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Sunday, July 28, 2013
From The Marxist Archives-Leon Trotsky on the Soviet Workers State
Workers Vanguard No. 900
12 October 2007
Leon Trotsky on the Soviet Workers State
(Quote of the Week)
The Left Opposition of Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin
of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, led the struggle against the usurpation of
political power in the Soviet Union by the Stalinist bureaucracy beginning in
1923-24 and the degeneration of the Third International (Comintern). Writing in
1936, Trotsky insisted that revolutionary Marxists must fight for the
unconditional military defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state and for
workers political revolution to oust the parasitic bureaucracy. Today, we apply
this program to the remaining deformed workers states of China, North Korea,
Vietnam and Cuba.
The decision of the Seventh World Congress of the Comintern,
according to which socialism in the Soviet Union has “finally and irrevocably”
triumphed—regardless of the low level of labor productivity as compared with the
advanced capitalist countries and independently of the course of development of
all the rest of the world!—is a crude and dangerous lie….
The principal mass of the means of production in the industry of
the Soviet Union has grown tremendously and remains in the hands of the state—in
agriculture, in the hands of the kolkhozes, which stand between state and
private property. But not even state property is as yet
socialist property, for the latter has as its premise the dying
away of the state as the guardian of property, the mitigation of inequality and
the gradual dissolution of the property concept even in the morals and customs
of society. The real development in the Soviet Union in recent years has
followed a directly opposite road. Inequality grows and, together with it, state
coercion. Given favorable domestic and international conditions, the transition
is possible from the present state property to socialism; given unfavorable
conditions, however, a reversion to capitalism is also possible….
If a social counterrevolution—i.e., the overthrow of
state ownership of the means of production and of the land as well as the
reestablishment of private property—is necessary for the return of the USSR to
capitalism, then for the further development of socialism a political
revolution has become inevitable, i.e., the violent overthrow of the
political rule of the degenerated bureaucracy while maintaining the property
relations established by the October Revolution. The proletarian vanguard of the
USSR, basing itself upon the toiling masses of the whole country and upon the
revolutionary movement of the whole world, will have to batter down the
bureaucracy by force, restore Soviet democracy, eliminate the enormous
privileges, and assure a genuine advance to socialist equality….
The USSR is a state which bases itself upon the property
relationships created by the proletarian revolution and which is administered by
a labor bureaucracy in the interests of new privileged strata. The Soviet Union
can be called a workers’ state in approximately the same sense—despite the vast
difference in scale—in which a trade union, led and betrayed by opportunists,
that is, by agents of capital, can be called a workers’ organization. Just as
revolutionists defend every trade union, even the most thoroughly reformist,
from the class enemy, combating intransigently the treacherous leaders at the
same time, so the parties of the Fourth International defend the USSR against
the blows of imperialism without for a single moment giving up the struggle
against the reactionary Stalinist apparatus.
—Leon Trotsky, “The Fourth International and the Soviet Union”
The New Constitution of the USSR
Written: 16 April 1936. First Published:The New Militant [New York], 9 May 1936 Translated:The New Militant: Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters: Public Domain: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive 2005; This work is completely free.
The Abolition of Soviets
Behind the Kremlin walls, work is going on to replace the Soviet constitution with a new one, which, according to the declarations of Stalin, Molotov, and others, will be the “most democratic in the world.” To be sure, doubts might be aroused by the procedure by which the constitution is being elaborated. Until recently, there has been no mention of this great reform, either in the press or at meetings. No one is acquainted with the draft of the constitution as yet. In the meantime, Stalin told the American interviewer Roy Howard, on March 1, 1936, that “We shall probably adopt our new constitution at the end of this year.” Thus Stalin is informed of the exact date of adoption of this constitution, about which the people still have practically no information. It is impossible not to conclude that the “most democratic constitution in the world” is being elaborated and introduced in a manner that is not entirely democratic.
Stalin confirmed to Howard, and through him also to the peoples of the USSR, that “according to the new constitution, suffrage will be universal, equal, direct, and secret.”
The inequalities in suffrage rights in favour of the workers against the peasants are to be abolished. Henceforth, obviously, not factories but citizens will vote, each one for himself. Once there are “no classes,” then all members of society are equal. Individuals can be disenfranchised only by the courts. All these principles are entirely derived from that very same program of bourgeois democracy which the soviets in their time came to replace. The party always held that the soviet system was a higher form of democracy. The soviet system was to wither away together with the dictatorship of the proletariat, of which it was the expression. The question of the new constitution therefore boils down to another and more fundamental question: Will the dictatorship continue to become “stronger” from now on, as is demanded by all the official speeches and articles, or will it begin to soften, weaken, and “wither away”? The meaning of the new constitution can be correctly appraised only in the light of this perspective. Let us immediately add here that the perspective itself does not at all depend upon the measure of Stalinist liberalism but upon the actual structure of the transitional Soviet society.
In explaining the reform, Pravda refers obscurely and not at all prudently to the party program written by Lenin in 1919, which does really state that “... disenfranchisement and any restrictions whatsoever upon liberty are necessary solely as temporary measures of struggle against the attempts of the exploiters to maintain or to restore their privileges. In proportion as the objective possibility for the exploitation of man by man disappears, all necessity for these temporary measures will likewise disappear, and the party will strive to narrow them down, and to completely abolish them” (our emphasis). These lines can no doubt serve to justify the refusal to “disenfranchise” in a society in which the possibility for exploitation has disappeared. But along with this the program demands the simultaneous abolition of “any restrictions whatsoever upon liberty.” For the entry into socialist society is characterized not by the peasants being made equal with the workers, and not by returning the franchise to the 3-5 percent of the citizens who are of bourgeois origin, but by the establishment of true liberty for 100 percent of the population. With the abolition of classes, according to Lenin, and according to Marx, not only the dictatorship but also the state itself withers away. Stalin, however, has said nothing as yet about removing “restrictions upon liberty” either to Howard or to the peoples of the USSR.
Molotov hastened to Stalin’s assistance, not, sad to say, very propitiously. In replying to a question of the editor-in-chief of Le Temps, Molotov said, “Now not infrequently (?) there is already no need for those administrative measures which were employed formerly,” but “the Soviet power must of course be strong and consistent in the struggle against terrorists and wreckers of public property ...” Ergo: “a Soviet power” – without soviets; a proletarian dictatorship – without the proletariat; and, in addition to that, a dictatorship not against the bourgeoisie, but against ... terrorists and thieves. At all events, the party program never foresaw such a type of state.
Molotov’s promise to do “not infrequently” without those extreme measures which might prove unnecessary is not worth much even by itself; but it loses all its value alongside of the reference to the enemies of law and order, who are precisely the ones that make it impossible to renounce emergency measures.
Whence, however, arise these enemies of law and order, these terrorists and thieves, and, moreover in such threatening numbers as would justify the preservation of a dictatorship in a classless society? Here we must come to the assistance of Molotov. At the dawn of Soviet power the terrorist acts were perpetuated by the SR’s and the Whites in the atmosphere of the still unfinished civil war. When the former ruling classes lost all their hopes, terrorism disappeared as well. Kulak terror, traces of which are observable even now, was always local in character, and supplemented the partisan war against the Soviet régime. This is not what Molotov has in mind. The new terror does not lean upon either the old ruling classes or the kulak. The terrorists of recent years are recruited exclusively from among the Soviet youth, from the ranks of the Young Communists and the party. While utterly impotent to solve those tasks which it sets itself, individual terror is, however, of the greatest symptomatic importance because it characterizes the sharpness of the antagonism between the bureaucracy and the broad masses of the people, especially the younger generation. Terrorism is the tragic supplement of Bonapartism. Each individual bureaucrat is afraid of the terror; but the bureaucracy as a whole successfully exploits it for the justification of its political monopoly. Stalin and Molotov did not discover any gunpowder in this field either.
Worst of all, however, is the fact that it is absolutely impossible to gather, either from the interviews or from the commentaries, the social nature of the state for which the new constitution is being prepared. The soviet system used to be officially considered as the expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But if the classes have been destroyed, then by reason of this very fact the social basis of the dictatorship has likewise been destroyed. Who, then, is its carrier now? Obviously the population as a whole. But when the entire people, emancipated from class contradictions, becomes the carrier of the dictatorship, this implies nothing else than the dissolution of the dictatorship into the socialist society, and consequently the liquidation of the state. The logic of Marxism is invulnerable. The liquidation of the state in its turn begins with the liquidation of the bureaucracy. Does the new constitution, perhaps, imply at least the liquidation of the GPU? Should anyone venture to express this idea in the USSR, the GPU would immediately find convincing counter-arguments. The classes have been destroyed, the soviets are being abolished, the class theory of society is reduced to dust, but the bureaucracy remains. Q.E.D.
We shall return later to the question of the extent to which universal, equal, and direct suffrage corresponds to the social equality that all citizens have allegedly attained. But if we accept this premise on faith, we become all the more perplexed by the following question: Why, if that is the case, must the elections be secret henceforth? Just whom does the populace in the socialist country fear? Against whose attempts in particular is it necessary to provide a defence? The child’s fear of darkness has a purely biological foundation; but when grown-up people dare not express their opinions openly, their fear is political in character. And for the Marxist, politics is always a function of the class struggle. In capitalist society the secret ballot is intended to provide a defence for the exploited against the terror of the exploiters. That the bourgeoisie did finally agree to such a reform – of course, under the pressure of the masses – was only because the bourgeoisie itself was interested in protecting its state at least partially against the demoralization of its own making. But in the USSR there obviously cannot be any pressure of the exploiters upon the toilers. Against whom, then, is it necessary to protect the Soviet citizens by means of the secret ballot?
Under the old Soviet constitution, the vote by show of hands was introduced as a weapon in the hands of the revolutionary class against bourgeois and petty-bourgeois enemies. The same purpose was served by the restrictions in the franchise itself. Now, at the end of the second decade after the revolution, no longer the class enemies but the toilers themselves are so frightened that they cannot vote except under the shield of secrecy. This concerns precisely the masses of the people, the overwhelming majority, for it is impossible to allow that the secret ballot is being especially introduced for the convenience of the counter-revolutionary minority!
But who is terrorizing the people? The answer is clear – the bureaucracy. It is preparing to protect the toilers against itself by means of the secret ballot. Stalin made this admission openly. To the question, “Why the secret ballot?” his reply was verbatim as follows: “Because we want to give the Soviet people complete freedom to vote for those they want to elect.” Thus we learn from Stalin that the “Soviet people” cannot vote today for those they want to elect. “We” are only getting ready to provide them with such an opportunity. Who are these “we” who can give or refuse the freedom to vote? The stratum in whose name Stalin speaks and acts: the bureaucracy. Stalin need only have added that his important admission applies as much to the party as to the state, and that, in particular, he himself occupies the post of general secretary by means of a system which does not permit party members to elect those they desire. The phrase “We want to give the Soviet people” is in itself infinitely more important than all the constitutions Stalin has yet to write, for this brief phrase is a ready-made constitution, and, moreover, a very real one, not a myth.
Like the European bourgeoisie in its time, so the Soviet bureaucracy today is compelled to resort to the secret ballot in order at least partially to purge its state apparatus, which it exploits “as the rightful owner,” from the corruption of its own making. Stalin was compelled to give an inkling of this motive for the reform. Said he to Howard, “There are not a few institutions in our country which work badly ... Secret suffrage in the USSR will be a whip in the hands of the population against the organs of government, which work badly.” A second noteworthy admission! After the bureaucracy has created with its own hands the socialist society, it feels the need ... of a whip – not only because the organs of government “work badly,” but above all because they are corroded through and through with the vices of uncontrolled cliques.
As far back as 1928, Rakovsky wrote the following with regard to a number of horrible cases of bureaucratic demoralization that broke out into the open: “The most characteristic and most dangerous feature in the tidal wave of scandals is the passivity of the masses, among the Communists even more than among the non-party people, toward the manifestations of unheard-of arbitrariness; of which the workers themselves were witnesses. Out of fear of those who wield power, or simply out of political indifference, they passed by without a protest, or confined themselves merely to grumbling.” More than eight years have elapsed since that time, and the situation has become infinitely worse. Stalin’s autocratic rule has erected nepotism, arbitrariness, profligacy, pillage, and bribery into a system of administration. The decay of the apparatus, cropping out at every step, has begun to threaten the very existence of the state as the source of power, income, and privileges of the ruling stratum. A reform became necessary. Taking fright at their own handiwork, the chiefs of the Kremlin turn to the population with a plea to help it cleanse and straighten out the apparatus of administration.
Turning to the people for the salutary whip, the bureaucracy, however, lays down one ultimatistic condition: that there be no politics. This holy function must remain as hitherto the monopoly of the “Leader.” To the ticklish question of the American interlocutor relative to other parties, Stalin replied: “Since there are no classes, since the dividing lines between classes are being obliterated (“there are no classes” – “the dividing lines between classes [which do not exist!] are being obliterated” – L.T.) there remains only a slight, but not a fundamental, difference between various strata in socialist society, and there can be no fertile soil for the creation of contending parties. Where there are not several classes there cannot be several parties, for a party is a part of a class.” Every word a mistake, sometimes even two!
According to Stalin, it seems that the dividing lines between classes are rigidly described, and that in every given period only one party corresponds to each class. The Marxist doctrine of the class nature of parties is transformed into a ludicrous bureaucratic caricature: political dynamics is entirely excluded from the historical process – in the interests of administrative order. In point of fact not a single instance can be found throughout the entire extent of political history of only one party corresponding to one class! Classes are not homogeneous; they are torn by internal antagonisms, and they arrive even at the solution of common tasks only through an internal struggle of tendencies, groupings, and parties. Within certain limits it may be allowed that “the party is a part of a class.” But inasmuch as a class has many “parts” – some facing forward, others backward – one and the same class can put forth several parties. For the same reason, a single party can lean upon the parts of several classes.
Remarkably enough, this scandalous mistake of Stalin is absolutely disinterested in character, for, you see, in relation to the USSR he proceeds from the assertion that no classes at all exist there. Of what class is the CPSU a part – after the abolition of all classes? Carelessly straying into the field of theory, Stalin proves more than he intended. From his reasoning it follows not that there cannot be different parties in the USSR, but that there cannot be even a single party. Where there are no classes there can be no room for politics in general. Stalin, however, makes a gracious exception from this law in the case of the party of which he is general secretary.
The history of the working class reveals best of all the bankruptcy of the Stalinist theory of parties. Despite the fact that the working class is in its social structure indubitably the least heterogeneous of all classes in capitalist society, the existence of such a “stratum” as the labour aristocracy and a labour bureaucracy bound up with it leads to the creation of reformist parties, which inevitably turn into one of the instruments of bourgeois rule. It matters nothing from the standpoint of Stalinist sociology whether the difference between the labour aristocracy and the proletarian mass is “fundamental” or only “slight"; but it was precisely by reason of this difference that the necessity to create the Third International arose in its time. On the other hand, it is indubitable that the structure of Soviet society is infinitely more heterogeneous and complex than that of the proletariat in capitalist countries. For this very reason, it can provide a sufficiently fertile soil for several parties.
Stalin is interested, as a matter of fact, not in the sociology of Marx but in the monopoly of the bureaucracy. These are two entirely different things. Every labour bureaucracy, even one that does not wield state power, inclines to the view that there is no “fertile soil” in the working class for the opposition. The leaders of the British Labour Party drive the revolutionists out of the trade unions on the grounds that there is no room for the struggle between parties within the framework of a “united” working class. Messrs. Vandervelde, Leon Blum, Jouhaux, etc., act in a similar manner. Their conduct is dictated not by the metaphysics of unity but by the egoistic interests of the privileged cliques. The Soviet bureaucracy is infinitely more powerful, wealthy, and self-reliant than the labour bureaucracy in bourgeois countries. Highly skilled workers in the Soviet Union enjoy privileges unknown to the highest categories of labour in Europe and America. This twofold stratum – the bureaucracy which leans upon the labour aristocracy – is the ruler of the country. The present ruling party of the USSR is nothing else than the political machine of a privileged stratum. The Stalinist bureaucracy has something to lose and nothing more to conquer. It is not inclined to share what it holds. For the future as well, it intends to reserve the “fertile soil” for itself.
To be sure, the Bolshevik Party also occupied a monopoly position in the state during the first period of the Soviet era. However, to identify these two phenomena is to mistake appearances for reality. During the years of civil war, under extremely difficult historical conditions, the party of the Bolsheviks found itself compelled temporarily to prohibit other parties, not because the latter lacked a “fertile soil” – in that case it would not have been necessary even to prohibit them – but on the contrary, precisely because fertile soil existed: this is what made them dangerous. The party explained openly to the masses what it was doing, for it was clear to everybody that at stake was the defence of the isolated revolution against mortal dangers. Today, the more the bureaucracy embellishes the social reality, the more shamelessly it exploits it for its own benefit. If it be true that the kingdom of socialism has already come, and the fertile soil for political parties has disappeared, there would be no need to prohibit them. It would only remain, in accordance with the program, to abolish “any restrictions whatsoever upon liberty.” But the bureaucracy will not allow so much as a peep about such a constitution. The internal falseness of the whole construction is all too apparent!
Seeking to dispel normal doubts on the part of his interlocutor, Stalin offered a new thought: “Candidates will be put forward not only by the Communist Party but by all sorts of public, non-party organizations. And we have hundreds of these ... Each of these strata (of Soviet society) may have its special interests and express them through our numerous existing organizations.” Evidently, it is for this reason that the new Soviet constitution will be the “most democratic constitution in the world.”
This piece of sophistry is no better than the rest. The most important “strata” in Soviet society are: the summits of the bureaucracy and its middle and nethermost layers, the labour aristocracy, the kolkhoz [collective farm] aristocracy, the common run of workers, the middle layers of the kolkhozes, the peasant proprietors, the labour strata of workers and peasants, and beyond them the lumpenproletariat, the homeless, the prostitutes, and so on. As to the Soviet public organizations – trade union, co-operative, cultural, sport, etc. – they do not at all represent the interests of different “strata” because they all have one and the same hierarchic structure. Even in those cases when the organizations are based upon privileged circles, as for instance the trade unions and co-operatives, the active role in them is played exclusively by the representatives of the privileged summits, while the “party,” i.e., the political organization of the ruling stratum, has the last word. The participation of nonpolitical organizations in the electoral struggle will consequently lead to nothing else than rivalry between the different cliques of the bureaucracy within the limits set by the Kremlin. The ruling summit calculates to learn in this manner some secrets hidden from it and to refurbish its régime, without at the same time permitting a political struggle which must inevitably be directed against itself.
The Historical Meaning of the New Constitution
In the person of its most authoritative leader, the bureaucracy again demonstrates how little it understands those historical tendencies which determine its movement. When Stalin remarks that the difference between various strata in Soviet society is “slight but not fundamental,” he obviously has in mind the fact that exclusive of the individual peasant proprietors, who are sufficiently numerous even today to populate Czechoslovakia, all other “strata” depend upon the statified or collectivized means of production. This is beyond dispute. But a “fundamental” difference still remains between the collective, i.e., group property in agriculture and the nationalized property in industry: it can still make itself felt in the future. We shall not, however, enter into a discussion of this important question. Of considerably more immediate importance is the difference between the “strata” which is determined by their relation not to the means of production but to the articles of consumption. The sphere of distribution is, of course, only a “superstructure” in relation to the sphere of production. However, it is precisely the sphere of distribution that is of decisive importance in the everyday life of the people. From the standpoint of the ownership of the means of production, the difference between a marshal and a street cleaner, between the head of a trust and an unskilled labourer, between the son of a peoples’ commissar and a homeless waif, is not “fundamental.” But some occupy lordly apartments, enjoy several dachas (summer homes) in various parts of the country, have the best automobiles at their disposal, and have long since forgotten how to shine their own boots; while others not infrequently live in wooden barracks, without any partitions for privacy, lead a half-starved existence, and do not clean their own boots only because they are barefoot. To a high dignitary this difference seems to be only “slight,” i.e., one that does not merit attention. To the unskilled labourer it appears, not without reason, to be “fundamental.”
In addition to the terrorists, according to Molotov, the object of the dictatorship in the USSR is the thief. But the very abundance of people of such a profession is a sure sign of the want that reigns in society. Where the material level of the overwhelming majority is so low that the ownership of bread and boots must be protected by firing squads, speeches about the alleged achievement of socialism sound like an infamous mockery of human beings!
In a truly homogeneous society, in which the normal wants of the citizens are satisfied without rancour and brawls, not only Bonapartist absolutism but bureaucracy in general would be inconceivable. The bureaucracy is not a technical but a social category. Every single bureaucracy originates in and maintains itself upon the heterogeneous nature of society, upon the antagonism of interests and the internal struggle. It regulates the social antagonisms in the interests of the privileged classes or layers, and exacts an enormous tribute for this from the toilers. This very same function, despite the great revolution in property relations, is being fulfilled, with cynicism and not without success, by the Soviet bureaucracy.
The latter raised itself on the NEP, exploiting the antagonism between the kulak and the NEPman, on the one hand, and the workers and peasants, on the other. When the kulak, grown strong, raised his hand against the bureaucracy itself, the latter, in the interests of self-defence, was compelled to lean directly upon the rank and file at the bottom. The bureaucracy was the weakest of all during the years of the struggle against the kulak (1929-32). Precisely for this reason, it zealously set about the formation of a labour and kolkhoz aristocracy: instituting a shocking difference in wage scales, bonuses, badges, and other similar measures which are called forth one-third by economic necessity and two-thirds by the political interests of the bureaucracy. Upon this new and ever deepening social antagonism, the ruling caste has exalted itself to its present Bonapartist heights.
In a country in which the lava of revolution has not cooled, the privileged are often very much afraid of their own privileges, especially against the background of general want. The topmost Soviet strata stand in dread of the masses, with a fear that is purely bourgeois. Stalin supplies the growing privileges of the ruling stratum with a “theoretical” justification by means of the Comintern, and he defends the Soviet aristocracy against dissatisfaction by means of concentration camps. Stalin is the indisputable leader of the bureaucracy and of the labour aristocracy. He keeps in constant touch only with these “strata.” A sincere “worship” of the Leader emanates only from these circles. Such is the essence of the present political system of the USSR.
But to maintain this mechanism, Stalin is compelled from time to time to side with the “people” as against the bureaucracy, naturally, with the latter’s silent consent. He is even compelled to seek a whip from below against the abuses from above. As we have already said, this is one of the motives for the constitutional reform. There is another and no less important motive.
The new constitution abolishes the soviets, dissolving the workers into the general mass of the population. The soviets, it is true, have long since lost their political meaning. But they might have revived with the growth of new social antagonisms and with the awakening of the new generation. Above all, of course, are to be feared the city soviets, with the growing participation of fresh and exacting Young Communists. In the cities the contrast between luxury and dire want is all too glaring. The first care of the Soviet aristocracy is to get rid of the workers and Red Army soviets.
Despite the collectivization, the material and cultural contradiction between the city and the village has hardly been touched. The peasantry is still very backward and atomized. Social antagonisms also exist within the kolkhozes and between the kolkhozes. The bureaucracy finds it much easier to cope with dissatisfaction in the village. It is able to use the kolkhozniks not without success against the city workers. To smother the protest of the workers against the growing social inequality by the weight of the more backward masses of the village – this is the chief aim of the new constitution, about which neither Stalin nor Molotov naturally has communicated anything to the world. Bonapartism, incidentally, always leans upon the village as against the city. In this, too, Stalin remains true to tradition.
Learned philistines like the Webbs failed to see any great difference between Bolshevism and tsarism prior to 1923, but, in return, they have completely recognized the “democracy” of Stalin’s régime. Small wonder: these people have all their lives been the ideologues of a labour bureaucracy. In point of fact, Soviet Bonapartism bears the same relation to Soviet democracy that bourgeois Bonapartism or even fascism bears to bourgeois democracy. Both arise equally from the frightful defeats of the world proletariat. Both will crash with its first victory.
Bonapartism, as history testifies, is able to abide very well with universal and even secret suffrage. The democratic ritual of Bonapartism is the plebiscite. From time to time the question is put to the citizens: For or against the Leader? The Leader, on his part, takes precautions so that the voter is able to feel the barrel of a gun at his temple. Since the days of Napoleon III, who now looks like a provincial dilettante, this technique has attained an unprecedented development, as witness, say, the latest spectacle by Goebbels. The new constitution is thus intended to liquidate juridically the outworn Soviet régime, replacing it by Bonapartism on a plebiscitary basis.
Tasks of the Vanguard
Drawing profounder conclusions from Stalin, Molotov told the editor of Le Temps that the question of parties in the USSR is “not a vital question as we are closely approaching the complete liquidation of ... classes.” What precision in ideas and terminology! In the year 1931, they liquidated the “last capitalist class, that of the kulaks,” and in the year 1936 they are “closely approaching” the liquidation of classes. For better or for worse, the question of parties is not a “vital” one to Molotov. Entirely different, however, are the views held upon this matter by those workers who know that the bureaucracy, while suppressing the exploiting classes with one hand, prepares for their rebirth with the other. For these advanced workers the question of their own party, independent of the bureaucracy, is the most vital of all questions. Stalin and Molotov understand this very well indeed: not for nothing have they expelled during the last few months from the so-called Communist Party of the Soviet Union several tens of thousands of Bolshevik-Leninists, i.e., in reality, an entire revolutionary party.
When the editor of Le Temps politely put the question about factions and their possible transformation into independent parties, Molotov replied, with the quick wit for which he is so noted: “In the party ... attempts were made to create special factions ... but it is now several years since the situation in this respect has fundamentally changed and the Communist Party is truly united.” Best of all, he might have added, this is proved by the interminable purges and concentration camps. However, the illegal existence of an opposition party is not non-existence, but only a difficult form of existence. Arrests may prove very effective against the parties of a class that is departing from the historical stage: the revolutionary dictatorship of the years 1917-23 has proved this fully. But the arrests aimed against the revolutionary vanguard will not save the outlived bureaucracy, which according to its own admission requires a “whip.”
It is a lie and a triple lie to allege that socialism has been realized in the USSR. The flowering of bureaucratism is barbaric proof that socialism is still far removed. So long as the productivity of labour in the USSR is several times below that of the advanced capitalist countries; so long as the people have not emerged from want; so long as a cruel struggle continues to be waged for articles of consumption; so long as the individualistic bureaucracy can strum with impunity upon social antagonisms – just so long will the danger of bourgeois restoration retain its full force. At the present time, with the growth of inequality on the basis of economic successes, the danger has even been increased. In this and in this alone lies the justification for the need of state power. But the bureaucratically degenerated state has itself become the chief danger to the socialist future. Inequality can be reduced to its economically inevitable limits at the given stage, and a road can be cut to socialist equality, only by the active political control of the toilers, beginning with their vanguard. The regeneration of the party of the Bolsheviks in counterposition to the party of the Bonapartists is the key to all other difficulties and tasks.
On the road toward a goal, one must be able to utilize the real possibilities which arise at every stage. Any illusions about the Stalinist constitution would of course be out of place. But it is equally impermissible to wave it aside as an insignificant trifle. The bureaucracy assumes the risk of a reform not at its own whim but out of necessity. History tells of many cases of a bureaucratic dictatorship resorting for its salvation to “liberal” reforms, and still further weakening itself. By laying bare Bonapartism, the new constitution creates a semi-legal cover for the struggle against it. The rivalry between the bureaucratic cliques can become the opening for a much wider political struggle. The whip against “government institutions that work badly” can be turned into a whip against Bonapartism. Everything depends upon the degree of activity of the advanced elements of the working class.
The Bolshevik-Leninists must henceforth follow attentively all the twists and turns of the constitutional reform, painstakingly taking into consideration the experience of the first coming elections. We must learn how to utilize the rivalry between the various “public organizations” in the interests of socialism. We must learn how to engage in battles on the subject of the plebiscites as well. The bureaucracy is afraid of the workers; we must unfold our work among them more audaciously and on a more extensive scale. Bonapartism is afraid of the youth; we must rally it to the banner of Marx and Lenin. From the adventures of individual terrorism, the method of those who are desperate, we must lead the vanguard of the young generation onto the broad road of the world revolution. It is necessary to train new Bolshevik cadres which will come to replace the decaying bureaucratic régime.