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Leon Trotsky 19300425 Toward Capitalism or Socialism?

Leon Trotsky: Toward Capitalism or Socialism?

April 25, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 193-209]

Liberal and Menshevik Perspectives

Russian liberalism, which years of emigration have not made much more cunning, sees a return to serfdom in all the new economic forms, especially in collectivization. Quite recently, Struve ranted somewhere that Russia has returned to the seventeenth century, without God. Even if this judgment should be true, the revolution would still have been justified. Under the enlightened guidance of the former ruling classes the peasant economy had made no marked progress between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, so that even if there really has been a return there wasn't a long road to travel. And freeing the peasants from God at least meant freeing them from a serious hindrance. Unfortunately, God was a necessary item in the peasant inventory of the seventeenth century, making an agricultural trinity with the plowshare and the wretched nag. We shall do away with them only by using machines and electricity. This problem still remains to be solved — but it will be.

Liberalism pretends not to see the enormous economic progress accruing from the Soviet regime, i.e., the empirical proofs of the incalculable advantages of socialism. The economists of the dispossessed classes quite simply pass in silence over the rates of industrial development, unprecedented in world history. As for the Menshevik mouthpieces of the bourgeoisie, they explain them by an extraordinary "exploitation of the peasants." They omit to explain why, for example, British exploitation of the Indian peasants has never given either India or Britain industrial tempos coming anywhere near those achieved under the Soviet system. And why don't they ask about the tempo reached in India under MacDonald, who has the Indian workers and peasants shot down because they desire to live in independence? I doubt whether such "questions to the minister" are open to the people with whom MacDonald and Mueller converse.

The liberal Menshevik references to serfdom and the system of Arakcheyev constitute the classic argument of reaction against all innovations on the road of historical progress. The philosophical formula for this kind of "return" to the past was long since supplied by old Hegel in his "triad" of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The classes concerned with maintaining the antithesis (i.e., capitalism) will always be driven to discover in every step of the synthesis (i.e., socialism) simply a return to the thesis (i.e., serfdom). The philosophers and economists brought along in the baggage train of the executioner Galliffet accused the Paris Commune of a reactionary desire to lead contemporary society back to the medieval communes. On this subject Marx wrote:

"It is generally the fate of entirely new creations in history to be mistaken for a copy of other, older and even extinct forms of social life to which they might have a certain resemblance" (The Civil War in France). Contemporary bourgeois criticism has thought up nothing new. In any case, where would it have found it? The "ideology" of Russian liberalism and of Russian "democracy" is nothing but a plagiarism, desperately late in time at that It was not without some point when this same Struve wrote thirty-two years ago, "The farther East, the more vile and weak becomes the bourgeoisie." History has added "and its democracy."

Today, Struve repeats his slogan of 1893, "Let's go on apprenticeship to capitalism!"; but there is a slight difference. Forty years ago this slogan — good or bad — constituted some progress; today, it is a backward move. Didn't czarist Russia go to the school of capitalism? The main result of this was the outbreak of the October Revolution. Contrary to the Russian proverb, it was the "root" of this apprenticeship which was sweet to the teacher and the fruit which was bitter. So how can one immunize oneself in the future against this "fruit" if capitalism is restored? Abroad, the Russian bourgeoisie has discovered nothing new in this domain unless it is the highly problematical (and very unstable) "prosperity" of the civilized nations. But the point is that the capitalist apprenticeship of the new countries is not at all a repetition of the history of the old countries, although it bears the burden of their sins. The October Revolution was the breaking of the world bourgeoisie at its weakest link. The dream of Russia returning to world capitalism after the October Revolution is the most fantastic and the most stupid of utopias. For would it not be much more "simple" to insure a peaceful capitalist development in China and India? The power over the latter, by the way, is right in the hands of the Second International. Try it, gentlemen! We tell you in advance, it won't succeed — because China and India, precisely because of their short capitalist apprenticeship, are now going toward their October Revolution. That is the dialectic of world development. And there is no way of getting out of it.

Menshevism hopes for a rapid solution to "the double problem of adjusting the economic system of a country to the real level of its economic development and creating the political and juridical premises for this adjustment." Such a sleight-of-hand formula calculates on a restoration of the bourgeois system. "The political and juridical premises" means bourgeois democracy. "You have the factories and workshops," Menshevism says to the bourgeoisie, "and in exchange we want to have the possibility of becoming deputies, mayors, ministers, and Zörgiebels, just as in Germany and Britain." That is really "the dual problem." In 1917, when in power, Menshevism defended the bourgeoisie against the October Revolution. However, we saw that the bourgeoisie, distrustful of this defense, sought out a Kornilov. At the present moment, Menshevism offers to open the way to the bourgeoisie by a "democratic" liquidation of October. But the restorers of capitalism are perfectly well aware of the illusoriness of an "evolutionary" return to capitalism. The bourgeois counterrevolution would not (if it could) be able to achieve its goal except through a long civil war and a return to poverty in this country which the Soviet power has just raised from the ruins.

A second edition of Russian capitalism would be far from being a simple continuation and development of prerevolutionary — or more precisely, of prewar — capitalism, and not only because a long period of war and revolution separates them, but also because world capitalism — the master of Russian capitalism — has suffered profound collapses and great reversals in this period.

Finance capital has become infinitely more powerful, while the world feels itself increasingly restricted. A new Russian capitalism would be nothing but an exploiting colonial capitalism of the Asiatic type. The commercial, industrial, and financial Russian bourgeoisie — to the extent that it has succeeded in saving its liquid capital — has been entirely absorbed into the system of foreign capital. A restoration of a bourgeois Russia would mean for the "genuine," "serious" restorationists nothing but the opportunity for colonial exploitation of Russia from outside. In the same way, in China, foreign capital operates through the mediation of compradores, a kind of Chinese intermediary which greases its palm on the robbery of its own people by world imperialism.

A capitalist restoration in Russia would be a chemically pure culture of Russian compradorism with the "political and juridical premises" of the Denikin-Chiang Kai-shek type. The whole thing fitted out, naturally, with "God" and "a Slavic binding," i.e., with everything) murderers need for the "soul."

But how long would such splendor last?The restoration would see rising before it not only the worker question but also and particularly the peasant question. Under Stolypin, the fairly successful formation of a layer of farmers was tied up with such painful processes of proletarianization and pauperization, and with such an aggravation of all the social cleavages in the countryside, that the peasant war of 1917 acquired from them an irresistible impulse. The bourgeoisie and the social democracy have no other way than Stolypin's, nor can they have on the basis of existent capitalism. The only difference is that the number of peasant farms, which formerly amounted to between twelve and fifteen million, would today reach twenty-five million. And the setting up from them of a capitalist layer would mean such a proletarianization and pauperization that the processes leading up to 1917 would pale by comparison. Even if the counterrevolution renounced the restoration of the gentry — but how could it renounce it? — the agrarian question, nevertheless, would rise before it like the specter of a second flood. Even in China where the gentry caste scarcely exists, the agrarian question enjoys an explosive power equal almost to that which we see in India. We repeat: capitalist development in Russia, even in a more advanced form, would be a development of the Chinese type. This is the only solution possible to Menshevism's "dual problem."

The conclusion is clear: even apart from the socialist perspective it opens up, the Soviet regime is for Russia in present world conditions the only thinkable regime of national independence. True, without a Serafim Sarovsky and the letter "yat."

Old Contradictions in New Conditions

To get a good understanding of the fundamental difficulties in the USSR today it is necessary not to lose sight of the fact that the present economic development — despite the catastrophic depths of the October break — is a continuation, although in greatly altered form, of fundamental prerevolutionary and prewar processes. If, on the one hand, the hopes of liberalism and the social democracy are entirely based on their attachments to the past (capitalism, the February revolution, democracy), their criticisms of the present economic regime, on the other, rest on totally ignoring the succession between yesterday and today. Things are presented as if the contradiction between country and town emerged from the October Revolution, whereas in fact it created the very possibility of its victory by combining the proletarian uprising with the agrarian revolution.

The crisis in the Soviet countryside is basically the crisis of a backward rural and small-proprietor economy. The possessing classes had done everything in their power in the past to encourage, to advance, and to consolidate large agricultural enterprises: in the so-called "liberating" reforms of 1861, in the struggle against the 1905 revolution by means of Stolypin's counterrevolutionary laws, and finally in the policy during the period of dual power in 1917. But all these were of no avail.

Inside the backward Russian peasantry, suddenly transplanted into the new conditions of the market, the forced development of Russian capitalism under the pressure of world finance capital sharply accentuated the tendency to increase the size of holdings. It was capitalism itself that heightened to the most extreme limits the precapitalist "dreams” of the peasant for "a new division of the land." And the attempts — very realistic so far as its aims were concerned — to oppose to this peasant tendency a policy of installing a capitalist farm system failed "only" because the tempo of capitalist development as a whole did not coincide with the degree of evolution into farmers of the peasantry. The submission of czarist Russia to the world market and to finance capital, with all the commercial, fiscal, and military consequences flowing from it for the peasantry, advanced with seven-league boots; at the same time, the formation of a stratum of big farm owners proceeded at a "snail's pace." It was on this discord of tempo that the bourgeois and landlord counterrevolution of 1907-17 broke its head.

Thus the revolutionary nationalization of the land was the only possible way to free landholding relations of the extraordinary tangle that had accumulated on the land during the whole preceding historical epoch. Nationalization meant that all or almost all the land passed to the peasantry. Given the heritage of equipment and methods of cultivation, this transfer of land to the peasants meant a further subdivision of the land and consequently prepared the way for a new agricultural crisis.

This contradiction between town and country inherited from the past could not be liquidated in a dozen years. On the contrary, when the workers' state, having rid itself of its enemies, seriously set about the industrial development of the country, this contradiction had to become heightened. Given the general growth of the population and the desire of the young generation of the countryside for independence, the splitting up of farms proceeded at an increasingly accelerated rate. The development of industry and culture, with the inevitable sacrifices in the countryside, went fast enough to awaken in the peasants fresh interests and new needs but too slowly to satisfy the peasants on the scale of the entire class. That is how the contradiction between town and country reached a new and exceptional degree of sharpness. And the basis of this contradiction remains as before the hopeless isolation of the class of backward small peasants.

Then what difference is there between this situation and that of before the revolution? It is enormous.

First of all, the absence today of large estates makes it no longer possible for the peasant class to seek a way out of its economic impasse, or more exactly its twenty-five million impasses, through increasing land holdings by the expropriation of the possessing classes. To the greatest advantage for the future of the country, this stage has been passed entirely. But by this very fact the peasant class is led to seek other ways.

In the second place — and this is a no less important difference — at the head of the country is a government that, whatever its faults, is trying by all means to raise the material and cultural level of the peasants. The interests of the working class — still the ruling class of the country whatever the changes that have taken place in the structure of the revolutionary society — lie in the same direction.

From this broad historical, and in the last resort only rational, point of view, the liberals' assertion that the collectivization as a whole is the product of naked violence appears absolutely absurd. After this maximum possible subdivision, the result of an old peasant way of making use of the land stocks of the revolution, the integration of the plots and their combination into larger agricultural holdings has become a matter of life or death for the peasant class.

In previous historical epochs, in its struggle against the shortage of land to farm, the peasantry sometimes rose in revolt and sometimes fled in a large colonizing current to uncultivated lands and sometimes threw itself with bowed head into all kinds of religious sects, the heavenly void compensating for territorial shortages.

Marx once said that the peasant, besides his prejudices, also had his judgment. These two characteristics run in various combinations through his whole evolution. Beyond a certain limit, the vital realism of the peasant comes up against monstrous superstitions. And the "prejudice" flourishes the better the less his "judgment" finds itself able to resolve the situation of the peasant economy from which there seems no way out.

In a fresh form, at a higher historical stage and in different proportions, peasant prejudices and judgment have found expression in the general collectivization too. Twelve years of revolution, including War Communism, NEP and its different phases, have led the peasant to think that to get out of his backward state he must seek new ways. Only these new ways have not yet been tested and their advantages have still not been checked. Government policy from 1923 to 1928 had directed the attention of the upper layers of the countryside toward a development and improvement of individual farms. The lower layers were still disoriented. The contradiction between town and country came to light this time in the question of the grain reserves. The government swiftly changed course and, closing the free market, opened wide the gates to collectivization. The peasantry streamed through them. In the peasantry's new hopes, prejudice was combined with judgment. Alongside the consciousness of a minority, the herd instinct of the majority poured into the movement. The government was caught unawares and — alas! — itself introduced a lot more prejudice than judgment into the matter. A monstrous "national" excess was discovered. With brilliant hindsight the leadership tried to exchange it for little provincial excesses. There is a large selection of prerecorded discs on this subject at the Central Committee secretariat, on provincial, district, and regional scales.

What Is the Essence of the Excess?

In his very long and, truth to tell, dreadfully illiterate "Reply to Collective Farm Comrades," Stalin uses double-talk about "certain people" who had a wrong approach to the middle peasants and about "certain others" who have failed to understand the collective farm code (be it said in passing, the code was published after all the excesses) — and of the grief resulting from this for the learned leadership. All this is very interesting and in places even touching. However, Stalin does not say how 40 percent of the peasants (for from the 60 percent collectivized, as announced in March, Stalin now makes a reduction without any "retreat" — of 20 percent) will manage to run enormous agricultural enterprises without the equipment which alone can justify a large size for such enterprises, not to speak of their social form.

However great his "individualism," faced with irreducible economic facts the peasant is compelled to beat a retreat. Proof of this is to be found all through the history of peasant cooperation, even in capitalist countries. The very subdivision of production necessarily leads to the socialization of commercial and credit functions. After the 1905 revolution, cooperation in czarist Russia embraced millions of peasants, but this cooperation was limited to purchase and sale, credit and saving only, and did not include production. The cause of the maintenance of this subdivision in production should be sought not in peasant psychology but in the character of the peasant's equipment and methods of production; there is the nub of his individualism.

When the unexpected rate of collectivization, brought about by the impossible situation due to the fragmentation of peasant farms and whipped on by the triple knout of the bureaucracy, demonstrated the glaring contradiction between the means of production and the dynamic of collectivization, a face-saving theory was invented according to which the large enterprises with primitive equipment were to be considered socialist manufactories. That sounds scientific — but even the scholastics knew that changing the name of a thing does not change its nature.

The agricultural manufactory could be justified only if there were an advantage to production in manufactory methods of tilling the soil, and not in the "collectivized" form of the farms. We have still to learn why this advantage has not shown itself to this day.

Obviously, one can always prove by adroit statistical combinations that even the collectivization of the simplest peasant equipment can have advantages. This thought is at present being monotonously repeated in speeches, articles in the press, and circulars, but good care is taken not to illustrate it with living experience. The large peasant family is the most "natural" form of all collectives. But it was this that underwent the crudest decay after October. Can it seriously be imagined that on the same production basis it will be possible to build a substantial collective made up of families who do not know one another?

Cooperation in large-scale production and yet based on peasant equipment has already been put to the test of history; that was the case with the seignorial lands given to the peasants for exploitation in exchange for goods in kind. What do we find? As a general rule, these estates were even worse managed than the peasants' land. After the 1905 revolution, these estates were liquidated en masse and the Peasant Bank sold them off in lots to the peasants. So "cooperation" in production based on a combination of seignorial lands and peasant equipment was shown to be absolutely nonviable from the economic point of view. On the other hand, the large estate based on exploitation by machine, on the regular rotation of crops, etc., emerged unscathed from the shocks of 1905 and the years that followed. Except that the October Revolution nationalized them. It is true that in the first case we are dealing only with seignorial lands. But the danger lies in this: that with the artificial, i.e., too-precipitate formation of large collective farms, where the work of the individual peasant is drowned in the work of tens and hundreds of other peasants like himself using the same individual equipment, it could happen that the exploitation of the land, where personal initiative is lacking, would be inferior to that in individual peasant holdings.

A collective farm based on the simple combination of peasant equipment is to a socialist agricultural holding as the seignorial holding entrusted to the peasant in exchange for goods in kind is to the large capitalist holding. Which is a merciless condemnation of the idea of "socialist manufactories."

Exchanging the collective farms' material base for a theoretical flight of fancy, Bukharin explains that, given the lagging of the agricultural growth rates behind the industrial, "the socialist reconstruction of agriculture was the only possible way out." General collectivization is thus regarded not as a materially prepared stage in the development of production relations in agriculture, but the only "way out” of the present difficulties. This way, the problem is put from the angle of pure administrative teleology.

Bukharin is obviously correct when he says that the process operating today is not a simple return to the forms of "War Communism." Indeed, it is in no way a return to the past. The present turn is pregnant with important consequences for the future. But the whole question lies in knowing whether the proportions and the relations are correct. Now, along with promise for the future of socialism, this turn also includes direct and mortal dangers. Bukharin only sketches them lightly: "As a result of the development of the collective farms and state farms, the gigantic demand for complicated machinery, tractors, combined harvesters, chemical fertilizers, etc., exceeds the supply and here the 'scissors' are still widening, and rapidly at that" These extraordinary lines are embedded in the text of an article of triumph, without any other comment. But the increase in the widening of the "scissors" between the foundations and the roof can mean nothing but the coming collapse of the whole structure.

Bringing out the importance of the planning element in the collectivization of agriculture, and the importance of close links between the district collective farm, industry, and the local Soviet apparatus, Bukharin says, "Here we have in embryonic form the future overcoming of bureaucratism." Yes, in embryonic form. But woe to him who takes this embryonic form for a child's form, or the child's form for the adolescent's. When it is not justified by a sufficient technological base, the collective farm leads inevitably to the formation of a parasitic economic bureaucracy, the worst of all. The peasant, who has often appeared in history as the passive support for all kinds of state bureaucratism, absolutely does not tolerate bureaucratism in the immediate economic sphere — that should never be lost sight of.

Collectivization must transform the nature of the peasant, says Bukharin. That needs no discussion. But for that the tractor, the rotary plow, the combined harvester are needed, not the "idea" of them. Platonism in the productive process has never had any success. True, the quantity of tractors, at present absolutely negligible, should, according to the plan, grow ever faster. But present collective farms cannot be built on future tractors. Moreover, tractors need fuel. The proper distribution of fuel over immense areas presents a gigantic problem of production, organization, and transportation. But even a tractor with fuel is nothing in itself; it becomes effective only as an integral part of a whole chain in which the links are technological development and great achievement in general. In any case, all of that is realizable. All of that will be realized. But there is still needed "an exact computation of the timing" — without which an economic operation, just like a military one, will fail. Under favorable internal and international conditions, the material and technological conditions of agriculture could change completely during the coming ten to fifteen years, and insure a production base for collectivization. Only, during these same ten to fifteen years which separate us from such a result it could also happen that there will be many opportunities for overthrowing the Soviet power. But, alas, there is nothing to be gained from Bukharin. Spurning reality, this time with his left foot, he rushes off in "a mad gallop" toward the highest sphere of metaphysical speculation, and we expect to see him again answering for the pots Stalin has broken. However, it is not Bukharin we are interested in.

While collectivization was going full speed ahead, the world bourgeois press — at least the most perspicacious, i.e., the most capable of long-term provocation — repeated in every tone of voice that this time there could be no retreat. Either the experiment would be carried through to the end or the Soviet dictatorship would be defeated; and from its point of view even "carrying through" the experiment could mean nothing but defeat. On its side, the official Soviet press, from the beginning of the campaign for collectivization, trumpeted forth unceasingly the triumph of an uninterrupted advance, without any turning back or reverses. Stalin openly called on the poor peasants to "exterminate ruthlessly" the kulak — as a class. Only the Left Opposition introduced a discordant note, publicly warning since the previous autumn that in the confusion of badly harmonized tempos lay the elements for an inevitable crisis in the most immediate future. Events were not slow to show that only the capitalist press at one pole and the Communist Left press at the other knew what was what. The offensive on the peasant front soon exposed its contradictions, aggravating them immediately to an extreme degree. Then came the accusations of excesses, the facilitating of resignation from the collective farms, the halting in practice of the "de-kulakization," etc. At the same time, it was absolutely forbidden to call this retreat "a retreat." And nobody yet knows what tomorrow holds in store.

One day it will be necessary to draw up the balance sheet. If the ruling party does not do it, it will be done by the elemental process of development, on the back of the dictatorship. The sooner, the more widely, and the more boldly comes this revision of the "plans" — more exactly: the more quickly a collectively worked-out plan is introduced into the chaos of menacing "success," the less painful will be the operation of correcting all the errors committed, and the easier will it be to moderate the sharpest disproportions between the development of town and country and the "time span," which is closer, moreover, to the maturing "time span" of the European revolution.

The present disorderly retreat masked by bureaucratic fables and grandiloquence is the worst thing possible. The party is troubled — but remains silent. There lies the main danger.

Only the Party Can Find a Way Out

It was in a constant struggle between parties and currents that the bourgeoisie conquered and came to preside over the destinies of society, a struggle which often took the form of civil war. True, the proletariat is much more homogeneous than the bourgeoisie, but this homogeneity is far from absolute. The workers' bureaucracy, besides constituting an instrument for the proletariat to influence other classes, constitutes equally an instrument through which other classes influence the proletariat. The complex of world relations, which in the last analysis says the decisive word, joins together here. All this in toto explains sufficiently why on the basis of the proletarian revolution there can arise and develop inside the leading party profound differences, which take on a factional character. A mere prohibition cannot change this.

The inevitable struggle about the right road to follow — to the extent that the struggle is waged not only on the basis of but in the interests of the dictatorship — must be conducted by methods that reduce to a strict minimum the cost of working out a correct political line. But the Stalinist bureaucracy has tried to rid itself quite simply of any political cost flowing from the existence of a party. Unfortunately, however, the greatest cost proves to result from the bureaucratic zigzag policy. These zigzags are inseparable from the regime of an apparatus that has escaped from the control of a party and each time evades the responsibility for its own mistakes. It would be fatal to imagine that the dictatorship of the proletariat has a right to an infinite number of zigzags. On the contrary, this historical "credit" is limited.

The party congress has not been called for two and a half years, during which time the policy has varied sharply on many occasions and on the most fundamental questions. And the present congress, convened against the wishes of "the top," is not considered at all by the ruling apparatus as a way of getting out of internal difficulties but rather as an annoying mishap and a real danger. At the time of the civil war, congresses met every year and sometimes twice a year, whereas now, in time of peace, after the incontestable successes of socialist industry and after — as the apparatus claims — "the turn of the peasantry to socialism is assured," how do we explain that the internal life of the party has reached such a state of tension that a congress becomes a burden, a mystery, and a danger?

The reply could be that the main enemy is not the internal bourgeoisie but the external one, which since the war has become still more powerful. And that would be true. But if the socialist base has really been consolidated internally, external danger in no way explains the bureaucratization of the regime. A socialist society would be able to struggle very well against external enemies on the basis of the widest, fullest, and most unlimited democracy. No; the fact that the internal regime grows systematically worse can have only internal reasons. External pressure is to be understood only in connection with the internal relations between classes.

Whoever explains and justifies the depressed character of the internal regime by the need for a struggle against an internal enemy thereby implicitly admits that the relation of forces has altered in recent years in a direction unfavorable to the proletariat and its party. But how can the kulaks today constitute a greater danger than was offered in the past, at the time of the civil war, by the bourgeoisie with and including the same kulaks, when the old ruling classes had not yet lost their confidence-counting on the rapid fall of Bolshevism — and when they still had their armies? Such an admission would contradict the obvious. And in any case, it cannot be reconciled with the whole official teaching, which sees around it nothing but the continuous strengthening of the socialist sector and the ousting of the capitalist sector.

Less comprehensible still is the reason why every disagreement with the leadership, i. e., with the militarized Stalinist faction, every attempt at criticism, every proposal not anticipated "at the top," leads to an immediate and organized pogrom, carried out in silence like a pantomime; after which follows a "theoretical" liquidation resembling a burial rite sung by sextons and choir leaders from the ranks of the red professors.

To admit that the present party regime is the only possible one and that its evolution is natural and irreversible is to admit that the party is dead, and consequently the revolution too. Would it be necessary to change much in order to decree now that henceforth party congresses will convene only "as the need arises"? What difference would such a measure make to the present regime? Almost none. But an apparatus that sees itself forced to find within itself sanctions against itself cannot help being dominated by one person. The bureaucracy needs a super-arbiter and for this it nominates the one who best meets its instinct for survival. That is what Stalinism is — a preparation for Bonapartism inside the party.

Bureaucratic centrism begins its career as a current maneuvering between two extreme party currents, one of which reflects the petty-bourgeois line, the other, the proletarian; Bonapartism is a state apparatus that has openly broken from all traditional attachments, including party ones, and from now on maneuvers "freely" between the classes as an imperious "arbiter." Stalinism is preparing Bonapartism, all the more dangerous since it is unaware that it is doing so. It is necessary to understand this. It is very much time to do so.

What then are the factors which, despite the economic successes, have worsened the political situation and furthered tension in the regime of the dictatorship?

These factors are of two kinds: some have their roots in the masses, others in the organs of the dictatorship. Philistines have often repeated that the October Revolution was a product of the "illusions" of the masses. That is true in the sense that neither feudalism nor capitalism educated the masses in the spirit of a materialist interpretation of history. But there are illusions and illusions. The imperialist war which ruined and bled humanity would have been impossible without the patriotic illusions of which the social democracy was the main support. The illusions of the masses with respect to the October Revolution consisted in overestimating hopes for a rapid change in their fate. But have we ever seen anything in history of any grandeur without these creative illusions?

However, it is incontestable that the real course of the revolution brings a deterioration of these illusions of the masses and deducts from the sum total the supplementary credit that was opened up by the masses for the ruling party in 1917. On the other hand, be it noted that in exchange there is a gain in experience and understanding of the real forces of the historical process. But it must never be forgotten that the loss of illusions proceeds much more quickly than the accumulation of theoretical understanding. That is one of the main causes for counterrevolutionary successes in the past, to the extent that these causes are to be sought in the psychological changes that take place within the revolutionary classes.

Another element of danger is in the degeneration of the apparatus of the dictatorship. The bureaucracy has restored many characteristics of a ruling class and that is very much how the working masses consider it. The bureaucracy's struggle for its own preservation stifles the spiritual life of the masses by consciously forcing on it fresh illusions which are no longer in any way revolutionary, and thereby hinders the replacement of lost illusions by a realistic understanding of what is happening. From the Marxist point of view, it is clear that the Soviet bureaucracy cannot change itself into a new ruling class. Its isolation and the increase in its commanding social role lead unfailingly to a crisis in the dictatorship which cannot be resolved except by a rebirth of the revolution on deeper foundations or by a restoration of bourgeois society. It is precisely the approach of this second alternative, felt by everyone even if few understand it clearly, that gives to the present regime this extreme tension.

It is incontestable that the growth of the bureaucracy reflects the general contradictions in the building of socialism in one country. In other words, even under a healthy leadership, bureaucratism would still be a danger within some limit or other. It is all a matter of these limits and of timing. To admit that world, especially European, capitalism will exist for many more years would mean admitting the inevitable fall of the Soviet regime, in which the pre-Bonapartist degeneration of the apparatus would prepare the way for upheavals of a Thermidorean or even directly Bonapartist type. We must never lose sight of the possibility of similar perspectives if we wish to understand what is happening. The whole question lies in the timing, which cannot be anticipated for it depends on the clash of living forces. If it had not been for the shameful and disastrous defeats of the revolution in Germany and China the world situation today would have been different Thus the objective conditions bring us back again to the problem of leadership. And it is not only a question of one person or of a group (although this question is far from being unimportant). The problem is the interrelationship of the leadership and the party, the party and the class.

It is precisely from this angle that the question of the regime in the Soviet Communist Party and the Comintern is posed. We have been told of a fresh theory by some unsteady elements of the Opposition (Okudzhava and others) according to which a more healthy regime should "hatch" by itself from the present "left" Stalinist policy. This optimistic fatalism is the worst caricature of Marxism. The present leadership is not a blank sheet of paper. It has its own history, intimately bound up with its "general line," from which it cannot be separated. The history of the Stalinist regime is the history of unprecedented mistakes and the ravages they caused among the international proletariat. The "left” turn in the present leadership is entirely a function of yesterday's right course. The sharper this turn was, the more pitiless was the bureaucratic pressure so as not to give the party time to get its bearings in the contradictions between yesterday and today.

The fated ossification of the party apparatus is not simply a product of objective contradictions but the result of the concrete history of the particular leadership through which these contradictions infiltrated. It is in this leadership with its artificial selection of individuals at top and bottom that all the mistakes of the past are crystallized and all its mistakes of the future are laid down. And above all it is this leadership that contains the basis for its own further Bonapartist degeneration. It is along this road that the most menacing, the most acute, and the most immediate danger for the October Revolution is concealed.

The left zigzags do not in any way mean that the centrist leadership is capable of transforming itself into a Marxist leadership by its own internal bureaucratic efforts. The left zigzags mean something quite different: both in the present objective conditions and in the suppressed feelings of the working class, a deep resistance to the Thermidorean trend is breaking out; going over to this Thermidorean course is still not possible without real counterrevolutionary upheavals. Although it stifles the party, the leadership cannot help pay attention to it, because through its channel — however incomplete and muffled — there come warnings and appeals from the class forces. Discussion of problems, ideological struggle, meetings and congresses have given way to an information agency inside the party, to spying on telephone communications, and to censorship of correspondence. But even by these devious ways the class pressure is felt. That means that the sources of the left turn and the reasons for its abruptness are to be found outside the leadership. The latter conditions only the lack of reflection, the lack of seriousness, and the tail-endism of this left turn.

Making peace with the leadership quite simply because, though it has neither recognized nor understood its errors and crimes, it has turned on its axis under the pressure of external events — and is about to accumulate fresh mistakes in a new direction — is to give proof that one is nothing but a wretched philistine incapable even of rising to the level of a functionary, and certainly not a revolutionary. But perhaps there is really "no other way," as the Radeks, Zinovievs, Kamenevs, Smilgas, and other pensioned-off goats bleat? Their whining can be interpreted only as a conviction that the revolution is lost anyway and since one must die, it is better to die with the "people": even death is fine in company. We can never have anything in common with such rotten sentiments.

Nowhere is it written and nobody has shown that the present party, nonexistent at this very moment as a party but capable nevertheless of silently turning the leadership through 180 degrees, could not, given the necessary initiative, regenerate itself internally by means of a profound reorganization of forces on the basis of a collective analysis of the course that has been followed. Much less flexible and more ossified organisms than the Communist Party have more than once in history shown a capacity for resurrection and renewal through a profound internal crisis. It is in this way — and in this way alone — that the problem is posed for us on the national and international scale. The point of view of the Opposition has nothing in common with the self-satisfied metaphysics of Comrade Okudzhava and others, because it presupposes an intense struggle of tendencies and consequently the highest degree of activity on the part of the Left Opposition. Only political bankrupts leave their posts at critical times, throwing the responsibility onto the objective march of events and looking for a way out in optimistic oracles. The herd instinct and tail-endism characterize marvelously periods of backsliding and degeneration. It was in struggle against them that Bolshevism was born. The Left Opposition continues its historical line. Its duty is not to dilute itself in centrism but to step up all of its activities.