Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Fall of Riazanov (1931)

From the April 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

The process of eliminating all of the better-known men and women who were prominent in the Bolshevik party at the time of the seizure of power has gone so far that practically all of them now share Trotsky's fate as exiles, or are in prison or relegated to obscurity. The latest person to be got rid of is D. Riazanov, the authority on the literature of Marxism, who formed, under the auspices of the Soviet Government, the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow.

Riazanov has been removed from his post as Director of the Institute, expelled from the Russian Communist Party, and lodged in jail on the grounds of alleged "betrayal of the Party" and "rendering assistance to the Menscheviks and foreign interventionists."

It would be idle to discuss whether these or any of the charges levelled by the Russian ruling caste against its opponents are well-founded, for the simple reason that those charged are not in a position to defend themselves. The authorities are in a position to secure whatever verdict they like and to publish alleged "confessions" in the names of the prisoners. After more one of the past trials the prisoners in private conversation repudiated their "confessions."

What is interesting about Riazanov's case is that his deposition is accompanied by the claim that his reputation as an authority on Marxism was totally undeserved. He is now alleged never to have understood the Marxian system—this in spite of the fact that only last year, when he reached the of sixty, great honours were shown officially, including the award of the Order of the Red Flag.

The real reason for the denial of Riazanov's soundness as a Marxian can possibly be looked for in the urgent need to mislead the Russian workers into the belief that the Russian system of "State capitalism" is in reality "Socialism."

We have before drawn attention to the theories now being propounded in Communist economic text-books, according to which the Russian workers are not exploited, in spite of the existence of a growing class of investors in that country. Marx showed that you cannot have a rent, interest and profit system without the exploitation of the workers. Marxism has consequently been unpalatable to Russia's rulers. Anyone who cannot or will not swallow the bowdlerised Marxism of the Communist Party dictators necessarily becomes a danger to their interests.

Perhaps Riazanov has been guilty of knowing too much about Marxian theories, and of not knowing how to dance to a different tune.
R. E.

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