucracy originally meant a method of rule. Later the term came to be applied to the ruling group of officials itself. Albrow remarks that

 ‘Few concepts in social science have undergone such a continual process of fragmentation and transformation’. (Albrow: Bureaucracy; p.120)

 The point which theorists on bureaucracy seem to be agreed on is that the expansion of government stimulated the growth of bureaucracy. The growth of the State with the industrial revolution, the growth in the number of people employed by the public services. The increase in organisations has led to an increase in the role of administration.

 ‘Society now includes a distinct and recognisable group of managers and administrators with similar job experience, interests and values’. (Albrow: p.121)

 I think I have said enough to illustrate the complex and contradictory nature of how the term bureaucracy is used. It is also important to point out the difference between the term bureaucracy and bureaucrat. Not everyone in a bureaucracy is a bureaucrat. The latter category is limited to those in higher administrative level.

 IMLR:  Did Lenin provide a definition of the term ‘bureaucracy’, what it signified?

 TC:  For Lenin, bureaucracy was an aspect of the state power, a privileged institution separated from the masses. This was certainly a prominent aspect of the Tsarist bureaucracy. Obviously, this is a social definition of bureaucracy rather than a functional description. The term ‘bureaucracy’ covers a wide range of ideas. Lenin’s definition is useful because it touches on what most bureaucracies, at the higher level, have in common, privilege and separation from the masses, although, of course this does not exhaust the concept of bureaucracy in the manner in which this term is used today.

 IMLR:  Lenin wanted communists to fight against the evils of Soviet bureaucracy. Do you see any common ground between Lenin and Trotsky’s later celebrated opposition to Soviet bureaucracy?

 TC:  I have already pointed out that for Lenin and Stalin, the fight against the evils of Soviet bureaucracy was a long-term affair. This is another issue were Leninism and Trotskyism are in opposition. Trotsky soon dropped the idea of the long-term nature of the struggle against the evils of bureaucracy and went over to advocating political revolution to deal with the problems associated with Soviet bureaucracy. Trotsky’s opposition came to be more about getting his faction back into power than it was about serious reflections on the problems of Soviet bureaucracy. In order to justify his over hasty slogan of political revolution, Trotsky needed to convince pro-Trotsky communists that the Soviet bureaucracy was a counterrevolutionary force. But the Soviet bureaucracy contained both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary elements. Therefore, a category which dismissed the contradictory nature of the Soviet bureaucracy was highly inappropriate. Marxist-Leninists do not deny that the Soviet bureaucracy contained counterrevolution elements, which in fact explains the numerous purges set in motion first by Lenin and then by Stalin. Trotsky’s category of ‘a counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy is erroneous because such a category fails to takes into account the contradictory and heterogeneous nature of the phenomena of Soviet bureaucracy, at all levels. In this respect, it is interesting that Chase and Getty while not writing from a Marxist-Leninist perspective remark that

 ‘…there is much evidence to suggest that the 1935 Soviet bureaucracy was socially more representative of its society, than, for example, that of Great Britain or France’. (W. Chase and J. Arch Getty: The Soviet Bureaucracy in 1935: A Socio-Political Profile; in: Essays on Revolutionary Culture and Stalinism, p. 198)


IMLR:  But Trotsky’s argument was that a privileged caste of usurpers, which he called ‘the bureaucracy’ had taken power and were running the society in their own interest, in opposition to the interest of socialism and the working class. Thus, Trotsky concluded they had to be overthrown by means of a political revolution. How do you view this argument?

 TC:  Let me say again that all states are run by a bureaucracy of some sort. I know of no exception to this general picture. While this cannot be avoided in the short term, Marxist-Leninists declare the need to oppose the negative sides of bureaucracy. The negative sides of bureaucracy were very prominent in the Soviet Union, as Lenin recognised. In 1921, Lenin refers to Osinsky as having

 ‘…frankly become a defender of the worst kind of bureaucracy.’(V. I. Lenin: Vol. 36: p.556)

 And he recognises, at the functional level, the need to

 ‘…drag bureaucratic delays out into the daylight for the people’s judgement’. (Ibid. December, 1921)

 Lenin argued at this stage that

 ‘…only in this way shall we manage to really cure this disease’. (Ibid.)

 In fact Lenin also wanted to put bureaucrats on Trial, and remarked

 ‘We don’t know how to conduct a public trial for rotten bureaucracy. For this all of us, and particularly the People’s Commissariat for Justice, should be hung by stinking ropes’. (Op. cit. p.557)

 Lenin suggested that those who are

 ‘…guilty of red tape, negligence and connivance at bureaucracy’ (V. I. Lenin: Vol. 36; p.558)

 should have inflicted on them

 ‘…a severe reprimand and public censure, with a warning that it is only for this first time that we are inflicting such mild penalties, but in future will for such behaviour send all such trade union and communists scoundrels (the court, perhaps, will express itself more mildly) mercilessly to jail’. (Ibid. December 23, 1921)

 If we look at the typology of bureaucracies mentioned above I would argue that the Soviet bureaucracy conformed to those bureaucracies which do not only serve its own interest, but strove to serve the interest of society as a whole. All modern bureaucracies, I would argue, are of this nature, in that they attempt to serve not only particular interests but also the general interests, up to a certain point. To Say that the Soviet bureaucracy only served its own interest, would be to ignore all the positive achievements of the Soviet Union. Lenin did not hide the fact that certain privileges granted to the bourgeois specialists in production or administration was a necessary evil, a departure from communism, a concession forced on the proletarian state, a retreat in other words, in exchange for the survival of workers power. This departure from communism, unavoidable, in Lenin’s eyes, was to reveal its dangerous side soon after Stalin died. But during the purges ordered by Stalin, A. Nove tells us that

 ‘The elite suffered the most’. (A. Nove: Stalinism and After; p.56)

 And Nove remarks that  ‘ Stalin was many things, but surely not the expression of the narrow self-interest of the bureaucratic elite. He feared their consolidation, and punished them without mercy’. (Nove: ibid. p.60)

 Also, regarding the Soviet bureaucratic elite Nove writes,  ‘They were proportionately the principle victims of the great terror’. (ibid.)


Confirming this view, the British Foreign Office official, Fitzroy MacLean, during his stay in the Soviet Union at the time, tells us that


‘Gaining momentum as it went, the purge swept like a whirlwind through the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Government, the Civil Service, the intelligentsia, industry, even through the ranks of the dreaded Secret Police itself’. (Fitzroy MacLean: Eastern Approaches; p.24)


It is clear from these and other similar passages that Stalin took the struggle against Soviet bureaucracy beyond merely concern for functional inefficiency and increasingly the class struggle aspect comes to the fore. Those who employ Trotsky’s categories would have to confess that Stalin waged war against the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’.


IMLR: In Eisenstadt’s typology of bureaucracy, you suggest that the Soviet bureaucracy conforms closer to category number 4, i.e., a bureaucracy which is self-orientated, but also serving the people in general, rather than a specific strata. In this case, how did the Soviet bureaucracy serve the general interest?


TC:  The purpose of bureaucracy is administration, a bureaucracy has to be directed, whether it has a privileged stratum in it or not. In the case of the Soviet Union, we need to ask ourselves: what was the real interest of the working class after the Bolsheviks came to power. Obviously, the real interest of the masses was to produce the material conditions to make a transition to socialism possible and simultaneously to create the means to defend working class political power. Indeed, by the late 1920s it became urgent for the Soviet Union to industrialise as rapidly as possible. In a speech in 1931, Stalin told his audience


‘We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years or we shall go under’. (Quoted in Nove: ibid. p.72)


It is obvious that the modernisation drive in the Soviet Union dictated everything else. This was in the long-term interest of the working class. I will argue that the Soviet leadership, under the guidance of Stalin and his collaborators acted in the interest of the working class, and strove to make the bureaucracy act in this interest also. Therefore, contrary to the claims of Trotskyism, it was not the interest of some abstract ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy’ that determined the policy of the Soviet Union in the Stalin period, but the interest of socialism and the working class. True, the interest of a privileged stratum did come to play an increasing role, but this was in the revisionist period after the Marxist-Leninists had been forced out of the leadership, under the guise of the struggle against ‘Stalinism’. But what is Stalinism? If this term has any ideological significance, it can only mean ‘socialism preparing to defend itself under conditions of imperialist encirclement’.


IMLR:  Can you elaborate on this latter point which many may regard as a new insight?


TC:  I would not go so far as to say it was a new insight. What I mean is that the bourgeoisie and their left reflection use the term ‘Stalinism’ to mean something repugnant. However, the term, if it means anything ideologically has to be associated with the idea of a backward country, which was fifty, or one hundred years behind the advanced countries, forced to industrialise in record time, while surrounded by potential imperialist aggressors, which became actual, while dealing with internal and external conspiracies.


IMLR:  So you are saying that when some people on the left condemn ‘Stalinism’, they simply expose that they are serving the bourgeois counterrevolution through promoting disunity in the communist movement?


TC:  Yes, you are right because Marxists have to make not only a subjective but also an objective appraisal of a particular trend, or movement. This can only be done historically and dialectically. The historical approach means we study the evolution of a trend, from its genesis. The dialectical approach means we do not study it in isolation, but in its connection to other trends and circumstances, in a many-sided manner. This leads to the fatal conclusion that the role of Trotskyism was to foster disunity in the Soviet Union, which would serve the purpose of counterrevolution. This is the inevitable role of petty-bourgeois trends; to foster disunity in the communist movement.


IMLR:  So you reject the Trotskyist argument that a privileged caste had taken power in the Soviet Union?


TC:  When Lenin was in the leadership and Trotsky was also playing a leading role, there were privileged officials and bureaucrats. Lenin referred to them as ‘bureaucratic grandees’, or ‘pampered grandees’, see volume 32; page 132, also page 140. I looked up the word ‘pampered’ in my dictionary and it means to: over-indulge, spoil person with luxury. Yet although there was this privileged stratum, pampered to use Lenin’s own term, no one in the leadership, including Trotsky suggested that they had taken power. But as soon as Trotsky loses power this privileged caste, or pampered, bureaucratic grandees, to use Lenin’s words, had suddenly taken power to become the new ruling caste. Trotsky’s failure to condemn this privileged caste when he was in power speaks volumes, but we are told by Nove that during the Stalin purges ‘The elite suffered the most’. Does this suggest to you that these people had taken power in the Stalin period? The truth is that there was a constant struggle between the party leadership and what Lenin referred to as the ‘bureaucratic grandees’. So to imply that the question of power had been resolved in favour of the bureaucratic grandees in the period of Stalin’s leadership is to turn reality on its head, which seems to be a favourite pastime of Trotskyists. As for the system of granting privileges to leading key personnel, Trotsky pioneered this during his time in the Red Army, which I mentioned before. This was regarded as a necessity. Trotsky never even raised the possibility that by virtue of these privileges the army leadership would go over to counterrevolution. Lenin being the supreme realist recognised that this was a retreat, a backward step from the principles of communism, a price the proletarian dictatorship had to pay in return for remaining in power.


IMLR:  Lenin pointed out that the state apparatus was taken over from Tsarism and  ‘…and slightly anointed with Soviet oil’. What does this suggest to you?


TC:  When Lenin made this remark he obviously meant that the state apparatus, the bureaucracy, was still in essence the old Tsarist bureaucracy containing a communist minority. The Bolsheviks having come to power and formed a government, the Bolsheviks had no option but to use the old Tsarist bureaucracy, which re-emerged after the collapse of the Tsarist State. It was anointed with Soviet oil, so to speak, but in many respects, it remained the old Tsarist bureaucracy. This explains the frequent purges of the Soviet State apparatus and the party, because many of these elements joined the latter, after deciding that the Bolsheviks were on the winning side. Lenin referred to this state of affairs as workers’ state with bureaucratic distortions. He noted


‘…we took over the old machinery of state from the tsar and the bourgeoisie and that now, with the onset of peace and the satisfaction of the minimum requirements against famine, all our work must be directed towards improving the administrative machinery’. (V. I. Lenin: Vol. 36; p.597; December 26, 1922)


For Lenin the struggle against bureaucracy, to improve the state apparatus depended to a high degree on


‘…selection of people and checking fulfilment. This is the essential point’. (V. I. Lenin: Letter to A.D. Tsyrupa, in: Vol. 36; p.55)


Also, Lenin argued that in the struggle against bureaucracy the most important thing was to


‘…shift the centre of gravity to checking up on effective fulfilment’. (CW. Vol. 35;p.542)


And he noted that


‘…Communists have become bureaucrats. If anything will destroy us, it is this’. (Op. cit. p.549; February 22, 1922)


Stalin held to Lenin’s views regarding the Soviet State apparatus, remarking


‘Regarding the class nature of our state, Lenin, as I have already mentioned, gives a most precise formula, permitting of no misinterpretations, namely, a workers’ state with bureaucratic distortions in a country with a predominantly peasant population. That is clear I think’. (J. V. Stalin: The Bolshevik; No. 6, March 15, 1927)


So, Lenin and Stalin recognised that the Soviet State was bureaucratically distorted, because of the Tsarist heritage and because of transferring military methods of the civil war period over to the civilian sphere. A leading proponent of this tendency in the 1920-21 period was non other than the Trotskyists who advocated a fascist policy of suppressing the independence of the trade unions instead of giving them political leadership. The factional struggle between Marxism-Leninism and Trotskyism on this issue was so intense that it almost split the Soviet Communist Party. Unlike Trotsky, both Lenin and Stalin regarded the defeat of the evils of bureaucracy to be a long term problem, not amenable to short term political stunts, a view Trotsky previously held but later rejected in favour of his political revolution slogan.


In the post-Lenin period, Stalin was clear about the nature of the Soviet State apparatus. In his organisational report to the Twelfth Congress, he remarked that


‘…some of the officials in the state apparatus are bad, they are not our men’. (J. V. Stalin: Vol. 5; p.209)


In other words, there were definitely elements in the Soviet bureaucracy alien to socialism and Stalin noted that


‘The state apparatus is of the right type, but its component parts are still alien to us, bureaucrats, half tsarist-bourgeois’. (Op. Cit. p.210)


And, furthermore he argued


‘We want to have a state apparatus that will be a means of serving the mass of the people, but some persons in this state apparatus want to convert it into a source of gains for themselves'. (J. V. Stalin: Vol. 5; p. 210)


For Stalin this situation


‘…is why the apparatus as a whole is not working properly’. (ibid: p.210)


Stalin did not regard the problem of bureaucracy in isolation from political questions. There would, in his view, be political consequences if a struggle against the negative side of the Soviet State apparatus were not undertaken. Without politicising the issue of bureaucracy, i.e., regarding the issue only in political terms, Stalin saw that serious consequences would follow, because


‘If we fail to repair it, the correct political line by itself will not carry us far; it will be distorted, and there will be a rupture between the working class and the peasantry’. (J. V. Stalin: ibid. p.210)


And like Lenin, Stalin wanted to avoid the danger whereby


‘We shall have a situation in which, although we shall be at the steering wheel, the car will not obey’. (ibid. p.210)


If this were not avoided, ‘There would be a crash’. (ibid. p.210)


Stalin noted that this was why Lenin had called for a reorganisation of the Workers and Peasants’ Inspection,


‘…in such a way that the reorganised inspection apparatus should be transformed into a device for re-arranging all the parts of the car, for re-placing the old useless parts with new ones, which must be done if we really want the car to go in the right direction’. (J. V. Stalin: Vol. 5; p.210)


For Stalin this was the


‘…essence of Comrade Lenin’s proposal’. (ibid. p.210)


However, Stalin did not seek to improve the functioning of the apparatus as an end in itself. There was a social dimension to this problem as well. Lenin’s aim, Stalin argued, was to create a situation whereby


‘…there should not be left in the country a single official, no matter how highly placed, concerning whom the ordinary man might say: he is above the law’. (J. V. Stalin: Vol. 5; p.212)


Thus, Stalin supported Lenin’s proposal for the reorganisation of Rabkrin because


‘…it is precisely this proposal that sets the task of purging not only the state apparatus, but also the party, of those traditions and habits of the domineering bureaucrats which discredit our party’. (ibid. p.212)


IMLR:  Let me stop you here. The question I want to ask is: was Stalin as critical of the Soviet State apparatus, the bureaucracy, to the same degree as Lenin, or did he ever attempt to tone down Lenin’s criticism?


TC:  The textual evidence available to us demonstrate, without any room for disagreement, that Stalin never toned down Lenin’s criticism of the Soviet state apparatus and its bureaucratic distortion. In fact, it is arguable whether Stalin went further in his strictures. For instance at one point Stalin angrily remarked that


‘…it was clear to us that as regard its composition, habits and traditions our state apparatus is no good, and that this threatened to cause a rupture between the workers and peasants, then it is clear that the party’s leading role must find expression not only in the issue of directives, but also in the appointment to certain posts of people who are capable of carrying them out honestly’.

(J. V. Stalin: Vol. 5; p. 213)


And Stalin also recognised the danger of the bureaucracy promoting Great Russian national chauvinism, and he suggested that


‘We must make a sharp turn towards combating the new chauvinist sentiments and pillory those bureaucrats in our institutions and those party comrades who forgetting what we gained in October, namely the confidence of the formerly oppressed people, a confidence that we must cherish’. (J. V. Stalin: Vol. 5; p. 252)


Stalin called for a determined struggle against the negative aspects of Soviet bureaucracy, and he argued that


‘…our state apparatus, which is bureaucratic to a considerable degree, exerts a certain amount of pressure on the Party and the Party workers’. (J. V. Stalin: Vol. 5; p. 368)


IMLR:  How did Stalin view the struggle against bureaucracy, by which I mean its negative side; for instance, to what extent did he see this struggle as one against red-tape, routinism, bad practices and so on, or did he view this struggle as one against a definite social caste which had to be fought?


TC:  I think the record speaks for itself. In the period of Lenin what came to the fore in the struggle against bureaucracy was a struggle against features of bureaucracy such as red tape, inefficiency etc, the class struggle aspect, although present, remained in the background. What the record reveals is that Stalin had a dual approach in the anti-bureaucratic struggle in the Soviet Union. On the one side, this struggle was against red-tapism, inefficiency and so on, but on the other side this struggle was directed against certain elements in the bureaucracy as a group, or caste. Here it is necessary to explain, again, that the difference between Marxism-Leninism and Trotskyism is that while the Trotskyists referred to the need to struggle against the counterrevolutionary Soviet/Stalinist bureaucracy, for the Marxist-Leninists, the need was to struggle against the counterrevolutionary elements ‘within’ the Soviet bureaucracy. The Trotskyists advocated a struggle to overthrow the Soviet bureaucracy, but Marxist-Leninists sought to fight, unmask, and purge the counterrevolutionary elements within the Soviet bureaucracy. Trotsky’s view and strategy was obviously not the correct position, while the policy pursued by Stalin was not aimed anarchistically at overthrowing the bureaucracy, but purging the anti-socialist elements from within it. This was the Leninist policy. On the other hand, the policy pursued by Trotsky would have opened the door to counterrevolution.


IMLR:  You say that Stalin recognised there was a caste in the Soviet bureaucracy, which had to be fought, how far did he go in fighting it.


TC: Well, when Lenin spoke of the ‘pampered’ bureaucratic grandees he was referring to the existence of a privilege caste in the bureaucracy. Stalin’s position was the same as Lenin’s. In a conversation with his daughter, Svetlana, Stalin made remarks about a ‘damned caste’, thus Stalin was always aware of the potential counterrevolutionary tendencies of elements that made up this caste. Consequently, when we refer to Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy we are specifically referring to a struggle against those elements in the State and Party who represented a potential counterrevolutionary threat. I think that Stalin went as far as circumstances would allow him to go. There are commentators who imply that Stalin took the struggle against bureaucracy too far, almost to the point of destroying the administrative apparatus, but such a view is refuted by Stalin himself, who had to restrain the more hot-headed elements amongst the anti-bureaucracy radicals, thus he warned in his report to the Central Committee, December 3, 1927, that regarding


‘The state apparatus and the struggle against bureaucracy. So much is being said about bureaucracy that there is no need to dilate on it. That elements of bureaucracy exist in our state, co-operative and Party apparatus, there can be no doubt. That it is necessary to combat the elements of bureaucracy, and that this task will confront us all the time, as long as we have state power, as long as the state exists, is also a fact…But one must know how far one can go. To carry the struggle against bureaucracy in the state apparatus to the point of destroying the state apparatus, of discrediting the state apparatus, of attempts to break it up-means going against Leninism…’(J. V. Stalin: Op. cit. p.327)


Events showed that this struggle, by Stalin, against bureaucratic inefficiency merged with a political struggle against elements within the bureaucracy consolidating itself as a caste.


IMLR:  Trotsky not only referred to the Soviet bureaucracy, but also to the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’. Are these one and the same concepts, or are they different?


TC:  I think that in the Trotskyist interpretation of the Soviet Union, ‘Soviet bureaucracy’ and ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ are basically identical. I have found no textual evidence in the writings of Trotsky or pro-Trotsky writers, which would suggest that they used these concepts to mean different things. However, in the view of Marxist-Leninists while the category ‘Soviet bureaucracy’ is a valid concept, to speak of a specifically ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ is devoid of any real concrete content. To uphold the concept of the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’, Trotsky has to give it an ideology, which he claims is ‘socialism in one country’, but because it was Lenin who first wrote regarding the possibility of socialism in one country as part of the world revolutionary process, a specifically ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ cannot be identified by such ideological means.


IMLR:  This may be plain to some people, nevertheless the term ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ is a central category in post-Lenin Trotskyism. Why do Marxist-Leninists oppose this term; can you elaborate on this point?


TC:  Marxist-Leninists reject the idea of a ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ for the simple reason that there was no such thing. The notion of a ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ is a purely Trotskyist conception, invented for factional purposes. We know what is meant by the term Soviet bureaucracy, but ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ has no real meaning, except in the imagination of Trotskyists and bourgeois writers. Stalin, of course, had his supporters in the Communist Party and in the State, but why speak of a Stalinist bureaucracy in this context? Trotsky’s notion of a ‘political revolution’ to replace the Stalinist bureaucracy itself is an intriguing idea. What does this actually mean in concrete terms-as opposed to an abstract proposal? Where does Trotsky’s Stalinist bureaucracy begin and where does it end? Does the concept of overthrowing the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ of Trotskyist lore simply refer to removing Stalin’s supporters, or appointees in the State and Party apparatus. How was this to be determined beyond a narrow limit? In other words, who were the genuine political ‘Stalinists’, according to Trotsky, that is the actual, active supporters of Stalin? What qualified one as a Stalinist in Trotsky’s view? Was qualification dependent on exclusively political considerations, or were other determinants to be included? There is a joke about a Kremlin clerk who on April fools day decided to send around government offices a message to the effect that Trotsky had pulled off a military coup and was now marching on the Kremlin with a detachment of the Red Army. The bureaucrats immediately ordered that pictures of Stalin be taken down and be replaced by pictures of Trotsky. I think that this joke sums up the point I am trying to make about Trotsky’s notion of a ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’.


IMLR:  What you seem to be arguing is that Trotsky’s notion of a Stalinist bureaucracy is superficial and his call to overthrow the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ amounted to a call to remove Stalin’s supporters from power.


TC:  If Trotsky’s call has any meaning at all in practical terms, this is what it would have amounted to. If, for argument sake, we accepted the Trotskyist thesis about the existence of a specifically ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’, then it would be necessary to argue that this bureaucracy did not survive Stalin for long. In other words when the Soviet revisionists took over they began a systematic purge of known supporters of Stalin, from the top leadership down to regional secretaries and below. ‘Stalinists’, by which I mean only pro-Stalin communists, were removed from Party and State offices. It is a fact of history that the new revisionist regime consolidated itself on a programme of ‘de-Stalinization’. Thus Trotsky’s  ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ would have to be regarded has having been overthrown by the Soviet revisionists, led at first by Khrushchev. Under the latter, even Stalin’s published work were no longer publicly available. Ignoring these monumental changes the Trotskyists continued to refer to the Soviet bureaucracy as the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’, although known supporters of Stalin had been removed from the central, regional and local party and state apparatuses, from all leadership structures.


IMLR:  If the supporters of Stalin had been removed from the state and party apparatus, why did the Trotskyists continue to speak of the Soviet apparatus as the Stalinist bureaucracy?


TC:  This was out of a combination of pseudo-leftism, i.e., ultra-leftism and opportunism. Trotskyism rarely starts from a concrete analysis of a given situation, so concrete changes have little or only secondary meaning for Trotskyism: a state apparatus, which had purged the supporters of Stalin, still remained for the Trotskyists, ‘Stalinist’. The new revisionist leaders rose to power by condemning Stalin, but for the Trotskyists they stilled remained Stalinists, although they proposed and pursued different economic and political objectives which deviated from socialism and eventually led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Opportunistically it was also convenient for the Trotskyist to continuing calling the revisionists ‘Stalinist’, so that they could blame everything that went wrong on the ‘Stalinists’, this, in spite of the fact that the Khrushchevite revisionist had long suppressed Stalin’s works in the Soviet Union.


IMLR:  If the pseudo-lefts had known the extent to which supporters of Stalin had been removed from power in the Soviet Union, do you think it would have been so easy for them to continue referring to the new leadership and apparatus as ‘Stalinist’?


TC:  Well, I do not think it would have made any difference, firstly because it is in the nature of ultra-leftism to ignore concrete conditions and changes. By its very nature, Trotskyist pseudo-leftism is unable to distinguish between revisionism and Marxism-Leninism as far as the Soviet Union is concerned. The people who led the Soviet Union in the period following Stalin’s death were not Marxist-Leninists, but revisionists. They even disinterred Stalin from his burial place beside Lenin, renamed the celebrated city of Stalingrad, where the Nazis were stopped on the their march to world domination. Yet, although the Soviet revisionist renamed this most famous memorial to anti-fascism, the Trotskyists still continue to refer to those revisionists who oppose Stalin as Stalinists.


IMLR:  That’s clear enough. If we ignore the term ‘bureaucracy’, you are saying the revisionists overthrew the Stalinists in the Soviet Union, by which I mean the supporters of Stalin. Am I correct?


TC:  Well, ignoring the term ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’, yes the revisionists overthrew the supporters of Stalin in the Soviet Union. These cadres formed the main elements that defended Marxist-Leninists principles in the Soviet Communist Party, so when they were defeated, Marxism-Leninism was defeated and replaced by revisionism. If you defend Trotskyist ideology and use the concept of ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’, the result is the same because it would be necessary to conclude that the so-called ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ had been overthrown by the Soviet revisionists during the period of the anti-Stalin purges.


IMLR:  So, if what Trotsky called the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ was simply referring to supporters of Stalin, who were likely to be supporters of Stalin?


TC:  Obviously people who agreed with Stalin’s position. The Trotskyist line that Stalin elicited mainly bureaucratic support simply does not hold water. We are talking about conviction politics. If Stalin’s political line was not credible, nothing could have save him from defeat, regardless of any power of appointment he had. Those who say that Stalin won an organisational victory over his opponent, or that his success was due to his organisational mastery do not know what they are talking about, because they raise the organisational aspect over the political aspect. The truth is, people line up according to their political views, not according to who has organisational mastery.


IMLR:  What are your views about Trotsky’s argument that Stalin was raised to power by the Soviet bureaucracy because he served its interests?


TC:  I think this argument is connected to the view, which sees the ascendancy of Stalin in mainly organisational terms. The amazing claim that the Soviet bureaucracy raised Stalin to power is the political essence of post-Lenin Trotskyism. But when we examine the facts they simply fail to corroborate this Trotskyist theory, and thus we are driven to another conclusion: Stalin was raised to power because he had what was perceived to be the correct general political line, or at least the most persuasive, which gave him the advantage over the other rival political lines. Consequently, he won over the support of both workers and some officials. The Trotskyist view that Stalin won out because he attracted the support of the bureaucrats at the expense of the proletarian and peasant masses is simply not supported by the facts. What the facts do is to tell a different story. Contrary to the view promoted by his Trotskyist critics, Stalin, in large measure, rose to power in opposition to many of the state and party bureaucrats. In any case, Stalin’s views on the bureaucrats certainly did not recommend him as their favoured candidate.


IMLR:  This is the diametrical opposite of the Trotskyist view. How do you back it up; what evidence would you present to support your argument?


TC:  Yes, this argument is certainly the reversal of the view presented by pro-Trotsky writers and theorists. Trotsky’s assertion that somehow Stalin came to power because of the support he received from the Soviet bureaucracy is an argument resulting from gross historical falsification of the facts. This view is contradicted by the all the salient evidence. The available evidence supports the Marxist-Leninist view and not the Trotskyist view. As I said previously, the record speaks for itself. I have pointed out that the Trotskyist view is even today being refuted by the more serious bourgeois scholarly research, by people who cannot in any way be called pro-Stalin. The Marxist-Leninist view that Stalin rose to power in a struggle against many sections of the Soviet bureaucracy is now becoming the accepted view. The Trotskyist view that Stalin came to power because of the overwhelming support he received from the Soviet bureaucracy is being deserted by all the serious academic scholars. Remember these people are not pro-Stalin writers and some even share Trotskyist assumptions, but they cannot ignore the weight of evidence, which their researches bring to light. Take Getty, for instance, he seems to subscribe to Trotsky’s theory that ‘Stalin is the personification of the bureaucracy and that is the essence of his political personality’. But the facts push Getty in a direction which contradicts the above theory propounded by Trotsky, thus Getty is forced to conclude that


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


This supports A. Nove who suggested that the main target of the Stalin purges was the bureaucratic elite. Trotsky’s theory that the Stalin purges resulted from a conservative bureaucracy seeking to defend its privilege was an interpretation which suited him in his opposition to Stalin, but whether it was true or not was always another question. Trotsky’s interpretation gained wide currency because of the anti-Stalin orientation of the political intelligentsia. The old axiom, beloved by Goebbels, that if you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it was obviously at work here. Against all the evidence, Trotskyism was able to convince a substantial segment of the political intelligentsia that ‘Stalinism’ was about defending bureaucratic privileges. So while serious bourgeois academic research confirms the Marxist-Leninist position that the Stalin purges were directed against the bureaucratic element, we have such gems from Tariq Ali who argues that


‘Stalin had understood even during Lenin’s lifetime that Trotsky would pose a threat to bureaucratic hegemony’. (Tariq Ali: The Stalinist Legacy; p. 11)


I don’t want to labour this point, but the image of Trotsky, the anti-bureaucrat, cultivated by Trotsky himself and his supporters, was a campaigning ploy to win support from the young and politically uninformed; it should be taken with a pinch of salt, coming from someone who,  ‘during Lenin’s lifetime’ advocated a policy of suppressing the independence of the trade unions and the militarisation of labour.


When Trotsky was busy writing his ‘Revolution Betrayed’ (1936) the Soviet Union was on the eve of the great anti-bureaucrat purge, and Trotsky’s theory of a counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy was about to bite the dust, thus even the pro-Trotsky writer, Isaac Deutscher argues that


‘It was one of the effects of the purges that they prevented the managerial groups from consolidating as a social stratum’. (I. Deutscher: The Prophet Outcast; p. 306)


We are given a clear insight on what the Stalin purges were about by Getty and Naumov, who write


‘In 1937 Stalin openly mobilised the “party masses” against the nomenklatura as a whole; this provided an important strand in the Great Terror’s destruction of the elite’. (J. Arch. Getty, Oleg V. Naumov: The Road to Terror; Introduction; p.14)


Stalin was however, faced with the same contradiction which the early Bolshevik leaders in Lenin’s period was faced with; this was containing these elements while using their skills to build socialism, thus we read that Stalin


‘…wanted to reduce the authority of certain elite groups. Yet the regime needed these elites to maintain power and run the country’. (ibid. p. 14)


And, ‘At one point Stalin would attempt to co-op anti-bureaucratic sentiments of the party rank-and-file and the public as weapons against parts of the elite’. (ibid. p.14)


None of these writers writes from a Marxist-Leninist perspective, but the force of evidence compels them to reject the Trotskyist theory concerning Stalin’s relationship vis-à-vis the Soviet bureaucracy.

Marxist-Leninists are not interested in their political views and conclusions, but only in the facts they are presenting. One of the Targets of the 1933 purges were to be


‘…bureaucratic elements who, isolated from the masses and scorning the material and spiritual needs of the workers and peasants, exploit their presence in the party and official position in the Soviet State for their own personal, self-seeking ends.’ (ibid. 127)


The 1933 Chistka, i.e., purges, affected various groups


‘The largest single groups expelled were “passive” members: those carried on the rolls but not participating in party work. Next came violators of party discipline, bureaucrats, corrupt officials, and those who had hidden past crimes’ (ibid. p. 127)


And we are told that


‘Stalin himself characterised the purge as a measure against bureaucratism, red-tape, degenerates, and careerists, to raise the level of organisational leadership’. ( ibid. p.127)


Regardless of the political distortions and confusions in these academic researches the facts they present are undeniable to the unprejudiced eye: The Trotskyist image of a cosy relation between the Soviet Bureaucracy and Stalin, with each promoting each other, is a fiction, a fairy story concocted by Trotsky for factional purposes, or out of ignorance.


We are told that Ordzhonikidze remarked that it is a clear sign of bureaucratism, when a high official or bureaucrat feels himself so cut off from the masses. (Getty: ibid. Document 90; p.294)


Getty remarks that


‘…the new political transcript from the top represented the beginning of Stalin’s offence against the nomenklatura’. (Op. cit. 333)


The basis of Stalin Against the Soviet bureaucracy can be glimpsed through Lenin’s remark about the ‘class struggle taking place in our state and party offices. This was an on-going process, inevitable to one degree or another in a backward country under socialist transformation, but for Trotskyists, in the period of Stalin, the Soviet bureaucracy had already transformed itself into a new ruling caste, alien to socialism. While recognising the existence of this caste the view that it was ruling in the Stalin period, contradicts the reality.


Getty, who is not a pro-Stalin writer, uses the word ‘pose’ in relation to Stalin and other central leaders.


‘For Stalin and other central leaders it made good political capital to pose as defenders of the rank-and-file against the depredations of the evil boyars’. (op. cit. p.359)


But this political distortion is contradicted by the view that


‘When “checking” was done by central, rather than territorial, authorities, the attrition was heavier at the top than at the bottom’. (Op. cit. p. 360)


Furthermore, we are told that


‘The regional bosses were taken to task for bureaucratism, suppression of criticism, undemocratic practices, and paying too much attention to economic matters’. (Op. cit. p.437)


For Getty and Naumov, the term ‘Great Terror’ was ‘another inexact shorthand for disparate events of that decade’. (Op. cit. p.492)


In fact, the term ‘Great Terror’ is a bourgeois appellation. However, we are told that


‘This dynamic between Stalin and the nomenklatura was not a simple one’. (Op. cit. p. 494)


And consequently the position was one whereby


‘For Stalin to attack the nomenklatura head-on risked discrediting the entire regime: The nomenklatura was the Bolshevik Party, and to smash it-as he did in 1937-risked smashing the legitimacy of Bolshevik rule’. (Op. cit. 494)


We can disregard Getty’s position that the nomenklatura was the Bolshevik Party, what is revealed here is how far Stalin and his supporters in the leadership was prepared to take the anti-bureaucratic struggle. What Getty and Naumov present is a picture of the leadership caught between the elite, i.e., the ‘nomenklatura’ and the party rank-and-file representing the masses.


IMLR:  Are you saying the picture presented is one where the leadership was caught between the elite and the anti-bureaucratic masses, and took the side of the latter?


TC:  This is a picture which does emerge. For instance Getty takes the view that the central leadership could not be seen to give unconditional support to the nomenklatura because this would


‘…risked discrediting the regime by endorsing elite pretensions and thereby alienating the rank-and-file party membership and ordinary citizens who were the target of the secretaries control and arbitrary rule’. (Getty: op. cit. p.494)


But the contradictions in the purges soon began to assert itself. ‘The Moscow leadership realised that it could not govern without the nomenklatura’. (Op. cit. p. 496)


What Stalin was against, and one of the factors contributing to the 1930 purges was fear of the elite’s consolidation because


Stalin, for his part, could not have found much pleasure in this elite consolidation’. (Op. cit. p.572)


Thus  ‘Everything came apart in 1937’. (ibid. p.572)


Getty argues that Stalin turned against the elite after failure to bring it under control. Although this view is too one-sided, we can assume it contained a grain of truth.


‘After a series of failed attempts to control the nomenklatura elite and bend them to his will, Stalin turned against the elite, that elite turned against itself, and both struck out at a variety of “enemies” in the country’. (ibid. p.572)


Getty and Naumov’s ‘Road to Terror’ relates the purges to the unstable situation which the Soviet Union found itself in by 1932. This led to the apogee of Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy. Getty argues that


‘The growing self-affirmation and group identity of the nomenklatura was a problem for Stalin’. (Op. cit. p. 577)


In other words, Stalin regarded a bureaucratic caste consolidating itself as a threat. For Getty, the contradiction between Stalin and the elite began around 1934. Although this view is most certainly incorrect in that the contradiction preceded 1934, it does refute the Trotskyist fictional view, which pictures Stalin as nothing but a servant of the Soviet bureaucracy. Thus, we are told that


‘There were hints as early as 1934 that the interests of Stalin and the senior elite had began to diverge’. ( ibid. p. 577)


In Getty’s view, Stalin assisted the destruction of the elite


‘The result of his insistence on control of the nomenklatura and the failure of previous efforts was that Stalin assisted the suicide of the party elite in 1937-1938’. (Op. cit. p.578)


The fictitious Trotskyist view that Stalin was a servant of a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy cannot be exposed anymore clearly. According to Getty, Stalin’s position arose because


‘…the heritage of Bolshevik revolutionary voluntarism made them fear a bureaucratic class outside party control’. (ibid. 584)


Although Getty does not explain what ‘Bolshevik revolutionary voluntarism’ has to do with the matter, it does further undermine the fictional account offered by Trotskyism concerning Stalin’s relationship to the Soviet bureaucracy. In addition, we are told that


‘Stalin and his circle used (or threatened to use) a number of tools to prevent the solidification of an independent bureaucratic class, including membership screening, extra-legal party interventions, and terror’. (Op. cit. 585)


This is a far cry from the simplistic Trotskyist thesis that in the Soviet Union the bureaucracy had already taken power under the figurehead, of all people, Stalin! The evidence offered up by Getty and Naumov lead to the inevitable collapse of the pro-Trotsky position. In Getty’s view


‘As long as Stalin lived-and to a lesser extent, as long as his closest lieutenants remained in power-the state could not “normalise”. As a result, the nomenklatura bureaucracy could not finally consolidate its hold on power’. (ibid. p. 585)


But from what Getty has already argued, a relevant question would be to ask whether the bureaucratic elite elements had any hold on power at all, in a political sense. In fact, the evidence suggests that in the period of Stalin, the Soviet bureaucracy, contrary to the claims of Trotskyism, had no political power as such, their power was limited to administration. However, things were to change following the Stalin period, because


‘After Stalin’s death in 1953, however, the bureaucracy was gradually freed’. (ibid. p.585)


Getty suggest implicitly that even during the first stage of revisionist leadership in the Soviet Union, that is to say in the period of Khrushchev, the Soviet Bureaucratic elite had not completely freed itself. While this point would be debatable in Marxist-Leninist circles, it is nevertheless an interesting point. It exposes the erroneousness and simplicity of the Trotskyist view that from the late 1920s or early 1930s the Soviet bureaucracy had already freed itself from control. Getty argues that


‘The fall of Khrushchev in 1964 was another significant landmark in the nomenklatura’s freeing itself from Bolshevik political control and the power of a single leader’. (ibid. p.585)


It is clear that the central contradiction faced by Stalin, was to prevent the bureaucracy, or its elite stratum from becoming a ruling class or caste in its own right on the one hand, and on the other, utilising its services for the maintenance of the state and the promotion of socialism. In any case, in the first stage of the transition to socialism some kind of nomenklatura would be inevitable.  Any ruling class would be compelled to operate some similar system; i.e. a list of positions which only “reliable members of the ruling class are appointed. The above passage from Getty implies that even in the period of revisionism, the bureaucrats had not completely freed themselves from party control. Getty further remarks that


‘Although Stalin managed to destroy the elite of the 1930s, he did not or could not destroy the nomenklatura as a component of the regime’. (Op. cit. p.586)


The facts show that although Stalin devoted a substantial part of his time in the leadership to struggling against the negative effects of bureaucracy, including the fight against the top bureaucratic layer into a ruling caste or class, he is nevertheless presented by Trotskyists and revisionists as the promoter of bureaucracy, for instance the revisionist Togliatti suggested that


‘It seems to us that undoubtedly Stalin’s errors were tied in with an excessive increase in the bureaucratic apparatus in Soviet economic and political life’. (The Togliatti Interview, June 16th 1956; The Anti-Stalin Campaign, etc; p. 121)


Such remarks fly in the face of reality, and probably reflect the influence of Trotskyism on the revisionist critique of Stalin. In fact, the central leadership and the rank-and-file exhibited a significant unity in their battle with bureaucracy. For instance, Getty writes that


‘…the central leadership was not the only group complaining about the stagnation and breakdown of the bureaucracy. Grass-root members, the party rank-and-file, also took up the attack on bureaucracy, partly at the instigation of the centre’ (Getty: The origins of the Great Purge pp. 27-28)


IMLR:  From what you have said, it would seem that the higher bourgeois academic circles reject the Trotskyist view of the existence of a specifically ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy? They present facts, which refute completely the notion of Stalin as some passive servant of bureaucracy.


TC:  What Getty does in the ‘Origins of the Great Purges’ is to question, the ‘Totalitarian’ view of the Soviet Union, in the Stalin period, a view advocated by ‘western’ and ‘Stalinist’ writers, he means revisionists of course. In the introduction, he opposes the view that the Soviet bureaucracy ‘was grimly efficient: totalitarian to western writers, monolithic or solidly united to Stalinists’. For instance, Getty notes that


‘Attempts by central Moscow party authorities to bring the regional organisations into line would be resisted by local machines that were anxious to preserve their autonomy. This central-regional struggle is as old as politics itself and is not peculiar to Soviet history’. (Op. cit. p. 27)


What all these serious bourgeois academic researches reveal, although they are not written from Marxist-Leninist perspective, hence they are ‘bourgeois’, is the shallowness of the Trotskyist interpretation of the Soviet Union, in particular, the view that a counterrevolutionary ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy had seized power under Stalin, with the latter acting as some kind of figure head. Rather than seizing political power, the Soviet bureaucracy had no political power to speak of under Stalin. He did not allow them any political power. Trotsky’s argument that the Soviet bureaucracy had seized political power in the period of Stalin is probably one of his greatest political delusions.


IMLR: I would like to examine more the Trotskyist view, which pictures Stalin as a servant of the Soviet bureaucracy. Is there a new consensus in bourgeois academic circles about Stalin’s relation to the Soviet bureaucracy?


TC:  What you usually find is that the more serious researchers view Stalin as an enemy of the Soviet bureaucracy. We would say an enemy of the negative features of bureaucracy; he struggles against its operational short-comings, but also we find him resisting the danger of the higher stratum in the bureaucracy consolidating itself into a ruling class or caste, separated from the people. The central problem he faced was that Stalin’s room for manoeuvre was circumscribed by other factors. These factors limited how far he could go and what he could achieve in the struggle with bureaucracy. In the view of Lars Lih, for instance, Stalin cannot be properly understood outside of the context of his ‘anti-bureaucrat scenario’. This position I believe is essentially correct. Lih writes that for Stalin the problem was that Russia’s low cultural level


‘…forces the worker-peasant state to rely on many  “class-alien elements” in its government bureaucracy. As a result, vigilance is one of the basic duties of each party member’. (Lars T. Lih: Stalin’s Letters to Molotov; p.11)


Lih suggests that in order to understand Stalin’s view


‘…we have to recast it in the form of the dramatic antibureaucratic scenario that portrays well-intentioned but naïve Communists doing battle with sophisticated bureaucrats who try to fool and corrupt them’. (ibid. p.11)


Lih refers to one of the problems, which the Bolsheviks faced, having seized power; this was the sabotage of government directives by bureaucrats, and Lih argues that


‘According to Stalin’s antibureaucrat scenario, however, class-motivated hostility is the main reason bureaucrats do not follow directives’. (Op. cit. p.15)


For Lih, Stalin’s antibureaucrat scenario is not unique to Stalin because


‘…any politician trying to run an unwieldy bureaucracy is likely to develop some sort of antibureaucrat scenario’. (Op. cit. p.16)


And we are told that Stalin’s particular antibureaucrat scenario is derived from Bolshevik tradition.


‘Stalin did not create his particular version of the anti-bureaucrat scenario in a vacuum, and so we have to consider Stalin as a Bolshevik’. (ibid. p.16)


In addition, to this particular theme, Lih argues that


‘Stalin could plausibly claim Lenin’s authority for his scenario, since Lenin also viewed public administration as a dramatic struggle against a class enemy’. ( ibid. p.16)


According to Lars Lih, Stalin paid a great deal of attention to the question of how to go about the task of running and controlling the state, thus


‘Stalin’s antibureaucrat scenario arose out of his reflections on that problem’. (Op. cit. p.17)


IMLR:  If there are two views of Stalin, one the Trotskyist view which argues that Stalin was an instrument of the Soviet bureaucracy, and the opposing, Marxist-Leninist view, which says Stalin fought the Soviet bureaucracy, both of these views cannot be right. How do you suggest going about resolving this contradictory thesis?


TC:  Firstly, let me point out that Trotskyists do not simply say that Stalin was a servant of the Soviet bureaucracy, this view in itself is inaccurate, but what they actually say is that Stalin was the servant of a conservative and counterrevolutionary bureaucracy, regardless of all the hard evidence to the contrary. Secondly, it is not a question, in my view, of ‘resolving’ contradictory thesis, but discarding the incorrect thesis. And the incorrect, less concrete thesis here emanates from Trotsky. The Stalin of Trotskyism is an instrument of Soviet bureaucracy. The Stalin of Marxism-Leninism fights against the negative aspects, including the counterrevolutionary, thermidorian elements within the Soviet bureaucracy. All the higher academic research circles, although not writing from a Marxist-Leninist perspective and are anti-Stalin in most cases, agree that Stalin was the scourge of the Soviet bureaucrats. Those historians and biographers who try to maintain a certain degree of historical objectivity, given the constraints of bourgeois research, come to the same conclusion. Thus, one writer argues that


Most of the material published in the West on Stalin has been written by those who are hostile or with a strong bias against him’. ( Ian Grey: Stalin Man of History; preface, p. xvii)


Grey writes from a completely bourgeois perspective, but at least he recognises the open bias against Stalin in academic circles. To defend the Marxist-Leninist view on Stalin I began by finding evidence from the most anti-Stalin writers and writers who try to be less bias. This prevents me from being accused of being biased or restricting myself to writers who have a favourable attitude to Stalin. The story of Stalin’s drive against the Soviet bureaucracy has been told often enough, although mostly from a totally anti-Stalin perspective. But before examining the retrospective theory of ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’, i.e., a theory about the past, some general background information is required, both of a theoretical and concrete nature.


First, for Marxist-Leninists the view, as explained in Lenin’s State and Revolution, that to imagine that bureaucracy can be ‘abolished’ overnight


‘…is a utopia’.(See Lenin: State and Revolution: Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975; p.48)


Indeed, Lenin speaks of


‘…the gradual abolition of all bureaucracy’. (ibid: p. 48)


or he refers to ‘…the gradually withering away of all bureaucracy’. (ibid: p.49)


In short, for Marxist-Leninists, as opposed to Trotskyists, bureaucracy is something which cannot be abolished right away, as if by magic. It is something which can be abolished only ‘gradually’ and in this context Lenin supports the view, opposed to anarchism, that the state bureaucracy ‘withers’ away.

It should be clear, therefore, that on this most fundamental point Trotskyism, in relation to the Soviet Union, breaks from Marxism on the question of the ‘withering away’ of bureaucracy in the period of the transition to communism. Regarding the Soviet Union, Trotsky instead calls for a ‘political revolution’ supposedly aimed against a mythical ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy. In contrast to Trotskyism, Marxist-Leninists do not call for the overthrow of bureaucracy but rather to fight against its negative aspects and bringing it under the control of the working class led by the communist vanguard.


It is possible for Trotskyists to argue that while I am referring to bureaucracy in general, Trotsky, in fact, called for the overthrow of the ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy in particular. This, however, does not change matters one bit, for two reasons. Firstly because if there was a specifically ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy, as the Trotskyists argue, there is no reason to suppose that such a bureaucracy should be treated differently from other state bureaucracies in general, and secondly, the category of the ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy is an invention, a false theoretical construct offered up by Trotsky. Certainly, Stalin had his supporters in party and state, but to refer to this as a ‘bureaucracy’ is a misnomer. And, as I have already pointed out, nowhere in the writing of Trotsky is the category ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ differentiated from the idea of ‘Soviet bureaucracy’. Both terms are used interchangeably. In other words, when the Trotskyists spoke of a political revolution to overthrow the ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy, they actually mean overthrowing the Soviet bureaucracy, which as a bureaucracy, as Lenin explains, ‘withers away’, or is ‘abolished’ only in the course of a long struggle, gradually. Therefore, we arrive at the conclusion that the Trotskyist ‘political revolution’ slogan was due to factional considerations expressing itself in the form of petty-bourgeois phrase mongering of the anarchist type.


IMLR: Do you think there were other considerations prompting Trotsky to change his views on the matter, that is, regarding the struggle against bureaucracy from a long term perspective to his political revolution short term perspective?


TC:  I think we need to start from the fact that criticism of the Soviet bureaucracy is as old as the revolution itself. Trotsky, known as a friend of the bureaucrats in the early days of the revolution, only takes the issue up when he began to lose his power. We need not hold this against him, for as the saying goes: better late than never. The problem we face is that Trotsky’s understanding of the problem of bureaucracy during the transition to socialism under Soviet conditions became distorted by his general political views.


IMLR:  Can you elaborate on this point of how Trotsky’s position on bureaucracy was ‘distorted’ by his general political views?


TC:  What I mean is that Trotsky introduces the abstraction of what he calls a ‘counterrevolutionary’ Soviet or Stalinist bureaucracy. This abstraction is able to mislead leftists because it provides an identifiable target. However, Marxist-Leninists reject this view as abstract, and refer instead to the counterrevolutionary elements within the Soviet bureaucracy. Trotsky argues that this bureaucracy is counterrevolutionary; it defends socialism in one country; it is leading the country back to capitalism, and so on. Consequently, we are told that this bureaucracy must be overthrown by means of a ‘political revolution’. Is not all this clearly pseudo-leftism when compared with the Marxist-Leninist view that bureaucracy cannot be abolished, instead it withers away. If we view things from a Marxist-Leninist perspective, the argument that the Soviet bureaucracy is counterrevolutionary and that this was expressed by its upholding ‘socialism in one country’, represents a break from Marxism-Leninism, not only on the question of the withering away of bureaucracy, but also on the notion of a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy, because this suggest that there are ‘revolutionary bureaucracies’.


IMLR: Are you saying that Trotsky turned the issue of bureaucracy into a factional issue?


TC:  Yes, and bureaucracy is more than a factional issue, or a political issue. Marxist-Leninists believe that Trotskyism simplifies the issue of bureaucracy by one-sidedly reducing it to a mere political problem. All ruling classes rule through a bureaucracy to one degree or another, and the working class is no exception to this. Therefore, pseudo-leftist Trotskyist talk about overthrowing the Soviet or ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy plays into the hands of the counterrevolution. Trotsky himself recognised this clearly at one stage, remarking in a letter he wrote to his son in 1932 that


‘At present Miliukov, the Menshevik and Thermidoreans of all sorts…will willing echo the cry  “Remove Stalin”. Yet, it may happen within a few months that Stalin may have to defend himself against Thermidorean pressure, and that we may temporarily have to support him…This being so, the Slogan “Down with Stalin” is ambiguous and should not be raised as a war cry at this moment’. (See  Deutscher: The Prophet Outcast)


And in the ‘Bulletin of the Opposition, No. 33, Trotsky argued that if what he called the ‘bureaucratic equilibrium ‘…in the USSR were to be upset at present, this would almost benefit the forces of counterrevolution’.


In short, Trotsky admitted that his own slogan could play a counterrevolutionary role, although he never made it clear under what condition it would fail to do so.


IMLR: While a ruling class needs a bureaucracy to one degree or another one cannot confuse the ruling class, in this case the proletariat, with the bureaucracy because the latter can develop separate interests. How do you reply argument?


TC:  As I previously mentioned, this was a problem recognised by Karl Marx way back in 1848. If you read his ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law’, we find Marx arguing that bureaucracy was based on the modern division between state and society. For Marx, bureaucracy had the state in its possession, as belonging to itself like private property. Bureaucracy, argued Marx, was an embodiment, or expression of ‘particular’ interests. This view was Marx’s response to Hegel’s (1770-1831) view that bureaucracy expressed the universal interests. For Marx, the problem of bureaucracy arose when there was a separation between state and society. The state itself emerges from the contradiction between classes in society, and will only cease to exist when these contradictions come to an end.


IMLR:  Do you think that socialism in general is faced with the problem of bureaucracy, or was the Soviet Union an exception?


TC: That is a very interesting question. It is certainly not easy to answer in the abstract. What you call the problem of bureaucracy assumes two forms: one is the administrative or operational dysfunction of bureaucracy, its negative expression, and the other is the socio-political aspect of the problem. When Lenin began the struggle against bureaucracy, he had in mind mainly the dysfunctional aspect of the problem. That is to say, he was concerned mostly with the administrative functional or operational side of the problem. The issue here was how to improve the performance of the Soviet administration. For Lenin if the Soviet bureaucracy could raise to the level of a bureaucracy such as exist in an ordinary bourgeois democratic republic this would represent a huge gain. The socio-political aspect of the problem concerns the issue of separation of the bureaucracy from society and the transformation of its top stratum into a ruling elite alien to socialism.


IMLR:  Is not this one of the aspect, which Trotsky brought to the fore, the view that the Soviet bureaucracy was assuming a privileged status in relation to the masses?


TC:  Yes, as I said previously, Trotsky draws attention to this issue. But the impression Trotsky gives is that a privileged stratum in Soviet Society only emerged in the Stalin period. In fact although Trotsky railed against privilege after he lost power, A. Kussinen recounts a story that after the October revolution Trotsky’s parents were given the home of a former well-to-do Russian, they had several servants, a cook and the house was provided with all ‘The comforts one could wish for’. ( A. Kuusinen: Before and After Stalin: p. 24)


Trotsky’s argument that Stalin represented a privileged stratum ignores the fact that a privilege stratum existed before the Stalin ascendancy, in the period when Trotsky was prominent in the leadership. And although Trotsky ensured that his own family had all ‘the comforts one could wish for’, the Trotskyists do not argue that Trotsky was the representative of a privilege stratum.


IMLR: Nevertheless, Trotsky was right about the emergence of a privilege stratum in Soviet Society?


TC: Yes, a privileged stratum, which included is own family. What I am saying is that a privileged stratum began to emerge in Soviet society soon after the socialist revolution in 1917. Therefore, it is wrong to mislead people along the lines that this stratum only emerged in the period of Stalin, and that Stalin represented this particular stratum. Economic factors were the main contributory factors behind the rise of a privileged stratum in the Soviet bureaucracy, and I have touched upon how this began.  The origins of privilege following the communist seizure of power can be traced back to the Red Army under the leadership of Trotsky, who promoted the policy of granting privileges to the officer caste, or military specialists to ensure loyalty to a government which was hanging by a thread. This system was then extended to key personnel in the Soviet bureaucracy for the same reason.


IMLR:  The Anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), claimed that communism would lead to the rule of a bureaucracy, and Weber, the bourgeois sociologist, referred to communism leading to the rule of officials. Some commentators claimed that Soviet experience confirmed this Anarchist perspective, and Milovan Djilas saw communism as the rule of a new bureaucratic class, which came to power on the basis of nationalised property. How do you reply to these kinds of arguments?


TC:  The question can be simply put. Does communism, that is the Marxist project, lead to the rule of a new bureaucratic class or caste, and did the Soviet experience confirm this view? My reply is that this question cannot be answered ‘abstractly’ with a ‘either/or’ format, i.e., either communism leads to the rule of a new bureaucratic class or it does not. Anarchist may argue, abstractly, that communism leads to the rule of a new bureaucratic class, but this is to ignore concrete factors, which determine the outcome of the struggle for communism.


IMLR:  So, what you are saying is that the struggle for communism is not predetermined to end in the rule of a new bureaucratic class?


TC:  This is precisely what I am saying, and suggestions otherwise simply serve the interest of anti-communism, and are in fact counterrevolutionary.


IMLR:  In your view, then, the history of the former Soviet Union does not support the anarchist theory?


TC:  What the Soviet Union demonstrated is the need for a constant struggle against the negative aspects of bureaucracy on the one hand, and on the other, the struggle against bureaucrats becoming a new political ruling class. This was part of the meaning of Stalin’s struggle against Soviet bureaucracy which culminated in the extensive purges of the 1930s, and which led me to the notion of Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’, an attempt to draw attention to the role of Stalin in the struggle against Soviet bureaucracy,


IMLR:  But the Anarchists would, no doubt, insist that Marxian communism ended in bureaucratic rule, thus confirming Bakunin’s thesis. How do Marxist-Leninists concretely reply to this argument?


TC:  As always Marxism-Leninism must base itself on a concrete study of each particular situation. Thus to say that Bakunin’s thesis was confirmed by Soviet experience without the benefit of a concrete study will not get us very far. In the period of Lenin and Stalin the bureaucracy, or its leading stratum, did not constitute itself as a new ruling class, or caste. The bureaucrats remained, in all essentials, servants of the state, under the direction of the party, with any official subject to removal. Marxist-Leninists do not confuse bureaucratisation of the state apparatus with the notion that the bureaucrats had become a new ruling class or caste. Lenin referred to a workers state with bureaucratic distortions, but this did not mean that the bureaucrats had become a new ruling class, or caste. In fact, one of the reasons for the 1930s purge was to prevent the consolidation of the top stratum from consolidating itself into a new ruling class or caste.


IMLR:  How do you, or indeed, can you, support this thesis on the basis of Marxism?


TC:  Well, in Marxism, a ruling class is defined ultimately, or even in the first instance, by its relations to the means of production, by which both Marx, Engels and Lenin meant ownership. In the Soviet Union, even in the period of revisionist rule, from 1956 onwards, the bureaucrats certainly did not own the means of production either individually, or collectively. It has been suggested by various writers that although the bureaucrats did not own the means of production, juridically speaking, they nevertheless control the state, which in turn owns the means of production. In this view, the means of production belongs to those who control the state, but this is a fallacy. There are those who have fallen for this superficial view because it contains an element of truth, i.e., in the former Soviet Union, the state owned the means of production, and the bureaucracy controlled the State. The question is who controls the bureaucracy. In the case of the Soviet Union in the period of Stalin control resided in the party and non-party people. This leads to the question of who controlled the party and this is a matter of class ideological struggle. To determine who concretely is the ruling class one needs to understand that the concept ‘ruling class’ refers to or means ‘dominant class’. The dominant class in the period of Lenin and Stalin was the working class, because only the ruling class can determine the general direction of society. In a bourgeois society, the capitalists’ rule through a state bureaucracy, no one isolates the bureaucracy as such and claims it is the ruling class, although it often has more power, far more power than individual capitalists do. Another point is that in the Soviet Union, Stalin fought revisionism, and this is not an abstract inconsequential matter because revisionism is the form in which the new bourgeoisie strive to gain control of a socialist country or communist party to reverse the movement towards communism.


IMLR:  Is there a danger of a struggle for power between the working class and the bureaucracy in a post-capitalist society, in a process of socialist transformation?


TC:  I think this is an important question which does not, in my view, apply only to the specific conditions of backwardness, although the latter conditions would seem to favour a bureaucracy seizing power, not a too difficult task to achieve since bureaucracy already physically controls the state. A bureaucracy, technically runs, or controls the state, although it does not have political power as such. Consequently, the decisive thing for a society in a process of socialist transformation is: who has the political power? When the working class has political power, that power will be used to promote socialism, as a strategic goal. In other words, the main direction of society is one of the tests to answer the question, who has political power. It is possible to speak of a struggle for power between the working class and a section of the bureaucracy in post capitalist society. In essence, this would be a struggle between the working class and a new bourgeoisie emerging in the state and party apparatus. In this respect, one should speak of bureaucrats seizing political power not bureaucracy doing so. This would be a transition from merely administrative power to political power.


IMLR:  So you are saying that although bureaucrats have administrative power, i.e., they run the means of administration, they do not necessarily have political power, and the latter power is the decisive factor?


TC:  It is political power which ultimately directs administrative power, not the other way round. Of course, the latter can attempt to sabotage political directives. Political power, in the widest sense, expresses itself in being able to determine the main, strategic direction of a given society. In a society, undergoing socialist transformation class struggle continues in one form or another, to one degree or another. This may take the form of a struggle between the working class and a section of the bureaucracy, and in a situation where the working class does not possess sufficient class consciousness, or political culture in general, or is weak in some other respect, sections of the bureaucracy may attempt to transform their administrative power into political power.


IMLR:  To what extent, if at all, did any section of the Soviet bureaucracy transform its administrative power into political power?


TC:  This certainly did not happen in the period of Lenin or Stalin. However, in the post-Stalin period, with revisionism on the rise, the bureaucracy could assert itself more, and so it’s political influence actually grew. This was a significant contrast with the Stalin period when the bureaucrats had to watch their step. In this respect, Trotskyist ideology has served to conceal the extent of Stalin’s anti-bureaucracy struggle, while not explaining how the revisionists usurped power in the Soviet Union.


IMLR:  Did Stalin have an anti-bureaucracy platform?


TC:  This is an interesting question in view of the fact that Lenin had warned against anti-bureaucracy platforms, or in other words turning the issue of bureaucracy into a political factional issue. What Stalin had was a view which saw many of the bureaucrats as enemies. Lars. T. Lih refers to this as ‘Stalin’s antibureaucrat scenario’, which, Lih argues, guided Stalin in his day-to-day work. This ‘anti-bureaucracy scenario’, as noted previously, was derived from Bolshevik political tradition. Accordingly, Lih is convinced that Stalin cannot be properly understood outside of the context of his Bolshevik derived antibureaucrat scenario. So to answer your question, what Stalin had was not an anti-bureaucracy platform, but rather an anti-bureaucracy view, or scenario. This was his response to the dangers inherent in Soviet bureaucracy, which Lenin had warned against. Consequently, Stalin called for


‘…a resolute struggle against bureaucracy in the direction of enlisting the broad masses of the working class in this struggle’. (J. V. Stalin: Works. 7; pp. 349-501)


For Stalin the bureaucratic element and its growth threatened a separation or ‘divorce’ between the party and the broad masses of the working people. He believed that only the struggle against bureaucracy could avert this danger. Part of this struggle would entail paying


‘…attention and thought to the requirements and needs of the working class, less bureaucratic formalism’. Etc. (J. V. Stalin; Works 7; P.214)


For Stalin, bureaucracy, or its negative features, was pervasive. The state, public sector was not complete socialism

 ‘…bearing in mind the survivals of bureaucracy persisting in the managing bodies of our enterprises’. ( Stalin: ibid. p. 312)

 And at the Fourteenth Congress, 1925, Stalin noted that

 ‘Lenin, who proclaimed our Soviet system a proletarian type state, castigated it for its bureaucratic survivals more strongly than anybody else’. ( ibid. 313)

 Stalin went to great lengths to make a distinction between the apparatus of proletarian state power and what Lenin called its bureaucratic distortion. For Stalin the question was to struggle against the latter, not to throw out the baby with the bath water. Thus he argued that a distinction must be drawn between the proletarian state and

 ‘…the heritage and survivals still persisting in the system and apparatus of the state’. (Stalin: ibid. p.313)

 And for Stalin the same applied to state industries where it was necessary to

 ‘…draw a distinction between the bureaucratic survivals in the state enterprises and the type of structure of industry that we call the socialist type’. (Stalin: ibid. p.313)

 So Stalin, then,  was in no doubt about the negative features of socialist development, but these were survivals from the past. Nevertheless,

 ‘It was wrong to say that because our economic bodies, out trusts, suffer from mistakes, bureaucracy, and so forth, our state industry is not socialist’. ( ibid. p. 313-4)

 I think in all these statements we see Stalin’s anti-bureaucratic perspective absolutely clearly. Those who argue that Stalin did not have an anti-bureaucratic perspective are either ignorant or dishonest. That Stalin did not make a factional issue out of the problems with bureaucracy was entirely in keeping with Lenin’s advice. The resolute struggle against Soviet bureaucracy which Stalin demanded resulted in the repression of the Soviet fifth column, 1937-1939. However, it would be erroneous to conclude that ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’ had its origins in the struggle of this period. As we have seen for instance, Lars Lih correctly associates Stalin’s anti-bureaucracy perspectives with Bolshevik political culture. This view is also supported by Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick who writes that

 ‘All revolutionaries, all Bolsheviks were against “bureaucracy”.  They could happily see themselves as party leaders or militant commanders, but what true revolutionaries could admit to becoming a bureaucrat, a chinovnik of the new regime’. (S. Fitzpatrick: The Russian 1917-1932 Revolution: p.93)

 IMLR:  In the trade union discussions of 1920-1921, you drew attention to Stalin’s remark that Trotsky was the ‘patriarch’ of bureaucrats. Would you say that it was during this period that  ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’ emerged?

 TC:  At the Thirteenth Conference of the Party in 1924, Stalin referred to Trotsky as the ‘patriarch of bureaucrats’. (See Stalin’s Work. Vol. 6; p. 29) Stalin was quite unaware of what he was about to bring down on himself, because Trotsky was to spend the rest of his life shedding his early pro-bureaucratic image, which came out in the trade union discussions when Trotsky called for the militarisation of labour and fascist type abolition of trade union independence. Part of Trotsky’s campaign was to shift the pro-bureaucracy image onto Stalin. However, I think, or I would argue that Stalin’s antipathy towards bureaucracy dates back to an even earlier period. In fact, we find him railing against bureaucracy in his younger years when the oppressive Tsarist bureaucracy was his target.

 IMLR:  To what extent would you say that the Russian revolution inherited all the problems associated with the old Tsarist bureaucracy, and to what extent were these problems new?

 TC:  The revolution inherited all the problems of the old bureaucracy and created new ones. From serving the Tsarist regime the bureaucracy was made to serve the new masters, but as the state took on more responsibilities the bureaucracy grew and became ever more difficult to direct.

 IMLR:  In general terms, how do Marxist-Leninists regard the Soviet Union in the period of Stalin, and how does this understanding relate to the problem of Soviet bureaucracy?

 TC:  The Soviet Union in the period of Stalin was a society in the process of socialist transformation. This means that the Soviet Union was a transitional society. The Fourteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U. (B) known as the ‘industrialisation Congress’ defeated the opposition to building socialism in one country as part of the world revolutionary process. Stalin told the delegates to the Congress, December 1925 that the period after the wars of intervention had become or had been transformed into a period

 ‘…of “peaceful co-existence” between the land of the Soviets and the capitalist countries’. (J. V. Stalin: Works. 7; p.268)

 Although this was an unstable situation, for Stalin it allowed a certain reprieve for the Soviet Union, which would continue the struggle for peace as the basic element of Soviet foreign policy. The meaning of the idea that the Soviet Union was a transitional society is to recognise that the society combines features of the past with those of the socialist future. I think this was a basically correct view. All the negative aspects of Soviet bureaucracy, including the existence of a privileged element within it has to be viewed in this context. The October revolution led to a transitional society in the most adverse conditions possible! And we are all aware that it contained a number of negative features.

 IMLR:  In other words, the Soviet Union was no perfect socialist society?

 TC:  There is no such thing as a “perfect” socialist society. Such a conception is a one-sided, non-dialectical abstraction when applied to socialism. The end of NEP came at around 1928-1929. If we argue that the real, that is, substantive transition to socialism begins after NEP circa 1930 under the leadership of J. V. Stalin, what we find is that six years later, in 1936 Trotsky writes his ‘Revolution Betrayed’, to prove that the Soviet Union was not a perfect socialist society, or one that was not socialist enough, that it had many defects, negative features and shortcomings. Only six years after the new stage in the transition to socialism, following NEP, Trotsky writes a book to show that that the Soviet Union fell short of the socialist ideals, which the revolution aspired to. Now six years in terms of social development is less than a second. Thus, we can put this another way. If social development is our measure, less than a second after Stalin begins the new stage of socialist transformation after NEP, Trotsky writes ‘Revolution Betrayed’ to prove that the Soviet Union fell short of the socialist ideal. Consequently, we have to conclude that this work has little to do with Marxism, as far as the transition to socialism is concerned.

 The ultra left accusation that Stalin had betrayed the revolution was similar to the accusation levelled at Lenin in 1921 that he had betrayed the revolution after introducing the New Economic Policy.

 IMLR:  You have said that ‘Stalin Against the Soviet Bureaucracy’ did not emerge suddenly. Its genesis can be found in Bolshevik political traditions. Do you think that Stalin was in any way influenced by Trotsky’s ‘Revolution Betrayed’ to adopt a more aggressive stance towards the Soviet bureaucracy?

 TC: This is certainly an interesting, although nevertheless, not provable proposition. What Trotsky argues is that the Soviet bureaucracy is a counterrevolutionary agency within the workers’ state; therefore, it needs to be overthrown by means of a political revolution. We have examined the notion of whether we can really speak of a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy in regard to the Soviet Union. We came to the conclusion that such a notion is one-sided, and abstract because in reality the Soviet bureaucracy, at all levels, did not only contain counterrevolution elements; it also contained progressive revolutionary elements as well. For this reason, Marxist-Leninists regard Trotsky's theory of a  'counterrevolutionary bureaucracy’ as an abstraction. Indeed, it is the abstract nature of Trotsky’s ideas which is the most recognisable signature of Trotsky’s theoretical formulations. Marxist-Leninists oppose to Trotsky’s view the need to struggle against counterrevolutionary elements within the Soviet bureaucracy, which is what Stalin spent part of his time doing.

 IMLR:  At one stage Trotsky recognised that the Soviet bureaucracy was not a one-sidedly counterrevolutionary force, but Trotskyism seemed to have retreated from this position. Why do you think that this was the case?

 TC:  At one stage Trotsky spoke about the ‘dual’ nature of the Soviet bureaucracy, yet he and the pro-Trotsky writers failed to realise that if the Soviet bureaucracy had a ‘dual’ nature, it would be highly inappropriate to employ the category of ‘counterrevolutionary’ in its definition. To theoretically recognise that something as a dual nature, but then to approach it in a one-sided way makes no sense. This is precisely what Trotsky did when he formulated his theory about the counterrevolutionary Soviet, or ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy. The difficulty of ascribing the concept ‘counterrevolutionary’ to the former Soviet bureaucracy should be apparent to concrete reasoning, because the concept ‘counterrevolutionary’ is a non-contradictory concept, whereas the Soviet bureaucracy by its very nature was heterogeneous and contradictory. That is why Marxist-Leninists reject the Trotskyist theory of a counterrevolutionary Soviet bureaucracy as meaningless, and abstract, while maintaining, of course, that there were counterrevolutionary elements within the bureaucracy. Trotsky’s theory of the ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet/Stalinist bureaucracy is an abstract, simplistic category which disregard the real complexity of Soviet bureaucracy. Thus, we are dealing with the kind of petty bourgeois ‘revolutionary’ phrase mongering beloved by Trotsky and which Lenin warned against.

 ‘The whole of Marxism teaches us not to succumb to revolutionary phrases, particularly at a time when they have the greatest currency’. (V. I. Lenin: Vol. 36; p. 439)

IMLR:  Why do you think Trotsky disregarded the heterogeneous nature of the Soviet bureaucracy, by putting forward a one-sided view referred to as the ‘counterrevolutionary' Soviet or Stalinist bureaucracy; was this due solely to his political opposition to Stalin?

 TC:  It is partly due to his opposition to Stalin. As far as reasoning is concerned, if we return to the controversy over the trade union question concerning their role under socialism, Lenin essentially criticised Trotsky for a abstract form of thinking which never strove to relate to the concrete

 ‘Comrade Trotsky speaks of a ‘workers’ state’. May I say that this is an abstraction’. (V. I. Lenin: CW. Vol. 32; p.24)

 Lenin then proceeds to give a concrete definition of the Soviet State. For instance, it is not only workers’ state but a workers’ and peasants’ state, and not only this either because

 ‘Our Party Programme shows that ours is a workers’ state with a bureaucratic twist to it’. (Lenin: ibid. p. 120)

 Lenin regarded Trotsky’s thesis on the role of the trade union under socialism as characteristic of Trotsky’s methodology, remarking that

 ‘All his theses are based on “general principles”, an approach which is in itself fundamentally wrong…’ (V. I. Lenin: op. cit. p. 22)

 What Lenin is saying here is that in his reasoning Trotsky fails to descend to the level of the richness of the concrete particular, which means simultaneously to rise to a higher, concrete level of thinking. For instance in the debate over the trade unions, which is recorded in volume 32, Lenin remarks that Trotsky’s thesis are

 ‘…highbrow, abstract, “empty” and theoretically incorrect general theses which ignore all that is most practical and business-like’. (Lenin: ibid. p. 85)

 Highbrow, abstract, “empty”; these are words which Lenin employs to describe the results of Trotsky’s thinking. What Lenin is suggesting is that Trotsky’s ideas lacks concreteness: this is evident in his theory of ‘permanent revolution’, where the transition from the democratic to the socialist stage of the revolution is regarded entirely as an abstract process which fails to take into consideration the real, actual, concrete conditions issuing from the first imperialist war, which made the transition to the socialist revolution possible. Again the abstractedness of Trotsky’s way of thinking is most clearly expressed in his ‘no peace no war’ policy at Brest Litovsk, which played into the hands of counterrevolutionary forces. Trotsky’s later abstract definition of the workers’ state, which Lenin comments on is precursor to his later abstract theory about a counterrevolutionary Soviet or Stalinist bureaucracy, which carries all the hallmarks of Trotskyism and in fact deserves the epithets Lenin used in describing Trotsky’s way of thinking: highbrow, abstract, empty.

  Lenin referred to Trotsky as having theoretically produced

 ‘a truly hopeless “ideological confusion”. (Lenin: ibid. p.85)

 Also Lenin warned that Trotsky’s mistakes unless admitted and corrected

 ‘…leads to the collapse of the dictatorship of the proletariat’. (V. I. Lenin: Vol. 32; p. 85)

 The ‘abstract’ nature of Trotsky’s reasoning has been commented on by other writers, even pro-Trotsky ones. We not only see this abstract reasoning at work in Trotsky’s category of the ‘counterrevolutionary Soviet/Stalinist bureaucracy’, ignoring the concrete nature of the bureaucracy, its contradictory, heterogeneous reality. But when capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union, Trotskyism’s abstract nature comes to the fore again and the counterrevolution is made to be the result of some faceless bureaucracy, rather than the work of a conscious revisionist political leadership, which had to overcome the resistance of sections of the bureaucracy at every level and promoted their reforms as an improvement of socialism to deceive the working class. The central concept of post-Lenin Trotskyism is the notion of ‘the counterrevolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy’. This abstraction prevents pseudo-left elements from understanding real concrete processes; thus, one pro-Trotsky writer remarks that

 ‘The degeneration of the Russian Revolution is one of the most complex social processes in the history of man’. (Tim Wohlforth: The Theory of Structural Assimilation, in: Communist Against Revolution – Two Essays on Post-war Stalinism; p. 5)

 But such a statement is nothing but pure mystification, because there is nothing complex about the degeneration of the Russian revolution, certainly not to qualify it as the most complex in the history of man. In fact, it is quite simple. Counterrevolutionary tendencies always exist in a society undergoing socialist transformation, but are kept in check. As Stalin explained to the Trotsky-Zinoviev opposition in 1927, as long as classes exist thermidorian tendencies will continue to exist. If a revisionist leadership comes to power, or in fact any other form of incorrect leadership, such counterrevolutionary tendencies will gain the ascendancy over the socialist tendencies.

 IMLR: Trotsky projected his struggle against Stalin as a struggle against bureaucratic centrism, i.e., opportunism. How do Marxist-Leninists respond to this argument?

 TC:  Well, in the pre-revolutionary period, Trotsky struggled against Lenin, and this was no doubt, in his view, a struggle against opportunism. But the truth is that Trotskyism gave birth to a form of pseudo-leftism, otherwise known as ultra-leftism, and left opportunism. This point can be illustrated on various issues. A good example of this ultra-leftism is given by Trotsky in ‘The Platform of the Joint Opposition’ of 1927, where in chapter twelve, called ‘Against opportunism-for the unity of the party’ Trotsky defends Lenin’s definition of opportunism, i.e., it is a bloc between the upper strata of the working class and the bourgeoisie directed against the majority of the working class, a bloc, in other words against the socialist revolution, but then Trotsky goes on to make the following remark

 ‘In the conditions now existing in the Soviet Union, opportunism in its completed form would be an aspiration of the upper strata of the working class towards compromise with the developing new bourgeoisie (kulaks and Nepmen) and with world capitalism, at the expense of the interests of the broad mass of the workers and the peasant poor’. (Trotsky: The Platform of the Joint Opposition; New Park; p. 107)

 But the conditions existing at the time, which Trotsky is referring to, was NEP. This was a period of compromise with capitalism, the Kulak and Nepmen, and indeed, with world capitalism. Unlike Marxism-Leninism, Trotsky does not make it clear that there are different types of compromises, compromises that serve the interest of the working class and socialist revolution, and compromises that undermine these interests. By ignoring the question of different types of compromises, the impression given is that all compromises are at the expense of the revolution. This leads to opening the door to ultra-leftism.

 The ultra-left approach is also given clear expression in Trotsky’s category of a counterrevolutionary Soviet or ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy. Trotsky ignores the concrete Soviet bureaucracy with all its contradiction and heterogeneity, and applies the concept of ‘counterrevolutionary’ to it. Marxist-Leninists on the other hand start from the concrete bureaucracy, recognising its contradictory and heterogeneous nature and thus advocate the need to purge the counterrevolutionary elements within it. What all this brings to light is the difference between the conceptual tools used respectively by Marxism-Leninism and Trotskyism: the concrete conceptual tools of Marxism-Leninism and the abstract conceptual tools of Trotskyism.

 IMLR:  How do you define the nature of the contradiction between the working class and bureaucracy in a society undergoing socialist transformation, assuming that such a contradiction exists?

 TC:  My answer to this important question is that, given a correct Marxist-Leninist leadership, the nature of the contradiction between the working class and bureaucracy in a society going through a process of socialist transformation is that of a non-antagonistic contradiction, that is to say a contradiction which can be gradually resolved without the need for a new political revolution. Marxist-Leninists would be justified in speaking about the need for a political revolution if a situation arose where the bureaucracy had formed itself into a new class and had seized political power. Was this the case in the Stalin period? I do not think so. All the evidence shows that the Soviet bureaucracy in the period of Stalin had not seized political power. The bureaucrats, when the need arose, could and were purged and removed from office by the Marxist-Leninist leadership under the direction of J. V. Stalin and his supporters in the central committee of the party. It was only in the revisionist period that things began to change and the bureaucrats became more confident, and sought to transform themselves into a new bureaucrat bourgeoisie. The political expression of this process was the anti-Stalin campaign, the descent into revisionism and the denigration of Stalin by the embryonic new bureaucrat bourgeoisie. In short, the anti-Stalin campaign, the attempt to demonise Stalin, is the work of the new embryonic revisionist bureaucrat bourgeoisie. Interestingly, when the revisionists came out against Stalin in the Soviet Union in 1956, the Trotskyists were beside themselves with joy. These people have always condemned and misinterpreted Stalin’s anti-bureaucrat purges. What does this mean in practical terms? It means that due to pseudo-left unconsciousness, these people became the agents of the new bureaucrat bourgeoisie, which sought to consolidate itself in the Soviet Union after Stalin. The Trotskyist slogan of political revolution cannot be interpreted to mean a struggle against bureaucracy because the problems of bureaucracy cannot be eradicated by such political means. The slogan is, therefore, only applicable against a class or caste which had actually taken political power, but in the period of Stalin such was not the case.

 IMLR:  How did Soviet Marxist-Leninists regard the question of bureaucracy after Stalin?

 TC:  For Soviet Marxist-Leninists, Stalin played a most important role in the struggle against bureaucracy. They argued in an anti-revisionist that

 ‘The purges of 1937 were, socially speaking, directed in a very specific manner. They were aimed at the existing bureaucratic apparatus, against the remnants of the exploiting classes and one section of the intelligentsia’. (Programme and Principles of the Revolutionary Soviet Communists; p. 16)

 This was a struggle against the remnants of the old bureaucracy, but

 ‘The main difficulty resided in the fact that the problem was not limited solely to the struggle against the backwash of the practices of the Old State apparatus’. (Ibid.)

 The purging of the old bureaucracy, they suggested, led to the creation of a new bureaucracy

 ‘Thus, bureaucracy has become an obstacle to the Revolution, a most dangerous enemy of the Revolution’. (Ibid.)

 The Soviet Marxist-Leninists took the view that

 ‘…the Leninist method of dealing with the bureaucrats demanded that it be applied even more firmly and forcefully to the Communists who had degenerated’. (Op. cit. pp. 17-18)

 For Soviet Marxist-Leninists, the struggle against the bureaucratic deviation in the Soviet Union was a struggle against petty-bourgeois influence, thus they argued that

 ‘It could be categorically stated that events in 1937 were determined by the fact that the State apparatus of that period was extremely bureaucratic and thus the struggle against bureaucracy and against petty-bourgeois tendencies themselves were inevitably carried out in a bureaucratic manner’. (Ibid. p. 18)

 Although we find, in some places, at this stage that the Soviet Marxist-Leninists viewed the question of bureaucracy in a semi abstract manner, they nevertheless made the important observation that

 ‘It should be understood that Stalin only had that bureaucratic apparatus to function with and that he could not exceed the limits of its procedures and practices’. (Ibid.)

 They also argued that

 ‘….the growth of bureaucratism has gradually formed a bureaucratic sector which divides the revolutionary centre from the people and prevents them from functioning in harmony’. (Op. cit. p.19)

 IMLR:  How do the views of the Soviet Marxist-Leninists compares with what the Trotskyists had previously argued?

 TC:  Well, Marxist-Leninists do not differ from Trotskyists on the question of there being a bureaucratic problem following the Bolshevik seizure of power, indeed, Marxist-Leninists were the first to recognise this problem even at a time when Trotsky was arguing for policies which served to promote bureaucracy. Where we differ from the Trotskyists concerns the question of the correct way to go about combating this problem. In regard to this question of how to fight bureaucracy, I think the Soviet Marxist-Leninists had a more concrete understanding of the problem compared to which Trotskyism has never reached. For instance they show that the struggle of Stalin against the Soviet bureaucracy was contradictory because while consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat

 ‘…Stalin had to do two things at the same time – use the bureaucratic apparatus and fight against it simultaneously’. (Ibid)

 That the struggle against bureaucracy is of a contradictory nature, involving the need for Marxist-Leninists to use the same bureaucracy which they are fighting against, a point which the Trotskyists refuse to grasp, is confirmed by Sheila Fitzpatrick who argues that

 ‘Although Lenin saw the danger that Communist values would be swamped by the old bureaucracy, he believed that the Communists had no alternative to working with it’. (Sheila Fitzpatrick: The Russian Revolution: p.94)

 This is a point that all pseudo-left elements do not recognise, the contradictory nature of the struggle against bureaucracy. They do not recognise, especially the Trotskyists, that communists have to, indeed, are compelled to use the bureaucracy and fight against it at the same time. The failure to recognise the necessity of this contradiction is summed up in the Trotskyist slogan of ‘political’ revolution.  Marxist-Leninists are therefore in an unenviable position of not only to simultaneously use and fight against bureaucracy, but also to fight against petty-bourgeois phrase mongering regarding the struggle against bureaucracy. Marxist-Leninists in the Soviet Union after Stalin, regarded the contradictory nature of the struggle against bureaucracy, which Trotsky completely ignored, as crucial to explain

 ‘…why it was impossible for him [Stalin, ed.] to defeat the bureaucracy decisively’. (Op. cit. p.19)

 We only need to add here that the truth in this statement consists in the fact that no struggle against bureaucracy can defeat bureaucracy decisively. This is in keeping with the Marxist-Leninist view that, like the State, bureaucracy is something which withers away. The Soviet Marxist-Leninists remarked


 ‘Stalin perceived how bureaucratism continued to grow even while he mercilessly hit at it and the new forms it engendered’. (Ibid.)

 Stalin’s struggle against Soviet bureaucracy, a struggle which Marxist-Leninists argue is of a contradictory nature, involving the need to fight bureaucracy while using it at the same time, is also a struggle aimed at two different levels. The first is the struggle against the negative aspects of bureaucracy, in other words the struggle to make administrative work more efficiently. This aspect of the struggle against bureaucracy was very relevant in the case of the Soviet Union. The other level of the struggle against bureaucracy which Stalin pursued was the struggle against sections of the bureaucracy turning itself into a separate caste or estate; this struggle was aimed at the bureaucracy consolidating itself into a new class which could per chance seize political power from the working class, and thereby undermine the process of socialist transformation. Indeed, it was this latter possibility which came to the fore after Stalin died. Thus, the Soviet Marxist-Leninists tell us that

 ‘Stalin’s death untied the hands of the bureaucracy’. (Programme and Principles of the Revolutionary Soviet Communists; p. 20)

 The aim of the bureaucracy, acting through their ideological representatives, the revisionists, was to remove the dictatorship of the proletariat, first in theory and later in practice. Thus, we are told that

 ‘They hate Stalin because he was the main support of the Socialist State, marrow and bone of the people, while they are nothing but the excretion of the State’. (Op. Cit. p.21)

 The revisionists therefore began to undermine Marxism-Leninism in the service of their own petty-bourgeois class interests. They falsified Marxism-Leninism with their doctrine of the State of the whole people, and the Party of the whole people. The Soviet Marxist-Leninists tell us that bloating with privileges, the bureaucrats had come to dominate every aspect of the life of the country, thus

 ‘Today the bureaucrats have been transformed from the servants of the Soviet State power to the masters of the present State apparatus’. (Op. cit. p.22)

 The Soviet Marxist-Leninists regarded those bureaucrats and their revisionist servants who had gone against Marxism-Leninism, as the enemies of the working class

 ‘…more than that, a most dangerous enemy, because they wear the uniform of the “Revolution”. (Op. cit. p.24)

 It is clear that in line with other Marxist-Leninists, the Soviet Comrades regarded the revisionist anti-Stalin campaign as having a class base in the petty-bourgeois strata. The revisionists, we are told

 ‘…in the heat of the class battles they can be mistaken for friends, causing the masses to put their trust in them and to receive a stab in the back as payment for that trust’. (Ibid.)

 The Marxist-Leninist struggle against bureaucracy in the former Soviet Union was interwoven with the struggle against petty-bourgeois revisionism. They recognised that the fight against bureaucracy was contradictory in nature, that although fighting against bureaucracy the Marxist-Leninists led by Stalin had to use this bureaucracy at the same time, and that this struggle was directed at two levels: the struggle to improve the functioning of the apparatus and the struggle against sections of the bureaucracy consolidating itself as a separate class which could seize political power from the working class. The Marxist-Leninists also understood that the anti-Stalin campaign in the communist movement had its class base in the petty bourgeois. On the right, the anti-Stalin campaign was led by the servants of the bureaucracy, the revisionists; On the pseudo-left, the anti-Stalin campaign was led by Trotskyists, or tendencies inspired by Trotskyism, whose petty-bourgeois phrase-mongering regarding the struggle against Soviet bureaucracy was an expression of the failure to recognise the long-term and contradictory nature of the struggle against bureaucracy.


IMLR:  I would like to return briefly to the Soviet Marxist-Leninist critique of bureaucracy in ‘Programme and Principles of Revolutionary Soviet Communists’. You said that although having a correct position, occasionally they treat the matter in a semi abstract manner. What exactly did you mean by this?


TC:  What I meant was that occasionally they refer to bureaucracy in such a way as to suggest that the bureaucracy is regarded en-bloc as counterrevolutionary. As previously pointed out, Marxist-Leninists do not use the concept of a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy, but rather speak of counterrevolutionary elements within the bureaucracy. This is to treat bureaucracy in a concrete manner.

 IMLR:  In Marx and Engels Selected Works, we read that, ‘When the working class comes to power… it must, in order not to lose its newly won supremacy, on the one hand, get rid of the old machine of oppression which had been used against it, and on the other hand, protect itself against its own deputies and functionaries’. To what extent would you say this was achieved in the Soviet Union in the period of Stalin, and were there functionaries so highly placed that they could not be brought down?

 TC:  Within the constraints imposed on him by objective conditions, Stalin did his best in helping the working class to protect itself from bad functionaries. Shankar Singh raise this same point, remarking that

 ‘The will of the Soviet people was to protect themselves from their own deputies and functionaries and Stalin executed that will. But in doing so, some mistakes, though not desirable, were committed by the persons who were entrusted with the task’. (Shankar Singh: Stalin: Allegations And Reality; Socialist Unity Centre of India; p. 28)

 I think that this is the correct line to take. It is also the case as H. Brar argues that

 ‘It was only by fighting against bureaucracy, by constantly purging the Party and the Soviet apparatus of this dross, and by mobilising the masses in this fight, that the resistance of the class of kulaks and other class enemies of the proletariat was broken, was socialism built’. (H. Brar: Trotskyism or Leninism; p.590)


It should therefore be quite clear to the unbiased student that any interpretation of Stalin which excludes or ignores his role in the struggle against Soviet bureaucracy both in terms of its administrative shortcomings on the one hand, and on the other, against the bureaucracy consolidating itself as a caste, or class, would be to make a mockery of historical science.

 For Stalin, the problems associated with bureaucracy were pervasive.

 ‘Bureaucracy’, he noted, ‘is one of the worst enemies of our progress’. (J. V. Stalin: Speech Delivered at the Eighth Congress of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, May 16, 1927, in: Pravda, No. 133, May 17, 1928; also cited in: Ludo Marten: Another View of Stalin)

 Stalin saw that the problems with bureaucracy was not simply a question of fighting against the old bureaucrats many of whom were hostile to the new system, but against even those bureaucrats who displayed some sympathy, and finally against communist bureaucrats because the latter are

 ‘…the most dangerous type of bureaucrat’. (Ibid.)

 The danger stemming from the communist bureaucrats was because such a bureaucrat

 ‘…masks his bureaucracy with the title of party member’. (Ibid.)

 Stalin, in fact, had to politically struggle on two fronts on the question of bureaucracy, as previously explained. On the one hand, the struggle against revisionists who served the interests of the bureaucrats and on the other hand the struggle against petty-bourgeois phrase mongering about the struggle against bureaucracy, represented by the Trotskyists. As to the question about whether there were functionaries so highly placed that they could not be brought down, there is a story recounted by Fitzroy MacLean, the British foreign office official, that while he was watching Stalin on the Red Square reviewing stand on May 1 he was struck by the other Politburo members who

 ‘…grinned nervously and moved uneasily from one foot to the other, forgetting the parade and the high office they held and everything else in their mingled joy and terror at being spoken to by him’. (F. MacLean: Eastern Approaches; p. 28)

 Perhaps this effect, if not produced by the cold weather, was produced by the realisation that in the Struggle against bureaucracy no one was able to hide behind high office and regard this as a badge of immunity.

 IMLR:  Finally, what would you say is the essence of the difference between Marxist-Leninists and Trotskyists on the question of the Soviet bureaucracy?

 TC:  Throughout this interview, I hope this has been made clear. Not everything in life is either/or, or black and white, as the saying goes. But of course, some things are. The question of the nature of the Soviet bureaucracy is an example. Communists can either choose to adopt the abstract Trotskyist theory of a counterrevolutionary Soviet/Stalinist bureaucracy, which according to Trotsky had seized political power in the period of Stalin. On the other hand they can choose to adopt the Marxist-Leninist position, which does not speak of a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy, but rather speaks of counterrevolutionary elements, groups, or individuals in the Soviet bureaucracy, who needed to be unmasked and purged, as part of the struggle against the negative aspects of bureaucracy. This was the position which both Lenin and Stalin adopted in the struggle against the bad sides of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.

 IMLR:  Comrade Clark, thank you.



 Soviet Purges     1921

 Soviet Purges     1929

 Soviet Purges     1933-1934

 Soviet Purges     1935-1936

 Soviet Purges     1937-1938