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Leon Trotsky 19300500 Answer to Graef on Collectivization

Leon Trotsky: Answer to Graef on Collectivization

Published May 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 216 f.]

Comrade Graef's article poses a question of the greatest importance, and does so, in all essentials, in an entirely correct way, in our opinion. His illustration of how the Stalinists "understand" uneven development, by the example of the agrarian overpopulation problem, is presented most convincingly.

But there is a point on which we disagree with the author. Comrade Graef deals too lightly with the question of the relations between the rate of collectivization and the technical-industrial base of present-day agriculture. It is totally wrong to suppose that it is possible first to create collective farms and then to supply them with a technical base. The collective farms will fall apart while waiting for the technical base, this collapse being accompanied by a ferocious internal struggle and causing great harm to agriculture, which is to say, to the entire economy in general as well.

It is not true, as he claims, that "even the lowest, most primitive form of collectivization is bound to result in a higher productivity of labor than that of the individual peasant farm." The whole question turns, on the one hand, on the extent of collectivization and, on the other, on the character of the means of production. "It cannot be otherwise," writes Comrade Graef, "for if it were, the economic usefulness and progressive nature of the pooling of resources would then be disproved." But the truth of the matter is that the whole problem consists in determining the limits within which collectivization, at the given economic and cultural level, can be "economically useful" or "progressive."

One must regard as an obvious misunderstanding Comrade Graef's reference to the October Revolution as supposedly having first transformed the organizational superstructure and then moved on to reorganize the technical and economic base. That the economic base cannot be reorganized along socialist lines without power having first been conquered and without the state (the "superstructure") having first been reorganized is indisputable When the Mensheviks told us that social conditions were not yet "ripe" for socialism, we answered: "Conditions are completely ripe for the seizure of power by the proletariat, and we shall build socialism at a rate that corresponds to the material resources."

If conditions in the Soviet village are "ripe" for collectivization, it is only in the sense of there being no other way out. That, however, is not enough. At any rate, there are no grounds whatsoever for rushing headlong from a relative state of impasse, which still permits a postponement of the historical payment due, to the conclusion that the impasse is absolute. It is necessary to make clear to the peasantry in an open and honest way what a disproportion there is between the present extent of collectivization and the material resources available to support it. The practical steps to be taken follow from this automatically.

We will not dwell further on this question, since it is analyzed in other articles in the Biulleten, particularly in the article "Toward Capitalism or Socialism?" in this issue

We hope that the reader will agree with us that in spite of the indicated error on economic perspectives, Comrade Graef's article represents a valuable contribution to the discussion of the problem of collectivization.