From the March 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard
A few mouths ago we wrote that, with more detailed information of the internal economy of Russia, workers here and elsewhere would rid their minds of the idea that Socialism obtains in that country.
Now by a ukase of the Kremlin, the "Internationale” has ceased to be the "national" anthem of Russia, a logical step following the dissolution of the Third international.
This comes as an unpleasant surprise to many of the devotees of the “Socialist Russia" myth, especially when they read the words of the new anthem which supplants the other, and its emphasis on the nationalist spirit of Russia.
But a few more adherents lost for the notion that Russia is "Socialism in action" worries the statesmen of Russia much less than heretofore, for Russia is now standing on its own feet, and almost independent of outside “red” support to influence governments in its favour.
The S.P.G.B. had to contend with these “reds" from 1917 onwards, when it stated that it saw in Russia the rise of a working-class whose evolution would bring it face to face with its ultimate enemy—the employing class.
Has the subsequent history of events tended to prove us wrong?
The first world war revealed Russia as a country unable, in spite of its man power, to stand up to the better equipped armies of industrialised Germany. Tsardom had failed, and it had to go. it was hurried off the stage, and the Bolshevik party, having men in its ranks with European experience, had at least some idea of Russia's modern national needs.
On a general mandate of peace, land and bread, they won the peasantry by legalising the seizure of the large estates from the land-owning proprietors, although these same land-hungry peasants later felt the heavy hand of Moscow in its drive to increase production by "urgin" them into collective farms.
For the town-workers—a minority compared with the conservative peasants—the new rulers adopted the slogan of the “dictatorship of the proletariat" contending that only the property-less wage-workers could be the spearhead of the new Russia.
There was some truth in this assertion, for Russia then lacked a developed capitalist class, lacked technicians, and was without a large body of trained industrial workers. Russia, in fact, by the Act of Emancipation of 1861, had but lately emerged from serfdom, and at the risk of repeating the obvious, it should be borne in mind, by those who are dismayed by the arbitrary decrees of the Kremlin, that from Ivan the Great, who built those massive walls in 1600, to Nicholas in 1917, autocratic state rule has been the accepted mode of governing Russia.
The new occupants declared they were bent on world revolution, but the unfulfilled Leninist belief In a workers' revolution in Europe made more urgent the problem of the industrialisation of Russia, because of the not unnatural fear that danger lay in a Russia unready industrially and militarily to meet any enemy in modern war. This fear was implicit in Lenin's earlier slogans, such as “Down with the foreign bondholders" and "Russia shall not be a colony for the imperialists," strengthened by the struggle after 1917 to expel the Allies' intervention troops from Russian soil.
The industrialisation drive was carried out by the wholesale nationalisation of all existing industries by the Soviet State, coupled with a huge sloganised propaganda calculated to influence the minds of the mass of peasants turned wageworkers. The one-party set-up dealt ruthlessly with all elements that were deemed to impede the defence of the “socialist" fatherland, the accused being variously described as "wreckers" or Trotskyists.
In 1933 Stalin, entrenched as successor to Lenin, announced the second Five Year Plan, which, forsooth, was to usher in the class-less society, and, significantly enough, about the same time he made a pronouncement defending piece-work, individual responsibility, and inequality of income, thus making Lenin's equality of earnings—workmen's wages for officials—-a major heresy.
But all this is a far cry from to-day. Proof was needed in those days, before the "Chiska" or party purge commission, that the member holding down a party job was of proletarian origin, untainted by "bourgeois ideology," while the possession of a distant uncle; possibly a Tsarist policeman, could throw doubt on his orthodoxy. Now Soviet millionaires who become state bond-holders are lionised, old Tsarist heroes are recalled from the past for patriotic and military' decoration purposes, and there is set up again the Russian Orthodox Church in all its bejewelled ceremony. That the hard-faced capitalists have “discovered” Russia is portrayed by the film "Mission to Moscow," in which the wife of Davies, the American capitalist, meeting a Soviet official's wife, who runs au emporium says, over tea served by the Russian servant, "We have much in common, and also run a business back home."
Events have proved that we were not mere formula repeaters when we cited Marx in support of the Socialist case, for he stated, "Even when a society has get upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement, it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development," which in application means that Russia, not having a full-scale capitalist system in 1917, could not in practice have abolished it.
In fact, behind the cloud of revolutionary slogans of its rulers, Russia has developed state capitalism, based upon wage-labour, and the break with internationalism, as personified by Trotsky and Co.—a fight which began as a polemic and ended in executions—was made by Stalin, the successful nationalist, on the more realistic case befitting Russia's real development, in that Russia could hardly evolve within the orbit of world capitalist economy and at the same time be the centre for promoting world revolution.
Russia's transition from backwardness to that of a great power has led many otherwise intelligent workers to imagine that it was all done by Socialism and leadership, especially when they have been conditioned by the "left" programmes of the various reformist parties, which almost without exception put nationalisation or “public ownership" in the forefront with never a word of abolishing the wages-system, which is the foundation of the profit motive, and the class society they say they wish to end.
These workers have yet to understand that the advent of a Socialist system will be the most intelligent act that society has yet achieved, and that it requires a majority of men and women conscious and willing to play their part in establishing it.
It has to be realised, painful as it is to some, that Russia's "Socialism" has about as much relation to reality as Marx thought the slogan, "Liberty, equality, fraternity," had to the real France of his time.