Thursday, August 9, 2018

Odds and Ends: Stalinists and Trotskyists Unite? (1957)

The Odds and Ends column from the August 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Stalinists and Trotskyists Unite?
When one of Stalin’s agents split open the head of Trotsky with an axe in [Coyoacán], a suburb of Mexico City, on August 20th, 1940, who would have thought that, in 1957, four avowed and unrepentant followers of the late Leon Trotsky would have been invited to visit the Soviet Union, and would be féted by Stalin's former collaborators? But it has happened.

On the 21st April of this year four Trotskyist M.P.s from Ceylon were among a party of Ceylonese Members of Parliament who landed by airplane (a Soviet airplane) at Tashkent airport in the Soviet Republic of Usbekistan.

On April 22nd, which was the anniversary of Lenin’s birthday, one of the Trotskyist M.P.s, Colvin de Silva, gave a lecture on the Life of Lenin, "which was greatly appreciated by the Russian and Usbek comrades.” (Samasamajist, 16th May, 1957.)

No doubt our Ceylon Trotskyists enjoyed their stay with their Soviet “comrades.” But we wonder if they gave any thought to the hundreds of Trotskyists and other oppositionist Communists murdered by the Soviet rulers in the Soviet Union and elsewhere; and whether they mentioned this to their Soviet "comrades.” All this makes us wonder if there are any real differences between the Stalinist "Communists” and the Trotskyist “Communists” after all.

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Reform or Revolution
Like the "orthodox” Communists, the Trotskyists claim to be "revolutionaries” and Marxists. Untike Labour politicians who advocate political and social reforms, the Trotskyists claim to be opposed to reformism; but all of the resolutions passed by the Samasamaja May Day Rally in Ceylon belie this claim. Among other things, the Trotskyists demanded "a national minimum wage” and "full employment—work or maintenance.” And on pages 2 and 3 of Samasamajist (1st May, 1957) we find the following slogans: "Keep Ceylon Out of War!” "Take Back Our War Bases.”

And these they call revolutionary slogans! They’re about as revolutionary as those of the British Labour Party!

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A Revolutionary Policy?
What, then, is a revolutionary policy? It is one that recognises that since the capitalist system gives rise to, and perpetuates the problems of war, poverty, and insecurity; and that these and many other problems are inherent in the system itself, the only solution to these problems is the abolition of the system itself and replacement by another—a Socialist one.

Programmes of social reform cannot solve these problems; they only help to perpetuate the system that causes them. Therefore one would expect a "revolutionary” not to advocate, say, a national minimum wage, but the abolition of the wages system altogether. But, then, one cannot expect such a policy from a Communist, Stalinist, Trotskyist, or any other of the fifty-seven varieties.

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Socialism—What is it?
Like Labour politicians, the Communists of both the "Stalinist” and Trotskyist varieties claim to stand for Socialism—sometime in the future. But what do they mean by Socialism? Do they mean by Socialism—or for that matter, Communism—what Marx and Engels meant by Socialism or Communism? Socialism to Marx and Engels and Socialism to the Socialist Party means a world-wide universal system of society based on the common ownership of the means of wealth production. It will be a classless society, democratic throughout—a free society, where the coercive forces of the state will have disappeared, and where production will be solely in order to satisfy the needs of the people. When a Socialist society "gets on its feet” the watchword will be: "From each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her needs.”

Such a society is beyond the ken of the Kruschevs, Pollitts, Titos, and the Trotskyist M.P.s who visited their "Stalinist” comrades in the Soviet Union earlier this year. Their concept of Socialism is our old "enemy” —Nationalisation!

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Dictatorship in the Soviet Union
Since arriving back in Ceylon one of the Trotskyist M.P.s, Colvin de Silva, has written a number of articles giving his impression of Soviet society today. He points out that the single party dictatorship is openly upheld by the Soviet rulers as a correct system. And although he does not quote from it, he says that: "The Soviet constitution itself gives to the Communist Party this dictatorial position, and so long as the Stalinists are in power they will not allow any other party to function in the Soviet Union.” (Samasamajist, 23rd May, 1957.)

(The Articles in the Soviet Constitution (1936) making the Communist Party the only legal party are numbers 126 and 141—see Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation, by S. and B. Webb, pp. 428 and 430).

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"Democracy” in the Soviet Union
However, within the framework of the one-party system the Soviet rulers attempt to give the impression that there is democracy in Soviet Russia.

Colvin de Silva writes that they have relaxed the terror that existed throughout the years of Stalin’s rule. The reason for this, in de Silva’s view, is “that the economically privileged strata of the population are pressing upon the Government to make concessions to them,” and “that the masses are pressing upon the ruling bureaucracy for concessions” also.

The Soviet authorities laid great stress on the claim that the members of the Soviets are elected. But “This is, of course, absurd, when no opposition parties are allowed and when all that a Soviet citizen can do is to vote for or against the candidate put up by the government party.”

The Soviet Government also stress that not only is criticism of the government permitted, but is even encouraged. But, of course, only criticism and self- criticism is allowed—never opposition!

Inequality—greater than in Britain
Social equality has always been stigmatised by Stalin as a “petty bourgeois prejudice,” but very few people realise just how great social inequalities are in the Soviet Union. The following short quotation from Colvin de Silva’s article will give them some idea of the inequalities of income in Soviet society today:—
  "Another aspect of the Trotskyist analysis which I found confirmed is the prevalence of gross inequality in wages and incomes among the Soviet workers and collective farmers. In the first place, probably fully one-fifth of the Soviet workers receive only 350 rubles per month as wages. As against this, there are higher paid workers who earn as much as three thousand to three thousand and five hundred rubles a month, that is ten times as much as the lower paid workers. Secondly, a factory manager receives as much as twelve to fifteen thousand rubles a month and even more. He therefore receives forty times the amount of the lowest paid worker. There are scientists, writers, administrators, who have even larger incomes than the manager, so that the inequality is even greater than one to forty. [The monthly stipend of the Patriarch of the Russian orthodox church is 50,000 rubles a month! P.E.N.] This kind of inequality, which creates a gulf between rich and poor, has nothing to do with Socialism. Indeed, you do not get such wage and salary inequality even in capitalist England today." (Samasamajist, 23/5/57.)
Of course, the Trotskyist writer is quite correct when he says that this has nothing to do with Socialism. But, unfortunately, he does not know what Socialism is himself. In another article (“The Collective Farm System And The Class Struggle,” Samasamajist, 30th May, 1957) he writes:—
  "The basic form of a Socialist agriculture is therefore the State-farm, that is, the farm owned and run by the State; just as the basic Socialist form in industry is the factory—owned and run by the State.”
Does not Colvin de Silva, M.P., know that Socialism will have no need of the state apparatus? That the state will have “died out"; and that the state ownership of the land, farms and the factories is in fact State Capitalism, which is the form of society existing in the Soviet Union today—not Socialism, or a “degenerated workers’ state,” whatever that may be? Colvin and the other Trotskyist M.P.s have learnt quite a lot about Soviet Russia—now they have got quite a lot to learn about Socialism!
Peter E. Newell

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