Letters to the Editors from the December 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard
A correspondent (Miss H. S., Cheltenham) asks the following questions: —
(1) “It has been explained to me that it is theoretically impossible to institute Socialism until the country involved has passed through a period of capitalism. I realise the immense practical difficulties involved, but fail to see why this should not be theoretically possible on the basis of Marxism.
(2) "It has been said also, that, on the basis of Marxism, the Russian October Revolution could not have been a proletarian revolution, and was bound to degenerate into state capitalism, because of the comparatively small size of the Russian proletariat and the immense number of peasants.
“Would you kindly explain this, and say if you think it is wrong to consider that, with the innovation of collectivisation in agriculture, the peasant stands in the same relation to the proletarian state as the industrial or factory worker ?”
(1) INABILITY OF A COUNTRY TO JUMP FROM FEUDALISM TO SOCIALISM.
Regarding Marx’s own view of this impossibility, see his preface to the First German Edition of ”Capital,” Vol. I. Towards the end of the preface he points out that a country cannot leap over the normal phases of development.
It is not theoretically (or practically) possible for Socialism to be instituted without Socialists, and the widespread acceptance of Socialism by the workers presupposes a highly industrialised society, which alone makes Socialism economically possible. In short, the idea of Socialism, to be widely accepted, must rest upon a solid foundation of industrial development. Some workers can, it is true, dream of equalitarianism, and so on, although they live in a society which is only at the beginning of capitalist development, but they have not the economic and human material with which to make Socialism a practical possibility.
(2) BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION.
In October, 1917, the overwhelming mass of the Russian population did not understand Socialism or want Socialism. A minority of town workers did so, but the great mass of peasants wanted their problems solved, e.g., reduction of taxation, dividing up the estates of the landowners among the poor peasants, etc. Therefore the Bolshevik Government had no Socialist mass behind them.
Subsequent events have proved this. If the Russian town workers and collectivised peasants understood and wanted Socialism, the various developments of Russia now noticeable would be impossible, e.g., the pact with Hitler, the big and growing inequality, and the creation of privileged sections of the population, the piece-work systems, etc., the alleged or real conspiracies and purges.
Of course, in time Russian town and rural workers will turn more and more to Socialism, but that development will be slow, as in other countries.