Friday, August 21, 2015

The truth about Russia (1981)

From the November 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Why don't you go back to Russia?" is the standard comment of the wage slave who stumbles across a socialist propagandist and cannot put up an argument. The fact that most socialists do not come from Russia and have been there does not deter the enthusiastic anti-socialists. But who can blame them? After all, the Communist Party is constantly telling them that Russia is socialist or communist. The Tory party use the myth of "Communist Russia" to discredit the socialist idea. The media will apply the label "Marxist" to any dictator who cares to use it.

Of course, times change and people learn. When in the 1930s the Socialist Party of Great Britain referred to Russia and its satellites as state capitalist dictatorships we were howled down by the Left. Our outdoor meetings were disrupted for saying that the Stalinist dictatorship in Russia was no more socialist than it was during Hitler's Nazi regime. These days our point of view is gaining credibility. The Trotskyists, whose entire case is based upon an acceptance of Lenin's anti-socialist Bolshevism, will reluctantly accept that Russia is not socialist but insist that it was in 1917. Quite how a society transfers from socialism back to capitalism, they have yet to disclose. Other Leftists say that Russia is undergoing a very long transition period from capitalism to socialism (or from socialism to communism as they confusedly put it). In fact, Russia is no more or less in transition to socialism or communism (the terms are synonymous) than any other part of capitalist society. The contradictions of state capitalism are creating within the working class a consciousness which will lead to the abolition of capitalist social relationships; but that will only happen when the workers want and understand socialism and then organised politically for it. When it does happen it will be despite the wishes of the Russian Communist Party — not because of them.

The Russian Communist Party, like its counterparts in Poland, Hungary, China, Albania and the rest of the misnamed socialist countries, is no different in its objective from the Tories in Britain. They stand solely for the interests of rent, interest and profit. They will ban strike, lock up trade unionists and other dissidents, use the police to protect their unearned luxury and set the workers to war in defence of their economic interests. Our political hostility to them is no less than our hostility to Thatcher, Foot or Reagan. As defenders of capitalism they are unworthy of the support of the working class.

As early as 1918 the Socialist Standard was forecasting the state capitalist outcome of the Bolshevik revolution. Being an undemocratic coup d'etat in a backward economy with a non-politically conscious population, mainly consisting of peasants, the only result could be a new ruling class running capitalism in its own interests. Far from being a socialist revolution, 1917 was Russia's 1789. The events of Poland during the summer of 1980 have again vindicated our view. Why were our fellow workers striking in Poland? It was because their enemies are the same as ours: the international capitalist class.

On 16 August 1981 The Observer newspaper (not The Morning Star) published a statement by Mykola Pohyba, a Ukrainian dissident, who was a prisoner in a penal colony in Buchs. The statement was smuggled [out of] Buchs. The statement [is published in] full because of the light it throws on capitalism in Russia.
Steve Coleman   


It is no secret that fundamental human rights have been consistently trampled on in the Soviet Union. The flouting and complete disregard of human rights is felt most acutely by workers who are powerless to oppose the political and socio-economic oppression.

My life and my so-called "slanderous activities" may well serve as examples. I am presently serving a second term of imprisonment. In 1975 I was charged under Article 187 and sentenced to three years' imprisonment by the Kiev Oblast Court. In 1979 I was charged under Article 206 and sentenced to five years in prison by the Kiev People's Court.

As a worker relegated to the lowest rung of the Soviet social ladder I personally have experienced economic, socio-political and national oppression. Understandably, I could not help but give thought to and consider the real reasons for this oppression. With time I realised that fellow workers were also victims of exploitation and that this exploitation was greater the lower one found oneself on the social ladder.

I came to the conclusion that ultimately it is the state that is the exploiter, along with the State-party bourgeoisie which is in its service and which is the one wielding the real power in the country. The socialism and internationalism of which one so often speaks in the Soviet Union is nothing more than a smokescreen for a means of production and distribution of material goods which is not in the least socialist.

In short, I have come to the conclusion that our country is actually a State capitalist society with a totalitarian form of government.

In informal conversations with fellow workers I expressed some of my views regarding Soviet reality. I saw nothing wrong in so doing. Specifically, I noted that the real causes of our impoverished condition are to be found not in mistakes committed by the administrative apparatus, but in the very system of production which, in actual fact, is capitalist.

In my conversations, as well as in the leaflets which I wrote and then posted throughout Kiev on bulletin boards, monuments, etc (for having posted my leaflets on a statue of Lenin, I was charged under Article 206 with hooliganism), I showed that the Soviet labour unions (i.e. state-party organisations) neither constitute a separate autonomous organisation nor do they represent the rights and economic interests of the working class.

They are, in fact, an integral part of the Party-State apparatus whose principal aim is to extract the utmost from the worker while keeping the working class in blind obedience, checked and ensured by a system of meting out at first minor and then even greater benefits. The dispensation of benefits depends on factors such as good behaviour success in meeting the designated quotas, and loyalty to the State.

Those workers who express dissatisfaction, be it outrightly, or indirectly, are demoted to the lowest-paying jobs, lose any privileges and are put under the "care" of Soviet penal authorities. All this is done with no objections raised by the labour union.

I believe that I am not alone in my endeavour, that the situation in the Soviet Union is rife for the founding of independent labour unions as opposed to party-state ones), which would prove effective in solving the problems with which the working class is faced. I explained to my fellow workers that we not only had the right to talk of independent labour unions, but the right to organise them.

Throughout the course of my so-called "slanderous" activity, I came to see that similar views are held by many workers who as a rule may be characterised as independent-minded. I became aware that their numbers are growing daily.

And even though the ruling class will go to any length to check independent-minded workers whose protest is born of spontaneity, repressions will no longer be able to suppress that awareness which has been awakened in the consciousness of the people.

The recent events in Poland have shown that the working class is capable of leading the struggle for its rights and freedoms, for a feasible improvement of its well-being. The effectiveness of the struggle waged depends on the degree of solidarity of the working class, on the degree of self-organisation.

This, in short, is the extent of the 'slanderous activity' for which I am being 'rehabilitated' behind barbed wires. I ask that the Ukrainian human rights group make my letter known to the people of the Soviet Union and to world public opinion. But foremostly, to the labour unions throughout the world.  Let them be the ones to determine who the real culprit is and what his true motives are.