The Soviet Union imposed a single style in the visual arts and enforced it for decades.
- The Soviet Worker - Illusions and Realities | Leonard Schapiro | Springer.
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To a large extent, the Soviet Communist Party achieved and enforced a monopoly on all media to portray the world as the party wished it to be, or at least as it wished other people to think it was. That made, for example, his ethnic cleansing of Chechnya hard for people elsewhere to know about, much less criticize.
But it definitely did not make it not happen. Many other sorts of regimes, from theocracies to military juntas, have tried similar approaches. The contribution of all that activity to producing the envisioned world has been considerably less than zero. It makes the brutal reality a bit harder to see, without ameliorating it in the slightest. Now, Stalin is not an awards show. But as everyone knows, images can falsify as well as depict reality; they can mislead as well as inspire.
To a very large extent, American media have portrayed a kind of racial paradise since the s. Only a few extreme racists continue to use the direct slurs, and no one does so on television. White people came to believe by this means that we were not racists, because we did not produce or approve the prohibited representations. Meanwhile, it ticked right on at a structural level, but it became harder to identify and attribute. When only approved images can appear, we have what amounts to a sort of censorship, not imposed by the government, but by all of us on one another through social pressure.
The goal is a politically uniform flow of images. In order to achieve that uniformity, people are being vilified, pictures and Tweets deleted, novels withdrawn, films reshot with different actors, projects abandoned, works removed from museums, hosts disqualified and so on. Such procedures are not liable to help very much in achieving their intended goals.
This explains why, when the first Provisional Soviet met that very evening, it still contained no factory delegates! As we have seen, the soviets were neither an entirely spontaneous nor a completely original institution. It would be a mistake to think, however, that they were imposed from above: the idea of a central workers' council was in the air, and was widely favoured by workers and soldiers. What had changed was the way the parties now assessed this institution. Seeing in them a springboard to power, they wooed the councils from all sides, which explains why the intellectuals acquired decisive influence in the Petrograd Soviet and why this Soviet so rapidly lost contact with the masses.
But in reality the rapprochement between the Bolsheviks limiting ourselves to them alone and the soviets was a laborious process, involving tactical moves that were fully re-examined and constantly amended. To begin with, in the spring of , the Leninists rejected the soviets out of hand. Between spring and autumn, this hostility changed to mistrust, a mistrust that characterized Bolshevik dealings with all independent proletarian organizations. The Party was even incapable of devising a doctrine capable of gaining unanimous support; 8 at best they paid lip-service to the councils, at worst they heaped abuse on them.
Even though it emanated from the capital's proletariat, it was being called upon to become a 'technical apparatus' of the Party, and the Party even went so far as to oppose the formation of the Saratov Soviet in November Lenin did, however, fully grasp the importance of the soviets from the point of view of revolutionary power.
Despite misgivings, he learned the lessons of and imposed on his Party the task of introducing its authority into the Petrograd Soviet. As early as November he began laying the foundations for his strategy; as he himself pointed out, the workers' delegates were essential to a victorious insurrection. But he had no illusions concerning their permanence, for the victorious revolution would necessarily give rise to other bodies, and the councils could even come to be seen as redundant.
The old doubts reappeared in , with Lenin still absent from the scene; Molotov's programme, drawn up on 28 February, did not even mention the soviets. On his arrival in Petrograd, Lenin astonished everyone with his slogan: 'All power to the soviets'.
V. I. Lenin
But, from the outset, he had identified the revolution with the seizing of power by his Party. The slogan he was now propagating with such vehemence was of a purely tactical nature. As if additional proof were needed, see the Bolsheviks' sudden volte-face after the events of July , organized under their auspices and designed to force the Petrograd Soviet's hand into seizing power. When the latter refused, the Bolsheviks resumed their old hostility to the institution of the soviets, calling them 'puppets, devoid of real power'.
Thereupon, the Bolsheviks changed their line to 'Power to the poor workers and peasants in order to carry out the Party programme'. Nevertheless, it was also proposed to win the councils round from the inside. When the capital's council regained popularity after repulsing Kornilov's attacks, the Bolsheviks returned to their old slogan of 'All power to the soviets', at the end of September. This time, it was for good, especially now that Lenin's partisans had won a majority inside the councils. Power was seized in the name of the latter: the Party gave power to the soviets and thus established its superiority over them.
They now served merely to confer legal form on the Party's power. What follows is history: the councils were institutionalized by the July constitution, which voided them of all content. This was a superfluous precaution insofar as the Bolsheviks already had complete control over them. If the councils were still an independent expression of the Russian proletariat in the course of , they only were so partially and ephemerally.
Contrary to what happened in , they became the scene of factional and partisan in-fighting: they were fought over partly for their historical prestige and partly for their real leading revolutionary role. The Bolsheviks played their hand masterfully in this struggle. They were unequalled as tacticians, but it would be presumptuous and a perversion of the simple historical truth to try to set them up as the defenders of the soviets if one sees in the latter the expression of the struggling masses.
The Soviet Worker : Illusion & Realities
The history of workers' control in Russia is contained within the period from spring to spring The component parts of this year's exploits were to become the basis of a universal myth and to serve as an example to future revolutionaries. From the viewpoint of radicality, the history of workers' control is especially important, for the assumption of responsibility for production by the producers themselves is the hard core of its programme and its aspirations.
Yet, in fact, the subject is obscured by a twofold ambiguity, semantic on the one hand, political on the other. Terminologically, the word 'control' in 'workers' control' gives rise to confusion when it is not clearly distinguished from the word 'self-management' or 'workers' management'. In this way, the English workers' control and the Russian rabochii kontrol' can signify both the assumption of responsibility for management by the workers and the control of this management, even if its reality does not lie in their hands.
For greater clarity, we ought to employ the terms self-management or workers' management rabochii upravlenia in Russian. If this ambiguity was not cleared up, at least in Russia, this is because it did itself derive from the political ambiguity surrounding the very essence of power in socialist society. There can be no doubt that the majority of Bolsheviks were doctrinally opposed to workers' management, a typically federalist and anti-Jacobin institution. Marxist orthodoxy in this domain called for State production linked to a decision-making centre situated at the top of the pyramid.
The Bolsheviks made no bones about their advocacy of this conception right up to the eve of the February revolution, after which they became less open about it. The Mensheviks, on the other hand, never abandoned this orthodoxy and systematically defended the unions as economic bodies subservient to the political leadership of the Party as against the representative institutions of the independent power of the workers such as they appeared in Russia.
If, as does the author, one starts from the view that the prime objective of the Bolsheviks was the conquest of power at the summit and that, in order to attain this, they were prepared to adopt tactics or even a strategy at variance with their ideological principles, then their attitude towards workers' management seems fairly clear. Just as Lenin very early on as early as November saw in the soviets an institution charged with enormous revolutionary potential, so workers' management and the institutions which expressed it were perceived as a worthy means of furthering the end.
One should not forget that doctrinal lapses were not uncommon within the Bolshevik Party: the most flagrant example of this was their agrarian programme, which Lenin lifted, lock, stock and barrel, from the social revolutionaries. The slogan,'The land to the peasants', was in blatant contradiction with the Party's programme and Marxist doctrine, which called for the nationalization of all land. The reason why it was so easy to ignore principles was, of course, that in a country whose population was four-fifths peasant, it would have been impossible to carry out a revolution without their support.
And so the Bolsheviks turned to the peasants, thereby legitimizing the 'petit-bourgeois' programme of the despised populists. The Machiavellianism of this compromise was justified, in the eyes of the Bolsheviks, by the observation that the peasant class was not revolutionary in essence, but bourgeois. One could thus make use of it as a temporary ally, turning against it when it had served its purpose. The working class, on the other hand, was represented as the motive force of history: it would have been rather more difficult to compromise over that. Surely any deceit was liable to look like a betrayal of revolutionary goals?
And yet, in , the Russian working class was undeniably imbued with the idea that justice required that the bosses be driven out of their factories and that the working class take their place. What coherent Marxist, what effective revolutionary would haggle over that kind of demand? Which is why the Bolsheviks went along with this line, all the more so in that the left social revolutionaries and various brands of anarchist were vigorously propagating it.
But, so as not to appear to have betrayed the working class once power had been conquered, the Bolsheviks took refuge in ambiguity. This took several forms: they came out in favour of workers' control without specifying its exact content; they allowed the various currents in the party free and contradictory expression on the subject. By following this flexible tactic one may hope to discover a thread of coherence -defined in terms of the social nature of Bolshevik power.
The way one accounts for the attitude of the Bolsheviks toward workers management and factory committees depends upon whether one looks at the period preceding the 25 October insurrection or the subsequent period. The factory committees fabzavkomii 14 emerged in the wake of the January-February strikes. They mushroomed throughout Russia, taking on the role of workers' representation inside the factory. Their numerical and political importance grew to the point where the Provisional Government was obliged to regulate their existence and their functions.
It goes without saying that this limitation was a dead letter: in the revolutionary upheaval of the period, the establishment of the fabzavkomii filled a gap and expressed the aspirations of the workers to self-management. This explains why the committees became controlling elements in cases where the employer remained, but took over the management function in those instances where the old management had disappeared. The role of the committees expanded throughout as the soviets increasingly lost contact with the mass of workers and stuck to political programmes proclaimed in advance.
The Bolsheviks were naturally interested in these revolutionary bodies and conquered them from within more easily and earlier than in the case of the councils, inasmuch as the fabzavkomii were still free of any massive partisan intrusion. But they implanted themselves in the regional subsequently national coordinating bodies, which themselves had little influence over the local and factory committees. Thus, at the first conference of the Petrograd factory committees 30 May-5 June , the Bolsheviks already possessed a majority, and the radicality of their slogans competed with those of the revolutionary left.
They cunningly called for 'workers' control' in opposition to the Mensheviks and the social revolutionaries, without ever stating very clearly what they meant by it. The first all-Russian conference of factory committees October confirmed Bolshevik ascendancy still further. Despite a change of tone among certain Leninist delegates hoping to push the trade unions to the fore, Lenin, on the eve of the conquest of power, heightened the revolutionary role of the committees, 'these insurrectional bodies'.
While the conference concluded that workers' control was essential, it did so cautiously and with reference to its own power, stigmatizing moreover the 'control of workers over the factories in which they work'. It will be observed that the Bolsheviks' slogans prior to the October insurrection contained the same ambiguity as did State and Revolution, written by Lenin in August On the one hand, they have an anarcho-syndicalist colouring, going as far as calling for the destruction of the State in one case and, on the other, entrusting the management of the economy to the masses themselves, organized in factory committees.
But in neither case was the commitment total; the sincerity of faith does not exactly burst through. These radical statements were peppered with conditional clauses and safeguards which voided them of all meaning. The tactical need to 'keep one's ear to the groundswell of the masses', in Lenin's own words, did not fully convince militants confident in their own political education, feeling they had nothing further to learn, not even from that most outstanding school -- revolutionary agitation.
The second period, beginning on 25 October , was inaugurated still under the influence of this ambiguity, but this was to dissipate gradually.
The exercise of power was to make everything clear enough. The management of production by the workers was one of the goals of the struggle, proclaimed by the Military Revolutionary Committee on 25 October That same day, the second congress of the soviets in which the Bolsheviks held the majority solemnly approved the decision to establish genuine workers control while specifying, however, that this meant controlling the capitalists and not confiscating their factories. Shortly afterwards, the draft decree on workers' control, drawn up by Lenin, was published.
Visibly moved by a desire to conciliate the masses, Lenin introduced workers' control into all enterprises employing more than five workers. While legalizing a defacto situation he provided for the annulment of decisions taken by the fabzavkomy, the 'congresses and the trade unions' and made the workers' delegates answerable to the State for the maintenance of order and discipline within the enterprise. This plan, which already marked a step backwards by comparison with the existing situation in certain factories, was still further watered down before being published in its final form on 14 November In its definitive version, the decree laid down that factory committees should be subordinate to a local committee on which would sit representatives of the trade unions; the local committees themselves would depend upon a hierarchy crowned by an All-Russian Workers' Control Council.
Moreover, as Pankratova notes, this did not imply workers' management such as the anarchists had called for, but the supervision and control of production and prices. So, in mid-November, we find ourselves on the one hand with a decree which, while legally introducing workers' control, limits it and clips its wings, and on the other hand with a situation where numerous factories are already effectively being managed by the workers themselves or their representatives.
Soviet Worker: Illusions and Realities
Since the insurrection, workers' management has even taken a real leap forward, which can be accounted for as much by the flight of a good many employers as by the ambiguous attitude of the new authorities. The battle for workers' management was therefore not yet entirely lost, especially since there was a powerful movement in favour of imposing it, with spokesmen even among the Bolsheviks. Given the existence of this tendency, we are faced with two possible interpretations of the decree of 14 November.
The other distinguishes between the function of control on the one hand, and of management and leadership on the other. The latter function is reserved for the owner or the director of the enterprise. This was the interpretation given by the All-Russian Workers' Control Council in which, as we have seen, the trade unions had already carved out a place for themselves out of all proportion to their real importance.
The last word came, paradoxically, from the first all-Russian trade union congress January It should be pointed out here that, even in the Bolsheviks' view, workers' management was becoming a practice and an ideology rooted in the working masses of the large towns and that, rightly or wrongly, the latter expected a great deal from it. Despite resistance by the anarcho-syndicalists, the congress voted overwhelmingly for the transformation of factory committees into rank-and-file trade union organizations.
Lozovsky, the future boss of the Russian trade unions, gives the ideological justification for this. Both at the congress in January and in a pamphlet Raboch ii kon trol' he set out the reasons for his hostility to worker's management. It would introduce 'anarchy into the production process' and would bring about a return to outmoded phases of capitalist production. Along with Lenin, he called for the 'nationalization' of the workers' movement and the regulation of the economy from the top, the centre in fact.
To this end he requested the reintroduction of hierarchy into factories, suggesting that the trade unions could serve as guarantors for this. There was nothing new in this position at the beginning of , except that the Bolsheviks now proclaimed it officially. It was in line with the statist, Jacobin interpretation of Marxist theory of the social democrats; it accorded perfectly with their own aspirations for a strong, centralized power exclusively in their hands.
Also, it had never really been completely masked by the hasty slogans -- alien to their system -- that the Bolsheviks had seen fit to adopt periodically for tactical reasons. Thus, Lenin had never made much of a secret of the fact that he saw workers' control as a 'prelude to nationalizations' or that an accountable administration should exist alongside the factory committees. The trade unions being brandished against the factory committees were only of recent origin in Russia.
By contrast, the fabzavkomy were heirs to an ancient tradition of delegation, of 'elders' starosty , in short, of legal or clandestine workers' representation, whereas trade union organizations had been stimulated into life by the parties and were, as a result, battlefields in the struggle for influence between Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. At the moment of the conquest of power, the latter found themselves masters of the trade unions, still poorly represented in the factories.
The conflict between unions and factory committees is therefore between a largely bureaucratic structure, without any real base, and the direct organs of political and economic struggle of the industrial proletariat. This unequal match ended to the detriment of workers' management.
After the trade union congress in January , and after putting up a feeble resistance, the Central Council of Factory Committees was absorbed by the 'economic committees' of the North March With this last bastion of workers' management laid low, all there remained to do was to nationalize industry while handling over the management of the nationalized firms to their old owners decree dated 28 June Workers' control was thereby definitively subordinated to the soviet regional or national of the national economy sovnarhoz. It was now up to workers' control to decide upon output, production norms and labour discipline.
As for management, there was a return to individual decision-making, though with the assistance of a management committee, two-thirds of which consisted of members designated by the supreme regional council of the national economy, while the other third was elected by factory workers who were also enrolled union members.
Subsequently, the avatars of the Russian workers' movement fell into the clutches of internecine strife between rival bureaucracies: following an attempt to militarize labour Trotsky ardently defended this measure , a bitter struggle arose between the leaders of the trade union apparatus and their Party counterparts.
If the latter was still in existence it was manifesting itself at the same moment, but in a very different manner -- in revolts in the country side and in the Kronstadt rising, which the Workers' Opposition delegates hastened to crush on the ice-floes of the Gulf of Finland. The third cardinal myth upon which Marxist-Leninists have constructed their revolutionary hagiography is that concerning the supposedly unanimous support which the rural and urban proletariat accorded its new masters.
All coercive, unjust or harsh measures were reputedly taken by the commissars by virtue of some fictitious consensus of opinion uniting the workers of the towns with the poor peasants. Every expulsion, every internecine struggle for power, and every upset at the summit took place in the name of a proletariat which each protagonist claimed to represent. In any case, traitors were always to be found outside the working class, which was supposed to be massively behind its leaders. This unanimity was merely a facade. And yet Bolshevik historians have rather tended to neglect the question of collective opposition to communist power.
All that remain available are scraps of proofs, hints and eye-witness accounts. At all events, it is not our task here to write the history of this opposition: that would amount to rewriting the history of the Revolution, and there can be no doubt whatever that we are now heading towards a complete revision of the historiographical axioms we have been living on for the past half-century.
Suffice it to mention two phenomena which occurred in the period and which bear witness to the distrust, sometimes going as far as open hostility, on the part of rural and urban workers towards the Bolshevik authorities. The two cases in point were the 'Makhnovshchina' on the one hand, and the Kronstadt sailors rising on the other. The first lasted throughout this period, while the second marked the close of it. In many ways March was a turning point, after which only those who were both credulous and disciplined could continue to accept the Bolshevik vision and version of Russian reality.
The Makhnovshchina was the dual history, military and political, of the revolution in the Ukraine. Militarily, under the command of the anarchist, Nestor Makhno, the insurgent army fought for three years against the pro-German Ukrainian bourgeoisie, then against Petliura's nationalist bourgeoisie and, finally, against the White Generals Denikin and Wrangel, all the while skirmishing with the Red Army.
From a strictly military viewpoint, there can be no doubt that the Ukrainian insurgents saved Greater Russia from a possibly fatal White invasion. The Makhnovisty were a shield against all invaders heading for the north and the north-west, at a time when the Red Army was engaged in other battles -- against Poland or, previously, against the White Russians arriving from the north, the east and the west. But the military aspect of the Makhnovshchina, however important it may have been in saving the Ukraine, is only of secondary significance so far as we are concerned.
For the Makhnovshchina was also the symbol, if not the best-organized manifestation, of political resistance to the penetration of Bolshevik authority into the southern Ukraine. It also provides evidence of the positive aspects of mass organization in the Ukraine in The extension of Bolshevik sovereignty into this region could only result from the defeat of the insurgent army on the one hand, and from the destruction of the institutions of direct democracy set up by the peasants on the other.
When the October insurrection broke out in Petrograd it aroused little reaction in Ukraine, where a revolutionary tidal wave had been sweeping through the country since the days of February. Because the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk March ceded the Ukraine to the influence of the Central Powers, this region remained free from Bolshevik penetration up till the end of the war, in November For another few months the Bolsheviks lacked sufficient forces to stand in the way of the development of the Ukrainian revolution.
It was only in the summer of that Moscow set about subjecting the Ukraine to its system of government. For two years, and despite the incessant to-ings and fro-ings of various armies, despite pillage, war and requisitioning, the peasants under the Ekaterinoslav government sporadically imitated by other regions were to emancipate themselves from the economic yoke of the great landowners and the kulaks rich peasants , setting up soviet-style representative bodies constituted on a non-partisan basis.
Makhno was both the symbol of this movement for local independence and its soul. From the moment he returned from prison at the end of March he tirelessly set about forming peasant soviets and unions which were administered locally, permitting no outside interference from the central authorities Kerensky's Provisional Government, the Central Ukrainian Rada, communist People's Commissars, not to mention the Austro-Hungarian or German occupiers.
The political role of Makhno and his followers consisted of encouraging the very lively libertarian tendencies of the Ukrainian peoples and of permitting them to express themselves through democratic institutions. The success of this experiment, despite the hostile conditions, and especially around Gyulai-Polye, Makhno's native village, gives an idea of the degree to which the Bolshevik graft was not taking. On the strength of their slogans -- the factory to the workers, the land to the poor peasants -- the communists nevertheless arrived with a favourable reputation.
But as soon as they were in a position to penetrate into liberated Ukraine, i. Henceforth, the communists sought to gather the peasants into State farms by nationalizing livestock and beet production. This policy, carried out in an authoritarian manner, was not at all to the liking of peasants who had divided up the land among themselves on a friendly basis and had formed rural communes on their own initiative. In the face of this massive, Greater Russian Jacobin offensive people were naturally tempted to think there had been a change of government: the Bolsheviks in October had distributed the land, the communists a year and a half later wanted to take it back!
By the summer of , this state of affairs was becoming intolerable to a government seeking to extend its organization and its conception of the revolution to the entire territory. The military agreements with the Makhnovist army were broken and, in June , Trotsky banned the holding of the fourth congress of workers', peasants' and insurgents' delegates which was to have met at Gyulai-Polye. The insurgent army's riposte was to launch a counter-offensive.
With black flags at their head and equipped with a cultural and propaganda section led by Peter Arshinov, the insurgents drove Party and Cheka officials from every town and village through which they passed. A new push by the White counter-revolutionaries Denikin and Mamontov in the course of the summer of forced the Bolsheviks, whose army was collapsing in the face of the enemy, to make amends to Makhno and to grant him officially an autonomy which he had never in fact yielded.
The next few months were to see the flowering of a genuine free republic in southern Ukraine, with peasants and workers applying the decisions voted on by their delegates. It was at this time that the insurgent army reached its peak at the end of , with some 80, men and with heavy equipment. Then, early in, the Denikin threat was repulsed and the Red Army turned on its erstwhile allies.
The struggle between Trotsky's soldiers and the libertarian peasants was to last eight months before a fresh agreement was signed, this time in order to halt General Wrangel, who was advancing from the Black Sea. Following the joint victory over the White General in November , the Bolsheviks immediately resumed their hostility to the Ukrainian partisans, treacherously executing most of the Makhnovist officers, and pursuing Makhno and the remnants of his army across the Ukrainian plain right through to midsummer In August, Makhno crossed the border into Rumania with a handful of men.
He subsequently reached Paris, where he died in poverty in No doubt we can also explain the Ukrainian peasants' resistance to communist implantation by the history of this people who never entirely gave up resisting those they looked on as invaders: the Greater Russians. But in the final analysis it was the authoritarian, Jacobin and bureaucratic methods of the People's Commissars that repelled these peasants hungry for freedom. Makhno's rather rudimentary libertarian message penetrated rural areas all the more forcefully in that it coincided with a secular desire for land and for self-administration.
Lenin's professional revolutionaries had sensed this enough to draw up an extremely liberal nationalities programme and to promise land to the poor peasants: on this point, at least, the latter were not going to allow themselves to be caught out. They demonstrated their hostility to what they called the 'commissarocracy', thus giving the lie to the myth of the unanimous masses standing four-square behind the Bolshevik government. The Makhnovshchina was but one example of massive and obstinate opposition to the penetration of communist power.
Certainly it was one of the best-known and most determined. But, with the establishment of 'War Communism', one observes a spate of revolts put down with the utmost ferocity: peasants were whipped as in the days of serfdom , and armed detachments carried out mass executions and extorted grain by force. These uprisings were not always inspired by the White Guards, as communist propaganda liked to claim.
They were not even invariably provoked by requisitioning. The opposition was also political in nature: thus, the congress of peasants, called in March by the Bolsheviks themselves, protested against what they called the government of the peasants by the workers. In early , according to a Cheka report, the revolt covered twenty-two provinces. By February , the Cheka was announcing centres of rebellion. The most savage but also the most typical revolt occurred in the province of Tambov and lasted for a whole year summer to summer The STK programme called for the 'socialization' of land and sought to distinguish itself from both White Guards and Bolsheviks alike.
Contrary to government statements, the movement did not arise at the instigation of the social revolutionaries, the latter in fact being opposed to armed revolt at that particular moment. The central committee of the social revolutionaries even forbade its members to take part in it, and those who did participate such as the popular leader, A. Antonov did so in a personal capacity. Throughout the Tambov rising, and before the Bolsheviks intervened massively February , the province was self-administered by locally elected committees. The Bolshevik Party organization, bereft of mass support, fell apart of its own accord.
But the Party, its organization and its Cheka was back in February , riding in the regular army's trucks, having been released by the victories in the Crimea against Wrangel and in Poland. Bitter resistance was kept up till July The situation was little different in the towns, except that it was harder to organize resistance, especially durable resistance. With strikes forbidden, along with anti-Party gatherings and propaganda, all that has come down to us by way of evidence of popular opposition to the new masters are the vaguest hints and rumours.
All the more so because the War Communism period, while forcing the Revolution to close its ranks in the face of the counter-revolution and the external enemy, provided the political leadership with an opportunity of stifling all manifestations of workers discontent. In the event it was not to be War Communism that would be only a parenthesis in the history of Russian communism but the NEP the New Economic Policy, introduced by the Tenth Party Congress, in March , which marks a temporary break with Bolshevism's bureaucratic, centralizing rationality, politically incarnated in the winter of Stalin knew what he was up to when he dusted off Trotsky's plan for the collectivization of land: he thus not only perpetuated the latter's 'genius' but also the Leninist tradition which consists of presenting socialism as the acceleration of history in terms of production and productivity.
The professional revolutionaries who had come to power in October were concerned to develop Russia's capitalist potential to the utmost, to carry the country farther and faster along the road than the feeble bourgeoisie. All concrete measures taken once the Revolution had got over its brief period of anarcho-syndicalist demagogy from the withering away of the State in State and Revolution to the slogans of workers control and land to the peasants made necessary by the conquest of power in the first place and afterwards by its retention, these brutally and obstinately incarnate the original project.
The same may be said of the centralization of political and economic power, of the return to individual leadership in the army and in industry, and of the introduction of piece-work and Taylorism as brought up to date by the State economists. These measures represent the general line, the average line, of the Bolshevik project.
A variety of tendencies inclined or corrected it in the direction of greater liberalism or severity. The man who drove things to their extreme limits, who was not afraid with an outspokenness for which his colleagues had neither the courage nor the calibre to say out loud what many were secretly thinking; the man who, with his curious mixture of fanaticism and a taste for work well done, incarnated all that the worker of the day hated most -- that man was Lev Davidovich Trotsky.
This statement will come as a surprise only to those who are unaware of the history of the early years of the Soviet Republic or who have preferred to ignore it. Historical veracity forces us to recognize that, for as long as he held effective power roughly till , Lev Davidovich rather represents the right wing of the Party, although the scale of reference is somewhat arbitrary. At any rate, in , on the strength of his experience as the architect and leader of the Red Army, he attempted to instill a number of principles shared by military men of the period into the Russian economy.
Only, contrary to any consistent military doctrine, Trotsky founded his assertions on Marxist ideology. He slated his principles with disarming frankness: at the height of his glory and power he had no hesitation about hammering a few Marxist 'truths' into an audience made up of union and party delegates. The road to socialism, he declared, runs through the highest possible degree of statism.
Like a lamp which bums brightest just before dying out, the State before disappearing, takes on 'the most ruthless form of government imaginable', one which embraces the lives of all its citizens. For, in Trotsky's view, population growth was measured in terms of the productivity of man; it would have been unthinkable to construct socialism on the basis of a fall in production. Furthermore, socialist society signified for him 'the organization of workers along new lines, their adaptation to these and their re-education with a view to a constant increase in productivity'.
But this type of organization presupposed forced labour; Trotsky tried to sugar the pill by assuring the worker he was labouring for the State and no longer for some individual. He brushed aside the 'Menshevik' argument that this represented a return to the serfdom of the past by stating that 'under certain conditions, slavery represented progress and led to a rise in production'. In this respect, there can be no ambiguity: for Trotsky, socialism meant 'authoritarian leadership No government coercion, no socialism. But what form was this coercion to take? There, the 'prophet armed', as the late Isaac Deutscher called him, made no bones about going to the heart of the matter: the militarization of labour.
For, apart from the army, no other social organization has felt itself entitled to subject citizens quite so utterly, to dominate them so totally as does the proletarian government. This implies that whole regiments would be posted to this or that sector of the economy, that production would henceforth be characterized by the introduction of military-style brigades, discipline and obedience. Once one has accepted the idea of the militarization of labour -not everyone did so at the time -- it becomes possible to look upon the entire population as a pool of manpower to be counted, mobilized and utilized.
Not only does this ensure the necessary supply of labour but it also serves to eliminate the legendary 'laziness' so typical of the Russian people. For the task of social organization consists precisely of confining laziness within a definite framework, of disciplining and goading man by means and methods which he himself has contrived. Militarization, which is an 'inevitable method of organizing and disciplining manpower'' In the period of transition from capitalism to socialism, implies free use of the war department's machinery for mobilizing the work force, especially in rural areas, where the process will be carried out under the supervision of 'advanced workers'.
To complete the picture, Trotsky proposed to promote the public image of the technical foreman; to introduce or rather to reintroduce piece-work and any other system designed to boost output. Taylor's system which, in capitalist society, contributed to the increasing exploitation of workers, did not suffer this disadvantage under socialism.
The necessary counterpart of any form of rivalry between workers was to be individual management, of which Lev Davidovich was a determined advocate; he was not in the least impressed with the notion of collegiate management favoured by the trade unions. To this it should be added that non-work was forbidden in the Trotskyist system. Deserters from the work front were to be 'assembled in disciplinary battalions or else relegated to the concentration camps'.
If Trotsky's proposals for the militarization of labour were not adopted by the Ninth Congress of the CPSU 29 March-April it was because the left opposition was still too strong. But on the other hand, individual management, the return of bourgeois 'experts' spehy to their former posts, and the relegation of the unions to a purely educational role Trotsky had wanted to turn them into direct instruments of the State in order to increase production were all accepted by the same congress.
Trotsky's ideas were nonetheless partially implemented in the Tsektran organization the body responsible for the running of the railways , of which he was the first director, and which he ran along strictly military lines. One need hardly add that workers' management was dealt its death blow, as was the popularity of the Red Army Chief. The winter of saw the last act in this unequal struggle between Party authority and workers' autonomy. Trotsky's notions of industrial management, of political democracy and of daily harassment finally bore fruit in the towns as well.
He became the symbol of Bolshevik authoritarianism, as it was he who gave the most fanatical expression to these ideas. The conduct of the workers in the large towns bore witness to the fact that the proletariat did not at all see eye to eye with his definition of socialism. Not by chance was the bloodiest uprising in Soviet history suppressed by the self-same Trotsky. The Kronstadt revolt was no isolated event. It was one of a series of strikes and street demonstrations which broke out during the winter of In February , these strikes began to spread, notably to Petrograd, and the sailors' initiative should be seen as an echo of the workers' strike in the capital, just a few kilometres away from the island of Kronstadt.
On 28 February , a resolution was passed on the battleship Petropavlovsk following the return of emissaries who had witnessed the organized repression of the workers in the capital; this resolution called for new elections to the soviets with freedom for electoral propaganda, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The resolution also called for the release of political prisoners, for the right to cultivate a patch of land or to practise a craft.
But above all it was the political demands fresh elections to the soviets with anarchist and left-socialist participation that turned the central authorities against Kronstadt. It now seems to be well established that the uprising was in no way linked with an insurrection planned by the White Russians but that it represented the most violent phase of a wave of discontent sweeping through the countryside and the large towns at that time. If one were to illustrate this episode with a single sentence, one might say that the Kronstadt sailors rose in order to defend the slogan 'All power to the soviets', for which they had fought since February and, in some cases, since February The erosion of this line had affected them in particular: in March the Baltic Fleet's Central Committee Centrobalt , an elective body, had been replaced, by decree, with a council of handpicked commissars.
Their own soviet was entirely in the hands of Bolshevik officials. The Kronstadt sailors demanded the restoration of the free and popular character of the soviets. Despite the anarchist or populist colouring of the demands published'in the Kronstadt Izvestia which continued to appear throughout the duration of the 'Kronstadt commune' , the ideology expressed therein would seem to be derived directly from the revolutionary traditions of and Thus, for example, the sailors came out firmly for workers management in the factories, for local autonomy, for decentralization; in other words, as Avrich notes, they resumed the demands of traditional Russian libertarian populism.
The 'Kronstadt commune' lasted eighteen days if one takes as its point of departure 28 February, the day the Petropavlovsk resolution was passed. It was drowned in blood. Trotsky took charge of operations, promising the insurgents that he would 'shoot them down like rabbits'.
Vladimir Lenin - Wikiquote
We know the aspirations and the everyday life of the Kronstadt sailors from the fourteen editions of Izvestia March One's chief impression is of their intense hatred for the Bolshevik Party and for its ramifications in the factories and in offices. This indeed was the hard core of the political demands being put forward by the masses in the winter of In a last gesture of despair, Kronstadt repudiated a communism that amounted to no more than 'bureaucracy plus the firing squad'.
With the repression of the Kronstadt rising, a silence fell across Russia that was to be broken only by Stalin's forced collectivization at the end of the s. The principle of authoritarian, statist socialism had prevailed through sheer force. And yet it was to be years before the avatars of the struggle between the masses and the Party would be mentioned in public: Leninist, and subsequently Stalinist mystification triumphed with the aid of the Comintern, all the more easily in that it was aimed at an audience that needed no convincing.
Nevertheless, there had been no shortage of warnings well in advance; they had made short shrift of the myth of a socialism firmly rooted in the masses. Above all, this was the work of the anarchists who, before any of the others, had perceived the potential dangers of Bolshevism as implemented in October But the anarchist critique, facing its own ideological assumptions, chiefly attacked the statist, authoritarian or even terrorist nature of soviet power.
The task of elucidating the nature of this power by means of socio-economic analysis of the new regime was to fall upon the dissident Marxists. Bolshevism had a good many enemies right from the outset. By more or less the entire West had, officially , set its face against orthodox communism by adopting its cold-war stance. The first concern of what is generally termed the left was to distinguish itself from the enemies of the Russian Revolution. But at its extremity even the left developed a critique of the Russian Revolution and Soviet State that owed nothing either to partisans of the cold war or to soft-hearted liberals.
This critique did not derive from some a priori ideology, as in the case of 'gut' anti-communists, but from the more or less lengthy practice of or cohabitation with communism. Chronologically speaking, the anarchists were the first to denounce the image Bolshevism sought to present to the world. They were followed, in the s, by the dissident Marxist-Leninists, who set themselves up in what they called constructive opposition reconstruction of a 'pure' party or of a new International but who in reality completed the destruction of Marxist-Leninist communism.
Anarchist testimony is particularly valuable to us since it does not set out to denigrate one system in favour of another; admittedly, a handful of anarchists did subsequently turn into devotees of the 'American way of life', but that concerns individuals, not a system of thought. The anarchists had already been active in the revolutionary struggle before ; many had distinguished themselves in the field of anti-tsarist propaganda, while others preferred political terrorism.
Twelve years, fertile in events, discussions and lessons, had intervened between the revolution -- Russian anarchism's baptism of fire -- and that of Twelve years in the course of which anarchists had worked to define their place on the revolutionary scene, to stake out anarchist thought and its field of action in relation to social democracy and to Bolshevism in particular.
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There can be no denying that the mistrust was mutual. Lenin and his friends were too deeply imbued with international social democracy's visceral hatred of anarchism, and had been since the end of the nineteenth century. In , for example, the Second International had voted for the exclusion of all the followers of Bakunin and Kropotkin.
However, the dispute was already an ancient one, for it goes right back to the First International. But things were different in Russia. Both social democracy and anarchism, as movements, had grown out of the populism of the s and 80s. Neither, in their revolutionary propaganda and agitation, could ignore the fact that populism had left a deep mark on all potential rebels. True, right from the first 'Iskrist' period , Lenin had tried to foist on Russia a brand of Marxism that was totally void of all populism. Bolsheviks and Mensheviks alike planned to develop a kind of German-style social democracy of Kautskyist inspiration, with SPD organization and rituals serving as models.
Thus, on the eve of February we find a Bolshevik Party thoroughly cleansed of all 'impurities' arising from the specifically Russian situation. But between February and October a social revolution occupied the forefront of the stage, with the parties attempting to manipulate events in the immense drama being enacted. Lenin's role by now was to connect up his party to the current passing through the masses. For this he was obliged not to defend but to disparage social-democratic orthodoxy. For the masses were advancing some very ancient demands whose roots are lost in the history of the enslavement of the free peasants first by the boyars and then by the power-hungry tsars -- the very same demands that nineteenth-century populism had reformulated and resuscitated and for which it had supplied a theoretical framework.
These demands were for land and liberty, for autonomous craft and agricultural collectives, for bread and justice for all. There was not a peasant or a worker, in that springtime of , to be found calling on the Bolsheviks to seize power or for Lenin and his colleagues to come and sit in the seats of the ministers of Tsar Nicholas II.
This much Lenin knew or understood unlike Stalin, Molotov, Zinoviev and Kamenev, who took as their sole guide the most recent programme of the RSDWP , and it was perhaps this single feature that made him the master strategist on the contemporary Russian political scene. Lenin had grasped that, in order to achieve power, it would be necessary to rely on the masses, to adopt their aspirations and to amplify them. With this in mind he wrote the highly libertarian State and Revolution , and argued for the adoption of workers' management and all power to the soviets.
As a result, between March and October anarchists and Marxists were able to tread the same road, united in struggle for the same objectives: land to the peasants, the factories to the workers and power, at all levels, to the proletariat. Having fought side by side with them, the anarchists were the privileged and apparently impartial witnesses of Bolshevik deeds and actions.
When things began to go wrong for them, around , and as they began to be eliminated by the new masters of the police and the army, they made their disillusionment known to the world at large. Unlike the Mensheviks and the left social revolutionaries they had no ties with the Marxist-Leninists; their ideological system turned out to be more extreme in the end, and less prone to compromise.
Hence the utter detachment of the anarchists' critique of Bolshevik reality. They undoubtedly occupied the extreme position on the ideological scale, and this lends particular value to their denunciation of the Soviet State.