In The Land of The Great
left Communist groups of the extreme left were not afraid to grapple with
the whole revolutionary experience in Russia, contrary to the Trotskyist
Opposition, in the eyes of which the Lenin epoch remained sacrosanct. Morevoer,
all these extremists groupings came into being as early as 1919-1921 in
more or less sharp opposition to Lenin's policy. The role of Lenin in the
revolution was the subject of heated discussions during the time when l
was incarcerated in the Verkhne-uralsk isolator. In its discussions with
others as in its own meetings the Trotskyist Opposition defended the view
that Lenin was always right. In order not to run counter to this dogma:
Trotsky had long 'recognized' the correctness of Lenin's position in all
the disputes that had set them at logger- heads in the past. Trotsky also
approved Zinoviev's proposal to called his oppositional group, 'Bolshevik-leninists'.
Still later, Trotsky reinforced the dogma that the correct position in
regard to the permanent revolution (and of all Trotskyist concepts, that
is certainly the one of most value) was not his, but Lenin's. In reality,
Trotsky added, Lenin was in fact a proponent of the permanent revolution,
and that was why their disagreement was purely formal and of no great importance.
This led the Trotskyist Opposition to develop this new theme: disagreements
between Lenin and Trotsky had never been very deep; Lenin and Trotsky had
always been in agreement on basic issues and disagreements bore only on
points of detail. The Trotskyist Opposition reconciled Lenin's past with
that of Trotsky. Refusing to adopt a critical attitude towards either,
it smeared a bureaucratic veneer over the most hotly debated aspects of
the two tendencies. To the myth fabricated by Stalin, it did not oppose
a serious study of the facts, but another myth.
the other hand, some Trotskyists, those of the 'V.B.' group ( Voinstvuyshchii
Bolshevik - Militant Bolshevik), the '100% Trotskyists', went even further,
declaring that if the disagreements between Lenin and Trotsky had always
been very grave, it was Trotsky who had always been right. A characteristic
fact - the Trotskyists, who loved quotations, nearly always referred to
Trotsky, and only with rare exceptions to Lenin.
Democratic Centralist group found itself in a very different position when
Lenin was in question. Unlike the Trotskyists, the group had its origins
In the Bolshevik old guard. Consequently, as much in its general conceptions
as in the way its members expressed them, it was 'Leninist'. At its origins
In 1919 and 1921 it represented the local apparatus,'His Majesty's opposition'
against the centre.In the name of "democratic centralism'' It was opposed
to the bureaucratic centralism of Lenin's Central Committee. Hence its
name. Deeming that Lenin had departed from his own programme, or that he
did not see where his policies were heading, the group had been set up
to defend Leninism against Lenin. Without wishing to admit it to themselves!
they set the Lenin of the revolution's decline against the Lenin of its
rise. They criticized the policy of Lenin in power, taking their stand
on the Leninist principles of The State and Revolution. But, profound as
that 1917 work of Lenin's was, nonetheless, it did not supply all the answers
to the new problems raised by the course of the revolution. Finally, the
group had dithered for ten years ( 1919-29), now capitulating to Lenin's
ultimatum, now supporting the Trotskyists in their struggle against Stalin.
Its orientation, 'more royalist than the king', proved to be sterile. The
Five Year Plan shook the group to its foundations. The majority, like the
majority of Trotskyists, capitulated. They justified their capitulation
by paying that from the moment when NEP and the bourgeoisie were liquidated
socialism was being built and they were in the wrong. If the condition
of the workers is wretched, that is because one cannot make an omelette
without breaking eggs; before the complete construction of socialism a
final difficult stage has to be traversed-that of the liquidation of the
last capitalist class, the petty bourgeoisie. That is how Timofei Sapronov,
leader of the group and one of the best-known worker Bolsheviks in Russia,
explained the standpoint of the 'capitulators'.
one holds to Leninist principles on this, the attitude of the capitulatory
is not lacking m logic. Lenin's whole strategy after October rested on
the thesis that the petty bourgeoisie and private capitalism alone menaced
the proletariat and socialism. Lenin castigated with an iron hand all the
oppositional forces that spoke of bureaucratism and State capitalism as
a danger threatening the working class. Following the course laid down
by Lenin, the Decemists (Democratic Centralism group), on the eve of the
Five Year Plan, spoke only of the victory of the 'petty-bourgeois counter-revolution'
and the transformation of the U.S.S.R. into a 'petty-bourgcois State'.
The Leninist conception admitted of no other counter-revolution . . . And
thereupon comes the Five Year Plan, which wages war on the petty bourgeoisie
and liquidates it. One had to choose: either remain faithful to the Leninist
thesis and recognize that the Five Year Plan was realizing socialism, or
bow to reality and recognize what even Lenin might have said, the triumph
of the 'third force'-the bureaucracy and State capitalism. Those Decemists
who did not capitulate chose the second course . . . But this re-evaluation
which in fact rejected all the post- October ideas of Lenin, and put in
question even those of pre-October, was effected only slowly, step by step.
And the small group of Decemists in our isolator split on this occasion
into three or four fractions.
continued to think that Lenin, after October, although making some small
mistakes, had a correct attitude, and that the line only began to deviate
with Stalin. Others considered that already in Lenin's time, with the establishment
of NEP, the bourgeois-democratic structure of the revolution had got the
upper hand of the socialist structure and that Lenin himself did not realize
what he was doing. The third fraction declared that in spite of all proclamations,
the socialist structure of the. ' revolution had always been weaker than
the petty-bourgeois, structure. The revision of Leninism consequently bore
no longer only on State capitalism but also on the dictatorship of the
proletariat. In the beginning, when Lenin, in 1920, upheld the thesis of
the single party and the dictatorship, the . Decemists had approved and
had then broken with the Workers Opposition, who at once denounced them.
Experience of the dictatorship of the party led them to reject their original
views. They now began to understand that there could not be democracy within
the party without workers' democracy. The reassessment of Lenin s political
ideas was more rapid than of his economic ideas. During two years of exile
the opportunity was given me to follow all these twists and turns. The
end result of this was a critical, not to say hostile attitude towards
the practice and the theories of the post-octobcr Lenin. In the criticism
of the Lenin of the revolutionary period the tone was set by the Workers
Opposition of 1920, more accurately, by its left wing, which took an organized
form in 1922, under the name of the Workers Group. In the language, then
current, members of the group were called 'Myasnikovists', from the name
of their lead, Myasnikov, a well-known worker Bolshevik.
was one of the most outstanding figures of the Bolshevik revolution. The
Workers Opposition and the Workers Group were, in origin, from the Bolshevik
old guard. Butt contrary to the Decemists, they criticized Lenin's course
of action from the beginning, and not on details but as a whole. The Workers
Opposition denounced Lenin's economic line. The Workers Group went even
farther and attacked the political regime and the single party established
by Lenin prior to the NEP. In the person of Serge Tiyunov, the Workers
Group in our isolator possessed a highly educated, very active, uncompromising
representative. Moreover, according to some reports, he was not devoid
of Nechayevist traits.
put as the basis of its programme Marx's watchword for the 1st International
- "The emancipation of the workers must be the task of the workers themselves'',
the Workers Group declared war from the start on the Leninist concept of
the 'dictatorship of the party' and the bureaucratic organization of production,
enunciated by Lenin in the initial period of the revolution's decline.
Against the Leninist line, they demanded organization of production by
the masses them- selves, beginning with factory collectives. Politically,
the Workers Group demanded the control of power and of the party by the
worker masses. These, the true political leaders of the country, must have
the right to withdraw power from any political party, even from the Communist
Party, if they judged that that party was not defending their interests.
Contrary to the Decemist and the majority of the Workers Opposition, for
whom the demand for 'workers' democracy' was practically limited to the
economic domain, and who tried to reconcile it with the single party',
the Workers Group extended its struggle for workers' democracy to the demand
of freedom for the workers to choose among the competing political parties
of the worker milieu. Socialism could only be the work of free creation
by the workers. While that which was being constructed by coercion, and
given the name of socialism, was for them nothing but bureaucratic State
capitalism from the very beginning.
1923, during the largest of the strikes led by the Workers Group, they
appealed to the Russian and the international proletariat through a Manifesto,
in which they set out their views, clearly and without beating abort the
bush. Here they stigmatized the nascent tendency of Bolshevism to base
itself, not on the working class, but on the 'cult of the leader'. This
Manifesto is one of the most remarkable documents of the Russian revolution.
Its publication at the moment of the internal collapse of the Russian revolution
had the same significance as Babeuf's Manifesto of the Equals at the moment
of the internal collapse of the French revolution. For a long time in the
isolator I abstained from participating in discussions on the role of Lenin.
I belonged to that young Communist generation that had been raised on the
idea that Lenin was sacrosanct. For me, it went without saying that Lenin
was always right'. The results-the revolutionary conquest of power, and
holding it-spoke in his favour. Thus, I and my generation concluded that
the tactics, and the means, . too, were justified.
1 arrived at the isolator, it was in this sense that I intervened. So l
was not a little put out to hear the Decemist, Prokopenya give me this
ironic advice "Useless to get heated, comrade Ciliga, about Lenin's struggle
against the bureaucracy. You rely on one of the last articles he wrote
before his death, the one on the reform of the Workers and Peasants Inspection.
Did he call on the masses to organize themselves against the bureaucracy?
Not at all. He proposed the creation of a special organ with a well-paid
staff, a super-bureaucratic organ to combat . . . the bureaucracy!'' "No
foreign comrade'' Prokopenya continued,"At the end of his life Lenin lost
confidence in the worker mass. He banked on the bureaucratic apparatus,
but, fearing that it would overdo things, he sought to restrict the evil
by making one part of the apparatus control the other." After a moment's
silence, she went on: "obviously, there's no point in shouting this from
the rooftops; that would only give Stalin additional arguments. But it
is no less a fact.'' If I felt little inclination for a study of the discussions
and quarrels of the past, it was because I was overwhelmed by the problems
of the present.To the extent that historical problems interested me, it
seemed to me that these groups over-estimated the importance of their old
differences with Lenin. The fate of the revolution, in my opinion, was
decided by the relationship of class forces, and not by the formulas or
theses upon which this or that internal tendency had been able to agree.
the fulfilment of the Five Year plan progressed, so the question of organizational,
political, and economic formulas again became correspondingly immediate.
Problems that one might have thought long since settled by history were
suddenly once again on the agenda, and with added force. The suppression
of the petty bourgeoisie and of private capitalism . made it plain that
within the social arena there were no other forces but the bureaucracy
and the proletariat. And now it was at the level of organizational forms
that one had to seek the solution to problems such as the mutual relation
of these organizational forms themselves, and "what is socialism, and how
can it be achieved?'' Technical questions of organization revealed themselves
as social questions. The struggle of the labouring masses against the bureaucratic
tyranny could henceforth only be against the organizational forms that
the bureaucracy had given the economy. But these forms had not been invented
by Stalin. They had been bequeathed him by Lenin. The Russian revolution,
in spite of its antagonisms and internal strife, is an organic whole. And
Lenin cannot be exonerated.
himself to the study of these new questions, the Myasnikovist , Tiyunov.
wrote an essay on the historical dispute over the bureaucratic or the socialist
organization of production. His work was based on a critique of the military
measures taken by Trotsky to organize production during the period of war
communism. The young Decemist, Jacques Kosman wrote a brilliant historical
study on what was called 'the trade union question'. He reached the conclusion
that the manner in which Lenin organized industry had handed it over entirely
into the hands of the bureaucracy. And the direct consequence of that recapture
of the factories from the proletariat meant that they had lost the revolution.
. Another Decemist Misha Shapiro, wrote a refutation, supporting the traditional
viewpoint of the Decemists : the disputes over the diverse systems for
organizing production had no principled significance. According to Shapiro,
the Workers Opposition did not represent the interests of the proletariat,
but those of the trade-union bureaucracy. And if the demands conceding
the transfer of the factories to the trade unions had been satisfied, the
only difference would have been the management of the factories by the
trade- union bureaucracy in place of the party bureaucracy.
be able to fight the bureaucracy the proletariat needed freedom: freedom
to organize, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly. But that led to
the argument of freedom to choose one's party, upheld by Myasnikov, and
condemned formerly by Lenin, by Trotsky, and by the Decemists. And even
then the major part of the Decemists and almost all the ' Trotskyists continued
to consider that 'freedom of party' would be 'the end of the revolution'.
'Freedom to choose one's party-that is Menshevism'', was the Trotskyists'
final verdict."T'he proletariat is socially homogenous and that is why
its interests can only be represented by a single party,'' the Decemist
Davidov wrote. "And why should not democracy within the party be coupled
with its dictatorship outside?'', the Decemist Nyura Yankovskaya wanted
to know."The Paris Commune succumbed because over there they had too many
parties. But with us there is only one. How, then? has it happened that
our revolutions too, has succumbed?'', Dora Zak retorted to Davidov. The
young Decemist Volodya Smirnov even went so far as to say:"There has never
been a proletarian revolution, nor a dictatorship of the proletariat in
Russia, there has simply been a 'popular revolution' from below and a dictatorship
from above. Lenin was never an ideologist of the proletariat. From beginning
to end he was an ideologist of the intelligentsia.'' These ideas of Smirnov
were bound up with the general view that the world was steering straight
towards a new social form - State capitalism, with the bureaucracy as the
new ruling class. It put on the same level Soviet Russia, Kemalist Turkey,
fascist Italy, Germany on the march to Hitlerism, and the America of Hoover-roosevelt.
"communism is an extremist fascism, fascism is a moderate communism'',
he wrote in his article, Comfascism. That conception left the forces
and perspectives of socialism some- what in the shade. The majority of
the Decemist faction, Davidov, Shapiro, etc., considered that young Smirnov's
heresy had gone beyond all bounds, and he was expelled from the group,
amid uproar. Grasping the importance of bygone problems for the understanding
of new problems, for a precise assessment of future tasks, I set myself
to studying them seriously. The nuances in the interpretation of these
questions by the extreme left milieu favoured critical examination and
self-determination. And, studying them after an intense revolutionary experience,
I approached them in a state of mind obviously different from that of comrades
who ten years before had found in them reasons for splitting.I had behind
me fifteen years of the history of the revolution and could judge the past
with a mind both clearer and more aware than theirs.
in subjecting the 'Lenin epoch' to a critical analysis I entered the holy
of holies of Communism and my own Ideology. I subjected Lenin to criticism,
the leader and the prophet, crowned by the immortal glory of the revolution,
and even more by the legend and the mystification of the post- revolutionary
myth. And, in spite of the critical spirit of the surroundings in which
I laved, I entered the sanctuary on tip- toes, so much did I find myself
guilty in listening to that inner voice saying to me:"To understand the
experience and the lessons of the revolution one must shrink from nothing
and show oneself as pitiless as the revolution itself , that also shrank
the farther I penetrated into the sanctuary the more day after day, week
after week, month after month I asked myself the fundamental question:
And is it, perhaps, you also, Lenin? Were you not great only so long as
the masses and the revolution were great? And when the force of the masses
declined, did not your revolutionary spirit equally decline, decline even
it have been possible that, to retain power, you could have betrayed-you,
too-the social interests of the masses? And that what had seduced us, we,
the naive, had been the decision to retain power? And that you had preferred
the bureaucracy victorious to the defeated masses? And that you could have
aided that new bureaucracy to bend the neck of the Soviet masses? Is it
possible that you could have crushed the masses when they did not want
to accommodate themselves to the new order of things? That you could have
slandered them, that you could have distorted the sense of their rightful
aspirations? Lenin, Lenin, what weighs the most- your merits or your crimes?
little store by the motives that inspired you: it was, you thought, better
that the bureaucracy should be the ones to bend the neck of the masses
than to see again the former exploiters, the bourgeoisie and the landlords.
It is possible that the bureaucracy considered the matter important, but
for the masses who bowed their heads it mattered little . . . I set little
store also, Lenin, by the arguments of your defenders: subjectively, your
intentions were the best in the world. It was you yourself, Lenin, who
taught us to judge people, not according to their subjective intentions,
but according to the objective significance of the latter, according to
the social groups in whose interest their activity operates and on whose
behalf they speak. And besides, in your own justifications-very cautious,
it must be said-I find proof that you have yourself subjectively accepted
the regime you were objectively bringing into being. Worse stills Just
when the dictatorship of the bureaucracy was becoming stronger you consciously
(proof of this exists) slandered the worker masses resisting the triumphant
bureaucracy. Yet that resistance- feeble as it was, crushed as at was by
the bureaucracy-is the supreme testament of the revolution. And a new revolution,
truly freeing, socially freeing, the lower orders, can arise in Russia
and elsewhere in the world, only by realizing the programme of the annihilated
Workers Opposition. It is in this return, in this continuity of the history
of mankind, that its progressive tendencies will be carried forward . .
sun sets in the distance, over the Urals, casting on the desert steppes,
the mountains and the prison, the last rays that lighten my cell. It is
the third year of my imprisonment. And it is hard . . . Through the bars
I look with intense yearning at the mountains, the sun, the sky, freedom,
freedom. l am alone in the cell. My cell-mate is in hospital. My soul is
desolate . . . I am in mourning for Lenin. "What have i just done? Have
I not gone mad, a prey to the delirium of prisons?''
us look at this more closely.
1917 it was obviously a question of who would go farthest, the quickest,
be the strongest, the masses or Lenin. Like a hurricane that devastates
everything in its path, they overthrew everything in Russia and the world
that was old, corrupt, deceitful. Truly these were 'days that shook the
world'. Russia was making world history. And because Lenin had known how
to make the heart of humanity beat at that moment of its magnificent, liberating
explosion; because in those days when one saw the grand audacity of that
triumph of the popular masses, he had known how to be one with them and
to lead them, Lenin has forever taken a place of honour in the hearts of
the workers and in the Pantheon of history. And that place is forever assured
him, even if he must, like Cromwell, settle accounts with the masses for
his crimes or those of his successors after the downfall of the revolution;
even if, at some moment of history, his corpse is delivered on the streets
of Moscow to the popular fury, as Cromwell's corpse was hoisted on the
gallows. But from the moment when the old edifice collapsed and Lenin took
power there began the tragic divorce between him and the masses. Imperceptible
at the start, it grew, and finally became fundamental.
worker masses instinctively achieved their complete freedom, entirely achieving
their aims. And it was for that that they made the revolution. Everything
and all at once. Now or never. And it is that which distinguishes the epoch
of revolutions from that of reforms. Going beyond the bounds of the old
socialism of 1905 in order to create the new, the labouring masses of Russia,
in 1917-18, went farther than Lenin initially desired. And the impetus
was so powerful, and the situation so tense, that the masses swept Lenin
up in their wake. Such were the relations between the leader and the masses
at the culminating point of the revolution.
the facts speak for themselves: after the October revolution Lenin did
not want the expropriation of the capitalists, but only 'workers' control';
control by the workers' shopfloor organizations over the capitalists, who
were to continue to retain management of the enterprises. A fierce class
struggle ensued,invalidating Lenin's thesis on the collaboration of the
classes under his power: the capitalists replied with sabotage and the
workers' collectives took over all the factories one after the other .
. . And it was only when the expropriation of the capitalists had been
effected de facto by the worker masses that the Soviet government
recognized it de jure by publishing the decree on the nationalization
in 1918, Lenin answered the socialist aspirations of the workers by opposing
to them the system of State capitalism ('on the model of wartime Germany'),
with the greatest participation of former capitalists in the new Soviet
economy. Lenin was not a partisan of the total destruction of the old economic
order, but of a kind of equilibrium of the old and the new, for their co-existence.
Lenin, who had shortly before attacked 'class collaboration', is now its
apologist. Holder of power, he has begun to feel the influence of the diverse
forces of society, and no longer, as formerly, that of the working class
alone. He has made himself the apologist of the momentary status quo and
no longer of the dynamic of the epoch. The growing civil war came to correct
once again this phase of Leninist philosophy of the revolution. The collapse
of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires gave fresh nourishment to the
minimalist tendencies of the popular masses, and the case for the immediate
achievement of socialism received official sanction. The year 1919 began.
It is the apotheosis of the Russian revolution, its own '1793'. And, as
one has seen, it is once again on the initiative of the masses and not
that of Lenin.
revolutionary apotheosis to bankruptcy is only a step. And at this historic
conjuncture it is Lenin who has the saddest role.If the period of social
upsurge, of revolutionary exaltation, was characterized by the fact that
the masses succeeded in drawing Lenin behind them, the decline and bankruptcy
of the revolution revealed the antagonism between Lenin and the worker
masses, and his victory over them.
then was at stake in the battle? The very principle of socialism, the fate
of industry wrested from the hands of the bourgeoisie. It is that which
causes the divorce of Lenin from the proletariat. It is there that one
must seek the key to an understandingly the duplicity of Lenin's role in
the revolution. The workers had become masters of the factories and had
introduced the principle of collective production. But the liaison between
the various factories depended on the bureaucratic apparatus. And this
was already a symptom of the danger threatening the proletariat. The fate
of socialism in Russia depended on the workers haying the possibility of
ensuring the overall control of production. To achieve a socialist organization
of society, to reorganize the agrarian economy by the socialist method,
the proletariat had above all else to realize the socialist organization
of its own place of abode-industry.
would seem that it was a question here of a compelling truth. Yet it is
always forgotten when the destinies of socialism and the revolution are
investigated. Lenin, placed at the summit of the apparatus, looked at the
problem through the eyes of the apparatus. And that is what a worker delegate
to the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party, Milyunov, pointed out. saying:
"Lenin's attitude is psychologically understandable. Comrade Lenin is president
of the Council of Commissars; it is he who directs our Soviet policy. It
is clear that any action, from whatever quarter, that embarrasses that
direction can only be regarded as petty-bourgeois and particularly harmful.''
In fact, during the civil war the central bureaucracy had not teased to
spread, and had taken over the factories. The management of the factories,
at first nominated by the workers and employees, was now more and more
appointed by the centre. At the same time the original management had gradually
become a one-man management. The factories had begun to slip from the hands
of the workers. And that had happened on Lenin's initiative, and in spite
of the stubborn opposition of the entire workers' fraction of the party,
of all the leading worker Bolsheviks. For his opposition, Tomsky was exiled
by the party to Turkistan; as in the past Sapronov was sent to the Ukraine
for his 'democratic centralism'.
the end of the civil war, the struggle between the bureaucracy and the
proletariat for the mastery of industry was resumed with renewed force.
It entered upon the decisive phase. And it was precisely that struggle
which shattered the system of war communism."In our industry there are
two powers, that of the workers and that of the bureaucrats. And that is
paralyzing production. The only way out is a radical decision: a single
power, either that of worker socialism or that of State capitalism.'' It
was in these terms that Shlyapnikov, theoretician of the Workers Opposition,
denounced the conflict in an article published by Pravda, during the pre-
congress preparatory period for trade union discussion. What was Lenin's
attitude then? He also stood for a no compromise decision, like Shlyapnikov,
but with the difference that he was for sole power to the bureaucracy.
And Lenin himself confessed that, under the guise of stride union discussion,
there was indeed the question of withdrawing control of the factories from
the working class. He declared: "If it is to be to the trade unions,
that is to say to the nine-tenths of the non-party workers, that management
of industry is confided, then of what use is the party?'' So therefore
the party had no more than one-tenth of the working class, in the shape
of worker Bolsheviks, who demanded the same thing as the non-party workers.
So the class line on this decisive question was very sharp: on the one
side the workers (members of the party and non-party), on the other the
bureaucrats (members of the party and non-party) ; behind the workers-socialism;
behind the bureaucrats-typical State capitalism.
compensate for the violation of the factories Lenin promised the workers
the right to strike. As if the workers had made the October revolution
for the right to go on strike! Characteristic are Lenin's relations with
the 'liberals' of his own bureaucratic camp. Standing halfway between the
Workers Opposition and Lenin, the Trotsky, Bukharin, Sapronov groups proposed
a slackening of the unique power of the bureaucracy by the addition, in
a consultative capacity, of the workers' voice in the organization of production.
Lenin opposed this in the most categorical manner and applied the most
energetic organizational measures against them (at the Tenth Congress of
the Party in 1921) for the /wobbling' they displayed. '
did not 'wobble'. Making himself the spokesman of the Soviet bureaucracy
(non-party as well as Communist), with unshakeable firmness he wrested
the factories from the workers (Communist and non-party) wrenched from
them from their essential' conquest, the one weapon they could use to take
another step towards their emancipation, towards socialism. The Russian
proletariat became once more the wage-earning manpower in other people's
factories. Of socialism there remained in Russia no more than the word.
what, many will ask, about 1921 and Krondstadt? The fate of industry, that
is to says the fate of socialism, was settled well before. The suppression
of the Krondstadt revolt was the bureaucracy's reply to the attempt of
the proletariat and the peasantry to unite against it. Lenin and his bureaucracy
were very frightened by this. After the suppression it was NEP, and the
conclusion of the alliance of the bureaucracy and the peasantry against
the proletariat. It was only at the time of the five Year Plan that the
strengthened bureaucracy turned on its provisional allies-the middle peasants
and the kulaks.
liquidated socialism on the economic domain, having liquidated workers'
power in the factories, the bureaucracy had still one more task to accomplish-to
liquidate the political power of the proletariat and the toiling masses.
The organ of that owe: was the great mass organization that surged up during
the revolutionary process-the Soviets. To the mass political organization,
the Soviet, as to the mass economic organization, the trade union,the bureaucracy
opposed the organization in which the participation of the masses was the
weakest but where it was itself the strongest-the Party. To suppress all
possibility of battle in favour of the masses, both within the party itself
and without, the decisions of the Tenth Party Congress were, on Lenin's
initiative, as follows: suppression in the country of all parties except
the Communist Party; suppres- sion in the Party of any opinion and any
group opposing the bureaucratic summit of the Party. The Party was transformed
into an auxiliary organism of bureaucratic Caesarism, just as the Soviets
and the unions had been transformed into auxiliary organisms of the Party.
The bonapartist dictatorship over the Party, the working class and the
country had taken shape.
dumbfounded when i discovered that the Communist Party leaders themselves
were fully aware of this. In his book, The Economy of the Transition
Period,(Russian ad., 1920; cf. p.l 15), ,Bukharin formulated the theory
of proletarian bonapartism ('the personal regime'). And to this passage
Lenin made the note:"lt is true . . . but the word is not to be used.''
(Lenin's Collected Works, Russian ed-, Vol. XI 1930.) One can do it,
but one must not say it-there is all the Lenin of the time when he left
the proletariat for the bureaucracy. Lenin also knew how to disguise the
bonapartist character of the bureaucracy. "It is not possible to realize
the dictatorship of the proletariat through an organization including it
in its entirety'', he wrote, "for the proletariat is still too divided,too
humiliated, too easy to bribe.'' And that is why the dictatorship of the
proletariat "can only be realized by the vanguard, which gathers to itself
all the revolutionary energy of the class: the Party''. Subsequent experience
would demonstrate all the bureaucratic reality of that theory of the dictatorship,
of that theory of the dictatorship of the party over the working class,
of the dictatorship of a select minority over the 'backward majority' of
the proletariat. Once again history , would demonstrate the soundness of
that phrase. from the old revolutionary song:
is no saviour supreme. Neither God nor Caesar, nor tribune,
of the watchword of the workers' movement: The emancipation of the workers
is the task of the workers themselves. The liquidation of the political
power of the proletariat nevertheless required a solid ideological basis'.
oblique approach had to be made, for it was impossible to call things by
their right names. In a revolution initially made in the name of socialism,
it is not convenient to say bluntly: "It is now we who are the new gentlemen,
the new exploiters.''lt is so much easier to call the seizure of the factories
from the workers "a victory for the socialist mode of production''; the
grip of the bureaucracy on the workers-"the strengthening of the dictatorship
of the proletariat''; and the new exploiters-"the vanguard of the proletariat''.
Since the landlords had been 'the protectors of the peasants', the bourgeoisie
'the vanguard of the people', the bureaucracy could well be 'the vanguard
of the proletariat'. The exploiters have always considered themselves the
vanguard of the exploited.
justified his new policy by the weakness of the proletariat. Confiding
the revolution to the hands of the bureaucracy, he asserted that he was
safeguarding it for the workers. Tomorrow's rewards would justify the sacrifices
of today. These rewards are now before our eyes and we know what they are
worth. It must be said, to the honour of the Russian proletariat, that
it sensed immediately, in spite of its weakness, what was being hatched.
It understood that Lenin was acting as if he had said: "You others, you
workers, you are not logical. You want the immediate introduction of socialism,
and you have not the strength to do it. Since you cannot be the masters
of society, you must be the servants: it is the law of the class struggle
in a society of classes. If you resign yourselves to the inevitable, we
will give you all that is possible to give you.''
workers had their own conception of the struggle and they acted as if their
reply to Lenin had been: "No, it is you who are not logical, comrade Lenin.
If we are not strong enough to be the masters of the country, then we must
pass over to active opposition. A class does not surrender, it fights.''
spontaneous opposition of the proletariat to the encroachments of the bureaucracy
was indication enough that the proletariat was not as weak as Lenin asserted.
And if he had been heart and soul with the proletariat, he would have supported
the opposition of the workers that manifested itself throughout the country.
But he thought and acted in the spirit of the bureaucracy, in the spirit
of his power. That proletarian force appeared to him as a menace, and he
applied to the proletariat the laws of the class struggle: a class that
does not surrender must be crushed by the victor. Amid the plaudits of
the whole of the country's new bureaucracy! Lenin, closing the Tenth Congress,
exclaimed: "Now we are finished with the opposition. We shall not tolerate
it an instant longer.'' Effectively, that was the end of the legal opposition.
The doors of prison and exile opened before them, while they awaited the
arrival of the execution squads.
spite of fundamental transformations, the revolution continued to be called,
as in the past, 'proletarian', 'socialist'. Even more: Lenin, himself showed
how necessary it was to marry the habitual phraseology with the actual
subjection of the proletariat. When the workers, veritable victims of bureaucratic
pretensions, set themselves to protest against the bureaucratic mystification
of socialism and demanded satisfaction of their true interests, Lenin dismissed
them en bloc as 'petty bourgeois', 'anarchists', 'counter-revolutionaries'.
The interests of the bureaucracy were, on the contrary, characterized as
'the class interests of the proletariat'. He established in the country
a totalitarian and bureaucratic regime that dubbed 'counter-revolutionary'
everything that had politically and socially a progressive character. He
ushered in that era of lies, of falsifications and distortions in which
today, in its completed and reinforced Stalinist variant? the whole of
Russia lives, and which poisons the entire social life of the international
workers' and democratic movement.
hearing the resolutions and the speeches of Lenin on the Workers Opposition,
Shlyapnikov exclaimed at the end of the Tenth Congress: "Never in my life,
and after twenty years in the Party, have I ever seen or heard anything
mote demagogic and more vile.'' These words of Shlyapnikov echoed those
of Thomas Muenzer, who called Luther 'Dr. Liar' (Dr. Lûgner), after
his pamphlets in support of the Protestant princes against the Protestant
that is exactly what you became, Lenin, at the close of your historic career''
I said to myself . . . I looked fixedly and with animosity at Lenin's portrait
on the table of my cell. Before me there were two Lenins, as there had
been two Cromwells and two Luthers: they climbed with the revolution and
then they slid back down the slope, crushing the minority who wished to
go on. And the whole of that crucial evolution took place over two or three
years, in the Russian revolution as in the others. Whilst we, the contemporaries,
like those of the former revolutions, still continued for ten, twenty or
thirty years to argue about whether that crucial evolution had ever taken
your opposition, Lenin, in the last year of your life, to ravenous Stalinism-tragic
though it was for you-had no more political significance than that of a
wavering between Stalinism and Trotskyism, that is to say, between the
ultra- reactionary and the liberal variants of the bureaucracy.'' The fate
of the Bolshevik Party, the fate of Lenin, and of Trotsky, shows yet once
more that the most advanced parties and the greatest leaders are limited
in their character by the circumstances of time and place. And that is
why it is inevitable that at a given moment they become conservatives,
heedless of the new demands of life.
legend of Lenin appeared to me no more than a lie designed to cover up
the crimes of the bureaucracy.
destroy the tyranny of the bureaucracy created by your own hands it was
also necessary, Lenin, to destroy the legend of the infallible sage of
the proletariat. At the hour of supreme danger, instead of stretching out
your hand to the proletariat-you struck it down. "If the world has still
need of this lesson, you bear it out: when the masses are incapable of
saving the revolution, no one can do it for them. Your experience, Lenin,
tells us that the only means of saving the proletarian revolution is to
carry it through to the end, to the point where the toiling masses are
totally emancipated.If the revolution is not carried through to the end,
the day inevitably arrives when a new privileged minority exercises its
tyranny over the majority of the workers. Contemporary revolutions all
achieve complete socialism, or they will one day inevitably be anti-proletarian,
anti-socialist. They will become counter-revolutions.'' "Neither God,
nor masters'', a voice said from the depths of my subconscious, but
not the less audible, firm, commanding. The portrait of Lenin on the table
of my cell was torn into a thousand pieces and thrown into the litter bin
. . .
cell was dark. Outside, night had fallen. The Urals and the steppes were
plunged into an ominous stillness. And I was ill and sick at heart. For
six months I could not open my mouth to speak, could not write a single
word on politics, on my new conclusions about the great revolutionary leader,
so depressed I was, so much I suffered in separating myself forever from
the myths of Lenin that I cherished so much.