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A fter th e E a st E u ro p e a n re v o lu tio n s e v e n s o c ia lis ts a r e

s a y in g Lenin le d to S ta lin . J o h n R ees re p lie s to th e critics.


Plus Paul M cG arr on M ozart Greek socialists interviewed
Brian M anning reviewed

In defence of October

JO H N R E E S

W ill th o s e s o c i a l i s t s w h o m o s t f e r v e n t ly w is h e d f o r th e e n d o f
S ta lin is m a ls o b e its la s t v ic tim s ? T h e E a s t E u ro p e a n re v o lu tio n s o f
1 9 8 9 h a v e b e e n w e lc o m e d b y m o s t s o c ia lis ts , p a rtic u la rly th o s e w h o
a r g u e d th a t S ta lin is m w a s n o t th e rig h tfu l h e ir o f th e 1 9 1 7 O c t o b e r r e v
o lu tio n b u t its p e r v e r te r a n d d e s tr o y e r . N e v e r th e le s s , th e im p a c t o f 1 9 8 9
h a s n o t b e e n to s tre n g th e n th e g e n e ra l s o c ia lis t tra d itio n . T h e v e ry o p
p o s ite h a s b e e n th e c ase.
T h e c o lla p s e o f th e S ta lin is t r e g im e s h a s g iv e n re n e w e d fo r c e t o a n
o l d a r g u m e n t : t h a t t h e s e e d s o f d e s t r u c t i o n w e r e s o w n in t h e v e r y f i r s t
d a y s o f th e B o ls h e v ik r e v o lu tio n . P r e d ic ta b ly rig h t w in g e r s h a v e s e iz e d
o n th e c o lla p s e o f s o c ia lis m ' a s a s tic k w ith w h ic h to b e a t th e
r e v o lu tio n a ry tr a d itio n .

F ro m

fo rm e r

Times

e d ito r W illia m

M o g g 's b i z a r r e i n v o c a t io n o f c h a o s t h e o r y t o s h o w

R ccs-

t h a t L e n i n s

s tru g g le to g a in c o n tro l o f Is k ra in 1 9 0 3 le d d ir e c tly to th e g u la g , to


f o r m e r U S N a tio n a l S e c u r ity C o u n c il m e m b e r R ic h a r d P i p e s ' w id e ly
p r a is e d a n d in te n s e ly id e o lo g ic a l to m e

The Russian Revolution,

th e

m e s s a g e is th e s a m e : L e n in le d t o S ta lin .'
I n R u s s i a i t s e l f a s i m i l a r b u t e v e n m o r e p r o f o u n d i d e o l o g i c a l s h i f t is
u n d e r w a y . O n c e th e S ta lin is t b u r e a u c r a c y a n d th e W e s te r n ru lin g
c l a s s e s j o i n e d in i n s i s t i n g t h a t S t a l i n i s m

was

s o c ia lis m . T h e S ta lin is ts

n e e d e d t h e m a n t l e o f t h e r e v o l u t i o n t o j u s t i f y t h e i r b a r b a r i t y a n d th e
W e s te rn c a p ita lis ts n e e d e d to s h o w th a t re v o lu tio n c o u ld o n ly le a d to
b a r b a r i t y . T o d a y t h e y a r c u n i t e d i n a r g u i n g t h a t t h e r e v o l u t i o n l e d to
d is a s te r . T h e S ta lin is t b u r e a u c r a c y n e e d s th e w o r ld m a r k e t a n d th e
W e s t e r n r u l i n g c l a s s e s w a n t a R u s s i a t h a t is o p e n t o t h e w o r l d m a r k e t .
I n a ll c a s e s a n d a t a ll t i m e s t h e s e t w o m a s s i v e s o c i a l f o r c e s h a v e u n i t e d
t o e x c lu d e th e v o ic e o f th e g e n u in e s o c ia lis t tr a d itio n , th e v o ic e w h ic h
r e je c te d b o th S ta lin is m a n d W e s te rn c a p ita lis m .
S o to d a y , j u s t a s P ip e s c e le b r a te s th e W h ile R u s s ia n in te r p r e ta tio n o f
th e re v o lu tio n in th e W e s t,

M oscow News

d e v o t e s i t s m i d d l e p a g e s to

a c c o u n ts o f th e re v o lu tio n a n d c iv il w a r ta k e n fro m a r c h iv e s c o m p ile d


b y J o s i f G c s s c n o f t h e C a d e t s , t h e b o u r g e o i s p a r t y in 1 9 1 7 , i n c l u d i n g
p ie c e s w ritte n b y th e m o th e r o f W h ite g e n e ra l B a ro n W ra n g c l a n d b y

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

T s a r i s t o f f i c e r s . M e a n w h i l e a t t h e C e n t r a l C o m m i t t e e p r i n t i n g p l a n t in
M o s c o w v o lu m e s o f M a rx a n d L e n in h a v e g iv e n w a y t o b io g r a p h ie s o f
W r a n g c l , h i s f e l l o w W h i t e l e a d e r A d m i r a l K o l c h a k a n d S o l z h e n i t s y n 's

The Gulag Archipelago.'

I t i s h a r d l y s u r p r i s i n g t h e n t h a t s o c i a l i s t s in

R u s s ia a rc c o n f r o n te d a g a in a n d a g a in w ith a r g u m e n ts w h ic h f irs t sa w
th e lig h t o f d a y in W h ite p u b lic a tio n s fro m
M c l g o u n o v 's

th e

1 9 2 0 s . lik e S P

The Red Terror in Russia.*

B u t w h a t i s n e w in t h e w a k e o f t h e E a s t E u r o p e a n r e v o l u t i o n s i s t h a t
m any o n

th is a lre a d y

s u b s ta n tia l c h o ru s .

Im m e d ia te ly a f te r th e E a s t E u ro p e a n re v o lu tio n s

th e

le ft h a v e jo in e d

Marxism Today e d i t o r

M a r l i n J a c q u e s s a i d . ' I t ' s t h e e n d o f th e r o a d f o r S t a l i n i s m a n d m o s t o f
l e n i n i s m . T h e p e o p le h a v e re je c te d a u th o r ita r ia n is m . N in a T e m p le ,
th e g e n e ra l s e c re ta ry o f th e C o m m u n is t P a r ty , a d d e d , 'I f y o u lo o k at
R u s s i a s i n c e t h e r e v o l u t i o n , t h i n g s w e n t w r o n g f r o m t h e s t a r t .
H i s t o r i a n E r i c H o b s b a w m b e l i e v e s t h a t , 'F o r a b o u t h a l f a c e n t u r y , f r o m
1 9 1 4 to th e a fte rm a th o f th e S e c o n d W o rld W a r. th e w o rld p a s s e d
t h r o u g h a p e r i o d o f c a t a c l y s m , p r o d u c i n g a ll m a n n e r o f f r e a k r e s u l t s , o f
w h ic h th e R u s s ia n R e v o lu tio n is p r o b a b ly th e m o s t lo n g - la s tin g .'
H o b s b a w m a r g u e s t h a t L e n i n s h o u l d n t h a v e m a d e t h e O c t o b e r r e v o l u
t io n :

There were indeed Marxiststhe Mensheviks. Plekhanov. other peopleeven in Russia who look this view Old Plekhanov. who was the father of
Russian Marxism, suggested to Lenin that alt you could produce that way
w a s some kind of socialist version of the Chinese empire *
In

Has Socialism Failed?

a n d o th e r re c e n t w ritin g s J o e S lo v o . g e n

e r a l s e c r e ta r y o f th e S o u th A f r ic a n C o m m u n is t P a r ty , h a s a d d e d h is
c r itic is m s o f th e O c to b e r re v o lu tio n t o th e g e n e ra l h u b b u b , u s in g th e m
a s a le v e r to p ro p e l th e S o u th A fric a n C P a lo n g th e re fo rm is t ro a d th a t
its E u ro p e a n s is te r o r g a n is a tio n s tr a v e lle d lo n g a g o . In a r e c e n t is s u e o f

The African Communist.

S l o v o w r i t e s . 'Q u i t e a f e w o u t s t a n d i n g l e a d e r s

o f th e B o ls h e v ik re v o lu tio n (in c lu d in g T ro ts k y . B u k h a n n . K a m e n e v
a n d R a d c k ) w h o c a m e to b e o p p o s itio n is ts " t o S ta lin is m , n o t o n ly
p l a y e d a s i g n i f i c a n t r o l e in e r e c t i n g p a n o f i t s t h e o r e t i c a l e d i f i c e , b u t
a ls o e n c o u r a g e d s o m e o f its p r a c tic e s b e f o r e S ta lin w a s in th e s a d d le
a n d lo n g b e fo re th e e m e rg e n c e o f a n e c o n o m ic a lly p riv ile g e d s tr a ta .
T h u s S lo v o . w h o h a s s p e n t e v e ry h o u r o f h is p o litic a l c a r e e r d e fe n d in g
S ta lin is m , a c c u s e s T r o ts k y o f b e in g r e s p o n s ib le f o r . . . S ta lin is m !
R a re ly c a n a b la c k e r p o t h a v e u p b r a id e d a c le a n e r k e ttle .
W ith th e S ta lin is ts th e u m b ilic a l c o r d th a t lin k s s o c ia lis ts w ith th e
s t r u g g l e o f t h e w o r k i n g c l a s s h a s b e e n s e v e r e d f o r s o l o n g t h a t it i s u n
lik e ly th a t m a n y o f th e m w ill f in d th e ir w a y b a c k to w a r d th e c la s s ic a l

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

M a rx is t tra d itio n . S ta te -w o rs h ip , th e c r a v e n b e n d in g o f th e k n e e b e fo re
th e e s ta b lis h e d fa c t o f a s tr o n g s la te w h ic h c a lle d its e lf s o c ia lis t, w a s
a lw a y s a n im p o r ta n t p a r t o f S ta lin is m . L ittle s u rp ris e , th e n , th a t o n c e
t h o s e s t a t e s c o l l a p s e d s o t o o d i d t h e S t a li n i s t s * f a i t h i n s o c i a l i s m .
M o r e s u r p r i s i n g t h a n th e r e a c t i o n o f y e s t e r d a y 's S t a l i n i s t s i s t h a t o f
th e a n ti-S ta lin is t s o c ia lis ts w h o a r e w r itin g a b o u t th e O c to b e r r e v o lu
t io n i n a s i m i l a r v e i n . R o b i n B l a c k b u r n , t h e e d i t o r o f

New Left Review.

h a s w r i t t e n t h a t . M a r x i s m c a n n o t e s c a p e i m p l i c a t i o n in t h e f a t e o f th e
R u s s i a n R e v o lu t i o n * . L e n i n c a n n o t " e s c a p e t h e c h a r g e * o f h a v i n g l a i d
t h e g r o u n d f o r S t a l i n , i n p a n b e c a u s e L e n i n w a s n o t . m i n d y o u . a s y s
te m a tic th in k e r .* ' A n d o n e - tim e M a r x is t P a u l H ir s t h a s w r itte n th a t
I x n i n 's d e te r m in a tio n to fo u n d a b e tte r s o c ie ty w a s a u to p ia n v is io n
w h i c h i n e v i t a b l y l e d t o t h e B o l s h e v i k P a r t y 's m o n o p o l y o f p o w e r , t o
th e s y s te m o f s e c re t p o lic e c o n tr o l a n d t o th e in h e re n tly a u th o rita ria n
p r a c t i c e o f d e m o c r a t i c c e n tr a lis m .* *
In

B efore Stalinism

A m e ric a n s o c ia lis t S a m F a rb c r a rg u e s th a t

l x n m 's v ie w s a n d a c tio n s

inevitably and necessarily

le d t o a n e litis t

fo r m o f g o v e rn m e n t* a n d th a t th e B o ls h e v ik s firm ly a d o p te d p o lic ie s
t h a t m o v e d t h e m a c o n s i d e r a b l e d i s t a n c e t o w a r d s w h a t l a t e r b e c a m e th e
S ta lin is t to ta lita ria n m o d e l. * F a r b e r is a m e m b e r o f th e U S s o c ia lis t o r
g a n is a tio n S o lid a rity a n d a n e d ito r o f its m a g a z in e

Against the Current

in w h i c h a f i e r c e d e b a t e o v e r t h e s e a n d r e l a t e d i s s u e s h a s b r o k e n o u t .
A t le a s t o n e c o n tr ib u tio n is v ir tu a lly in d is tin g u is h a b le fro m rig h t w in g
a ttitu d e s to th e O c to b e r re v o lu tio n ."
T h e s a m e s o r t o f a r g u m e n t h a s s u r f a c e d a m o n g o p p o s i t i o n i s t s in
F a s t c m E u r o p e . A d a m M i c h n i k c r i t i c i s e d t h e " t o t a l i t a r i a n t e m p t a t i o n "
o f t h o s e a c t i v i s t s in P o l i s h S o l i d a r i t y w h o w a n t e d t h e m o v e m e n t t o . . .
s t r u g g l e f o r s t a t e p o w e r .* '1 A n d M o s c o w s o c i a l i s t B o r i s K a g a r l i t s k y , in
a n a c c o u n t g e n e r a ll y m o r e s y m p a th e tic th a n m a n y in th e W e s t, s till
c l a i m s t h a t L e n i n 's p a r t y w a s t o a g r e a t e r d e g r e e t h e p a r t y o f P e t e r I
t h a n th e p a r t y o f K a r l M a r x , s i n c e i t s t r o v e f i r s t a n d f o r e m o s t t o e n s u r e
th a t R u s s ia im ita te d c o n te m p o r a r y f o r m s o f W e s te r n o rg a n is a tio n * . H e
g o e s o n t o a r g u e t h a t t h e B o l s h e v i k s * d i c t a t o r i a l m e t h o d s s c a r e d o f f
t h e W e s t e r n p r o l e t a r i a t f r o m r e v o lu t i o n * . T h e f a c t t h a t * th e B o l s h e v i k s
d id n o t ta k e in to a c c o u n t th e i n d iv is ib ility o f d e m o c r a tic p rin c ip le s *
w a s o n e c l e m e n t i n m a k i n g t h e r i s e o f S t a l i n t h e m o r e o r l e s s lo g ic a l*
re s u lt."
T h e re is c le a rly a c a s e f o r r e v o lu tio n a rie s to a n s w e r. S u c h a n a n s w e r
m u s t m o v e b e y o n d t h e g e n e r a l a c c u s a t i o n t h a t L e n i n l e d t o S ta lin * a n d
e x a m in e in d e ta il th e a r g u m e n ts o f th e B o ls h e v ik s ' c r itic s . T h is in
v o lv e s lo o k in g a t s o m e o f th e k e y q u e s tio n s a b o u t th e R u s s ia n
R e v o l u t i o n : W a s i t a p r e m a tu r e * r e v o l u t i o n ?

W a s th e O c to b e r r e v o lu

tio n a c o u p ? W e r e th e B o ls h e v ik s a m o n o lith ic p a r ty ? W e r e th e

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

B o l s h e v i k s r i g h t t o d i s p e r s e t h e C o n s t i t u e n t A s s e m b l y ? W h a t a b o u t th e
R e d T e r r o r , th e C h e k a a n d K ro n s ta d t?
S u c h q u e s tio n s a r c o f m o re th a n h is to r ic a l in te re s t. T h e O c to b e r r e v
o l u t i o n is t h e t o u c h s t o n e o f 2 0 t h c e n t u r y p o l i t i c s . T o k n o w a n i n d i v i d
u a l 's a ttitu d e to O c to b e r is to k n o w w h e th e r t h e y s ta n d f o r c a p ita lis m .
S ta lin is m o r th e g e n u in e s o c ia lis m o f th e c la s s ic a l M a rx is t tra d itio n . A s
S t a l i n i s m c o l l a p s e s t h e q u e s t i o n i s p o s e d p o i n t b l a n k : i s 'r e f o r m e d '
c a p i t a l i s m n o w t h e o n l y p a t h t h e w o r k i n g c l a s s c a n t a k e ? T o t h o s e , l ik e
M a rlin J a c q u e s , w h o c a n s e e o n ly th e p r e c u r s o r o f S ta lin is m in th e
O c t o b e r r e v o l u t i o n , t h e a n s w e r is a n e n t h u s i a s t i c y e s . T h o s e w h o r o t o n
th e d o le q u e u e s o f th e W e s te rn w o rld , th o s e th re a te n e d b y s lu m p a n d
w a r. ra c is m a n d o p p re s s io n m a y n o t b e s o q u ic k to a g re e . T h e y m a y
w is h t o k n o w w h y to d a y m a n y s o c ia lis ts ru s h t o J o in in d e c la r in g th a t
L e n in le d t o S ta lin w ith th o s e w h o a r e in e v e ry o th e r r e s p e c t th e ir b it
te re s t e n e m ie s .

A p r e m a tu r e re v o lu tio n ?
It h a s o n c e a g a in b e c o m e fa s h io n a b le t o a p p e a l t o th e M e n s h e v ik s an d
to K a u ts k y a n d P lc k a n h o v . to s h o w th a t th e R u s s ia n re v o lu tio n w a s
' p r e m a t u r e ', t h a t t h e e c o n o m i c c o n d i t i o n s i n b a c k w a r d R u s s i a c o u l d
n o t s u p p o rt th e a tte m p t to b u ild a s o c ia lis t so c ie ty . T h is is th e g is t o f
H o b s b a w m a n d K a g a r l i t s k y 's c o m m e n t s c i t e d a b o v e . It i s a l s o a n i m
p o r t a n t p a r t o f R o b i n B l a c k b u r n s c a s e :

In The Communist Manifesto and in other writings. Mari and F.ngels fa


mously insisted that a genuine socialism could only be built on the basis al
ready laid by capitalism: in The German Ideology they observed that
socialism would require social overturns in at least several of the most de
veloped countries. From this classic Marxist conviction it followed that it
was a complete delusion to attempt to 'build socialism' in one targe and
backward country."
T h is a rg u m e n t is . o f c o u r s e , th e A B C o f M a rx is m . Its lo g ic is f a u lt
l e s s s o l o n g a s i t is c o n f i n e d t o t h e b o r d e r s o f o n e c o u n t r y . B u t a l r e a d y
i n 1 9 0 6 . in

Results and Prospects, T r o t s k y

h a d d e a lt w ith th is o b je c tio n

in d e ta i l. H e e x a m i n e d th e m a t u r i ty o f W e s te r n i n d u s t r y a n d th e
W e s t e r n w o r k i n g c l a s s i n t h e s e c t i o n o n T h e p r e r e q u i s i t e s f o r s o c i a l
i s m ' a n d th e n w e n t o n to a d d r e s s p r e c is e ly th e q u e s tio n th a t R o b in
B l a c k b u r n , u s i n g K a u t s k y a s h i s a u t h o r i t y , r a i s e s . T r o t s k y 's c o n c l u s i o n
w as:

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

Without thr direct Hate support o f the European proletariat the working
class o f Russia cannot remain in power and convert its temporary domi
nation into a lasting socialistic dictatorship O f this there cannot for one
moment be any doubt. But on the other hand there cannot be any doubt that
a socialist resolution in the West will enable us to directly convert the tem
porary domination of the working class into a socialist dictatorship."
In th e c o u r s e o f 1 9 1 7 L e n in a n d ih c B o ls h e v ik s a d o p te d th is p e r s p e c
tiv e w h o le h e a r te d ly . E v e n S ta lin c o u ld s u m m a r is e th e d if f e r e n c e s b e
tw e e n L e n in , o n th e o n e h a n d , a n d Z in o v ie v a n d K a m e n e v , o n th e
o th e r , o v e r w h e th e r to m a k e th e O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n in th e s e te rm s :
'T h e r e a r e t w o l i n e s : o n e s e t s t h e c o u r s e f o r t h e v i c t o r y o f t h e r e v o l u
t io n a n d r e l i e s o n E u r o p e , t h e s e c o n d d o e s n o t b e l i e v e i n t h e r e v o l u t i o n
a n d c o u n ts o n ly o n b e in g a n o p p o s itio n . w In th e v e ry m id s t o f th e re v o
lu tio n T r o ts k y , n o w s p e a k in g f o r th e B o ls h e v ik g o v e r n m e n t, r e p e a le d
h is p ro g n o s is o f 190 6 :

If the peoples of Europe do not arise and crush imperialism, we shall be


crushed-that is beyond doubt Either the Russian revolution will raise the
whirlwind of struggle in the West, or the capitalists o f all countries will
stifle our struggle."
A n d l-c n in , in a n o ft re p e a te d a r g u m e n t, s a id :

It is not open to the slightest doubt that the final victory of our revolution, if
it were to remain alone, if there were no revolutionary movement in other
countries, would be hopeless . . . Our salvation from all these difficulties. I
repeat, it an all European revolution."
T h e s e w e r e n o t , a s R o b i n B l a c k b u r n c l a i m s , L e n i n a n d T r o t s k y 's
'l a t e r j u s t i f i c a t i o n s o f t h e o r i g i n a l B o l s h e v i k s e i z u r e o f p o w e r .1 T h e y
w e re th e a v o w e d p e r s p e c tiv e o f th e B o ls h e v ik s b e fo re , d u rin g a n d a fte r
th e O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n . It w a s . c o n c lu d e s E H C a r r , 't h e E u r o p e a n re v
o lu tio n . o n w h ic h th e c o n fid e n t c a lc u la tio n s , n o t m e re ly o f a fe w o p ti
m i s t s b u t o f e v e r y B o l s h e v i k o f a n y a c c o u n t , h a d b e e n b a s e d . '* A n d t h e
B o l s h e v i k s w e r e n o t a l o n e in l o o k i n g t o a E u r o p e a n r e v o l u t i o n . E v e n
K . i u ts k y , in a p a s s a g e f r o m

I9 (M w h i c h s o m e h o w s e e m s t o e s c a p e t h e

n o tic e o f h is m o d e m a d m ir e r s , a c k n o w le d g e d th e p o s s ib ility o f a r e v o
lu tio n in G e r m a n y w h ic h :

must lead to the political domination of the proletariat in Western Europe


and create for the Eastern European proletariat the possibility of contract
ing the stages o f their development and. copying the example o f the
Hermans, artificially setting up socialist institutions. Society as a whole

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

cannot skip any stages in its development, but it is possible foe the con
stituent parts of society to hasten their retarded development by imitating
the metre advanced countries and. thanks to this, even to take their stand in
the forefront of development .
K a u t s k y 's p o s t - 1 9 1 7 c r i t i q u e o f t h e B o l s h e v i k s d e p e n d e d o n c a s t i n g
o f f th is c r e a k in g p r e m o n itio n o f th e th e o r y o f p e r m a n e n t re v o lu tio n . B y
t h e n K a u t s k y w a s a ll t o o k e e n t o a v o i d l o o k i n g a t E u r o p e a n c a p i t a l i s t
s o c i e t y a s a w h o l e ' a n d t o c o n d e m n a r e v o l u t i o n i n o n e o f i t s ' c o n
s t i t u e n t p a n s . Y e t e v e n a f t e r t h e O c t o b e r r e v o l u t i o n , in t h e m i d s t o f h i s
tira d e a g a in s t th e B o ls h e v ik s . K a u ts k y c o u ld n o t q u ite s h a k e o f f th e
p o w e r o f th e B o ls h e v ik s ' a n a ly s is :

the Bolsheviks must not be too much blamed for expecting a European revo
lution Other socialists did the same, and we are certainly approaching con
ditions which will sharply accentuate the class struggle, and which may
have many surprises in store And if the Bolsheviks have till now been in
error in expecting a revolution, have not Bebel. Marx and Engels cherished
a like delusion 7 This is not to be denied
T h i s p e r s p e c t i v e w a s n e v e r t h e b a s e l e s s o p t i m i s m o f w h i c h it i s a c
c u s e d b y its la tte r d a y c r itic s . It w a s fo u n d e d o n a d e ta ile d e x a m in a tio n
o f t h e w a y in w h i c h t h e w o r l d m a r k e t , a n d w i t h it i m p e r i a l i s m , h a d
w e ld e d th e c a p ita lis t w o rld in to a s in g le o rg a n is m . It w a s a n o rg a n is m
w h o s e p a r ts w e re s im u lta n e o u s ly s h a k e n b y e c o n o m ic c r is e s a n d
ra c k e d b y w a r. a n d in w h ic h th e g re a t la b o u r u n re s t o f th e p rc -F irs t
W o r l d W a r p e r i o d h a d a s s u m e d s i m i l a r i n t e n s i t y in a n u m b e r o f m a j o r
c o u n t r i e s . L e n i n a n d t h e B o l s h e v i k s w e r e a l o n e in d e v e l o p i n g a t h e o r y
o f im p e r ia lis m w h ic h c o u ld e x p la in th e n a tu r e o f m o d e m c a p ita lis m
a n d th e in te r n a tio n a l s c o p e o f th e c la s s s tr u g g le w h ic h it p r o d u c e d . N o
o th e r s o c ia lis ts , in c lu d in g le ft M e n s h e v ik s lik e M a rto v , e v e n a tte m p te d
s u c h a n a n a ly s is .
In th e p o s t-w a r y e a rs th e B o ls h e v ik s ' p ro g n o s is w a s p ro v e d a b s o
lu te ly c o r re c t.

There was a European-wide revolutionary upheaval.

The

E a s t e r R i s i n g in I r e l a n d p r e d a t e d t h e O c t o b e r r e v o l u t i o n . T h e f a ll o f
th e G e r m a n K a is e r, p re c ip ita te d b y a n a v a l m u tin y a n d a g e n e ra l s trik e ,
fo llo w e d th e r e v o lu tio n in N o v e m b e r 1 9 1 8 . M o re re v o lu tio n a ry c r is e s
e n s u e d . A s V ic to r S e rg e re c a lls .

revolution descended on the streets of Vienna and Budapest . . . From the


Scheldt to the Volga the councils of workers' and soldiers' deputiesthe so
vietsare the real masters of the hour. Germany's legal government is a
Council of People's Commissars made up of six socialists .

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

I n M a r c h 1 9 1 9 a s o v i e t g o v e r n m e n t t o o k p o w e r i n H u n g a r y a n d in
t h e s a m e y e a r m a s s i v e l a b o u r u n r e s t s h o o k th e B r i t i s h s t a t e t o i t s f o u n
d a tio n s . F o r 't h e tw o re d y e a r s ' Ita ly w a s c o n v u ls e d b y m a s s iv e c la s s
s tru g g le s , o n ly b ro u g h t to a n e n d b y w h a t S e rg e d e s c rib e s a s 'a p re v e n
t a t i v e c o u n t e r - r e v o l u t i o n ' w h i c h b r o u g h t M u s s o l i n i t o p o w e r . 1*
E ls e w h e re S e r g e re m e m b e rs :

The newspapers o f the period are astonishing , . riots in Paris, riots in


Lyon, resolution in Belgium, resolution in Constantinople, victory of the so
viets in Bulgaria, rioting in Copenhagen In fact the whole c f Europe is in
movement, clandestine or open soviets are appearing everywhere, esen in
the Allied armies. everything is possible, everything.
A t th e o t h e r e n d o f th e p o litic a l s p e c tru m . L lo y d G e o r g e w ro te :

The whole of Europe is filled with the spirit of revolution. There is a deep
sense not only of discontent but of anger and revolt amongst the workmen
against the pre-war conditions. The whole existing order in its political,
social and economic aspects is questioned by the masses of the population
from one end of Europe to the other *
It w a s o n t h e b a s i s o f t h e s e c l a s s s t r u g g l e s , u n p r e c e d e n t e d in s c a l e
a n d in te n s ity , th a t th e T h ir d In te r n a tio n a l w a s a b le to ra lly to its b a n n e r
m a s s C o m m u n is t P a rtie s n u m b e rin g h u n d re d s o f th o u s a n d s o f m e m b e rs
in m o s t F .u ro p e a n c o u n tr i e s . B y 1 9 2 0 th e T h ir d I n te r n a tio n a l c o u ld
c o u n t o n (h e f o llo w in g o r g a n is a tio n s : th e I ta lia n S o c ia lis t P a rty .
3 0 0 .0 0 0 s tr o n g ; th e C z e c h o s lo v a k C P . w ith 4 0 0 .0 0 0 m e m b e r s ; th e
1 4 0 .0 0 0 o f th e F r e n c h S o c i a l i s t P a r ty ; th e 3 5 .4 7 8 c o m r a d e s o f th e
B u lg a r ia n S o c ia lis ts ; th e 1 7 .0 0 0 m e m b e r s o f th e S w e d is h S o c ia lis t
P a rly ; a m a s s G e r m a n C o m m u n is t P a rty , N o rw e g ia n l a b o u r P a rty a n d
Y u g o s l a v S o c i a l i s t P a r t y .'
W h a t w a s la c k in g in th e s e re v o lu tio n a ry u p h e a v a ls w a s n o t th e o b
j e c t i v e E u r o p e a n - w i d e c r i s i s . N e i t h e r w a s it t h e w i l l i n g n e s s o f w o r k e r s
to s tru g g le f o r p o w e r . W h a t w a s la c k in g w a s a le a d e r s h ip o f s u ffic ie n t
c la r ity a n d a n o r g a n is a tio n w ith a c o re o f s u f f ic ie n tly e x p e rie n c e d
m e m b e rs t o s u c c e s s f u lly le a d th e s e m o v e m e n ts to p o w e r . T h is w a s th e
d e c i s i v e d i f f e r e n c e b e t w e e n t h e G e r m a n a n d R u s s i a n r e v o l u t i o n s . It
w a s a w e a k n e s s w h ic h th e B o ls h e v ik s la b o u re d h e ro ic a lly t o o v e rc o m e
in t h e T h i r d I n t e r n a t i o n a l . I t w a s c e r t a i n l y n o t a s t r u g g l e t h a t w a s
d o o m e d t o f a i l u r e in a d v a n c e .
T h e B o ls h e v ik s c o r re c tly p r e d ic te d a E u ro p e a n re v o lu tio n a n d th e y
s tr a in e d m ig h t a n d m a in t o p r o v id e th a t r e v o lu tio n w ith a le a d e rs h ip
w h i c h c o u l d b r i n g i t t o a s u c c e s s f u l c o n c l u s i o n . T h e y w e r e r i g h t t o tr y .
A s M a r x o n c e o b s e r v e d , 'w o r l d h i s t o r y w o u l d i n d e e d b e v e r y e a s y to

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

10

m a k e , if ih c s tru g g le w e re ta k e n u p o n ly o n c o n d itio n o f in fa llib ly


f a v o u r a b l e c h a n c e s . '*
W h a t w a s K a u t s k y s a t t i t u d e t o t h e G e r m a n r e v o l u t i o n ? S u r e l y h e r e ,
in t h e s e c o n d m o s t a d v a n c e d i n d u s t r i a l c o u n t r y o f t h e d a y . n o n e o f th e
a r g u m e n t s a b o u t t h e i m p e r m i s s a b i l i t y o f s o c i a l i s m in b a c k w a r d c o u n
tr ie s n e e d a p p ly . W h ile K a u ts k y
w a rd R u s s ia h e w o u ld , s u r e ly ,

opposed s o c i a l i s t r e v o l u t i o n i n b a c k
su p p o rt i t i n a d v a n c e d G e r m a n y ?

N o th in g o f th e so rt. K a u ts k y o p p o s e d a s o c ia lis t re v o lu tio n in th e n a m e


o f c a p i t a l i s t d e m o c r a c y e v e r y b i t a s v e h e m e n t l y in G e r m a n y a s h e d i d
in R u s s i a . H e d e c l a r e d R o s a L u x e m b u r g t o b e e v e r y b i t a s d a n g e r o u s a s
I x n i n . I n d e b a t e w i t h L u x e m b u r g a l e a d e r o f K a u l s k y 's p a r t y . H u g o
H a a s e , s e e m in g ly o b liv io u s o f th e c o n tr a d ic tio n , s a id :

We cannot slavishly imitate the Bolshevik revolution here, because the ob


jective conditions are completely different Russia is a peasant country . . .
Only 10 percent of the population are industrial workers. Germany, on the
other hand, is a developed, industrialised state which needs food supplies
The majority of its population are proletarians "
R o b i n B l a c k b u r n is . o f c o u r s e , in th e s a m e b i n d . I f t h e R u s s i a n r e v o
l u t i o n w a s m i s t a k e n b e c a u s e it t o o k p l a c e i n a b a c k w a r d c o u n t r y , t h e n
to d a y , in

B r ita in , th e s a m e in ju n c tio n c a n n o t a p p ly . Y e t R o b in

B la c k b u rn o b je c ts j u s t a s f o r c ib ly t o a r e v o lu tio n a r y s tr a te g y in B rita in
to d a y a s h e d o e s t o th e B o ls h e v ik s ' s tr a te g y in 1 9 1 7 . T h e u n a v o id a b le
c o n c l u s i o n is t h a t a l l t h e t a l k a b o u t 'p r e m a t u r e ' r e v o l u t i o n , i n R o b i n
B l a c k b u r n a n d K a u t s k y 's e a s e s , i s a n

excuse born o f e x p e d i e n c y

not a

s e rio u s a rg u m e n t a g a in s t re v o lu tio n a ry so c ia lis m .

O c to b e r: c o u p o r re v o lu tio n ?
T h e c o n tr a s t b e tw e e n th e s p o n ta n e o u s , m a s s u p ris in g o f F e b ru a ry 1917
a n d t h e 'B o l s h e v i k c o u p ' o f O c t o b e r 1 9 1 7 i s o n e o f t h e s t a p l e s o f r i g h t
w i n g i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f t h e r e v o l u t i o n . I t is a v i e w w h i c h is g a i n i n g r e
n e w e d fo r c e f r o m e v e n ts in E a s te rn E u ro p e . A s o n e h is to r ia n h a s r e
c e n tly o b se rv e d :
[th e) portrayal of the Bolshevik victory as the product of the organisational
skill of a ruthless, conspiratorial minority has informed conventional
wisdom in the West for so long that it has made an all but indelible impres
sion on popular assumptions about the revolution. Although recent special
ist work has cast doubt upon many o f its propositions, studies adhering to it
continue to appear and it still provides the common currency o f Western
media commentary Moreover, the spectacle of perestroika, of Communism

II

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

repentant, promites to lend it a new lease of life The grader the travails of
the Soviet Union, the holder the adherents o f |t h t t ) view seem likely to
becomem
T h u s f o r P ip e s (h e re v o lu tio n w a s a m o d e l o f a m o d e rn c o u p
d ' e t a t ' . 1 F e w s o c i a l i s t s , a n a r c h i s t s a p a r t , h a v e b e e n w i l l i n g t o s w a l l o w
m u c h o f th e rig h t w in g s to ry . B u t w h ile th e y a c c e p t th a t O c to b e r w a s a
g e n u i n e m a s s r i s i n g , t h e y t e n d t o u n d e r s t a t e t h e d e g r e e t o w h i c h th e
B o ls h e v ik s h a d t o f ig h t a g a in s t

a ll

o t h e r s o c i a l i s t p a r t i e s t o m a k e th e

r e v o l u t i o n p o s s i b l e in t h e f i r s t p l a c e . T h e y a l s o t e n d t o u n d e r e s t i m a t e
t h e i n t e n s e p o l a r i s a t i o n t h a t t h e r e v o l u t i o n i n v o l v e d , p l a y i n g d o w n th e
th re a t o f c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n . B o th th e s e a r g u m e n ts a re th e n u s e d to b u t
t r e s s c r i t i c i s m s o f th e B o l s h e v i k s ' p o s t - O c t o b e r a c t i o n s : t h e i r d i s p e r s a l
o f th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly a n d th e ir c o n d u c t o f th e c iv il w a r.
B u t w h a t h a d b ro u g h t th e B o ls h e v ik s to p o w e r? C le a r ly th e ir p r o
g r a m m e a n d t a c t i c a l f l e x i b i l i t y w e r e e s s e n t i a l . B u t t h a t is o n l y p a r t o f
th e s to ry . T h e r e m a in d e r is e x p la in e d b y h o w th e o th e r p a rtie s re 'p o n d e d t o t h e g r o w i n g c r i s i s . T h e p a t h f r o m F e b r u a r y t o O c t o b e r is
n o t t h e r o y a l r o a d o f t h e B o l s h e v i k s ' r i s e t o p o w e r , it i s a l s o t h e s t o r y o f
t h e o t h e r p a r t i e s ' s t e e p d e s c e n t in t h e e s t i m a t i o n o f t h e m a s s o f w o r k e r s
.m d p e a s a n t s a s t h e y f a i l e d t o g i v e a d e q u a t e a n s w e r s t o t h e m o s t p r e s s
in g q u e s tio n s p o s e d b y th e r e v o lu tio n .
T h e F e b r u a r y r e v o lu tio n r a is e d th r e e k e y is s u e s : th e w a r . th e la n d
a n d th e f a c to r ie s . A n d th e r e w e re th r e e k e y p o litic a l f o r c e s : firs tly , th e
o ld o r d e r w h o s e m o s t p o w e r f u l r e m n a n ts w e r e th e o f f ic e r c o r p s o f th e
T s a r is t a r m y s u p p o r te d , s o m e tim e s w ith re s e r v a tio n s , b y th e b o u rg e o is
C o n s titu tio n a l D e m o c r a ts ( C a d e ts ) . S e c o n d ly , th e r e w e re th e p a r tie s o f
tli e w o r k i n g c l a s s t h e B o l s h e v i k s a n d M e n s h e v i k s . F i n a l l y t h e n : w e r e
tli e S o c i a l i s t R e v o l u t i o n a r i e s ( S R s ) . o r i e n t e d o n a n d t h i n k i n g o f t h e m
s e lv e s a s th e r e p re s e n ta tiv e s o f th e p e a s a n ts , th o u g h o f t e n le d b y in te l
le c tu a ls . la w y e r s a n d o th e r s e c tio n s o f th e u rb a n m id d le c la s s e s .
T h e r e g im e w h ic h is s u e d f ro m th e F e b ru a ry r e v o lu tio n , h e a d e d b y
t h e P r o v i s i o n a l g o v e r n m e n t , w a s d o m i n a t e d b y t h e C a d e t s . It r e f u s e d t o
d is trib u te th e la n d t o th e p e a s a n ts , v o w e d t o c o n tin u e th e w a r a n d o fl e r c d l i t t l e t o t h e w o r k e r s . T h e P r o v i s i o n a l g o v e r n m e n t h a d th e s u p p o r t
o l t h e M e n s h e v i k s a n d S R s w h o c o m m a n d e d a m a j o r i t y in t h e s o v i e t s
w h ic h m u s h ro o m e d d u r in g a n d a f te r th e F e b r u a ry r e v o lu tio n .
T h e e c o n o m ic a n d p o litic a l p a r a ly s is o f th e r e g im e d r o v e a w e d g e
b e tw e e n th e P ro v is io n a l g o v e r n m e n t a n d th e m a s s o f w o rk e rs , p e a s a n ts
a n d s o l d i e r s . T h e f i r s t c r i s i s o f t h e P r o v i s i o n a l g o v e r n m e n t c a m e in
A p ril. T h e is s u e w a s th e w a r . T h e C a d e t le a d e r M iliu k o v p r o v o k e d th e
c r i s i s b y d e c l a r i n g t h a t 'R u s s i a w o u l d f i g h t t o t h e l a s t d r o p o f h e r
M o o d * . It w a s a n a n n o u n c e m e n t w h ic h m e t w ith a b itte r r e s p o n s e o n
d i e b a t t l e f i e l d s w h e r e R u s s i a n s o l d i e r s w e r e 'c h u r n e d i n t o g r u e l ', a c -

12

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

c o r d i n g t o G e n e r a l S i r A l f r e d K n o x , 'u n t i l c a s u a l t i e s in t h e f i r i n g lin e
s h o u ld m a k e rifle s a v a ila b le . "
M e e tin g s , p r o te s ts , s tr e e t f ig h ts b e tw e e n p r o - w a r a n d a n ti- w a r
d e m o n s tr a to rs a n d . e v e n tu a lly , r io ts d r o v e M iliu k o v fro m th e g o v e r n
m e n t. I n d e e d it b r o u g h t a n e n d t o th e p u r e ly b o u r g e o is g o v e r n m e n t.
T h e le a d e r s o f th e m o d e ra te s o c ia lis ts jo in e d a n e w c o a litio n g o v e r n
m e n t . A s t h e C a d e t P r i n c e T r u b e t s k o y w r o t e . 'T h e r e w a s a p p a r e n t l y a
w a l l b e t w e e n o u r s e l v e s a n d t h e l e f t , b u t i t f e l l d o w n . A s t h e
P r o v i s i o n a l g o v e r n m e n t b e c a m e p r o g r e s s i v e l y m o r e u n p o p u l a r it i n
c r e a s i n g l y r e l i e d o n t h e S R s a n d o t h e r m o d e r a t e s o c i a l i s t s t o l e n d it
c r e d ib ility , e n d in g w ith o n e s u c h f ig u re . K e r e n s k y , a s its le a d e r.
T h e M e n s h e v ik s a n d th e S o c ia lis t R e v o lu tio n a rie s w e re w illin g c o o p t c e s . T h e y w e r e h a p p y t o p a r t i c i p a t e in t h e P r o v i s i o n a l g o v e r n m e n t
b e c a u s e th e y b e lie v e d th e r e v o lu tio n m u s t lim it its e lf t o b o u r g e o is h o r i
z o n s . A s T r o ts k y n o te s . F r o m th e tim e o f th e f i r s t r e v o lu tio n , th e
M e n s h e v i k s h a d i n f e r r e d t h e n e c e s s i t y o f a u n i o n w i t h th e l i b e r a l s f r o m
t h e b o u r g e o i s c h a r a c t e r o f t h e r e v o l u t i o n . '** T h e l e a d e r o f t h e C a d e t s
a g re e d :

The socialist parties of the present time kase a much more intelligent view
. . . the revolution at the present time cannot go further than the political
victory of the bourgeoisie
The socialists have even managed to break
with their own traditions and doctrines and hose entered the government
This represents a great step forward . . . "
T h is i n t e l l i g e n t v i e w , w h ic h 's y s t e m a t i c t h i n k e r s ' lik e R o b in
B la c k b u rn a n d H o b s b a w m n o w la u d a s s h o w in g th e O c to b e r re v o lu tio n
t o b e 'p r e m a t u r e * , w a s a t t h e t i m e t h e v e r y t h e o r y w h i c h e a r n e d i t s a u
th o rs th e c o n te m p t o f th e v a s t m a jo rity o f w o rk e rs a n d p e a s a n ts .
T h e m o d e ra te s o c ia lis ts e a r n e d th is c o n te m p t b y c o n tin u in g p o lic ie s
w h ic h m irro re d th o s e o f th e C a d e t- o n ly g o v e rn m e n t. K e re n s k y c o n ti n
u e d t h e i n s a n i t y o f t h e w a r e f f o r t b y t e l l i n g t r o o p s t h a t t h e i n e v i t a b i l i t y
a n d n e c e s s ity o f s a c rif ic e m u s t ru le th e h e a r ts o f R u s s ia n s o ld ie r s ' a n d
t h a t ' I s u m m o n y o u n o t t o a f e a s t b u t t o d e a th * . T o w h i c h o n e p e a s a n t
r e p l i e d , 'w h a t s t h e u s e o f t h e p e a s a n t s g e t t i n g l a n d i f I 'm k i l l e d a n d g e l
n o la n d .' It w a s a n a r g u m e n t w h o s e e le m e n ta l p o w e r la u n c h e d te n s o f
th o u s a n d s o f s o ld ie r s o n th e lo n g tre k b a c k to th e ir v illa g e s . T h e y
s im p ly w a lk e d a w a y fro m th e f r o n t in th e s u m m e r o f 1 9 1 7 .
A t th e a r m y h e a d q u a r te r s th e s u p p o s e d re p re s e n ta tiv e s o f 't h e p e a s
a n ts in u n if o r m ' le d a r a th e r d if f e r e n t life fro m th o s e in th e b a rra c k s
a n d tre n c h e s . V ic to r S e rg e re c o rd s :

the supreme revolutionary authority was the committee o f the armies . . .


controlled by the Socialist Resolutionary party. This committee hobnobbed

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

13

amicably with the General Staff, denounced Bolshevik plots and affirmed
the indefatigaNe loyalty of the army to the fatherland and Allies ..
It w a s n o d if f e r e n t o n th e h o m e f r o n t. T h e M e n s h e v ik s a n d th e
S o c i a l i s t R e v o l u t i o n a r i e s t e m p o r i s e d e n d l e s s l y a b o u t d e c l a r i n g t h a t th e
la n d s h o u ld h e ta k e n o v e r b y th e p e a s a n ts , d e s p ite th e fa c t th a t th e p e a s
a n ts w e re a lr e a d y a c tin g fo r th e m s e lv e s . T h e M e n s h e v ik s , in c lu d in g
M a r t o v , w e r e a d a m a n t in t h e i r o p p o s i t i o n t o w o r k e r s ' c o n t r o l o f t h e
f a c t o r i e s , a g a i n in s p i t e o f th e f a c t t h a t t h i s w a s a r e a l i t y e v e n b e f o r e it
b e c a m e a B o ls h e v ik s lo g a n . B u t th e y c o u ld d o n o th in g to s t o p th e c ris is
w h ic h w a s d riv in g th e w o rk e rs to o c c u p y th e fa c to rie s a n d th e p e a s a n ts
to s e iz e th e la n d : p r ic e s r o s e 2 .3 0 0 p e r c e n t b e tw e e n F e b r u a ry a n d
O c to b e r a n d re a l w a g e s fe ll b y a lm o s t a h a lf . T h e r a te o f b a n k r u p tc ie s
a n d c lo s u r e s r o c k e te d . S tr ik e s a lo n e w e re n o t e n o u g h to c o m b a t th is
le v e l o f s o c ia l d is in te g r a tio n .
A s e c o n d c r i s i s e r u p t e d i n J u l y a s K e r e n s k y 's m i l i t a r y o f f e n s i v e
fa ile d a n d a s th e P r o v is io n a l g o v e r n m e n t u s e d C z e c h m e r c e n a r ie s to
d riv e r e c a lle d v e te ra n s to th e fro n t. T h e a n g e r o f th e w o rk e rs a n d s o l
d i e r s s p o n t a n e o u s l y b o i l e d o v e r i n t o a n e a r u p r i s i n g m o r e t h a n a
d e m o n s t r a t i o n a n d l e s s t h a n a r e v o l u t i o n ', i n L e n i n 's w o r d s . " A t o n e
p o in t a n a n g ry m o b b u rs t in to th e s o v ie t a n d , w h ite w ith a n g e r, a
w o rk e r ju m p e d o n to th e p la tf o r m , sh o o k h is fis t a t th e S R le a d e r
C h e r n o v a n d s h o u t e d , t a k e p o w e r , y o u s o n o f a b i t c h , w h e n i t ' s g i v e n
y o u .'
B u t t h e S R s a n d M e n s h e v i k s h a d n o i n t e n t i o n o f p r o c l a i m i n g 'A l l
P o w e r to th e S o v i e ts . A s o n e h is to r ia n g e n e r a lly u n s y m p a th e tic to
B o ls h e v is m w rite s :

Too long used to debating the complexities o f revolutionary theory while


they remained unschooled in re\-olutionary practice, the men who stepped
forward to lead the Fetrograd soviet . . . prosed to be timid advocates for
Russia's proletarians . . . these halting theorists preached that the revolu
tion neither had the practical strength to bring about the rapid socialistic
transformation of Russia, nor were conditions ripe' for doing so. Political
power, they insisted, must be delivered first to those sober politicians who
represented Russia's men and women of property . . Petrograd s workers
and soldiers proved much less willing to surrender their newly won revolu
tionary victories.1*
T h e i m m e d i a t e c o n s e q u e n c e o f t h e J u l y D a y s w a s n o t t o i n c r e a s e th e
s u p p o rt fo r th e B o ls h e v ik s . T h e w a v e o f th e re v o lu tio n h a d b ro k e n
a ro u n d th e w a lls o f th e P r o v is io n a l g o v e r n m e n t w ith o u t y e t b e in g p o w
e rfu l e n o u g h to b re a c h th e m . A s th e m o v e m e n t te m p o ra rily e b b e d .

INTERNATIONAL. SOCIALISM

14

r e a c t i o n , c o n f i d e n t t h a t t h e m o d e r a t e s o c i a l i s t s w e r e a s f e a r f u l o f th e
m a s s e s a s it w a s . s e iz e d its c h a n c e *
J u s t a s p o la r is a tio n w a s ta k in g p la c e w ith in th e s o v ie t c a m p a n e q u a l
h u t o p p o s ite p o la r is a tio n w a s ta k in g p la c e in th e c a m p o f th e b o u r
g e o is ie . J u s t a s th e s o ld ie r s , w o r k e r s a n d p e a s a n ts w e r e im p a tie n t fo r
t h e P r o v i s i o n a l g o v e r n m e n t a n d t h e m o d e r a t e m a j o r i t y i n t h e s o v i e t s to
re s o lv e th e s itu a tio n d e c is iv e ly in th e ir fa v o u r, s o th e g e n e ra ls , th e fa c
to ry o w n e r s a n d th e la n d lo rd s w e re lo s in g p a tie n c e w ith th e P ro v is io n a l
g o v e r n m e n t s i n a b i l i t y t o r e s o l v e t h e s i t u a t i o n o n c e a n d f o r a ll in t h e i r
fa v o u r.
In s id e th e b o u rg e o is c a m p th e m o o d b e g a n to s w in g in fa v o u r o f a
m ilita ry d ic ta to r s h ip . K e re n s k y o r d e re d th e fo rm a tio n o f a s p e c ia l
s q u a d to h u n t d o w n L e n in a n d s h o o t h im o n s ig h t. T r o ts k y a n d o th e r
le a d in g B o ls h e v ik s w e re im p r is o n e d . B o ls h e v ik s y m p a th is e r s w e re
m u r d e r e d a n d t h e o r g a n i s a t i o n 's p r i n t i n g p r e s s e s s m a s h e d . A c o m m o n
p a r l o u r t o p i c b e c a m e t h e n e e d f o r a n e x e m p l a r ) -" G e r m a n v i c t o r y , to
c h a s t e n t h e w o r k i n g c l a s s . " M a r c F e r r o h a s d e s c r i b e d w h a t h e c a l l s
t h i s t e r r o r i n a n m i n o r k e y ':

A r-odel of anti-Bolshevism was being assembled, and u was reconstituted


during the civil war. It was shaped between February and October, and
there
some similarity between it and the Fascist model that came later
in Italy and then Germany it began with resistance to social revolution, the
primary role of leading financiers and industrialists, with action by the
army and the church, denial o f the class struggle, and an appeal to service
men's masculine solidarity; it was followed by the use o f 'special action
groups'. the denunciation of governmental weakness, the emergence of new
men Ioften former revolutionaries who hod supported the war), with a lead
ership cult, anti semitism, attacks on democratic organisations, and. finally,
the sympathy and armed intervention by allied governments ."
T h e a p p e a ra n c e o f G e n e r a l K o rn ilo v in M o s c o w fo r th e s ta le c o n f e r
e n c e in A u g u s t 1 9 1 7 . b o m a lo ft fro m h is tra in b y o f f ic e r s , w a x th e tu rn
in g p o in t. F ro m th a t m o m e n t o n th e P r o v is io n a l g o v e r n m e n t b e c a m e a
f ic tio n . B e h in d its fa c a d e th e B o ls h e v ik s p r e p a r e d t o d e f e n d th e r e v o lu
tio n b y e n d in g d u a l p o w e r in f a v o u r o f th e s o v ie ts . T h e rig h t p re p a re d
to c ru s h th e re v o lu tio n , th e s o v ie ts a n d th e P ro v is io n a l g o v e rn m e n t b e
n e a th th e h e e l o f th e a rm y . T h e c h o ic e w a s c ith e r r e v o lu tio n o r c o u n te r
r e v o lu tio n . T r o ts k y a rg u e d :

Just as out of the eagerness o f the Fetrograd masses arose the semi-insur
rection of July, so out of the impatience of the property owners arose the
Kornilov insurrection of August. And just as the Bolsheviks found them
selves obliged to take the side of an armed insurrection, in order if possible

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

15

to guarantee us success. and in any case to prevent its extermination, so the


Cadets found themselves obliged, for like purposes, to take part in the
Kornilov insurrection Within these limns, there is an astonishing symmetry
in the two situations But inside this symmetrical framework there is a com
plete contrast of goals, methods and results
K o r n i l o v w a s c l e a r t h a t h e a n d h i s f e l l o w o f f i c e r s 'w o u l d n o t h e s i t a t e
to h a n g a ll th e s o v ie t m e m b e rs i f n e e d b e , b u t h e h o p e d to o p e ra te
u n d e r th e w i n g o f K e r e n s k y 's g o v e r n m e n t . T h e n a C o n s t i t u e n t
A s s e m b l y c o u l d b e s u m m o n e d , q u i c k l y d i s p e r s e d a n d 'K e r e n s k y a n d
C o . w i l l m a k e w a y f o r m e . 'T h e
th e

K eren sh ch tn a's

c o v e r . '*

Korntlovshchina
K e ren sk y

w a s to b e g in , u n d e r

b e la te d ly

re a lis e d

th a t

K o r n i l o v 's p l a n s w o u l d e n d in h i s o w n d e m i s e a n d t u r n e d t o t h e s o v i e t s
to d e f e a t th e K o r n ilo v c o u p . T h e s o v ie ts , in tu r n , w e re n o w d i s i ll u
s io n e d w ith K e r e n s k y a n d in c r e a s in g ly lo o k e d to th e B o ls h e v ik s fo r
le a d e rs h ip .
S o t h e s a m e p r o c e s s w h i c h w a s d r a i n i n g p o p u l a r s u p p o r t f r o m th e
P r o v i s i o n a l g o v e r n m e n t t o w a r d th e s o v i e t s a l s o b e g a n , w i t h i n t h e s o v i
e t s . to d r a in s u p p o r t a w a y f r o m th e m o d e r a te s o c ia lis ts to w a r d th e
B o ls h e v ik s . In A u g u s t 1 9 1 7 th e P re s id e n t o f th e M e n s h e v ik s d e c la r e d
t h a t t h e o r g a n i s a t i o n w a s i n t o t a l c o n f u s i o n . N o o n e k n e w w h a t t o d o
o r h o w t o p ro c e e d . . . T h e M e n s h e v ik s a n d th e S R s w e re e q u a lly is o
l a t e d f r o m t h e p e o p l e a n d f r o m t h e s o l d i e r s . ' P l c k h a n o v s p a p e r s u r
v e y e d th e w o rk w ro u g h t b y h is th e o r y th a t th e r e v o lu tio n w a s
p r e m a tu r e a n d c o n c l u d e d , 't h e M e n s h e v ik f a c tio n is s u f f e r in g o n e
d e f e a t a f te r a n o th e r , a n d o n e d o e s n o t h a v e t o b e a p r o p h e t t o fo re te ll
r a p i d d e m i s e '. "
In th e s e c ir c u m s ta n c e s th e m o d e r a te s o c ia lis ts lo s t a ll p u r c h a s e o n
p o litic a l r e a lity . C o n tin u a lly d e c lin in g in in f lu e n c e th e y w e re to s s e d
h a c k a n d fo rth b e tw e e n w a n tin g to p re v e n t a s e c o n d r e v o lu tio n a n d r e
a lis in g th a t i f th e y d id n o t g o f o r w a r d th e y w o u ld b e th r o w n b a c k in to
d ie a r m s o f c o u n te r-re v o lu tio n

K e r e n s k y 's i n c r e a s i n g l y h y s t e r i c a l v a c

illa tio n s w e r e th e p e r s o n if ic a tio n o f th is a ttitu d e .


T h e B o ls h e v ik s ' v ita l ro le in o r g a n is in g th e d e f e a t o f th e K o rn ilo v
c o u p g a v e th e m th e s u p p o rt o f th e m a jo rity in th e s o v ie ts . T h e K o rn ilo v
c o u p w a s d e f e a te d a t th e e n d o f A u g u s t a n d o n 9 S e p te m b e r th e
B o l s h e v i k s w o n t h e m a j o r i t y in t h e P e t r o g r a d s o v i e t . T r o t s k y b e c o m i n g
in p r e s i d e n t . B e t w e e n t h e d e f e a t o f K o r n i l o v a n d t h e O c t o b e r i n s u r r e c
t i o n t h e t a s k o f t h e p a r t y w a s t o o r g a n i s e i t s s u p p o r t e r s in t h e s o v i e t s ,
m id i n d e e d t o c o n v i n c e s o m e o f t h e p a r t y 's o w n l e a d e r s , s o t h a t t h e
h io k e n h u lk o f th e P r o v is io n a l g o v e rn m e n t c o u ld b e s u c c e s s f u lly d c p n v e d o f th e la s t v e s tig e s o f p o w e r.
l e n i n in s is te d th a t th e in s u rre c tio n c o u ld o n ly b e th e c r o w n in g a c t o f
th e m a s s r e v o lu t i o n , n o t a p a r ty c o u p . N ik o la i P o d v o is k y , th e

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

16

B o ls h e v ik h e a d o f th e P e ir o g r a d S o v ie ts M ilita r y R e v o lu tio n a r y
C o m m itte e , r e c a lle d th is c o n v e r s a tio n w ith L e n in o n th e e v e o f th e
O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n :

Comrade Lenin asked me what I thought o f the work o f the Military


Revolutionary Committee
The Military Revolutionary Committee . I answered, 'is actually an ex
tended bureau o f the Military Organisations of the Central Committee of
our party.'
And that is wrong V said Vladimir Ilyich 'll should not be a bureau, but
a non-party insurrectionary body which has full power and is connected
with all sections o f the workers and soldiers The committee must ensure
that an unlimited number of workers and soldiers are armed and participate
in the insurrection The greater the initiative and activity of each member of
the Military Revolutionary Committee, the stronger and more effective will
be the influence of the entire committee on the masses There must not be
the slightest him of the dictatorship by the Military Organisation over the
Military Revolutionary Committee **
T h is w a s . o f c o u rs e , n o t th e firs t lim e L e n in h a d h a d to a rg u e th e d i f
fe re n c e b e tw e e n a r e v o lu tio n a n d a c o u p . B o th th e M e n s h e v ik s a n d
s o m e o f h is o w n s u p p o r te r s , n o ta b ly Z in o v ie v a n d K a m e n e v , h a d o b
je c te d th a t l-e n in w a s p la n n in g a c o u p w h e n h e d e m a n d e d p r a c tic a l m il
i t a r y p r e p a r a t i o n s f o r t h e r e v o l u t i o n . I .c n i n w a s v a r i o u s l y a c c u s e d o f
J a c o b in is m , o f b e in g a f o llo w e r o f th e a n a rc h is t B a k u n in o r th e c o n s p ir
a t o r B l a n q u i . L e n i n 's a n s w e r i s w o r t h q u o t i n g a t l e n g t h s i n c e it s h o w s
b o th th a t h e h a d n o in te n tio n o f m o u n tin g a c o u p a n d p re c is e ly th e p r e
c o n d itio n s fo r re v o lu tio n w h ic h h a d b e e n a c h ie v e d b y O c to b e r. T h e s e
sa m e a rg u m e n ts w e re c o n ta in e d

Insurrection, c i r c u l a t e d

in h is p a m p h le t

M arxism and

in t h o u s a n d s o f c o p i e s b e f o r e t h e O c t o b e r r e v o

l u ti o n :

Military conspiracy is Blanqutsm. if it is organised not by a parry of a


definite class, if its organisers have not analysed the political momern in
general and the international situation in particular, if the party has not on
its side the sympathy of the majority of the people, as proved by objective
facts, if the development of revolutionary events has not brought about a
practical refutation of the conciliatory illusion of the petty bourgeoisie, if
the majority of the soviet-type organs o f revolutionary struggle that have
been recognised as authoritative or have shown themselves to be such in
practice have not been w i over, if there has not matured a sentiment in the
army (if in wartimeJ against the government that protracts the unjust war
against the will of the whole people, if the slogans of the uprising (like 'All
Power to the Soviets', 'land to the peasants', or 'Immediate offer of a

17

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

democratic peace to all the belligerent nations' ..) have not become widely
popular, if the advanced ttvrlters are not sure of the desperate situation of
the masses and o f the support of the countryside, a support proved serious
by a peasant movement or by an uprising against the landowners and the
government that defends the landowners, if the country's economic situation
inspires earnest hopes for a favourable solution o f the crisis by peaceable
and parliamentary means That is probably enough "
W h e n L e n in b e lie v e d th a t th e s e c o n d itio n s w e re
ili e J u l y D a y s , h e b e n t h i s e v e r y e f f o r t t o

prevent

not

p re s e n t, d u rin g

a p re m a tu re ris in g .

M a n y o t h e r r e v o l u t i o n a r i e s in E u r o p e , a s t h e G e r m a n r e v o l u t i o n w o u l d
s lm w , w e re t o p a y w ith th e ir liv e s fo r n o t b e in g a b le t o m a k e a s im ila r
a s s e s s m e n t . B u t b y O c t o b e r e v e n L e n i n s p o l i t i c a l e n e m i e s w e r e f o r c e d
to a d m it th a t h e w a s n o J a c o b in . T h e M e n s h e v ik N N S u k h a n o v w rite s :

To talk about military conspiracy instead of national insurrection, when the


party was followed by the overwhelming majority of the people, when the
Itarry had already de facto conquered all real power and authority w a r
clearly an absurdity On the pan of the enemies of Bolshevism it was a ma
licious absurdity, but on the part of the 'cronies' (Z in o v ie v . K a m e n e v )a n
aberration based on panic Here Lenin was right. . .**
O r a s R o b e r t S e r v i c e s i m p l y e x p r e s s e s it:

What really counted was lhal the Bolshevik political programme proved
steadily more appealing to the mass of workers, soldiers and peasants as
social turmoil and economic ruin reached a climax in late autumn But for
that there could have been no October revolution."
M a r t o v w r o t e . U n d e r s t a n d , p l e a s e , t h a t b e f o r e u s a f t e r a ll i s a v i c t o rio u s u p ris in g o f th e p ro le ta ria t a lm o s t th e e n tire p ro le ta ria t su p p o rts
L e n i n a n d e x p e c t s i t s s o c i a l l i b e r a t i o n f r o m t h e u p r i s i n g . '
U ltim a te ly O c to b e r w a s n o t a g r e a t c o n te s t b e tw e e n M e n s h e v is m a n d
B o ls h e v is m , n o t b e tw e e n b o u r g e o is d e m o c r a c y a n d s o v ie t p o w e r b u t
b e tw e e n

bourgeois reaction

a n d m ilita ry d ic ta to rs h ip , o n th e o n e h a n d ,

a n d s o v ie t p o w e r , o n th e o th e r . T h e M e n s h e v ik s d id n o t u n d e r s ta n d th is
.it t h e t i m e o f t h e r e v o l u t i o n , t h e y d i d n o t u n d e r s t a n d it a t t h e t i m e o f
tlic d is s o l u t io n o f th e C o n s t i tu e n t A s s e m b ly a n d th e y d i d n o t u n d e r
s t a n d it d u r i n g t h e c i v i l w a r . T h e B o l s h e v i k s a b i l i t y t o p r e v a i l l a y in
t h e f a c t t h a t t l i c y d i d u n d e r s t a n d t h is .
T h o s e w h o to d a y d re a m th a t th e r e c o u ld h a v e b e e n a th ird w a y
w h ic h w o u ld h a v e p r e v e n te d th e p r e m a tu r e r e v o lu tio n o f O c to b e r
1**17 n e e d t o t h i n k o n t w o i s s u e s . F i r s t l y , s u c h a c o u r s e w a s o f f e r e d t o

18

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

th e w o r k e r s o f R u s s ia in 1 9 1 7 a n d th e y r e je c te d it a n d . s e c o n d ly , th e y
re je c te d it in p a n b e c a u s e th e y s a w b e h in d th e v a c illa tio n s o f K e re n s k y
th e b a y o n e t o f K o rn ilo v . T ro ts k y w a s rig h t w h e n h e in s is te d th a t f a s
c is m is th e p r ic e p a id b y th o s e w h o to y w ith re v o lu tio n .

T h e B o ls h e v ik s :

m o n o lith ic p a r ty ?

T h e r o o t o f S t a l i n i s m i s o f t e n s a i d t o l ie in t h e B o l s h e v i k s ' t y r a n n i c a l
a n d u n d e m o c r a tic p a rty s tru c tu re . T h is w a s th e m a n tra re p e a le d b y a
g e n e r a tio n o f C o ld W a r h is to r ia n s , n o w e c h o e d in th e R u s s ia n m e d ia .
T h e ir c e n tr a l a r g u m e n t h a s b e e n s u m m a r is e d w ith o n ly a h in t o f iro n y
b y lib e ra l h is to r ia n S te p h e n C o h e n :

In October 1917. the Bolsheviks (Communists). a small, unrepresentative,


and already or rmbryonically totalitarian parry, usurped power and thus
betrayed the Russian Resolution. From that moment on. as in 1917, Soviet
history was determined by the totalitarian dynamics o f the Communist
Parry, as personified by its original leader. Lenin monopolistic politics,
ruthless tactics, ideological orthodoxy, programmatic dogmatism, disci
plined leadership, and centralised bureaucratic organisationy
T h e le ft u s e d t o s e t its fa c e firm ly a g a in s t w h a t C o h e n c a l l s th is 'm a
lig n a n t a n d in e v ita b le s tr a ig h t l in e ' th e o ry . N o w . h o w e v e r , th in g s h a v e
c h a n g e d . S a m F a r b c r c o n n e c t s L e n i n s a t t i t u d e t o l e g a l i t y in t h e e a r l y
S o v i e t s t a l e , w h i c h h e d e f i n e s a s o n e o f 'e x p e d i e n c y a t b e s t a n d o f c o n
t e m p t a t w o r s t , w i t h L e n i n 's c h r o n i c d i s t a s t e f o r c o d i f i e d r u l e s , le g a l
o r o t h e r w i s e . T h i s a t t i t u d e . F a r b c r c l a i m s , 'h a d s o m e t i m e s p l a y e d a n
i m p o r t a n t r o l e in h i s p o l i t i c a l p r a c t i c e c o n c e r n i n g i n t e r n a l p a r t y o r g a n i
s a t io n .'* 4 T h i s l a c k o f r e s p e c t f o r 'r u l e s ' a n d 'l e g a l i t y ' h e l p e d p a v e th e
w a y f o r S t a l i n . F o r R o b i n B l a c k b u r n . 'L e n i n s B o l s h e v i k c u r r e n t c a m e
t o r e p r e s e n t a s p e c i e s o f p o l i t i c a l v o l u n t a r i s m * . L e n i n 's 'c u l t o f p a r ty
o r g a n i s a t i o n a n d d i s c i p l i n e ' w a s a d o u b l e - e d g e d d i s c o v e r y ' w h i c h
h e lp e d 't o fa s h io n a p o litic a l fo rc e th a t c o u ld b e u s e d f o r p u r p o s e s h e
d i d n o t a p p r o v e , a f a c t w h i c h h e o n l y r e c o g n i s e d a t t h e e n d o f h i s l if e .
A n d a l t h o u g h L e n i n 'd o e s n o t c a r r y f u l l r e s p o n s i b i l i t y ' h e . a n d T r o t s k y ,
c a n n o t e s c a p e t h e c h a r g e o f h a v i n g t h e m s e l v e s p r e p a r e d t h e g r o u n d f o r
S t a l i n '.
T h e s e a r c re m a r k a b le s e n tim e n ts to h e a r fro m s o c ia lis ts , e s p e c ia lly
s in c e m u c h r e s e a r c h d o n e b y lib e ra l h is to r ia n s o v e r th e la s t 3 0 y e a rs
h a s d e m o n s tr a te d b e y o n d a ll d o u b t th a t th e B o ls h e v ik s w e r e , u n til
s h o r t l y b e f o r e S t a l i n 's r i s e t o p o w e r i n 1 9 2 8 , a n o r g a n i s a t i o n w h o w e r e
fa n a tic a l in o n ly o n e s e n s e : th e ir d e v o tio n to in te rn a l d e b a te a n d
a rg u m e n t.

19

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER
L e n i n 's e a r l y i n s i s t e n c e o n d i s c i p l i n e a n d o r g a n i s a t i o n in

hr Done ?

What is to

( 1 9 0 2 ) w a s a p r o d u c t o f t h e c h a o s a n d a n a r c h y t h a t r e i g n e d in

th e r e v o lu tio n a r y m o v e m e n t a t th a t tim e . L o c a l g r o u p s p r o lif e r a te d


w ith o u t c o n ta c t w ith o n e a n o th e r . P r im itiv e a n d a m a te u r is h , p r e y to
p o lic e a g e n ts , th e y w e r e o f te n a r re s te d b e f o re th e y p r o d u c e d t h e ir firs t
l e a f le t . T h e u p s u r g e o f s t r i k e a c t i v i t y f r o m w h i c h t h e y h a d e m e r g e d h a d
m a rk e d th e m w ith a h e a lth y d e s ir e to p a r tic ip a te in th e s tr u g g le b u t
w ith a m a rk e d u n w illin g n e s s to re la te th is s tr u g g le t o th e w id e r is s u e s
o f s o c ia lis t c h a n g e w ith in s o c ie ty .
T h e fa m o u s th e m e s o f

Whai is to be Done ?

a d d r e s s e d t h e m s e l v e s to

th e s e w e a k n e s s e s . W h e re th e r e w e re o n ly le a f le ts . I .c n in d e m a n d e d a
p a rty p re s s . W h e re th e re w a s a m a te u r is h n e s s . L e n in d e m a n d e d p r o f e s
s io n a lis m . W h e re th e r e w a s s y n d ic a lis m a n d e c o n o m is m . L e n in d e
m a n d e d s o c ia lis t p o litic s . W h e re th e re w a s lo c a lis m . L e n in d e m a n d e d
c o o rd in a tio n a n d c e n tra lis a tio n . A n d a ll (h is its e lf d e m a n d e d a n a c tiv e ,
n o t p a s s iv e , m e m b e rs h ip . I lle g a l c o n d itio n s r e q u ir e d a h ig h le v e l o f
c o m m i t m e n t f r o m 'p r o f e s s i o n a l ' r e v o l u t i o n a r i e s . A l l t h e s e f o r m u l a t i o n s
fro m

What is to he Done ?

w e re a t th e tim e s u p p o r te d b y T r o ts k y a n d b y

M a rto v .
O n o c c a s i o n s L e n i n 's a r g u m e n t s o v e r s t a t e d t h e c a s e a n e c e s s a r y
e v il g iv e n th e c h a o s a b o v e w h ic h h e w a s tr y in g to n s c . It w a s u n tru e
t h a t s o c i a l i s m c o u l d o n l y c o m e t o t h e w o r k e r s 'f r o m t h e o u t s i d e a n d it
w a s u n tru e th a t w o r k e r s c o u ld s p o n ta n e o u s ly r e a c h o n ly tra d e u n io n
c o n s c io u s n e s s fa u lts w h ic h L e n in w a s o n ly to o p le a s e d to a c k n o w l
e d g e t h r e e y e a r s l a t e r w h e n h e a n n o u n c e d t h a t w o r k e r s w e r e 's p o n t a
n e o u s ly * s o c ia lis t d u r in g th e 1 9 0 5 r e v o lu tio n a n d th a t th e p a rty s h o u ld
o p e n i t s g a t e s w i d e t o a d m i t a s m a n y o f t h e m a s p o s s i b l e .* E v e n w h e n
ille g a lity a n d re p re s s io n o b lig e d th e B o ls h e v ik s t o a d o p t tig h te r o rg a n i\a t i o n th e y w e re f a r fr o m th e to ta lita ria n o r g a n is a tio n o f le g e n d . A s o n e
lib e ra l h is to r ia n n o te s :

The image of a lightly but bunch of inveterate conspirators, so sedulously


cultivated by their enemies. was . . . a cruel mockery of their real condition.
Indeed so much of their public reputation was wide of the mark They did
not look upon Lenin, even when he succeeded in keeping in contact with un
derground committees, as the only acceptable source of plans and policies.
They did not regard What is to be DoneT as an organisational blueprint. . .
they in fact wanted to found a mass socialist party as soon as it was practi
cable.'
T h e B o ls h e v ik s w e re s o fa r fro m b e in g a m o n o lith ic p a rty th a t L e n in
h a d e n o r m o u s d i f f i c u l t y in g e t t i n g m a n y c o m m i t t e e s t o s e p a r a t e f r o m
t h e M e n s h e v i k s a t a l l . E v e n i n 1 9 1 7 t h e r e w e r e s t i ll j o i n t c o m m i t t e e s in
s o m e p a r ts o f R u s s ia . A t a ll p o in ts fro m

1 9 0 5 t o 1 9 1 7 th e B o ls h e v ik s

20

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

w e re a p a r ty in w h ic h h e a te d d is c u s s io n w a s th e n o rm . T h e y d iv id e d
o v e r b o y c o ttin g a n d la te r p a rtic ip a tin g in th e D u m a , o v e r p a rtic ip a tio n
in t h e p o l i c e i n s p i r e d t r a d e u n i o n s , o v e r t h e p h i l o s o p h i c a l d i s p u t e b e
tw e e n L e n in a n d B o g d a n o v a n d o v e r a h o s t o f le s s e r is s u e s .
I n 1 9 1 7 i t s e l f c o n t r o v e r s y w a s t h e l i f e b l o o d o f C e n t r a l C o m m i t t e e
a c t i v i t y '. T h e y w e r e o f c o u r s e f a m o u s l y d i v i d e d o v e r t h e v e r y n a tu r e
o f th e r e v o lu tio n , o v e r i f a n d w h e n to c a ll fo r a s e c o n d re v o lu tio n . A fte r
th e r e v o lu tio n th e y d iv id e d o v e r w h e th e r th e re s h o u ld b e a c o a litio n
w ith o th e r s o c ia lis ts , o v e r w h e th e r th e e le c tio n s to th e C o n s titu e n t
A s s e m b ly s h o u ld b e re ru n a n d a b o u t w h e th e r th e re s h o u ld b e a p e a c e
w i t h G e r m a n i m p e r i a l i s m . T h i s l a s t 'h a d f o r a l i m e . . . b r o u g h t t h e
p a r t y t o t h e e d g e o f t h e a b y s s o f t o t a l d i s i n t e g r a t i o n . Y e t i t d i d n o t
p r e v e n t f u r t h e r a r g u m e n t s o v e r m i l i t a r y p o l i c y d u r i n g t h e c i v i l w a r , th e
ro le o f tra d e u n io n s u n d e r s o c ia lis m a n d . re p e a te d ly , o v e r e c o n o m ic
is s u e s . In h is s tu d y o f th e in te rn a l o r g a n is a tio n o f th e B o ls h e v ik s .
R o b e r t S e r v i c e n o t e s t h a t e v e n t h o u g h t h e d e v a s t a t i n g e x p e r i e n c e o f th e
c i v i l w a r h a d s a p p e d t h e i n n e r l i f e o f t h e p a r ty :

Thu is not to say that the Bolshevik parry of the mid-l920s was yet the regi
mented grotesquerie it was to appear in the 1930s .. with all these contro
versies raging throughout the 1920s it would be ludicrous to maintain that
the stuffing had been completely knocked out of Bolshevik life not long after
the civil war *
T h e s e a r g u m e n ts o fte n s p lit th e B o ls h e v ik s fro m to p t o b o tto m , as
a n y s e r i o u s a r g u m e n t in a r e v o l u t i o n a r y p a r t y i s l i k e l y t o d o . A t a ll
l i m e s , b u t e s p e c i a l l y in 1 9 1 7 . i n s u b o r d i n a t i o n w a s t h e r u l e o f th e d a y
w h e n e v e r lo w e r p a rty b o d ie s th o u g h t q u e s tio n s o f im p o r ta n c e w e re a t
s ta k e V ' D u r in g 1 9 1 7 th e V y b o r g c o m m itte e o f th e p a r ty s e n t o u t its
o w n a g ita to r s t o to u r th e B a ltic a rg u in g a g a in s t th e P e tro g ra d c o m m it
t e e s t o l e r a n t a t t i t u d e t o w a r d s t h e P r o v i s i o n a l g o v e r n m e n t .

Nor was there a well established system o f subordination and discipline


along the hierarchical chain stretching from the Central Committee at the
apex to the primary cells' at the base. Tension and conflict were the rule,
not the exception. If anything committees tended to be called into account
from below rather than above Rank and file members and lower activists
could not only make their views known at general open meetings hut also
re-elect their representatives at frequent intervals . few leaders succeeded
in acting in opposition to the viewpoint of their committee colleagues over a
lengthy period.'1
It w a s f r e q u e n tly th e lo c a l p a r ty c o m m itte e s w h ic h in u n d a te d th e
C e n tra l C o m m itte e s e c re ta r ia t w ith d e m a n d s f o r m o r e p r e c is e g u id e -

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

21

lin e s a b o u t w h a t th e y s h o u ld d o . ( X le n S v e r d lo v . in c h a r g e o f th e s e c re i.i r ia t . c o u l d o n l y te l l t h e m t o l o o k a t

Pra\-da

fo r g u id a n c e . A s O c to b e r

. i p p m a c h e d h e w a s u n a b l e t o d o m o r e t h a n t e l l o n e i n q u i r e r , 'Y o u u n . k r s t a n d , c o m r a d e , t h a t it i s d i f f i c u l t t o g i v e y o u i n s t r u c t i o n s a n y m o r e
c o n c re te th a n A ll P o w e r to th e S o v i e t s " . . . e x c e p t t o a d d th a t it is o f
s u p re m e im p o rta n c e to ta k e c h a rg e o f th e p o s t a n d te le g ra p h o ffic e s
a n d a l s o t h e r a i l w a y .'* ' T h i s m i n i m a l g u i d a n c e , e v e n in P c t r o g r a d . w a s
n o t a lw a y s fo llo w e d : b o th th e c o m r a d e s c h a rg e d w ith le a d in g th e d e
t a c h m e n t w h i c h s e i z e d t h e g e n e r a l t e l e g r a p h o f f i c e f o r g o t t o b r i n g th e
re v o lv e rs .
S o w h a t is l e f t o f th e i m p o r t a n c e o f o r g a n i s a t i o n a n d t h e o p e r a t i o n o f
d e m o c r a t i c c e n t r a l i s m i f t h i s is a t r u e p i c t u r e o f h o w t h e B o l s h e v i k s
w o rk e d ? A c tu a lly , a g r e a t d e a l. A r e v o lu tio n a r y p a r ty o p e r a te s p re
c i s e l y b y b e i n g in a r e l a t i o n s h i p o f 't e n s i o n a n d c o n f li c t * b o t h w i t h t h e
m a s s o f t h e w o r k i n g c l a s s a n d w i t h t h e o r d i n a r y m e m b e r s o f t h e p a r ty
w h o a re s u b je c t to th e p re s s u re o f th e m a s s o f w o rk e rs.
W ith o u t s u c h p r e s s u r e , w ith o u t th e tu m u ltu o u s d e m o c r a c y a n d
d e b a t e w h i c h is t h e o r d i n a r y f u n c t i o n i n g o f a r e v o l u t i o n a r y o r g a n i s a
t i o n . it i s i m p o s s i b l e f o r t h e p a r l y t o t e a m w h a t i s g o i n g o n in th e c l a s s ,
to d is c u s s a n d d e b a te its o w n e x p e r ie n c e a n d t o fo r m u la te p o lic y . B u t
w ith o u t th e c o n s ta n t a tte m p t t o r a tio n a lis e a n d s y s te m a tis e its w o rk a n d
its a r g u m e n t s t h e p a r t y c a n n o t a c t a s t h e o r g a n w h i c h a t t e m p t s t o l e a d
llie c l a s s t h a t i s w h y a p a r t y m u s t t r y t o d i s c i p l i n e t h e d e b a t e a n d d i s
c u s s i o n , e v e n w h i l e i t w e l c o m e s i t. T h e o n l y m e a n s t h a t t h e l e a d e r s h i p
o f th e p a r t y h a s t o a c h i e v e t h i s i s t h e p o w e r o f a r g u m e n t a n d th e r e c o r d
o f its p r e v io u s d e c is io n s . T h e s tr o n g e r t h is r e c o r d , th e m o re f r e q u e n tly
t h e p a r ty a n d i t s l e a d e r s h i p h a v e b e e n p r o v e d r i g h t in s t r u g g l e , t h e m o r e
w e i g h t i t c a r r i e s i n t h e c l a s s a n d w i t h i t s o w n r a n k a n d f i l e . A n d . i n th e
l a s t r e s o r t , t h e p o w e r o f t h e l e a d e r s h i p 's a r g u m e n t s w i l l d e p e n d o n h o w
q u i c k l y a n d e f f e c t i v e l y i t l e a r n s f r o m w o r k e r s in s t r u g g l e , t h e o n l y r e a l
so u rc e o f th e o ry .
T h e B o ls h e v ik s c o u ld to le r a te a h ig h le v e l o f in te rn a l d e b a te b e c a u s e
th e y h a d . o v e r m a n y y e a rs , c r e a te d a h ig h le v e l o f a g r e e m e n t o n g e n e ra l
p o litic s a n d a w id e k n o w le d g e o f th e M a rx is t tra d itio n . E q u a lly im p o r
ta n tly th e y h a d s o u g h t a t e v e ry a v a ila b le o p p o rtu n ity t o ro o t th e m s e lv e s
in t h e w o r k i n g c l a s s , t r a i n i n g t h e i r m e m b e r s n e v e r t o s t a n d a l o o f f r o m
t h e s t r u g g l e a n d t o e x p r e s s t h e p a r t y 's i d e a s in t e r m s w h i c h f i t t e d t h e
e x p e r i e n c e o f t h o s e i n s t r u g g l e . In c o n t r a s t . R o s a L u x e m b u r g 's
S p a rta c u s L e a g u e h a d n e ith e r a c o m m o n th e o re tic a l fra m e w o rk n o r
w e ll e s ta b lis h e d lin k s w ith a t le a s t a n a d v a n c e d m in o r ity o f w o rk e rs .
T h i s is w h y i t c o u l d n e i t h e r a c t i n a c o n c e r t e d m a n n e r d u r i n g k e y t u r n
i n g p o i n t s in t h e s t r u g g l e , n o r c o u l d i t w i t h s t a n d f i e r c e d e b a t e w i t h o u t
r u n n i n g t h e r i s k o f i m m o b i l i s i n g t h e o rg a n is a tio n .* *

22

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

O n c e ( h is d i a l e c t ic a l r e la ti o n s h ip b e tw e e n th e B o l s h e v ik s a n d th e
w o rk in g c la s s w a s b r o k e n , s h a tte re d b e c a u s e th e w o rk in g c la s s its e lf
w a s b r o k e n -b a c k e d a f te r th e c iv il w a r. f re e d o m o f d e b a te g ra d u a lly a n d
in e v ita b ly b e c a m e firs t a m o n o lo g u e o f th e p a r ly w ith its e lf a n d th e n
m e r e ly a d is p u te a m o n g th e le a d e r s o f th e p a rly .

T h e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly
T h e d i s s o l u t i o n o f t h e C o n s t i t u e n t A s s e m b l y b y t h e B o l s h e v i k s in
J a n u a ry 1 9 1 8 is o n e o f th e ir m o s t c o n te n tio u s a c ts . It o u tr a g e d K a u ts k y
a n d b e c a m e o n e o f th e k e y a c c u s a ti o n s in

P ro le ta ria t,

The D ictatorship o f the

h is p o le m ic a g a in s t th e O c to b e r re v o lu tio n . R o b in

B l a c k b u r n i s o b v i o u s l y s y m p a t h e t i c t o M a r t o v s v i e w t h a t t h e b o u r
g e o is d e m o c r a tic re v o lu tio n s h o u ld b e c h a m p io n e d b y M a r x is ts .
B l a c k b u r n g o e s o n t o a r g u e t h a t c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h i s p o s i t i o n . M a rto v o p p o s e d d i s s o l u t i o n o f t h e C o n s t i t u e n t A s s e m b l y in 1 9 1 8 w h i l e s t i ll
fa v o u rin g a n in d e p e n d e n t ro le f o r th e s o v ie ts a n d tra d e u n io n s .
M a r t o v , s a y s B l a c k b u r n , a t t a c k e d t h e B o l s h e v i k s f o r a s o r t o f l u m p e n
a n a rc h is m w h ic h fa ile d t o s e c th e im p o rta n c e o f e s ta b lis h in g a la w fu l
a n d d e m o c r a tic p o lity b a s e d o n a n a u th o r ita tiv e s t a l e .* " R o b in
B la c k b u r n i s n 't a b o v e b r a c k e tin g K a u ts k y a n d R o s a L u x e m b u r g t o
g e t h e r a s n o t a b l e M a r x i s t s o f t h e d a y ' w h o 'r e p u d i a t e d t h e p r a c t i c e o f
p a r t y d i c t a t o r s h i p f r o m t h e v e r y b e g i n n i n g . 'In a n e a r lie r is s u e o f

New Left Review

T im W o h lfo rth p u ts th e sa m e

k i n d o f a r g u m e n t i n m o r e g e n e r a l t e r m s . I t is h a r d t o v i e w t h e y o u n g
S o v ie t s ta te a s

structurally

s u p e r io r to th e s y s te m s o f p a rlia m e n ta r y ,

b o u r g e o i s d e m o c r a c y e x c o r i a t e d in L e n i n i s t d o c t r i n e ', a r g u e s
W o h lfo rth . H e g o e s o n to s a y th a t s o v ie ts s h o u ld b e s u p p le m e n te d b y
't h e d i r e c t e l e c t i o n b y u n i v e r s a l s u f f r a g e a n d s e c r e t b a l l o t , t h r o u g h f r e e
c o m p e titio n o f p a rtie s , o f th e h ig h e s t d e c is io n -m a k in g b o d y o f g o v e r n
m e n t.
S a m F a rb c r is h a lf w illin g t o d e f e n d th e B o ls h e v ik s , b u t

assume

'only if we

th a t th e ir a rg u m e n ts in d e fe n c e o f th e s o v ie t s y s te m . . . re p re

s e n te d a g e n u in e lo n g - te r m c o m m itm e n t to th a t a lte r n a tiv e f o r m o f


d e m o c r a t i c g o v e r n m e n t .- Y e t t h i s i s p r e c i s e l y w h a t F a r b e r i s

not

w ill

in g t o a s s u m e s i n c e h i s w h o l e b o o k is s u p p o s e d t o d e m o n s t r a t e t h a t th e
B o ls h e v ik s f a ile d t o s h o w a n y s u c h a c o m m itm e n t. S a m F a r b e r to o
q u o te s R o s a L u x e m b u rg , w h o s e c r itic is m o f th e B o ls h e v ik s ' d is s o lu
t i o n o f t h e C o n s t i t u e n t A s s e m b l y is c i t e d b y r i g h t w i n g e r s w h o w o u l d
n e v e r d r e a m o f e n d o r s in g a n y o th e r w o r d th a t s h e w ro te . In p a rtic u la r,
th e y fo rg e t h e r a c c o la d e t o L e n in a n d T r o ts k y w h o . s h e s a id , h a d b e e n
t h e s a l v a t i o n o f t h e h o n o u r o f i n t e r n a t i o n a l s o c i a l i s m . -

23

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

T h e e s s e n t i a l p r o b l e m w i t h a ll t h e s e c r i t i c i s m s i s t h a t t h e y a s k t h e
q u e s tio n : i f w e w e re th e fo u n d in g fa th e r s o f th e w o rk e rs* c o n s titu tio n
w h a t d e m o c r a tic b lu e p rin t w o u ld w e p r o p o s e ? T h e q u e s tio n th e y d o

not

a sk is : in th e s tr u g g le fo r p o w e r w h ic h in s titu tio n s re p re s e n t th e in te r
e s ts o f th e w o rk e rs a n d w h ic h th e in te re s ts o f th e ru lin g c la s s ? A ro u n d
w h ic h in s titu tio n s a r e th e o p p o s in g c la s s e s r a lly in g ? T h e s e q u e s tio n s
n e e d c a r e f u l a n a ly s is in a re v o lu tio n a ry p e rio d b e c a u s e th e ro le o f th e
d iffe re n t in s titu tio n s a lte rs d ra m a tic a lly d e p e n d in g o n th e b a la n c e o f
c la s s fo rc e s.
B e f o r e t h e O c t o b e r r e v o l u t i o n a l l t h e s o c i a l i s t p a r t i e s , i n c l u d i n g th e
B o l s h e v i k s , h a d b e e n in f a v o u r o f c a l l i n g t h e C o n s t i t u e n t A s s e m b l y .
Y e t th e P r o v is io n a l g o v e r n m e n t, b o th b e f o r e a n d a f te r th e s o c ia lis ts
l o i n e d i t. h a d d e l a y e d c a l l i n g t h e A s s e m b l y . T h i s d e l a y h a d a s o c i a l
ro o t. If th e e le c tio n s h a d b e e n h e ld th e M e n s h e v ik s a n d S R s w o u ld
h a v e h a d a m a jo r ity . T h is w o u ld h a v e f o rc e d th e m to a d d r e s s th e la n d
q u e s tio n , th e e n d in g o f th e w a r a n d th e o c c u p a tio n s o f th e f a c to rie s .
I h i s w o u ld h a v e m e a n t th a t th e y w o u ld c ith e r h a v e h a d t o a g r e e t o th e
B o l s h e v i k s * p r o g r a m m e L a n d . B r e a d a n d P e a c e o r t h e y w o u l d
h a v e h a d t o tr y a n d c la w b a c k th e a lr e a d y h a lf e s ta b lis h e d g a in s o f th e
r e v o lu tio n . T h a t w o u ld h a v e m e a n t s id in g w ith th e c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n
a g a in s t th e m a s s o f w o rk e rs a n d p e a s a n ts .
S o th e P r o v is io n a l g o v e r n m e n t d id w h a t it w a s b e s t a t: it te m p o r is e d
.iiu l m a d e e x c u s e s . O n t h e o n e h a n d it s a i d t h a t i t c o u l d n o t d e c i d e t h e
k e y q u e s tio n s o f th e d a y b e c a u s e it w a s o n ly a

provisional g o v e r n m e n t ,

o n t h e o t h e r h a n d i t d e l a y e d c a l l i n g t h e o n e b o d y w h i c h it m a i n t a i n e d
d id h a v e s u c h p o w e r, th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly . In th e s e c irc u m s ta n c e s
th e B o ls h e v ik s c a l l e d a ll th e m o r e v o c if e r o u s ly f o r th e C o n s titu e n t
A s s e m b ly a s a w a y o f s h o w in g th a t th e b o u r g e o is d e m o c r a ts h a d n o i n
t e n t i o n o f e v e n c a r r y i n g t h r o u g h th e t a s k s o f t h e b o u r g e o i s r e v o l u t i o n .
M e a n w h ile , th e y c o n tin u e d to in s is t th a t th e ta s k s o f th e re v o lu tio n
c o u ld o n ly b e m e t b y tr a n s f e r r in g a ll p o w e r t o th e s o v ie ts .
E v e n b e fo re th e O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n th e m a s s o f w o rk e rs u n d e rs to o d
c le a r ly th a t th e s o v ie ts w e re th e ir o r g a n is a tio n s , r e s p o n s iv e to th e ir
n e e d s , a n d t h a t t h e A s s e m b l y w a s a c h i m e r a o f w h i c h t h e y k n e w lit t le
.m l f r o m w h i c h t h e y e x p e c t e d l e s s . B o n s S o k o l o v , o n e o f t h e l e a d e r s o f
th e S R s . e x p la in s th is g ra p h ic a lly :

O f all the politiral parties the Socialist Revolutionary party was tinted with
the idea of the Constituent Assembly by extremely close. I might e v e n say
organic, ties . . . It seemed to them, and not only to them, that the crucial
thing was to 'bring the country to the Constituent Assembly' Theoretically
perhaps, and probably in fact, there was a very great truth in this, butpracin ally this peiuhar idealism was fraught with the most exasperating conse
i/urm es and complications

24

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM
This was t specially became the people were far from being fully imbued
with faith in the saving power of the Constituent Assembly .. In the begin
ning, during the first few months after the revolution, the Constituent
Assembly was something absolutely unknown and unclear to the mass of
front line soldiers . . their sympathies leaned completely, openly, and
frankly to the soviets These were institutions that were near and dear to
them, reminding them of village assemblies . .. From the very first days, the
meetings of the soviets influenc ed their decisions Both the army committee,
which the soldiers called 'our soviet', and the soviets in the capita! cities
seemed dose to them, and their activities comprehensible. During the first
few months I more than once had occasion to hear objections to the
Constituent Assembly from soldiers, and not from the least intelligent ones
at that To most of them the Assembly was associated with the Stale Duma,
an institution that was remote to them What do we need some Constituent
Assembly for when we have our soviets, where our deputies meet and which
can decide everything and know how to go about everything*'.*
A f te r th e O c t o b e r r e v o lu tio n h a d tr a n s f e r r e d p o w e r to th e s o v ie ts , th e

S R s a n d th e M e n s h e v ik s n o lo n g e r w is h e d to d e la y c a l l in g th e
C o n s t i t u e n t A s s e m b l y f o r n o w it h a d b e e n t r a n s f o r m e d f r o m a l o o m i n g
e m b a r r a s s m e n t i n t o a p o t e n t i a l b a s e f r o m w h i c h t h e y m i g h t b e a b l e to
r e g a i n a ll t h a t t h e y h a d j u s t l o s t . A g a i n , t h e m o o d w a s v e r y d i f f e r e n t
a m o n g th e ra n k a n d f ile . S o k o lo v r e p o n s fro m a c o n g r e s s o f s o ld ie r s
h e ld o n th e s o u th w e s te r n f r o n t, w h e r e , it s h o u ld b e n o te d . B o ls h e v ik
in flu e n c e w a s m u c h le s s th a n o n th e n o r th w e s te rn fro n t:

A majority o f the congress belonged to the SR Party, which had approxi


mately two thirds o f the delegates The remainirg third adhered to the
Bolsheviks ora small numberto the Ukrainians However, some of the
SRs. primarily those sent by rearguard units in the front line tone, took an
ambiguous position, which could best be summed up as follows since the
Provisional government no longer exists and since the Constitutional
Assembly hat not yet been convened, all the power in the country ought to
go to the soviets . . .
The disputes that developed on this question showed How contradictory
the mood was even among the delegates . . . They discussed the advantages
of the soviet system over parliamentarianism and emphasised the fa d .
which seemed indisputable to most, that the soviets were better than the
Provisional government since the 'soviets, you know, are ours'. Even the
arrival of the former Provisional government minister Avksentiev at this
congress and his many speeches in defence of the slogan 'All Power to the
Constituent Assembly', did not convince the majority .
The front line
congress, though not by a very large majority, expressed itself in favour of

25

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

the formulation proposed by the Bolsheviks. It spoke out for power to the
un-iettessentially for Bolshevik power."
T h u s th e s e s o ld ie rs u n d e rs to o d th ro u g h e x p e rie n c e w h a t h a d
t i n n m c , s i n c e M a r x 's w r i t i n g s o n t h e P a r i s C o m m u n e , a c o r n e r s t o n e o f
ie v o lu tio n a ry th e o r y : th a t th e s o v ie t is a s u p e rio r f o rm o f d e m o c ra c y
b e c a u s e it u n ifie s p o litic a l a n d e c o n o m ic p o w e r u n lik e p a rlia m e n t
w h ic h le a v e s th e m o s t im p o r ta n t p o w e r o f th e b o u r g e o is ie , its e c o
n o m ic s t r e n g t h , u n t o u c h e d ; b e c a u s e i t b r i n g s u n d e r d e m o c r a t i c c o n t r o l
i Ik -

a d m in is tr a tiv e a n d le g is la tiv e f u n c tio n s o f g o v e r n m e n t u n lik e p a r

lia m e n t w h ic h le a v e s th e c iv i l s e r v ic e , a r m y a n d p o lic e in u n c lc c te d
h a n d s ; a n d . m o s t o f a l l . b e c a u s e t h e s o v i e t is a n o r g a n o f s t r u g g l e rc s p n n s iv e to th e w ill o f th e w o rk e rs a n d c a p a b le o f d ir e c tly o rg a n is in g
v tr ik c s . p r o t e s t s a n d s o o n .
A p a r lia m e n t c o u ld b e a r a lly in g p o in t f o r th e b o u r g e o is ie d u r in g
i li c ir r e v o l u t i o n p r e c i s e l y b e c a u s e t h e y a i m e d o n l y a t

political

p o w e r.

In g e n e r a l t h e y w e r e a l r e a d y m a s t e r s , o r n e a r m a s t e r s , o f t h e e c o n o m y .
T h e L o n g P a rlia m e n t o f 1 6 4 0 in E n g la n d a n d th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly
o f 1 7 8 9 in F r a n c e th e r e f o r e r e s tr ic te d th e m s e lv e s t o c o n q u e r in g s ta te
I t o w e r o n b e h a l f o f a n a l r e a d y e c o n o m i c a l l y p o w e r f u l c l a s s . E v e n in
th e s e c a s e s p a rlia m e n ta ry in s titu tio n s h a d to b e p r o p e lle d fo rw a rd b y .
rc v p c c tiv c ly . th e a r m s o f th e N e w M o d e l A rm y a n d th e fo rc e o f th e
g re a t p o p u la r m o b ilis a tio n s le d b y th e J a c o b in c lu b s . In b o th th e
I n g lis h a n d t h e F r e n c h r e v o lu tio n s th e m o s t r a d ic a l s e c tio n s o f (h e
b o u r g e o i s i e e v e n h a d t o p u r g e t h e i r o w n p a r l i a m e n t a r y i n s t i t u t i o n s in
o r d e r fo r th e re v o lu tio n t o s u c c e e d .
H ut th e s o c ia lis t re v o lu tio n m u s t c o u n te r p o s c th e s o v ie t to p a r lia
m e n t. j u s t a s th e b o u rg e o is ie c o u n te r p o s e d p a r lia m e n t t o th e c o u rt, p re n s c l y b e c a u s e it n e e d s a n o r g a n w h ic h c o m b in e s e c o n o m ic p o w e r th e
p o w e r to s trik e a n d ta k e c o n tro l o f th e w o rk p la c e s w ith a n in s u rre c
t i o n a r y b i d f o r p o l i t i c a l p o w e r , b r e a k i n g t h e o l d s t a t e a n d r e p l a c i n g it
w ith a m o r e d e m o c r a tic w o r k e r s ' s ta te .
r h e b o u rg e o is ie a n d th e S R s c le a rly u n d e rs to o d th is a n d w e re k e e n
t o r e s t o r e a ll t h e o l d s e p a r a t i o n s i n h e r e n t i n a b o u r g e o i s s t a t e a s t h e f i r s t
\te p o n th e ro a d t o c o u n te r-re v o lu tio n . T h e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly w a s a
ra lly in g p o in t f o r th e rig h t. T h e S R s p la n n e d w h a t w a s e f f e c tiv e ly a
c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n to c o in c id e w ith th e o p e n in g o f th e C o n s titu e n t
A s s e m b ly :

Everything was ready to transform the event into an insurrection Thirty ar


moured cars were to advance against the Smolny [th e B o ls h e v ik h e a d q u a r
ters! . SR regiments would have supported the coup

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

26

F o r w e e k s a ll p r e p a r a tio n s h a d b e e n m a d e w ith th is e n d in v ie w . B u t
b y t h e n e w y e a r it w a s e v i d e n t t h a t a s t r i c t l y m i l i t a r y c o u p c o u l d n o t
s u c c e e d , * c o m m e n t s K a d k e y . t h e h i s t o r i a n o f t h e S R * . 7* A t t h e l a s t
m o m e n t th e S R le a d e r s h ip c a lle d o f f th e r is in g . N e v e r th e le s s th e S R
te rro ris t f ra c tio n s till m a d e p la n s t o k id n a p L e n in a n d T r o ts k y a n d o n 2
J a n u a ry 1 9 1 8 , th re e d a y s b e fo re th e A s s e m b ly w a s d u e to o p e n , tw o
s h o t s w e r e f i r e d a t L e n i n 's c a r . A n d in s o u t h e r n R u s s i a t h e f i r s t W h i t e
'v o l u n t e e r a r m y * u n d e r G e n e r a l K a l e d i n w a s a l r e a d y f i g h t i n g s o v i e t
p o w e r u n d e r th e b a n n e r o f th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly . U n d e r th e s e c ir
c u m s ta n c e s it w o u ld h a v e b e e n a b s u r d f o r th e B o ls h e v ik s to a llo w th is
i n v i t a t i o n t o c o u n t e r r e v o l u t i o n t o r e m a i n o p e n , e v e n if t h e e l e c t i o n s t o
it h a d b e e n s c r u p u l o u s l y f a i r a c c o r d i n g t o t h e l i g h t s o f p a r l i a m e n t a r y
d e m o c rac y .
In fa c t th e y w e re n o t f a ir e v e n a c c o r d in g t o th o s e lim ite d c rite ria .
F i r s t l y , t h e e l e c t i o n s o n l y a c h i e v e d a 5 0 p e r c e n t t u r n o u t a n d in s o m e
p a n s o f R u s s i a n o p o l l w a s h e l d a t a ll . O n s o m e s e c t w a s o f t h e f r o n t ,
o f f ic e r s h id th e fa c t th a t th e P r o v is io n a l g o v e rn m e n t h a d fa lle n .
S e c o n d ly , th e S R s h a d s p lit a f te r th e ir e le c tio n lis ts h a d b e e n d r a w n u p .
T h i s m e a n t ( h a t t h e R i g h t S R s ( R S R s ) w h o w e r e l i t t l e d i f f e r e n t t o th e
l e f t C a d e t s , d o m i n a t e d . T h e L e f t S R s ( L S R s ) , w h o w e r e c l o s e t o th e
B o ls h e v ik s , o n ly g o t th e ir lis ts o u t t o s o m e o f th e c e n tr a l R u s s ia n r e
g io n s .
T h u s th e th re e w e e k s o f p o llin g w h ic h g a v e a m a s s iv e m a jo rity to th e
R S R s a n d a b o u t 2 5 p e rc e n t o f th e v o te s t o th e B o ls h e v ik s w a s h ig h ly
u n re p re s e n ta tiv e o f th e re a l s itu a tio n . A b r ie f lo o k a t th r e e o f th e a re a s
w h e re th e L S R s d id m a n a g e to s ta n d c a n d id a te s r e v e a ls h o w m u c h th e
re s u lt w o u ld h a v e a lte re d h a d th e y b e e n a llo w e d t o s ta n d e v e ry w h e re .
I n P e t r o g r a d t h e L S R s r e c e i v e d 1 6 .2 p e r c e n t o f t h e v o t e a n d t h e R S R s
0 . 5 p e r c e n t ; in K a z a n t h e L S R s g o t 1 8 .9 p e r c e n t a n d t h e R S R s 2 .1 p e r
c e n t : i n t h e B a l t i c R e e l 2 6 . 9 p e r c e n t v o t e d f o r t h e L S R s . w h i l e j u s t 1 1.9
p e r c e n t v o t e d f o r t h e R S R s ." F .v c n a l l o w i n g f o r t h e f a c t t h a t t h e s e w e r e
f a v o u r a b l e a r e a s f o r t h e L S R s it is c l e a r t h a t t h e e l e c t i o n r e s u l t s w e r e a
m o c k e r y o f t h e r e a l s i t u a t i o n in R u s s i a in 1 9 1 7 . n T h e e l e c t i o n s t o t h e
a ll-R u s s ia n c o n g r e s s e s o f th e s o v ie ts g iv e a m u c h m o r e a c c u ra te p ic tu re
o f th e B o ls h e v ik s s u p p o rt:*

CONGRESSES
h i June 1917
2nd O ct 1917
3rd Jan 1918
4th Mar 1918
5th July 1918

NO. OF
DELEGATES
790
675
710
1232
1164

NO OF
BOLSHEX'IKS
103
343
434
795
773

%
13
51
61
64
66

27

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

I h c re a l w e a k n e s s o f ih e b o u rg e o is ie w a s s y m b o lic a lly re p re s e n te d
b y th e sc e n e a t th e d is s o lu tio n o f th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly . M e e tin g
hi

th is a tm o s p h e r e o f b o tc h e d in s u r r e c tio n , th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly

f e ll i t s e l f d o o m e d ', r e c o r d s V i c t o r S e r g e . C e r t a i n l y w h e n t h e a n a r c h i s t
i o m m a n d c r o f th e R e d G u a r d , t o c h a n t s o f 'T h a t '* e n o u g h ! T h a t 's
e n o u g h ! ' fr o m a p a c k e d g a lle ry , a p p r o a c h e d th e c h a ir m a n a n d to ld h im
th a t t h e A s s e m b l y w o u l d h a v e t o d i s p e r s e b e c a u s e " th e g u a r d i s t i r e d ,
th e d e le g a te s w e n t m e e k ly e n o u g h .
T h e o n ly o u tc ry w a s a s m a ll d e m o n s tr a tio n , d is p e r s e d w ith a fe w c a
s u a l t i e s b y t h e s a i l o r s , w h i c h e v e n S o k o l o v d e s c r i b e d a s 'a b s u r d ,
r i d i c u l o u s '. V i c t o r S e r g e s t a t e s t h a t . 'T h e d i s s o l u t i o n o f t h e C o n s t i t u e n t
A s s e m b l y m a d e a g r e a t s e n s a t i o n a b r o a d . I n R u s s i a , it p a s s e d a l m o s t
u n n o t i c e d . '" A n d t h a t d o y e n o f C o l d W a r r i o r s L e o n a r d S h a p i r o c o m
m e n t s . 'I t w a s t h e e n d o f t h e C o n s t i t u e n t A s s e m b l y . I t s d i s p e r s a l c a u s e d
l i t t l e s t i r in t h e c o u n t r y a n d w a s r e p o r t e d t o h a v e b e e n t r e a t e d w i t h i n
d i f f e r e n c e in th e a r m y . '" W H C h a m b e r l in , th e

Monitor's

Christian Science

M o s c o w c o r r e s p o n d e n t in t h e 1 9 2 0 s . r e c o r d s in h i s v a l u a b l e ,

i lt o u g h a n t i - B o l s h e v i k .

The Russian Resolution

t h a t t h e d i s m i s s a l o f th e

C o n s t i t u e n t A s s e m b l y 'e v o k e d s c a r c e l y a r i p p l e o f i n t e r e s t a n d p r o t e s t ,
s o fa r a s th e m a s s e s w e re c o n c e r n e d .' E v e n P ip e s is f o r c e d to a d m it
't h e d i s s o l u t i o n o f t h e A s s e m b l y m e t w i t h s u r p r i s i n g i n d i f f e r e n c e '. "
T h e r e c a n b e little d o u b t th a t i f th e s itu a tio n h a d b e e n r e v e r s e d , th a t
i \ i f a B o ls h e v ik d o m in a te d C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly h a d b e e n e le c te d
w h ile th e r ig h t w in g s till c o m m a n d e d s u f f ic ie n t a r m e d f o r c e , th e y
w o u ld h a v e d is m is s e d th e A s s e m b ly .
O n c e a g a i n , t h e G e r m a n r e v o l u t i o n p r o v i d e s a n e g a t i v e p r o o f o f th e
c o r r e c tn e s s o f th e B o ls h e v ik s a ttitu d e to th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly .
T h e re v o lu tio n o f 9 N o v e m b e r 1 9 1 8 h a d b e e n w o n o n th e b a s is o f
'H i k e a c t i o n , m u t i n y a n d t h e r i s e o f w o r k e r s c o u n c i l s . B u t t h e G e r m a n
s o v ie ts , lik e th e ir R u s s ia n c o u n te r p a r ts a f te r th e F e b ru a ry re v o lu tio n ,
w e re

d o m in a te d

by

re fo rm is ts .

The

g o v e rn m e n t

of

P e o p l e 's

C o m m is s a rs , d r a w n f ro m th e re fo rm is t S P D a n d th e c e n tris t U S P D . im
m e d i a t e l y b e g a n t o a r g u e t h a t t h e s o v i e t s h a d d o n e a m a r v e l l o u s j o b in
g e ttin g rid o f th e K a is e r, b u t th a t th e y s h o u ld n o w p re p a re to h a n d o v e r
p o w e r t o a C o n s t i t u e n t , o r N a t i o n a l . A s s e m b l y . T h i s w a s K a u t s k y s r e
p e a t e d t h e m e d u r i n g t h e s e m o n t h s ."
C o n f r o n t e d w i t h t h e p r a c t i c a l q u e s t i o n 'N a t i o n a l A s s e m b l y o r s o v i
e ts ? R o s a L u x e m b u rg , le s s th a n a y e a r a f te r s h e firs t m a d e h e r c r iti
c is m s o f th e B o ls h e v ik s a ttitu d e to th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly ,
im m e d ia te ly a b a n d o n e d th e m . S a m F a rb e r m e n tio n s th is c h a n g e o f
h e a r t in a f l e e t i n g p h r a s e , b u t t h e n h u r r i e s o n l ik e a r i c h m a n a v o i d i n g a
b e g g a r . L e t s h a l t t h i s g u i l t y c o n s c i e n c e i n i t s t r a c k s a n d s e e w h a t
L u x e m b u r g s a i d . S h e p i l l o r i e d 't h e N a t i o n a l A s s e m b l y a s a n a t t e m p t t o

INTERNATIONAL SOCIAUSM

28
a s s a s s in a te

N o th t h e r e v o l u t i o n

c o u n c i l s . " A n d h e r p a p e r .

a n d th e w o r k e r s ' a n d s o l d i e r s

Rote Fahne, d e c l a r e d :

The National Assembly is a d e v ic e with which to cheat the proletariat out of


its power, paralyze its class energy, and make its final goals vanish into thin
air. The alternative is to put all power into the hands cf the proletariat, de
velop this incipient revolution into a mighty class struggle for a socialist
order, and to this end establish the political supremacy of the working
masses, the dictatorship o f the workers' and soldiers' councils. For or
against socialism, for or against the National Assembly. There is no third
choice!"
T h e s e w e r e p r o p h e tic p h r a s e s . In th e e n d th e r e fo r m is t le d c o u n te r
r e v o lu tio n f e ll s tr o n g e n o u g h t o s tr ik e w ith o u t w a itin g f o r th e N a tio n a l
A s s e m b ly to b e c o n v e n e d . B u t th e p ro p a g a n d a fo r th e A s s e m b ly h a d
d o n e its w o rk in d e m o ra lis in g a n d d e m o b ilis in g th e w o r k e r s ' c o u n c ils .
In G e r m a n y th e c o n te s t o f d u a l p o w e r w a s r e s o lv e d in f a v o u r o f th e
b o u r g e o is ie , w ith th e h e lp o f p r o p a g a n d a a b o u t th e N a tio n a l A s s e m b ly .
T h e r ig h t e x a c te d a te rrib le p ric e . A r m e d b a n d s o f rig h t w in g tro o p s ,
th e F r c ik o r p s , th e s w a s tik a o n th e ir a rm s a n d th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly
a s t h e i r s lo g a n * 4, i n a u g u r a t e d a r e i g n o f t e r r o r . R o s a L u x e m b u r g . K a r l
L ie b k n e c h t. L e o J o g ic h c s a n d E u g e n e L e v in e , th e o u ts ta n d in g le a d e rs
o f th e G e r m a n r e v o lu tio n , w e re m u r d e r e d . In B e rlin a lo n e 3 .0 0 0 w o r k
e r s w e r e s l a u g h te r e d in p itc h e d b a tt l e s w ith th e F r c i k o r p s . It w a s a
c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n p la n n e d a n d le d b y th e r e fo r m is t S P D . Its fig u re h e a d
w a s S P D d e p u t y G u s t a v N o s k c . I n N o s k c 's o w n w o r d s :

Nobody made any objection when I expressed the view that order would
have to be restored by force o f arms The Minister o f War. Colonel
Reinhardt, drafted an order appointing as commander in-chief General
Hoffmann
It was objected that this general would be too unpopular with
the workers . . . I insisted that a decision must be taken. Somebody said:
'Perhaps you'll do the job yourseip' To this I replied, briefly and reso
lutely 7 don't mind, somebody's got to be the bloodhound Tm not afraid
of the responsibilityr It < u decided forthwith that the government would
grant me extraordinary powers for the purpose of re-establishing order in
Berlin In his draft. Reinhardt struck out the name of Hoffmann and re
placed it by mine That is how / was appointed to the post of commander-in
chiefFoar d a y s

a fte r th e m u r d e r o f L u x e m b u r g a n d L ie b k n e c h t th e e le c

tio n s f o r th e N a tio n a l A s s e m b ly to o k p la c e . W h e n it m e t th e S P D
f o r m e d a c o a litio n w ith th e tw o b o u r g e o is p a r tie s . In R u s s ia th e
B o ls h e v ik s ' a b ility t o w in th e m a jo r ity in th e s o v ie ts t o ta k e p o w e r

29

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

m e a n t th e c r u s h in g o f th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly a s a c e n tr e fo r c o u n te r( e v o l u t i o n , a t l e a s t in t h e h e a r t o f R u s s i a . H e n c e f o r t h c o u n t e r - r c v o l u iHM iury a s s e m b l i e s w e r e e x p e l l e d i n t o t h e s o u t h a n d t o t h e e a s t o f t h e


H u l l s . I n G e r m a n y t h e S p a r t a c u s L e a g u e s w e a k n e s s a n d i n e x p e r i e n c e
a llo w e d a r e f o r m is t le a d e r s h ip o f th e w o r k e r s c o u n c ils to c r u s h th e
rr v o lu tio n a n d h a n d p o w e r t o a b o u r g e o is a s s e m b ly .
I h c s c a le o f t h a t t r a g e d y s p r e a d a l l t h e w a y f r o m B e r l i n t o P c t r o g r a d
.um I M o s c o w . W i t h o u t a s u c c e s s f u l G e r m a n r e v o l u t i o n t h e B o l s h e v i k s
w e re th ro w n b a c k in to a b lo o d y c iv il w a r w ith o n ly lim ite d re s o u rc e s .
I h e re v o lu tio n w a s u n d e r sie g e .

I h e c iv il w a r a n d t h e W h i t e T e r r o r
I Ik * c i v i l w a r w a s a b l o o d y a n d b r u t a l e r a . O n m a n y o c c a s i o n s t h e l i f e
o f th e S o v ie t re g im e h u n g b y a th r e a d . T o s u r v iv e a t a ll th e r e g im e u n le rw e n t a s e v e r e c h a n g e w h ic h d r a m a ti c a l l y a lte r e d th e e le m e n ta r y
I r e e d o m s w h i c h t h e B o l s h e v i k s , l ik e e v e r y o n e e l s e , t o o k f o r g r a n t e d in
t h e lir x l p e r i o d o f S o v i e t p o w e r .
F o r m a n y w r ite r s it w a s in th is p e rio d o f W a r C o m m u n is m th a t th e
firs t s e e d s o f S ta lin is m w e r e s o w n .

J o e S lo v o a r g u e s , 't h e fo u n d a tio n

f o r t h e i n s t i t u t i o n a l i s e d s e p a r a t i o n o f s o c i a l i s m a n d d e m o c r a c y , b o t h in
th e p a rty a n d in s o c ie ty , w a s la id in id e o lo g ic a l p r a c tic e s w h ic h p r e
c e d e d th e e m e r g e n c e o f a n e c o n o m ic a lly p riv ile g e d s tr a ta .' H e c ite s
I n K s k y s w r i t i n g s f r o m t h e p e r i o d o f W a r C o m m u n i s m a s c o n t a i n i n g
'q u i t e a f e w i d e o l o g i c a l p o s i t i o n s w h i c h a l s o d e g r a d e t h e i d e a s o f c o m
m u n i s m . - F o r R o b i n B l a c k b u r n :

'War Communism'. with iis far-reaching attempt to replace all exchange by


requisitioning . . casI a Night on small-stale production in this backward
country. It n as also associated with an intensified and hardened Bolshevik
sense of destiny that would brook no opposition
S a m F a r b e r i s h a p p y t o r e p e a t R o b e r t C T u c k e r 's d e s i g n a t i o n o f t h i s
p e r i o d a s S t a l i n i s t L e n i n i s m ' a n d g o e s o n t o a r g u e :

The governmental euphoria with War Communism also implicitly revealed


the political and ideological priorities of mainstream Bolshevism. Thus,
while this set of policies greatly expanded the powers of the central state
and vigorously attempted to reduce the role of the market, at the same time
it not only consolidated the Red Terror but for all intents and purposes
eliminated workers' control of industry and democracy in the soviets. Again
there is no evidence indicating that Lenin or any mainstream Bolshevik

JO

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM
leaders lanterned the loss o f workers' control or o f democracy in the
soviets . . .**

S lo v o . S a m F a r t e r a n d . t o a le s s e r e x te n t. R o b in B la c k b u rn a ll h a v e
a s im ila r m e th o d o lo g ic a l r e fr a in to b a c k u p th is a ttitu d e . It ru n s lik e
th is : y e s . o b je c tiv e c o n d itio n s w e r e h a d d u r in g th e c iv il w a r . b u t th is
c a n t e x p l a i n e v e r y t h i n g . T h i s s i m p l i f i e d f o r m o f e c o n o m i c d e t e r m i n
i s m h a s i t s l i m i t s ', s a y s S l o v o . " T h e r e m u s t , t h e r e f o r e , h a v e b e e n s o m e
w e a k n e s s in B o l s h e v i k t h e o r y . F o r S a m F a r t e r i d e o l o g i c a l i n e b r i a t i o n
a m o n g t h e B o l s h e v i k s n e g a t e s t h e c l a i m t h a t W a r C o m m u n i s m . . .
w a s s i m p l y i m p o s e d o n t h e g o v e r n m e n t b y o b j e c t i v e n e c e s s i t y .* "
T h is s o u n d s lik e s o p h is tic a te d M a r x is m : r e je c tin g c r u d e e c o n o m ic
d e t e r m i n i s m i n t h e n a m e o f t a k i n g p o l i t i c a l f a c t o r s ' i n t o a c c o u n t . B u t.
p r o p e rly u s e d . M a rx is m d o c s n o t s u g g e s t th a t in e v e r y c ir c u m s ta n c e
p o litic a l w ill o r id e o lo g y c a n p la y a k e y ro le . T h e d e g r e e to w h ic h
w o rk e rs c a n m a k e th e ir o w n h is to r y d e p e n d s o n th e w e ig h t o f o b je c
tiv e f a c to r s b e a r in g d o w n o n th e m . A t th e h e ig h t o f th e r e v o lu tio n a ry
w a v e s u c h f r e e d o m c a n b e c o n s i d e r a b l e , i n t h e c o n c e n t r a t i o n c a m p it
c a n b e re d u c e d t o v irtu a lly z e ro .
O f c o u r s e th e r e w a s a p o in t o n th e re v o lu tio n a r y f ro n t w h e re c o n
s c io u s n e s s . t h e o r y a n d o r g a n is a tio n w e r e d e c is iv e f o r th e B o ls h e v ik
r e v o lu t i o n a t th is tim e : t h a t p o in t w a s th e E u r o p e a n , p a r ti c u l a r ly th e
G e r m a n , r e v o l u t i o n . B u t in R u s s i a t h e l i m i t s o f a c t i o n w e r e r e d u c e d to
w ith s ta n d in g , u n d e r e v e r n a rro w in g c o n s tric tio n s , a s ie g e . E v e ry o u n c e
o f w illp o w e r a n d p o litic a l c o n s c io u s n e s s w a s n e c e s s a r y t o k e e p th e
w o r k e r s s ta te fro m b e in g o v e rc o m e . T h e s u b je c tiv e f a c to r ' w a s r e
d u c e d to a c h o ic e b e tw e e n c a p itu la tio n t o th e W h ite s o r d e f e n d in g th e
r e v o lu tio n w ith w h a te v e r m e a n s w e re a t h a n d . W ith in th e s e lim its
B o ls h e v ik p o lic y w a s d e c is iv e . B u t it c o u ld n o t w is h a w a y th e lim its
a n d s t a r t w ith a c le a n s h e e t. It is a t r ib u t e t o th e p o w e r o f th e
B o ls h e v ik s ' p o litic s a n d o r g a n is a tio n th a t th e y to o k th e m e a s u re s n e c
e s s a r y a n d w i t h s t o o d t h e s i e g e f o r s o lo n g .
T o d e c id e in a n y g iv e n c ir c u m s ta n c e th e w e ig h t o f th e s u b je c tiv e a n d
o b je c tiv e f a c to rs d e m a n d s a c o n c r e te a n a ly s is o f th e b a la n c e o f fo rc e s.
T h is i s p re c is e ly w h a t i s m is s in g in m o s t a c c o u n ts . S a m F a rb c r c h e e r
fu lly b r a n d is h e s h i s d e s ir e to c o n c e n tr a te o n th e p o litic a l, a n d c r itic is e s
o t h e r s w h o s e e t h e q u e s t i o n o f d e m o c r a c y a s i f it w a s i n s o m e w a y
d e r i v a t i v e o f e c o n o m i c s '. P r e s u m a b l y , in t h i s s c h e m a , d e m o c r a c y is
e q u a lly p o s s ib le u n d e r s ta r v in g , p la g u e r id d e n fe u d a lis m a s it is u n d e r
2 0 t h c e n t u r y c a p i t a l i s m . I n S a m F a r b e r 's a n a l y s i s o f t h e c i v i l w a r w e
a re b la n k ly to ld th a t th e a tr o c itie s e a r n e d o u t b y th e W h ite T e r r o r a rc
a s s u m e d t o b e g i v e n .* Y e t t h i s i s w h a t

cannot b e

a s s u m e d to b e g iv e n .

I f w e d o n o t g iv e a fu ll a c c o u n t o f th e e c o n o m ic c r is is , th e in te rn a tio n a l
s i t u a t i o n a n d t h e d e p t h o f t h e W h i l e T e r r o r h o w c a n w e b e e x p e c t e d to

IN III 11 NCE Oh OCTOBER

31

jin t g o h o w f a r t h e B o l s h e v i k s a c t e d f r o m n e c e s s i t y ? H o w c a n w e a s s e s s
i li r f o r c e o f c i r c u m s t a n c e ?
S o w h a t w e re th e c o n d itio n s fa c in g th e B o ls h e v ik s ? T he c iv il w a r
lu o k c o v e r a c o u n tr y a lr e a d y d e c im a te d b y th e F irs t W o rld W a r. B y
I'J I X K u s s i a w a s p r o d u c i n g j u s t 1 2 p e r c e n t o f t h e s t e e l it h a d p r o d u c e d
h i 1 9 13. M o re o r le s s th e s a m e s to ry e m e r g e d fro m e v e r y in d u s try : iro n
o n - h a d s l u m p e d t o 1 2 .3 p e r c e n t o f i t s 1 9 1 3 f i g u r e ; t o b a c c o t o 1 9 p e r . . n i . s u g a r t o 2 4 p e r c e n t ; c o a l t o 4 2 p e r c e n t ; l in e n t o 7 5 p e r c e n t . T h e
. iM uitry w a s p r o d u c i n g j u s t o n e f o m e t h o f t h e r a i l w a y t r a c k it h a d m a n
u f a c t u r e d in 1 9 1 3 .* ' A n d b y J a n u a r y 1 9 1 8 s o m e 4 8 p e r c e n t o f t h e lo c o m o tiv e s in th e c o u n tr y w e re o u t o f a c tio n . F a c to rie s c lo s e d , le a v in g
iv ir o g r a d w ith ju s t a th ir d o f i ts f o r m e r w o rk fo rc e b y a u tu m n 1 9 1 8 .
H y p e r i n f l a t i o n r a g e d a t le v e l s o n ly l a t e r m a tc h e d in t h e W e im a r
R e p u b lic . T h e a m o u n t o f w o rk e rs " in c o m e th a t c a m e f r o m s o u r c e s
. -lite r t h a n w a g e s r o s e f r o m 3 .5 p e r c e n t in 1 9 1 3 t o 3 8 p e r c e n t i n 1 9 1 8
in m a n y e a s e s d e s p e r a t i o n d r o v e w o r k e r s t o s i m p l e t h e f t . T h e w o r k e r s '

Mate w a s a s d e s t i t u t e a s t h e w o r k e r s : t h e s t a t e b u d g e t f o r 1 9 1 8 s h o w e d
i n c o m e a t l e s s t h a n h a l f o f e x p e n d itu re .* *
S t a r v a t i o n c a m e h a r d o n t h e h e e l s o f e c o n o m i c d e v a s t a t i o n . I n th e
M * in g o f 1 9 1 8 t h e f o o d r a t i o n i n M o s c o w a n d P e t r o g r a d s a n k t o j u s t 10
(M -rc c n t o f t h a t n e e d e d t o s u s t a i n a m a n u a l w o r k e r . N o w i t w a s
< l i t c h c r i n . th e P e o p l e 's C o m m i s s a r f o r F o r e i g n A f f a i r s , w h o i r o n i c a l l y
r e p e a te d th e th r e a t f i r s t m a d e b y th e m il l io n a i r e R y a b u s h y n s k i: " th e
iN in y h a n d o f h u n g e r m a y t h r o t t l e t h e R u s s i a n R e v o l u t i o n ." D i s e a s e
n e c e s s a rily w a lk e d h a n d in h a n d w ith s ta r v a tio n , c la im in g p e r h a p s 7
m i l l i o n l i v e s d u r i n g t h e c i v i l w a r . t h e s a m e n u m b e r o f d e a t h s a s th a t
s u ffe re d b y R u s s ia n s in th e F irs t W o rld W a r. T h e to n e o f th is c r y fro m
la m in te s tifie s to th e s e r io u s n e s s o f th e c r is is in 191 8 :

For G ods sake, use the most energetic ami revolutionary measures to send
grain, grain and mart grain"' Otherwise. Piter / Petrograd/ may perish."
It w a s a g a i n s t t h i s b a c k c l o t h o f e c o n o m i c d e v a s t a t i o n t h a t t h e c i v i l
w a r to o k p la c e . O c t o b e r h a d b e e n a d e c is iv e tu r n in g p o in t in th e re v o lu tio n , h u t it w a s f a r f r o m th e e n d o f th e s t r u g g le . A s C h a m b e r l in o b
s e r v e s . 't h e a l t e r n a t i v e t o B o l s h e v i s m , h a d it f a i l e d t o s u r v i v e t h e o r d e a l
o f c iv il w a r . . . w o u ld n o t h a v e b e e n C h e r n o v , o p e n in g a C o n s titu e n t
A s s e m b ly . . . b u t a m ilita r y d ic ta to r , a K o k h a k o r a D e n ik in , n d in g
i n t o M o s c o w o n a w h i t e h o rs e .'* *
M o s t h is to r ia n s tr e a t th e r e v o lu tio n a n d th e c iv il w a r a s s e p a ra te p r o
c e s s e s . In r e a lity t h e y w e r e o n e . T h e a tte m p te d s u p p r e s s io n o f th e
B o l s h e v i k s i n J u l y 1 9 1 7 a n d t h e K o r n i l o v r e v o l t t h e f o l l o w i n g m o n th
h a d b e e n th e p re c u r s o r s o f c iv il w a r b e fo re th e re v o lu tio n . J u s t th re e
d a y s a f te r th e r e v o lu tio n , w h ile th e r e v o lu tio n its e lf s till h u n g in th e

32

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

b a la n c e in M o s c o w , ih e w o rk e rs o f P e tr o g r a d w e re o u t d ig g in g
t r e n c h e s b e f o r e t h e c i t y t o d e f e n d i t f r o m G e n e r a l K r a s n o v s C o s s a c k s
w h o . w ith K e r e n s k y , h a d a lr e a d y c a p tu r e d T s a r s k o y c S e lo a f e w m ile s
fro m th e c a p ita l.
T h e f o llo w in g d a y C o lo n e l P o lk o v m k o v le d a n in s u r r e c tio n o f th e
j u n k e r s o f th e m ilita r y s c h o o l in P e tr o g r a d . T h e y c a p tu r e d th e c e n tra l
te le g ra p h o f f ic e a n d C o m m is s a r A n to n o v b e f o re th e y w e re d e fe a te d .
A n to n o v k e p t h is p ro m is e t o e n s u r e th e ir s a fe ty . B u t th e ju n k e r s d i d n o t
k e e p th e ir p ro m is e n o t to b e a r a r m s a g a in s t th e s o v ie ts a n d . a s s o o n a s
t h e y w e r e r e l e a s e d , t h r e a d e d t h e i r w a y t h r o u g h R e d t e r r i t o r y t o w a r d th e
c e n t r e s o f W h i t e r e s i s t a n c e i n t h e D o n a n d K u b a n t e r r i t o r i e s a n d i n th e
U k r a in e w h e r e W h ite a r m ie s w e r e a lr e a d y fo rm in g .
T h e d a y a f t e r t h e j u n k e r r i s i n g K r a s n o v 's f o r c e s , j o i n e d b y l e a d e r s o f
t h e S o c i a l i s t R e v o l u t i o n a r i e s , d i d b a t t l e w i t h th e R e d s o n t h e P u l k o v o
H e ig h ts o u ts id e P e tro g ra d . K ra s n o v w a s b e a te n a n d th e W h ite s m a d e
t h e i r w a y t o t h e s o u t h a n d e a s t . S o v i e t p o w e r s t i ll d i d n o t e x i s t i n m u c h
o f th e c o u n try a n d th e c iv il w a r n e v e r e n tir e ly d ie d d o w n . F ig h tin g c o n
tin u e d th r o u g h o u t th e f o llo w in g m o n th s , e s p e c i a l l y in th e U k ra in e .
T r o ts k y le f t h is p o s t a s C o m m is s a r f o r F o r e ig n A ffa irs t o b e c o m e W a r
C o m m i s s a r in M a r c h 1 9 1 8 . T h i s c a t a l o g u e o f a r m e d r e s i s t a n c e t o th e
r e v o l u t i o n m a k e s a n o n s e n s e o f P i p e s c l a i m t h a t , 't h e B o l s h e v i k t e r r o r '
b e g a n l o n g 'b e f o r e a n y o r g a n i s e d o p p o s i t i o n t o t h e B o l s h e v i k s h a d h a d
a c h a n c e t o e m e r g e . "
I n d e e d , a s m o s t h i s t o r i a n s a d m i t . I h e R e d T e r r o r d i d n o t b e g i n in
e a r n e s t u n til th e la te s u m m e r o f 1 9 1 8 . B u t th r e e m o n th s e a r l ie r th e
B o l s h e v i k s h a d r e c e i v e d a t e r r i b l e l e s s o n in t e r r o r f r o m t h e W h i t e s in
F in la n d . U n til th e O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n F in la n d w a s p a r t o f th e R u s s ia n
U m p ire , a lb e it w ith its o w n d e m o c r a tic c o n s titu tio n g r a n te d a s r e s u lt o f
th e 1 9 0 5 r e v o lu tio n . In 1 9 1 7 K e r e n s k y d is s o lv e d th e F in n is h p a rlia m e n t
w h e n ih e S o c ia l D e m o c ra tic m a jo r ity v o te d fo r in d e p e n d e n c e . N e w
e le c tio n s g a v e th e S o c ia l D e m o c ra ts

92

o u t o f 2 0 0 s e a ts , b u t b y n o w a

r e v o l u t i o n a r y s i t u a t i o n w a s d e v e l o p i n g . R u s s i a 's O c t o b e r r e v o l u t i o n
w a s g r e e te d w ith a g e n e r a l s tr ik e in F in la n d . B y J a n u a ry

1918 a

C o u n c i l o f P e o p l e 's D e l e g a t e s h a d b e e n f o r m e d a n d r e d f l a g s f l e w o v e r
th e m a jo r to w n s . B u t W h ite G u a r d s h a d p r e p a r e d to m e e t th is th re a t
a n d th e y g o t th e s u p p o r t o f G e r m a n tr o o p s . In th e b r ie f c iv il w a r th a t
fo llo w e d th e R e d s w e re b e a te n , b u t th e m a s s k illin g s w e re re v e n g e ,
c o m m itte d a f te r th e e v e n t.
I n H e l s i n k i t h e W h i t e s m a d e w o r k e r s * w i v e s a n d c h i l d r e n w a l k in
fro n t o f th e ir tro o p s a s th e y r e c a p tu r e d th e c ity s tr e e t b y s tre e t. O n e
h u n d re d o f th e w o m e n a n d c h ild r e n d ie d . In a ll, s o m e 3 0 0 c o r p s e s w e re
f o u n d in t h e s t r e e t s . L a t e r 4 0 w o m e n w e r e l a i d o u t o n t h e i c e a n d s h o t .
I n T a v a s t e h u s 1 0 , 0 0 0 p r i s o n e r s w e r e i n t e r n e d a n d m a n y d i e d i n th e
m a s s a c r e w h i c h f o l l o w e d d u r i n g w h i c h m u r d e r o f t h e w o u n d e d w a s

33

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

ih r n o n n . ' In K u u m e n 5 0 0 w e re s h o t a fte r th e b a ttle , in R a u m a a n o th e r


MX) w e r e s h o t . " * I n S v c a b o r g t h e r e w e r e p u b l i c e x e c u t i o n s a n d in L a h ti
in o n e d a y s o m e 2 0 0 w o m e n w e r e s h o t w ith e x p lo s iv e b u lle ts : lu m p s
o f fle s h w e r e s p a tte r e d o u t in a ll d ir e c tio n s .' In V iip u ri 6 0 0 R e d G u a r d s
w e r e l i n e d u p i n t h r e e r o w s a n d m a c h i n e g u n n e d t o d e a t h . J

from 28 April to / June the number of illegal killings wax 4.745. just
aver half of all such killings, and the peak period from 5-11 May saw execu
tions average 200 a day In total the illegal killings of captured Reds, or
those taken to he such, totalled 8J80. which included 58 victims under 16.
and 364 women *
I n a d d i t i o n t h e r e w e r e a n o t h e r 2 6 5 'l e g a l e x e c u t i o n s ', b u t t h e 'f o r m a l
i n v e s t i g a t i o n s w e r e p e r f u n c t o r y ' a n d 't h e b a s i s o n w h k h t h e c h a r g e s
w e r e b r o u g h t illeg al.* * * N o r w a s t h i s t h e e n d o f t h e W h i t e T e r r o r . S o m e
8 0 .0 0 0 w e re ta k e n p ris o n e r d u r in g M a y :

they were herded into improvised prisons, often grossly overcrowded, unuinuary and lacking the most basic facilities .. . nobody on the winning side
fell that thefood shortages of the prisoners merited special consideration
I n f o u r m o n t h s 1 1 ,7 8 3 p r i s o n e r s d i e d o f t h i s d e l i b e r a t e n e g l e c t . * In
.ill. t h e F i n n i s h W h i t e T e n o r c l a i m e d t h e l i v e s o f 2 3 . 0 0 0 R e d s . * I t w a s
a f a te w h i c h m u s t h a v e b u r n t i t s e l f i n t o t h e m i n d s o f t h e B o l s h e v i k s a n d
s te e le d th e ir h e a rts d u rin g th e c iv il w a r. Y e t n e ith e r P ip e s n o r S a m
l - a r b e r c a n s p a r e a s m u c h a s a s e n t e n c e f o r t h e W h i t e T e r r o r in F i n l a n d .
I m p e r i a l i s t i n t e r v e n t i o n in R u s s i a b e g a n t o g a t h e r p a c e j u s t a s t h e
W h ite T e r r o r w a s ta k in g its v e n g e a n c e o n th e F in n is h w o r k e r s . It w a s
d e s i g n e d t o e x a c e r b a t e t h e e c o n o m i c a n d p o l i t i c a l c r i s i s in R u s s i a t o th e
p o in t w h e re th e B o ls h e v ik re g im e c r a c k e d in to p ie c e s . T h e G e r m a n o c
c u p a t i o n o f t h e U k r a i n e m e a n t t h a t 8 0 p e r c e n t o f R u s s i a 's p r e - w a r g r a m
w a s n o w b e y o n d th e B o ls h e v ik s ' c o n tro l. A f te r th e B o ls h e v ik s s ig n e d
th e p e a c e o f B rc s t-L ito v s k in M a rc h 1 9 1 8 , a p e a c e w h ic h s a n c tio n e d
t h e G e r m a n o c c u p a t i o n , t h e y r e m a i n e d in c o n t r o l o f o n l y o n e s e v e n t h
o f I m p e r i a l R u s s i a 's s u g a r b e e t f i e l d s a n d o n l y o n e q u a r t e r o f h e r c o a l
m i n e , i r o n f o u n d r i e s a n d s t e e l m il l s ." * A n d i n 1 9 1 8 t h e A l l i e d b l o c k a d e
o f R u s s i a b e g a n . B y t h e s t a r t o f t h e f o l l o w i n g y e a r 'n o t o n e l e t t e r , n o t
o n e fo o d p a rc e l, n o t o n e p a c k a g e o f g o o d s , n o t o n e fo re ig n n e w s p a p e r
c o u l d e n t e r R e d R u s s i a . "*
In A p n l 1 9 1 8 t h e B r i t i s h a n d t h e J a p a n e s e s e i z e d V l a d i v o s t o k in th e
c a s t. B y th e e n d o f th e y e a r th e re w e re 7 3 .0 0 0 J a p a n e s e tro o p s . 6 0 ,0 0 0
C z e c h t r o o p s . 8 .0 0 0 U S t r o o p s . 2 .5 0 0 B r itis h tr o o p s . 1 ,5 0 0 Ita lia n
tr o o p s a n d 1 ,0 0 0 F r e n c h tr o o p s f ig h tin g th e R e d s

in Siberia alone.'"

D u rin g th e c o u rs e o f th e c iv il w a r th e B o ls h e v ik s w o u ld fa c e a rm ie s

34

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

fro m

14 d i f f e r e n t c o u n t r i e s , i n c l u d i n g a ll t h e i m p e r i a l i s t p o w e r s . F r o m

th e c a s t th e s e w o u ld s u p p o rt th e W h ite f o r c e s o f K o lc h a k a s th e y
s tr e a m e d o v e r th e U ra ls to w a r d M o s c o w . F ro m th e n o r th th e B ritis h
a n d A m e r ic a n f o r c e s s u p p o rte d th e W h ite s a s th e y a tte m p te d to th ru s t
s o u th to w a rd P e tro g ra d . F ro m th e s o u th th e F re n c h a n d o th e r s w o u ld
s u p p o r t G e n e r a l D e n ik in a n d th e D o n a n d K u b a n C o s s a c k s a s th e y
d ro v e n o rth to w a rd M o s c o w . L a te r th e P o lis h w o u ld in v a d e fro m th e
c a s t a n d G e n e r a l lu d c n ic h w o u ld c o m e w ith in a rifle s h o t o f P e tro g ra d .
By

1 9 1 9 m o re th a n 2 0 0 ,0 0 0 A llie d t r o o p s w e r e s u p p o r tin g th e

W h i t e s ." * T r o t s k y d e s c r i b e s t h e f r o n t i n A u g u s t 1 9 1 8 a s :

a noose (hat seemed to he closing lighter and lighter around Moscow- . . .


The soil itself seemed infected with panic . everything was crumbling.
There was nothing left to hang onto. The situation seemed hopeless
N o t f o r th e la s t lim e , th e B o ls h e v ik s w e r e o n ly in c o n tr o l o f a n a re a
n o w r e d u c e d t o t h e s i z e o f t h e a n c i e n t M o s c o w p r i n c i p a l i t y . It h a r d l y
h a d a n a r m y ; it w a s s u r r o u n d e d b y e n e m i e s o n a l l s i d e s . " '
It is o f t e n s a id th a t w a r im p o s e s a te r r ib le s y m m e tr y o n its o p p o s in g
s i d e s . T h i s is p a r t i c u l a r l y t r u e o f c i v i l w a r . T r o t s k y l e a r n t c a v a l r y t a c
tic s fro m th e W h ite C o s s a c k s , j u s t a s C ro m w e ll le a rn t th e m fro m P rin c e
R u p e r t. A n d T r o t s k y , l ik e C r o m w e l l , s u r p a s s e d h i s m a s t e r . T h e R u s s i a n
c i v i l w a r . f o u g h t in d e s p e r a t e e c o n o m i c c o n d i t i o n s , i m p o s e d a p a r t i c u
la r f e ro c ity o n e a c h s id e . B r u ta lity w a s c o u n te r e d b y b r u ta lity . W h ite
T e r r o r b y R e d T e rro r. Y e t in s id e th e s y m m e try o f w a r th e re w a s a ls o a
v i t a l d i f f e r e n c e w h i c h t h e w a r h i g h l i g h t e d : t h e d i f f e r e n c e in t h e c l a s s
b a s is o f th e o p p o s in g a r m ie s . W h ite G e n e r a l K ra s n o v d e s c r ib e d h is
o w n a r m y 's c o m p o s i t i o n :

Not more than half were fil for combat. The remainder Here priests, nurses,
miscellaneous females, officers of the counter-intelligence services, police
men. aged colonels who had signed up as commanders of non existent regi
ments and. finally, various 'personalities'. all of them with a more or less
colourful past, who were in search of positions at governors, vice -gover
nors. and mayors."
A s G e n e r a l l u d c n i c h 's t r o o p s a d v a n c e d o n P e t r o g r a d f r o m t h e n o r t h
o l d o f f i c i a l s , o l d l a n d l o r d s , o l d p o l i c e m e n w e r e a p t t o f o l l o w i n t h e i r
w a k e * , o n e o b s e r v e r n o t e d . 1" A n d i n t h e e a r l y s t a g e s o f t h e c i v i l w a r
w h e n G e n e r a l D e n ik in c a p tu r e d E k a te r in o d a r o n e C a d e t e x c la im e d ,
T h e r e a r e o u r g e n d a r m e s , y e s . i n d e e d o u r o l d . p r e - r e v o l u t i o n a r y g e n d a r m e s . "* A f t e r h i s r e t r e a t f r o m E k a t e r i n o d a r . G e n e r a l D e n i k i n f o u n d
h i m s e l f in c h a r g e o f a f o r c e a p p r o a c h i n g 4 , 0 0 0 o f w h o m 2 . 3 6 8 h a d

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

35

b e e n o f f i c e r s , i n c l u d i n g 3 6 g e n e r a l s a n d 2 0 0 c o l o n e l s . A n o t h e r 1 .0 3 6
h a d b e e n s e r g e a n t s o r c o r p o r a l s . 1*
T h e U S a m b a s s a d o r t o J a p a n r e p o r t e d t h a t , t h e K o l c h a k g o v e r n m e n t
l ia s f a i l e d t o c o m m a n d t h e c o n f i d e n c e o f a n y b o d y i n S i b e r i a e x c e p t a
% m all d i s c r e d i t e d g r o u p o f r e a c t i o n a r i e s , m o n a r c h i s t s a n d f o r m e r m i l i
t a r y o f f i c i a l s . ' T h i s i s u n s u r p r i s i n g g i v e n t h e S i b e r i a n g o v e r n m e n t 's
v i e w t h a t . *it is i m p o s s i b l e t o a b o l i s h c a p i t a l i s t f o r m s o f i n d u s t r y . . .
C a p ita lis t f o r m s o f in d u s try m u s t e x is t, a n d c a p ita lis ts a s a c la s s m u st
b e a l l o w e d t o d i r e c t t h e m . "* A n d o f c o u r s e e v e r y w h e r e a n d a l w a y s t h e
a rriv a l o f th e W h ite s m e a n t th a t th e o ld la n d lo rd s trie d t o re g a in th e ir
la n d a n d t o r e tu r n to th e a g e o ld r u le o f th e k n o u t.
G i v e n t h e s o c i a l c o m p o s i t i o n o f th e W h i t e s ' l e a d i n g c i r c l e s a n d t h e
( r a n k ly c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n a r y p r o g r a m m e o n w h ic h th e y a c te d it is n o
s u r p r i s e t o f i n d t h a t a l t h o u g h t e r r o r w a s u s e d b y b o t h s i d e s it w a s u s e d
m o s t c o m p l e t e l y , w i t h f a r g r e a t e r h a r b a r i t y . b l o o d s h e d a n d l o s s o f lif e
b y th e W h i t e s . T h i s w a s a n a b s o l u t e n e c e s s i t y f o r t h e W h i t e s s i n c e t h e y
w e r e u n a b l e t o w i n t h e s u p p o r t o f t h e p o p u l a t i o n w i t h a n y t h i n g l i k e th e
s u c c e s s th a t th e B o ls h e v ik s a c h ie v e d . In th o s e a r e a s c o n tr o lle d b y th e
W h i t e s t h e p r e t e n c e o f d e m o c r a t i c g o v e r n m e n t , w h e r e it e x i s t e d in t h e
f i r s t p l a c e , w a s q u i c k l y a b a n d o n e d . B o t h i n t h e U k r a i n e a n d in S i b e r i a
ih c s h o r t liv e d C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b lie s q u ic k ly h a n d e d p o w e r t o m ili
ta ry d ic ta to rs h ip s . S e rg e o b s e rv e d :

Point for point, the experience of the Ukraine, where democratic paruet cf
the middle clats could do nothing except open the path for black reaction, is
repeated in Siberia. Such, indeed, is the inevitable function c f these parties
in civil wars. since the peculiarity o f the bourgeoisie is to have no politics of
Us own It is always situated between two dictatorships, that of the prole
tariat. or that of reaction; its destiny is to prepare the latter, up to a certain
point, and them to submit to it."'
S o o n , e v e r y w h e r e th a t th e W h ite s ru le d , d ic ta to r s h ip s o f a k in d o n ly
l a t e r r i v a l l e d b y t h e N a z i s h e l d s w a y . 'T h e g r e a t e r t h e t e r r o r , t h e g r e a t e r
o u r v i c t o r i e s ', d e c l a r e d K o r n i l o v . W e m u s t s a v e R u s s i a , h e a r g u e d ,
'e v e n i f w e h a v e t o s e t f i r e t o h a l f o f it a n d s h e d t h e b l o o d o f t h r e e
f o u r t h s o f a ll t h e R u s s i a n s ! '1" It w a s c l e a r t o th e B o l s h e v i k s w h a t s u c h
d e c l a r a t i o n s m e a n t f r o m t h e t i m e , e a r l y i n t h e c i v i l w a r . w h e n th e
W h i t e s l o a d e d t h r e e f r e i g h t c a r s w i t h c o r p s e s a n d m a r k e d t h e m : 'F r e s h
m e a t , d e s t i n a t i o n P e t r o g r a d . '" *
W h e n t h e W h i t e s r e t o o k K i e v i n A u g u s t 1 9 1 9 , 'a n t i - s c m i t i c v e n o m
f a i r l y d r i p p e d f r o m s o m e o f t h e p u b l i c p r o n o u n c e m e n t s o f D e n i k i n s
g e n e r a l s . O n e o f t h e s e v o w e d t h a t 't h e d i a b o l i c a l f o r c e t h a t l i v e s in th e
h e a r t o f t h e J e w - C o m m u n i s t s w i l l b e d e s t r o y e d . ''* W B r u c e L i n c o l n ,
n o t a p r o - B o l s h e v i k h i s t o r i a n , w r i t e s t h a t D e n i k in :

36

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM
imposed a regime marked by . . . a vicious Haired for all Jews. As the
pogroms of 1919 burst upon the Jews of the Ukraine with an incredible fe
rocity. the enemies of Bolshevism commuted some o f the most brutal acts of
persecution in the modem history of the Western world.m
I n t h e s e p o g r o m s t h e 'i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f t h e J e w s w i t h t h e B o l s h e v i k s

p l a y e d a c e n t r a l p a r t* .

No longer spontaneous outpourings of racial and religious haired, pogroms


now became coldly calculated incidents of wholesale rape, extreme brutal
ity and unprecedented destruction. In a single day at the end of August in
the Jewish settlement of Kremenchug, the Whites raped 350 women, mclud
ing pregnant women, women who had just given birth and even women who
were dying.'"
I n K i e v , t h e a n t i - s c m i t i c C a d e t S h u l g i n r e m e m b e r s , g i g a n t i c f i v e
a n d s i x s t o r e y b u i l d i n g s b e g a n t o s h r i e k f r o m t o p t o b o t t o m . * I n t h e
to w n o f F c ls h in a th ird o f th e J e w is h p o p u la tio n p e ris h e d . In 1 9 1 9
a l o n e , j u s t i n t h e U k r a i n e , t h e W h i t e s k i l l e d 15 0 , 0 0 0 J e w s , a r a t e o n l y
e x c e e d e d b y th e N a z i H o lo c a u s t. O n e in 13 o f th e J e w is h p o p u la tio n o f
t h e U k r a i n e h a d b e e n s l a u g h t e r e d . '*
I n K o l c h a k s S i b e r i a t h e s a m e m e t h o d s h e l d s w a y . E v e n t h e C a d e t
N ik o la i U s tr ia lo v d e s c r i b e d it a s . th e d a r k e s t , m o s t m in d l e s s s o n o f
m ilita ry re a c tio n . . . th e re a r g u a r d o f a p a s t th a t is s lip p in g in to e te r
n i t y . U n d e r K o l c h a k 's j u r i s d i c t i o n w a s A t a m a n S c m y c n o v : i n n o
c e n t m e n a n d w o m e n d a n g l e d b y t h e s c o r e s f r o m t e l e g r a p h p o l e s in t h e
v ic in ity o f h is c a p ita l, a n d h is m e n m a c h in e -g u n n e d f re ig h t c a r s fu ll o f
v i c t i m s a t e x e c u t i o n f i e l d s a l o n g t h e r a i l w a y . * A l s o f i g h t i n g a l o n g s i d e
K o l c h a k w a s I v a n K a l m y k o v , w h o B a r o n B u d h c r g . o n e o f K o l c h a k s
o w n o f f i c i a l s , d e s c r i b e d a s a s a d i s t i c b a n d i t a n d a f u l l y q u a l i f i e d w a r
c rim in a l.
B y t h e o r d e r s o f a n o t h e r W h i t e l e a d e r . B a r o n U r g a n - S t c m b c r g , m e n
a n d w o m e n s u ffe re d d e a th b y b e a tin g , h a n g in g , b e h e a d in g , d is e m b o w
e lin g a n d c o u n tle s s o t h e r to r tu r e s w h ic h tr a n s f o rm e d th e m fr o m liv in g
h u m a n b e in g s in to w h a t o n e w itn e s s c a lle d a " f o r m le s s b lo o d y m a s s .
E v e n h i s o w n s t a f f p h y s ic ia n d e s c r i b e d o n e o f th e B a r o n 's w r itte n
o r d e r s a s . t h e p r o d u c t o f th e d i s e a s e d b r a i n o f a p e r v e r t a n d a m e g a l o
m a n i a c a f f e c t e d w i t h a t h i r s t f o r h u m a n b l o o d . 1' A d m i r a l K o l c h a c k
h im s e lf, w h e n s o m e m e m b e rs o f th e e x e c u tiv e o f h is g o v e rn m e n t s u g
g e s t e d t h e r e s h o u l d b e s o m e r e f o r m s , 'p o u n d e d th e t a b l e w i t h h i s f i s t s .
H u n g e v e r y t h i n g o n t h e f l o o r , s e i z e d a p e n k n i f e , a n d a n g r i l y s l a s h e d th e
a rm s o f th e c h a i r b e fo re re p ly in g :

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

37

leave me in peace. I forbid you to bring up such questions. Today / am


going to the Couruil of ministers and will order that .. there will be ab-so
late ly no reforms
l ;o f t h e t r o o p s o f K u b a n C o s s a c k G e n e r a l S h k u r o , a c o n s e r v a t i v e h i s
t o r i a n h a s w r i t t e n , t h e c h i e f i n d u c e m e n t o f f e r e d t h e m w a s l o o t , f o r
S h k u r o w a s n o t p a r t i c u l a r w h e r e h e l o o t e d o r h o w . . . i f h e h a d t o k i ll
p e o p l e h e p r e f e r r e d t h a t t h e y s h o u l d b e B o l s h e v i k s . * M e a n w h i l e , a l s o
in th e K u b a n :

Cadets .. looked on while reactionary General Dragomirov began the per


secution of Jews that would turn into full-fledged pogroms .
and the
sadistic General Pokrovski hanged socialists en masse in the courtyard out
side his window 'to improve the appetite'.'"
G e n e r a l M a i - M a c v s k y . a v e t e r a n o f D e n i k i n s a r m y , w a s c a p a b l e o f
tl*c g r e a t e s t c r u e l t y , a n d h a d a p e n c h a n t f o r o r g i e s . '0* D e n i k i n 's s u c c e s
so r. W ra n g e l. d e s c rib e s o n e o f h is o w n s e n io r o f f ic e r s . G e n e ra l
S l a s c h c v , a s 't h o r o u g h l y a d d i c t e d t o n a r c o t i c s a n d a l c o h o l '. O n v i s i t i n g
S l a s c h c v 's q u a r t e r s W r a n g e l f o u n d h i m s p r a w l e d in a j u m b l e o f l i q u o r
h o llie s w e a r in g a fa n ta s tic a l u n ifo rm m a d e fr o m a lo n g w h ite T u rk is h
r o b e t n m m e d w i t h g o l d a n d f u r . 'T h e r e w a s '. W r a n g e l s a y s :

a crane and a raven, a swallow and also a starling


fluttering here and
there and perching on their master's head and shoulders . . . I was dealing
with a man completely overcome with menial illness "3
T h e w h o l e e x i s t e n c e o f th e W h i t e c a m p i t s s o c i a l c o m p o s i t i o n , i t s
p o l i c i e s , i t s m e t h o d s a n d t h e c h a r a c t e r o f i t s l e a d i n g f i g u r e s is u t t e r l y a t
o d d s w ith th e s o c ia l p r o f ile o f th e R e d s . U n le s s th e s e v ita l d if f e r e n c e s
a re u n d e r s to o d it b e c o m e s im p o s s ib le t o e x p la in h o w th e B o ls h e v ik s
w o n th e c iv il w a r. A g a in a n d a g a in w e f in d th a t e v e n th e W h ile s t h e m
s e lv e s a d m it th e v ita l d if f e r e n c e b e tw e e n th e ir r e g im e a n d th e R e d s . A n
o f f i c i a l r e p o r t t o K o l c h a k s W a r M i n i s t r y , d e t a i l i n g t h e s t a t e o f o n e o f
its a r m ie s in 1 9 1 9 . s a y s :

Ataman Krasilnikov is completely inactive, devotes himself exclusively to


drinking and disorderly conduct; his officers act in the same way: the sol
diers carry out arbitrary searches with the purpose of robbery and violate
women The whole population is eager foe Bolshevism. The situation is critical."3
I n S i b e r i a , r e p o r t e d U S G e n e r a l G r a v e s , 't h e w o r d B o l s h e v i k m e a n t
a h u m a n b e in g w h o d id n o t . . . g iv e e n c o u r a g e m e n t t o th e re s to ra tio n

38

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

t o p o w e r . . . o f a u t o c r a c y i n R u s s i a . ' H e w e n t o n t o a s s e r t t h a t 'o u t s i d e
th e o ffic e h o ld in g a n d m ilita ry c la s s , th e O m s k (K o lc h a k ] g o v e rn m e n t
h a d l e s s t h a n 1 p e r c e n t o f f o l l o w e r s . 1* T h e C a d e t U s t r i a l o v r e p o r t e d
t h a t i n O m s k t h e " p o o r o p e n l y r e j o i c e a n d w a i t f o r t h e B o l s h e v i k s to
a r r i v e . '1
It w a s m o r e o r le s s th e s a m e s t o r y in o t h e r W h ile a r e a s . In th e
N o r t h e r n t e r r i t o r y t h e S R B o r i s S o k o l o v r e c o r d s , ' t h e s e n t i m e n t o f th e
p o p u l a t i o n o f A r c h a n g e l a n d o f th e v i l l a g e s h a v e c o n v i n c e d m e t h a t th e
m a j o r i t y o f t h e p o p u l a t i o n i s i n s y m p a t h y w i t h t h e B o l s h c v i k i . "*
A n o t h e r s u p p o r t e r o f th e n o r t h e r n W h ite g o v e r n m e n t a d m i t te d , th e
m a s s o f t h e p e o p l e is t u r n i n g b a c k t o B o l s h e v i s m . '1" A n d o f D e n i k i n 's
r e g i m e in t h e s o u t h . C h a m b e r l i n s a y s :

With all its short comings, the Soviet regime was popular with the masses of
the inogorodni [ o u lla n d e n . n o n -C o s s a c k p e a s a n t s w ilh lim ite d rig h ts ), h ho
feared, with good reason, that the return to power o f the Cossack Rada
( p a rlia m e n t) would mean not only the end of their dreams of confiscating
some of the more abundant possessions of the Cossacks, hut also a period of
very sanguinary revenge and repression'"
D e n ik in h im s e lf d e s c r ib e s h is o w n g o v e rn o rs :

In psychology, world outlook and habits they were so alien to the upheaval
that had taken place that they could neither understand it nor deal with it
For them everything was in the past and they attempted to resurrect this
past in form and spirit After them followed the minor agents o f the old
regime, some of them terrified by the Revolution, others embittered and re
vengeful1"
C h a m b e r l i n a c k n o w l e d g e s t h a t i n t h e la s t i n s t a n c e i t w a s D e n i k i n 's
l a c k o f p o p u l a r s u p p o r i w h i c h w a s t h e f u n d a m e n t a l c a u s e o f t h e d e f e a t
o f t h e W h i t e s '. 1 B e s id e s th e d if f e r e n t a ttitu d e o f th e B o ls h e v ik s to th e w o rk e rs a n d
th e p e a s a n ts th e re w a s a n o th e r v ita l d iffe re n c e w ith th e s o c ia l p o lic y o f
th e W h ile s w h ic h h e lp e d e n s u r e a R e d v ic to r y : th e a ttitu d e to th e rig h ts
o f n a tio n s to s e lf-d e te rm in a tio n . T h e W h ite s o f c o u r s e w e re u n r e m it
tin g ly h o s tile t o a n y s u c h rig h t. T h e ir c o n s ta n tly p ro c la im e d s lo g a n w a s
'R u s s i a s h a l l b e G r e a t . U n i t e d a n d U n d i v i d e d . T h e g r e a t R u s s i a n c h a u
v i n i s m o f t h e W h i t e s m a d e it i n e v i t a b l e t h a t t h e y s h o u l d t a k e s u c h a p o
s itio n . d e s p ite th e fa c t th a t it w a s to p r o v e fa ta l to t h e ir c a u s e .
In th e n o r th w e s t 't h e s tu b b o r n u n w i l li n g n e s s o f t h e W h ite s , o b
s e s s e d w ith th e id e a o f a " g r e a t u n d iv id e d R u s s ia " , t o r e c o g n is e th e i n
d e p e n d e n c e o f F in la n d a n d E s to n ia , th e c o -o p e ra tio n o f w h ic h w o u ld

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

39

h a v e b e e n v e ry d e s ira b le in o p e ra tio n s a g a in s t P e tro g ra d . w a s a n o t in


c o n s id e ra b le c a u s e o f th e ir d e fe a t.
T h e W h ite a r m y o f w e s te r n R u s s ia , h e a d e d b y G e n e r a l C o u n t
R u d ig e r v o n d c r G o ltz , w a s:

notorious for its brutal treatment o f Latvians. Estonians and Bolsheviks


Called by some the 'vanguard of Nazism' the Freikorps units . . . instituted
what one British diplomat called a veritable reign o f terror' that claimed
the lives o f some 3fl00 larviaas in Riga atone'0
In th e s o u th :
/ / was Denikin's misfortune that much o f the population in the territory
under his control was non Russian and that his prospects of military victory
depended very much on his ability to conciliate Ukrainians and Poles.
Georgians and Caucasian tribesmen; a task for which he was completely
unfitted. . . "
In fa c t D e n ik in f o r b a d e th e le a c h in g o f th e U k r a in ia n la n g u a g e .
W it h s u c h d i s a f f e c t i o n a m o n g t h e p o p u l a t i o n o f t h e W h i t e a r e a s i t is
lit t le s u r p r i s e t o f i n d t h a t a s i m i l a r a t t i t u d e o f t e n d e v e l o p e d a m o n g th e
r a n k a n d f ile o f th e W h ite a r m ie s , w h e th e r th e y w e r e in d ig e n o u s
R u s s ia n s o r f o r e ig n in te r v e n tio n is ts . O f c o u r s e th e r e w e r e m a n y c a s e s
o f d e s e r t i o n a n d p a s s i n g o v e r t o t h e W h i t e s in t h e R e d A r m y . B u t th e
s c a le w a s g r e a te r a m o n g th e W h ite tr o o p s . In N o rth R u s s ia in 1 9 1 9
n e a r l y h a l f o f t h e W h i t e t r o o p s , s o m e 6 . 0 0 0 m e n . w e n t o v e r t o th e R e d s
in t w o w e e k s w h e n t h e i r c o m m a n d e r g a v e t h e m t h e c h o i c e . W h o l e r e g i
m e n ts w e n t o v e r e n m a s s e . A t a b o u t th e s a m e tim e B ritis h a n d F re n c h
u n i t s i n t h e a r e a m u t i n i e d a n d o n e U S s e r g e a n t r e c o r d e d in h i s d i a r y :

The majority of people here are in sympathy with the Bolo (ic
don't Name them, in fact / am nine tenths Bolo myself.,u

B o ls h e v ik s ).

O n e R e d o f f ic e r , r is k in g h i s life , d e s e rte d to K o lc h a k . B u t h e w a s s o
d is g u s te d a t th e a ll-p e rv a s iv e in d is c ip lin e a n d d c h a u c h c ry th a t h e d re w
a s h a r p c o m p a r i s o n w i t h th e R e d A r m y w h e r e , h e s a i d , a n i n t o x i c a t e d
o f f i c e r w o u ld h a v e b e e n s h o t b y th e f ir s t c o m m is s a r w h o m e t h im .
C h a m b e rlin c o n c lu d e s :

Not all the Communists, certainly, were saints or puritans But their general
behaviour and morale seem to have been better than those o f their oppo
nents.1

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

40

T o w a r d s t h e e n d o f t h e K o l c h a k r e g i m e , e v e n t h e d i c t a t o r 's p e r s o n a l
b o d y g u a r d s d r e w th e s a m e c o n c lu s io n : w h e n K o lc h a k g a v e th e m a fre e
c h o ic e a b o u t w h e t h e r th e y s h o u ld c o n ti n u e t o fo llo w h im o r j o in th e
B o l s h e v i k s , 'a l m o s t t o a m a n . t h e m c r . i n w h o s e l o y a l t y h e h a d b e l i e v e d
a b s o lu te ly r e p a id h is tr u s t b y j o in i n g th e B o l s h e v i k s . S u c h w a s th e
d e c o m p o s i t i o n o f t h e W h i t e c a m p a t t h e e n d o f t h e c i v i l w a r . B u t in
o r d e r t o a c h i e v e t h i s v i c t o r y t h e B o l s h e v i k s h a d t o m a k e , a n d h a d to
d e m a n d th a t th e m a s s o f p e a s a n ts a n d w o rk e rs m a k e , th e m o s t c o s tly o f
sa c rific e s .

W a r C o m m u n is m a n d th e R e d T e r r o r
I n 1 9 1 8 t h e e c o n o m i c w r e c k a g e in th e c o u n t r y , t h e c o n s t a n t p r e s s u r e o f
f o r e ig n i n te r v e n tio n a n d b lo c k a d e a n d th e te r r if y in g f e r o c ity o f th e
W h ite T e r r o r m e a n t th a t th e s a c rif ic e s n e c e s s a r y t o w in th e c iv il w a r
w o u l d n o t b e m a d e , o r c o u l d n o r b e m a d e i n t i m e , s i m p l y t h r o u g h th e
n o rm a l m e th o d s o f p o litic a l d e b a te .
W h e n S R s a s s a s s in a te d le a d in g B o ls h e v ik s s im p ly t o re ly o n p o liti
c a l re e d u c a tio n to c o n v in c e th e m o f th e ir e r r o r w a s a n a c t o f s u ic id e .
W h i l e t h e W h i t e s h e l d a g u n t o t h e p e a s a n t 's h e a d a n d a b a y o n e t t o h i s
c h i l d 's t h r o a t n o a m o u n t o f p o l i t i c a l p r o p a g a n d a a l o n e w o u l d c o n v i n c e
th e p e a s a n t to d e fy th e W h ite s . W h e n th e im p e r ia lis t a r m ie s p re s s e d
to w a rd M o s c o w c o n s c rip tio n w a s a n e c e s s ity s in c e th e re s im p ly w a s
n o t th e tim e fo r a d is c ip lin e d , e x te n s iv e , fu lly p o litic a lly c o n s c io u s ,
a rm e d p o p u la tio n to h a v e b e e n o rg a n is e d to m e e t th e m . T e n y e a rs
b r e a t h i n g s p a c e c o u l d h a v e c r e a t e d s u c h a n a r m e d p o p u l a t i o n , b u t th e
B o l s h e v i k s ' l i m e s c a l e w a s m e a s u r e d in w e e k s . W h e n t h e c i t i e s s t a r v e d
it w o u ld h a v e b e e n b e l t e r t o b r i n g t h e p e a s a n t t o g i v e g r a i n t o th e
re g im e in re tu r n f o r th e fa r g r e a te r g if t o f m a c h in e r y b u t f o r th a t r e v o
lu tio n in G e r m a n y , o r a t le a s t th e re v iv a l o f in d u s tr y , w a s n e c e s s a ry . In
th e a b s e n c e o f b o th a ll th a t s to o d b e tw e e n th e w o r k e r s ' s ta te a n d its d e
s tr u c tio n a t th e h a n d s o f K o lc h a k a n d D e n ik in w a s g r a in r e q u is itio n in g .
T h is d ia le c tic o f c o n s e n t a n d c o e rc io n is . o f c o u r s e , a n a s p e c t o f a n y
w o r k e r s ' r e v o l u t i o n . M o r e t h a n 3 0 y e a r s a g o T o n y G i f f p u t it l i k e t h is :

Under capitalism discipline confronts that n-orker as an external coercive


power, which capital has over him. Under socialism discipline will be the
result of consciousness, it will become the habit offree people. In the transi
tion period it will be the outcome o f the two elementsconsciousness and
coercion. Collective ownership of the means of production by the workers,
te the ownership by the workers' state c j the means of production, will be
the basis for the conscious element in labour discipline. At the same time
the working class as a collective, through its institutions toviets. trade

41

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

unions, etcmill appear as a coercive power as regards the disciplining of


the individual workers in production.
This conflict between the individual and the collective, the necessity of
uniting conviction with its ugly opposite, coercion, the compulsion on the
working class to use barbaric methods remaining from capitalism to fight
capitalist barbarism, is but another affirmation that the workers are not lib
erated spiritually under capitalism, and would take a whole historical
period to grow to full human stature.1"
In a c o u n tr y w h e t - th e w o r k in g c la s s w a s a m in o rity o f th e p o p u la
t i o n , w h e r e i n d u s t r y h a d b e e n b a t t e r e d b y y e a r s o f w a r a n d in c o n d i
t io n s o f W h i t e a n d i m p e r i a l i s t e n c i r c l e m e n t , t h e b a l a n c e g r a d u a l l y t i l t e d
to w a r d s g r e a t e r c o e r c io n . E a c h s t e p o f th e w a y w a s f o r c e d o n th e
B o ls h e v ik s b y d ir e a n d p r e s s in g n e c e s s itie s . E v e r y e le m e n t o f c o e r c io n
w a s a n e m e r g e n c y m e a s u r e a d o p te d fo r th e s im p le re a s o n th a t th e o n ly
o th e r a lte rn a tiv e w a s th e triu m p h o f c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n . It w a s th e re a li
s a tio n o f th is f a c t w h ic h e n s u r e d th a t e v e n w h ile m a n y w o r k e r s a n d
p e a s a n ts b r id le d u n d e r th e re g im e o f W a r C o m m u n is m th e y fo u g h t to
t h e d e a t h t o d e f e n d it f r o m t h e W h i t e s . I t is a l s o w h y t h e m o s t d r a c o
n ia n fo rm s o f c o e r c io n in te r tw in e d w ith th e m o s t c o n s p ic u o u s a c ts o f
h e ro is m in e v e r y a s p e c t o f th e W a r C o m m u n is t re g im e .
In th e e c o n o m i c f i e l d t h e B o l s h e v i k s ' i m m e d ia te s te p s a f te r th e
O c to b e r re v o lu tio n w e re m o d e s t. T h e y d i d n o t w a n t w h o le s a le n a tio n a l
is a tio n a n d w e r e c o n te n t to g r a d u a lly tr y a n d r e g u la r is e a s itu a tio n
w h e r e t h e w o r k e r s c o n t r o l in t h e f a c t o r y c o e r c e d a n d c a j o l e d t h e e x i s t
i n g o w n e r s . A s S A S m i t h w r i t e s in

R ed Petrograd.

h is d e ta ile d s tu d y

o f w o r k e r s c o n tr o l in th e fa c to rie s :

This awkwardfact makes a nonsense of the claim in Western historiography


that, once power was in his grasp. Lenin, the stop-at-nothmg centraliser,
proceeded to crush the syndicalist' factory committees,m
O f c o u r s e th e f a c t th a t w o r k e r s n o w c o n tr o lle d th e s la te m a c h in e
m e a n t th a t th e y h a d a p o w e r f u l to o l w ith w h ic h to c ir c u m s c r ib e th e
lim its w ith in w h ic h th e jo s tlin g d e v e lo p m e n t o f m ix e d c o m p a n ie s
w o u ld ta k e p la c e . T h e lo c a l fa c to ry c o m m itte e s w e re th e firs t to c a ll fo r
th e p o w e r o f th e w o r k e r s s ta te t o b e u s e d t o s tru c tu re in d u s try . T h e y
a b o v e a ll r e a l i s e d t h a t w o r k e r s c o n t r o l in t h e f a c t o r y

must

b e c o m p li

m e n t e d b y w o r k e r s ' c o n t r o l o v e r th e w h o l e e c o n o m y . I n d e e d i m m e d i
a te ly

a fte r th e

re v o lu tio n

th e

A ll R u s s ia n

C o u n c il o f F a c to ry

C o m m itte e s p a s s e d a d e c r e e w h ic h d e m a n d e d a c e n tr a l a p p a r a tu s to
r e g u l a t e t h e e c o n o m y it w a s L e n i n ' s d e c r e e o n w o r k e r s ' c o n t r o l
w h i c h t o n e d d o w n t h i s d e m a n d .'* *

42

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM
A s im ila r u rg e l o p u l a n e n d to th e a n a r c h y w h ic h p r e v a ile d a s a

r e s u lt o f c o m p e titio n b e tw e e n d if f e r e n t la b o u r o r g a n is a tio n s c a n be
s e e n in t h e d e b a t e o n t h e r o l e o f t r a d e u n i o n s . T h e a b s o r p t i o n o f t h e
f a c to r y c o m m itte e s b y th e tr a d e u n io n s is o f te n p o r tr a y e d a s a
B o l s h e v i k p l o t t o u n d e r m i n e t h e c o m m i t t e e s . I n f a c t it w a s a p a r t o f t h e
d e s ir e o f ra n k a n d file m ilita n ts t o ra tio n a lis e th e m a s s o f o r g a n is a tio n s
th a t h a d s p r o u te d d u r in g th e r e v o lu tio n a n d to o v e rc o m e th e in h e re n t
lo c a lis m o f th e c o m m itte e s . A t th e F ir s t A ll R u s s ia n C o n g r e s s o f T r a d e
U n io n s th e r e w e r e o n ly s ix v o te s a g a in s t m e r g in g th e c o m m itte e s w ith
th e u n io n s . B o th th e B o ls h e v ik s a n d th e M e n s h e v ik s v o te d fo r
m e r g e r . '* A n d t h e F e t r o g r a d f a c t o r y c o m m i t t e e s , a t t h e i r s i x t h a n d f i n a l
c o n f e r e n c e i n J a n u a r y 1 9 1 8 . a g r e e d t o m e r g e r . T h e i r i n c o r p o r a t i o n i n to
th e u n io n s h e lp e d t o b ro a d e n th e f u n c tio n s o f th e u n io n s , g iv in g th e m a
r o l e in s u p e r v i s i n g p r o d u c t i o n a s p a r t o f a c o m m i t t e e in e a c h f a c t o r y . '
A l l t h e s e a r c p e r f e c t l y h e a l t h y d e b a t e s a b o u t h o w a w o r k e r s ' s t a t e is
t o o r g a n i s e i t s e c o n o m y . A t t h i s p o i n t t h e e c o n o m i c s t r u c t u r e is s t i l l a
lo n g w a y f r o m th e w h o le s a le s ta te c o n tr o l w h ic h w a s r a p id ly t o b e
fo rc e d o n th e re g im e . T h e n e e d f o r a b re a th in g s p a c e , f o r th e re v o lu tio n
t o g a th e r its f o r c e s , w a s a t th e h e a r t o f th is s tr a te g y o f s ta te r e g u la te d
c a p ita lis m w h ic h L e n in a d v o c a te d im m e d ia te ly a f te r th e r e v o lu tio n .
T w o o v e r w h e lm in g ly p o w e rfu l f o r c e s o b lig e d th e B o ls h e v ik s to a b a n
d o n t h i s 'r e f o r m i s t ' c o u r s e .
O n e w a s th e fa c t th a t th e c a p ita lis ts u s e d th e ir re m a in in g p o w e r to
m a k e th e s y s te m u n w o r k a b le . A t th e e n d o f 1 9 1 7 th e A ll R u s s ia n
C o n g r e s s o f E m p l o y e r s d e c l a r e d t h a t t h o s e 'f a c t o r i e s i n w h i c h t h e c o n
tr o l is e x e r c is e d b y m e a n s o f a c tiv e in te rfe re n c e in th e a d m in is tra tio n
w i l l b e c l o s e d . 1 T h e w o r k e r s ' n a t u r a l r e s p o n s e t o t h e w a v e o f l o c k
o u ts w h ic h fo llo w e d w a s to d e m a n d t h a t th e ir s ta te n a tio n a lis e th e f a c
t o r i e s . S o it w a s t h a t , o f a l l t h e i n d i v i d u a l f i r m s n a t i o n a l i s e d b y J u l y
1 9 1 8 . o n ly o n e fifth h a d b e e n n a tio n a lis e d o n th e in itia tiv e o f th e s ta te
w h ile fo u r fifth s h a d b e e n n a tio n a lis e d o n th e in itia tiv e o f lo c a l c o m
m i t t e e s . 1" B u t t h e p o w e r o f t h e R u s s i a n c a p i t a l i s t s a l o n e w o u l d n o t
h a v e b e e n s u f f ic ie n t to b lo w th e r e g im e o f f c o u r s e if it h a d n o t b e e n f o r
a s e c o n d f a c t o r th e s ta rt o f th e c iv il w a r a n d th e a llie d in te rv e n tio n .
O n e e c o n o m ic h is to r ia n e x p la in s th e im p a c t o f th e a r m e d th re a t:

In the atmosphere of the kindling civil war every joint effort o f capital and
the proletarian dictatorship (workers' control, mixed joint stock companies
etc) is seen to be a quickly evaporating Utopia
The intervention of world capital, which fanned the expiring counter
revolutionary resistance within Russia into a new Nate, forced its conse
quences onto the proletariat the inexoraMe expropriation o f large scale
capital and capital generally, ihe confiscation of the property of the ruling
classes, the suppression of the market and the construction o f an all-em-

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

43

bracing proletarian organisation of political economy, which depended on


overcoming the market, and its exploitation."4
S o . fa r fro m b e in g a n e x a m p le o f in h e re n tly u n d e m o c ra tic B o ls h e v ik
|M >litics, a s S a m F a r b e r a n d o t h e r s m a i n t a i n , t h e n a t i o n a l i s a t i o n s o f W a r
C o m m u n i s m w e r e a n a d h o c m e a s u r e w h i c h s h a r p l y d e p a r t e d f r o m th e
fa r s lo w e r, m o re m e a s u r e d p a th th a t th e B o ls h e v ik s w o u ld h a v e p r e
f e r r e d t o t r e a d . I n f a c t t h e n a t i o n a l i s a t i o n o f a ll h e a v y i n d u s t r y a n d j o i n t
s to c k c o m p a n ie s in J u n e 1 9 1 8 w a s a h a s tily p r e p a r e d m e a s u re d e s ig n e d
to c ir c u m v e n t th e c o n d itio n o f th e B r c s t- L ito v s k tre a ty w h ic h r e q u ire d
c o m p e n s a tio n t o b e p a id t o G e r m a n in v e s to r s w h o s e f ir m s w e re n o t n a
t i o n a l i s e d b y 1 s t J u l y .* ' B r u c e L i n c o l n s u m m a r i s e s t h e w o r k o f t h e
B o l s h e v i k s ' S u p r e m e C o u n c i l o f N a t i o n a l E c o n o m y a s r e f l e c t i n g l i t t l e
c o h c r a n t p l a n n i n g .' Its d e c is io n s w e r e o n l y in te r n a lly g e n e r a te d in a
m in o rity o f c a s e s :

far more often the Supreme Council worked to prevent factories being shut
down by anti-Bolshevik managers or to offset crudely conceived local
seizures
At best the Supreme Council's first attempts to nationalise
Russia's industries reflected the Bolsheviks' overwhelming concern for selfdefence and survival "4
T h e B o l s h e v i k l e a d e r M i l y u t i n w r o t e , t h e p r o c c s i o f n a t i o n a l i s a t i o n
w e n t o n f r o m b e l o w , a n d t h e s o v i e t l e a d e r s c o u l d n o t k e e p u p w i t h i t.
c o u l d n o t t a k e t h i n g s in h a n d , i n s p i t e o f t h e f a c t t h a t m a n y o r d e r s w e r e
is s u e d w h ic h fo rb a d e lo c a l o r g a n is a tio n s to e n a c t n a tio n a lis a tio n s b y
th e m s e lv e s .

L e n in re c o g n is e d th e e n o r m o u s s tra in th a t th e n a tio n a li

s a tio n p o lic y w a s p la c in g o n th e w o r k e r s s ta le . In A p ril 1 9 1 8 h e d e


c la r e d . ' i f w e g o o n e x p r o p r ia tin g c a p i u l a t th is ra te , w e s h a ll in fa llib ly
b e b e a te n .
Y e t t h e h a r d e r t h e W h i t e s a n d t h e i m p e r i a l i s t s p r e s s e d o n th e r e g i m e ,
th e m o re u n a v o id a b le a s ie g e e c o n o m y b e c a m e . W ith th e c iv il w a r
c a m e th e n e e d fo r s tric te r la b o u r d is c ip lin e a n d f o r th e c o m m itte e s
w h i c h r a n t h e f a c t o r i e s t o b e r e p l a c e d b y o n e m a n m a n a g e m e n t * . B o t h
t h e s e p r o c e s s e s d e v e l o p e d in l o c k s t e p w i t h t h e w a r . I n 1 9 1 9 o n l y 1 0 .8
p e rc e n t o f firm s in R u s s ia w e re u n d e r o n e m a n m a n a g e m e n t. T h is
f i g u r e r o s e s w i f t l y d u n n g t h e f o l l o w i n g y e a r . B u t e v e n s o . in P e t r o g r a d
in 1 9 2 0 . o n l y 3 1 p e r c e n t o f f a c t o r i e s e m p l o y i n g m o r e t h a n 2 0 0 w e r e
u n d e r o n e m a n m a n a g e m e n t." * l a b o u r d is c ip lin e a ls o lig h te n e d d u rin g
th e c iv il w a r. b u t a s S A S m ith re c o rd s:

During I9IB the desire to transform relations o f authority within the enter
prise gave way to the drive for greater productivity . . Yet one cannot see
in this a triumph of the Bolshevik party over the factory committees From

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

44

the first, the committees had been committed both to maintaining production
and to demot ranting factory life, but the condition o f industry was such that
these two objectives non- conflicted with one another. The factory commit
tees, in general, consented to the prioritisation of productivity: they acqui
esced in. and even initiated, impulses toward stricter labour discipline.m
In th e to w n s a n d c i t i e s w o r k e r s a c c e p te d , a lb e it n o t h a p p ily , th e
rig o u rs o f W a r C o m m u n is m a s n e c e s s a r y to d e f e n d th e r e v o lu tio n . B u t
b e y o n d th e to w n s th e p e a s a n ts w e r e a d if f e r e n t p r o b le m . In th e c o u n try
fo o d r e q u is itio n in g th e ta k in g o f th e p e a s a n ts g ra in , o fte n b y fo rc e
b e c a m e e s s e n tia l to w a rd o f f th e s p e c tre o f s ta rv a tio n . F o o d r e q u is itio n
i n g w a s a n a c t o f d e s p e r a t i o n n o t . a s S a m F a r b e r a r g u e s , a d o g m a tic a t t e m p t t o s u p p r e s s th e m a r k e t . T h e B o l s h e v i k s w o u l d f a r r a t h e r h a v e
a v o i d e d i t, i f f o r n o o t h e r r e a s o n t h a n it t h r e a t e n e d t o s p l i t t h e a l l i a n c e
b e t w e e n t h e w o r k e r s a n d th e p e a s a n t s o n w h i c h t h e w h o l e e d i f i c e o f t h e
s t a t e r e s t e d . A s T s i u r u p a . t h e P e o p l e s C o m m i s s a r o f F o o d S u p p l i e s ,
p u t il:

There are only two possibilities, either we perish from hunger, or we


weaken the (peasant economy) to some extent, but (manage to) get out of
our temporary difficulties:"*
T h e B o ls h e v ik s w o u ld h a v e p re fe rre d th e s o lu tio n to th e p e a s a n t
q u e s t i o n o p e n e d u p b y th e p e r s p e c t i v e o f p e r m a n e n t r e v o l u t i o n : t o u s e
t h e i n d u s t r i a l s t r e n g t h o f t h e c i t i e s t o i m p r o v e t h e p r o d u c t i v i t y o f th e
p e a s a n ts a n d w e d th e m t o th e ru le o f th e w o r k in g c la s s . T h is w a s a ls o
th e p le a f ro m th e p e a s a n ts , e n c a p s u la te d b y p e a s a n t d e le g a te s a t th e
E ig h th C o n g r e s s o f S o v ie ts in 1 9 2 0 :
7 / you want us to sow all the land .. just give us salt and iron. I shall not
say anything more' We need horses, wheels, harrows other voices chimed
in Give us metal to mend our tools and sheds
"*
It w a s a s i m p l e r e q u e s t , b u t u n d e r t h e c o n d i t i o n s o f c i v i l w a r a n d
w i t h o u t r e v o l u t i o n in E u r o p e i t w a s a r e q u e s t w h i c h t h e B o l s h e v i k s
c o u ld n o t s a tis fy . T h e o n ly o t h e r a lte rn a tiv e w a s to ta k e g ra in b y s e n d
in g o u t r e q u is itio n in g a n d r o a d b lo c k u n its fro m th e to w n s . T h e c r y fo r
g r a in c a m e fro m th e to w n s a n d c itie s , a s th e d e s p e ra te te le g ra m s f lo o d
i n g i n t o t h e P e o p l e s C o m m i s s a r i a t f o r F o o d S u p p l y i n 1 9 1 8 t e s t i f y :

WE HAVE NO BREAD THE SITUATION IS HOPELESS HUNGER


REIGNS. 19 May from the village of Pairov

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

45

IAROSLAV PROVINCE IS IN AN ABSOLUTELY UNPRECEDENTED IM


POVERISHED AND CATASTROPHIC CONDITION SO FAR AS FOOD
SUPPLIES ARE CONCERNED. ABSOLUTELY NO SHIPMENTS OF
CRAIN HAVE ARRIVED FOR DAO WEEKS 24 May. from the provifi
lial capiial o f laroslav.
STARVING WORKERS ARE COLLAPSING AT THEIR MACHINES ...W E
BEG YOU TO SEND US BREAD . . . THIS IS NOT A THREAT BUT A
FINAL CRY OF DESPAIR 25 May. from the town o f Vyksa.m
T h e re c a n b e n o b e lte r te s tim o n y to th e d e s p e ra tio n th a t la y b e h in d
t h i s p o l i c y t h a n L e n i n 's c a l l o f J u l y 1 9 1 8 w h e n h e u r g e d t h e w o r k e r s o f
P c t r o g r a d t o g o i n t h e i r t e n s o f t h o u s a n d s t o t h e U r a l s , t h e V o l g a a n d
t h e s o u t h ', i n s i s t i n g t h a t it w a s 'c r i m i n a l ' a n d 's t u p i d ' t o s i t a n d s t a r v e
m e m p ty fa c to rie s . I t w a s a g a llin g n e c e s s ity th a t th e v e ry c la s s b a s e o f
ilc r e v o l u t i o n h a d t o b e c o n s c i o u s l y d i s p e r s e d i n o r d e r t o a v o i d d e a t h
h y s ta r v a tio n . B y S e p te m b e r 1 9 1 8 th e P c tr o g r a d la b o u r f o rc e h a d fa lle n
t o j u s t b e l o w 3 0 p e r c e n t o f i t s 1 9 1 7 f ig u r e .* * I t w a s a h i g h r i s k p o l i c y .
I h e c o u n tr y s id e w a s a f la m e w ith p e a s a n t re v o lts a n d th e fo o d d e ta c h
m e n ts w e r e lik e ly t o b e a m b u s h e d a n d k ille d . B u t a s o n e o f f ic ia l o f th e
h > o d C o m m is s a ria t e x c la im e d :

What do you think, the People's Commissariat o f Food Supply does this
for its o h vi satisfaction7 No. we do it Because there is not enoughfood. "*
T h e g r a i n w a s c e r t a i n l y t h e r e : 'K u l a k ( r i c h p e a s a n t ] s t o r e h o u s e s in
ih e B o l s h e v i k s ' s h r u n k e n d o m a i n s a t m i d s u m m e r ( 1 9 1 8 ) s t i ll c o n t a i n e d
ih rc c q u a r te r s o f a m illio n to n s o f g ra in fro m th e 1 9 1 7 h a rv e s t p lu s a
g r e a t d e a l m o r e f r o m e a r l i e r y e a r s . '1*
T o m a k e th e r e q u is it i o n in g p o lic y w o r k it w a s a ls o n e c e s s a r y to
h ig h lig h t th e d if f e r e n c e b e tw e e n th e v illa g e p o o r a n d th e r ic h e r p e a s
a n ts . T h e f o r m e r w e r e m o re lik e ly t o s ta n d b y th e w o r k e r s th a n w e re
ih e la tte r. In th e s h o r t ru n th e C o m m itte e s o f P o o r P e a s a n ts o r g a n is e d
b y th e B o ls h e v ik s s p lit th e u n ite d fr o n t o f th e v illa g e in to tw o h o s tile
c a m p s a n d th e r e f o r e a id e d th e fo o d d e ta c h m e n ts . B u t u ltim a te ly th e y
fe ll v ic tim t o th e s u c c e s s o f th e B o l s h e v ik s ' r e d is tr ib u tio n o f th e la n d .
T h is re d u c e d th e n u m b e r o f v e ry w e a lth y p e a s a n ts

and

th e n u m b e r o f

p o o r p e a s a n ts , th u s r e c o m p o s in g th e u n ite d fro n t o f th e p e a s a n try . B y


th e e n d o f th e c iv il w a r th e p o lic y o f r e q u is itio n in g w a s w o rn th re a d h a re : th e N e w E c o n o m ic P o lic y w a s a r e c o g n itio n th a t th e r e la tio n s b e
tw e e n th e p e a s a n tr y a n d th e w o r k e r s s ta te h a d t o f in d a n e w fo o tin g .
B o th w h o le s a le n a tio n a lis a tio n a n d r e q u is itio n in g w e re re tre a ts
f o r c e d o n t h e B o l s h e v i k s b y c i r c u m s t a n c e . It i s p a r t o f t h e B o l s h e v i k s '
a c h ie v e m e n t th a t th e y re c o g n is e d th e n e c e s s ity a n d m e t it f a c e t o fa c e .

4f>

INTERNATIONA!. SOCIAUSM

O c c a s io n a lly , h o w e v e r , th e y w e re in c lin e d t o m a k e a v irtu e

of

neces

s ity . to c la im th a t th e h a rs h m e a s u r e s o f th e c iv il w a r w e r e th e e p ito m e
o f s o c ia lis m . T h is is in p a n u n d e r s ta n d a b le ; a n y p o lic y m u s t h a v e a
r h e to r ic a l p o w e r i f its n e c e s s ity is t o b e u n d e r s to o d b y m illio n s . B u t
w h a t is re q u ire d o f h is to ria n s , p a rtic u la rly M a rx is ts , is to se p a ra te
p h r a s e f r o m s u b s ta n c e . Y e t th is is p r e c is e ly w h a t S a m F a r b e r a n d
R o b i n B l a c k b u r n f a i l t o d o . I n s t e a d t h e y t a k e L e n i n o r T r o t s k y s s h o u t s
o f c o m m a n d in th e m id s t o f b a ttle a n d p o rtra y th e m a s c o n s id e r e d a n a l
y s e s o f e v e n ts .
T h e R e d A r m y , m o r e th a n a n y o th e r in s titu tio n o f th e c iv il w a r y e a rs ,
e m b o d i e d th e c o n t r a d i c t i o n b e t w e e n t h e p o l i t i c a l c o n s c i o u s n e s s a n d c i r
c u m s ta n tia l c o e r c io n . O n th e o n e h a n d th e c r e a tio n o f th e R e d A rm y
w a s a r e t r e a t : it w a s a c o n s c r i p t e d n o t a v o l u n t a r y a r m y ; o f f i c e r s w e r e
a p p o in te d n o t e le c te d ; o ld T s a ris t o f f ic e r s w e re a p p o in te d b y th e th o u
s a n d ; th e r e w a s s e v e re m ilita r y d is c ip lin e , in c lu d in g e x e c u tio n ; th e re
w a s d e s e rtio n a n d a tro c itie s , s o m e tim e s c o m m itte d b y w h o le u n its . B u t
th e R e d A rm y w a s a ls o f ille d w ith a m a g n if ic e n t s o c ia lis t c o n s c io u s
n e s s . C o n s c r i p t i o n m a y h a v e b e e n n e c e s s a r y t o b u i l d a m a s s a r m y in a
p e a s a n t c o u n tr y , b u t it w a s th e m o s t a c tiv e a n d c la s s c o n s c io u s w o r k e r s
( a b o v e a ll th e B o ls h e v ik s ) w h o v o lu n te e re d a g a in a n d a g a in f o r th e
m o s t d a n g e r o u s ta s k s . In 1 9 1 9 th o u s a n d s d e s e r te d th e p a rty r a th e r th a n
f i g h t D e n i k i n , b u t t h o u s a n d s m o r e j o i n e d d u r i n g 'p a r t y w e e k s ' w h e n , a s
t h e C e n t r a l C o m m i t t e e b u l l e t i n p u l i t . T o g e t o u t a p a r t y c a r d in s u c h
c o n d itio n s , s ig n if ie d , to a c e r ta in e x te n t, b e c o m in g a c a n d id a te fo r
D e n i k i n s g a l l o w s * . I n t h e 1 9 2 0 d a s h t o w a r d s W a r s a w t h e R e d A r m y
lo s t 3 3 p e r c e n t o f its f o r c e in c a s u a ltie s -

b u t s o m e 9 0 p e r c e n t o f th e

a r m y 's 'h a r d e n e d B o l s h e v i k s ' l o s t t h e i r liv e s .'*


R e d A r m y d i s c i p l i n e w a s h a r s h , b u t i t w a s h a r s h e s t o f a ll f o r t h e o f f i
c e r s a n d c o m m is s a rs . O rd in a ry s o ld ie rs w h o re tu rn e d to th e R e d A rm y
a f te r d e s e r tio n w o u ld o f te n b e s w o r n b a c k in ; th e c o m m is s a r s o f u n its
th a t d e s e rte d w e re f r e q u e n tly s h o t. F o r th e W h ite C o s s a c k c a v a lry lo o t
i n g . r a p e a n d m u r d e r w e r e a w a y o f l if e . L o o t i n g w a s f o r b i d d e n i n t h e
R e d A rm y . A n ti s e m itis m a n d p o g r o m s w e re r if e in th e W h ite a rm ie s ;
a n ti- s e m itic p u b lic a tio n s w e r e b a n n e d in th e R e d A r m y . P o g ro m is IS
w e r e s h o t. I n th e U k ra in e w h o le J e w is h c o m m u n itie s liv e d b e h in d th e
R e d A r m y l i n e s , a d v a n c i n g w h e n i t a d v a n c e d , r e t r e a t i n g w h e n it r e
tre a te d .
W h o c a n im a g in e th e W h ite A rm y r e p ro d u c in g th e lite ra c y a n d e d u
c a tio n a l g r o u p s o f th e R e d A rm y ? W h o c a n s e e th e W h ite C o s s a c k s
p u ttin g le tte r b o a r d s o n th e b a c k s o f th e fir s t ra n k o f c a v a lr y s o th a t
th o s e b e h in d c o u ld le a rn t o re a d a s th e y w e re o n th e m a rc h ? A n d w h o
c a n s e e th e W h ite A r m y p ro d u c in g a n y th in g lik e th is R e d A r m y m a r c h
in g so n g :

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

47

Two days of study. then a week in haute.


Two days with pencils, a week with bayonets."*
T h e d if f e r e n c e s b e tw e e n th e tw o a r m ie s w e re n o t lo st o n th e p e a s
a n t s . I n t h e s o o t h t h e y n i c k n a m e d t h e W h i t e A r m y t h e G r a b a r m i i a .
th e lo o tin g a rm y . In b o th th e s o u th a n d e a s t th e p o p u la tio n

c a m e to

p r e fe r th e r e g u la r e x a c tio n s o f th e R e d s t o th e r io to u s p illa g in g o f th e
W h ite s . T h e d if f e r e n c e in th e c la s s p r o g r a m m e o f th e W h ite s a n d R e d s
d e c is iv e ly a ffe c te d b o th th e s u p p o rt w h ic h th e p o p u la tio n g a v e to e a c h
s id e a n d th e m o r a le o f th e R e d a n d W h ite a rm ie s . M a n y p e a s a n ts c e r
ta in ly re s e n te d th e g r a in r e q u is itio n in g p o lic ie s o f th e B o ls h e v ik s a n d
th e y o f te n r o s e in re v o lt a g a in s t th e m b u t th e y d i d n o t h a te r e q u is i
tio n in g a s d e e p ly a s th e y h a te d th e id e a th a t th e la n d i ts e l f w o u ld b e r e
p o s s e s s e d b y th e o ld la n d lo rd s . R e d tr o o p s c e r ta in ly c a r r ie d o u t
a tro c itie s , b u t th e y w e re n o t th e

policy

o f th e R e d c o m m a n d e r s a s th e y

w e r e o f t h e W h i t e s . TTic B o l s h e v i k s s o c i a l p o l i c y g a v e o t h e r g r o u n d s
f o r w in n in g th e tru s t o f w o rk e rs a n d p e a s a n ts w h e re a s th e W h ite s h a d
to r e ly o n fo rc e a lo n e . T h e R e d T e r r o r w a s c e r ta in ly b r u ta l, b u t u n lik e
t h e W h i t e T e r r o r it w a s n o t d i r e c t e d a g a i n s t t h e m a s s o f w o r k e r s a n d
p e a s a n t s in t h e n a m e o f a t i n y a n d d i s c r e d i t e d o l d o r d e r . I n t h e c i t i e s th e
R e d s e n jo y e d th e f ie r c e a n d v ir tu a lly u n d iv id e d lo y a lty o f th e m a s s e s
th r o u g h o u t th e c iv il w a r p e rio d .
I f th e R e d A rm y ty p ifie d th e c o n tra d ic tio n s o f th e c iv il w a r. th e R e d
T e r r o r p u s h e d th o s e c o n tr a d ic tio n s t o e x tre m e s . O f c o u rs e a n y w o r k e r s
re v o lu tio n w o u ld n e e d fo r c e to s u b d u e c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n a r y ris in g s
a n d s a b o ta g e c a r r ie d o u t b y th e o ld c a p ita lis t c la s s a n d th e re m n a n ts o f
i t s s t a t e . I t w a s a g a i n s t t h e s e p e o p l e t h a t t h e R e d T e r r o r w a s d i r e c t e d in
th e firs t in s ta n c e . A s C h a m b e rlin o b s e rv e s :

White Russia also had its terror, its all-pervading espionage, its frequent
executions, its crowded prisons. The chief difference was in the types of
people whom one would have found in the prisons o f Moscow and
Petrograd. on the one side, and of Omsk and Rostov on the other. The
Cheka directed its raids mainly against the wealthy and the middle classes
The White police rounded up more workers and people o f the poorer
classes."*
O n e im m e d ia te c a u s e o f th e R e d T e r r o r w a s th e v a r io u s c o u n te r
r e v o l u t i o n a r y p l o t s m o u n t e d b y R u s s i a n W h i t e s a n d s u p p o r t e d b y th e
im p e ria lis t p o w e rs . R H B ru c e L o c k h a rt, th e B ritis h d ip lo m a tic re p re
s e n t a t i v e i n M o s c o w , f o r i n s t a n c e , h a d b e e n i n s t r u m e n t a l in e n s u r i n g
th a t K e re n s k y e s c a p e d fro m R u s s ia a f te r h is u n s u c c e s s fu l m ilita ry a t
te m p t t o u n s e a t th e B o ls h e v ik s . B ru c e L o c k h a rt w a s a ls o , b y h is o w n
a d m is s io n , p a s s in g m o n e y t o a n ti- B o ls h e v ik g ro u p s . S id n e y R e illy , a

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

48

B ritis h in te llig e n c e a g e n t, w a s tr y in g , u n s u c c e s s f u lly , to c o n v in c e


L o c k h a r t t h a t h e 'm i g h t b e a b l e t o s t a g e a c o u n t e r - r e v o l u t i o n in
M o s c o w '. " * B u t . a c c o r d i n g t o R e i l l y , o n e p a r t o f h i s p l a n w a s p r e m a
t u r e l y p u t i n t o e f f e c t in A u g u s t 1 9 1 8 : S o c i a l i s t R e v o l u t i o n a r y F a n n y
K a p la n s h o t L e n in tw ic e a t p o in t b la n k r a n g e , b r in g in g h im c lo s e to
d e a th . E a r lie r R e illy h a d m a n a g e d t o e s ta b lis h h im s e lf a s a S o v ie t o f f i
c i a l w i t h a c c e s s t o d o c u m e n t s f r o m T r o t s k y 's F o r e i g n M i n i s t r y . A n d
a n o t h e r B r i t i s h a g e n t . G e o r g e M ill, b e c a m e a m i l i t a r y a d v i s e r to
T r o t s k y . " 1O v e r a l l , t h e B r i t i s h s e c r e t s e r v i c e :

devoted the target! single part of in budget to Russia


It tent its best
agentsfluent Russian speakers with a long experience of the country and
its peopleto Moscow and Petrograd with a virtually free hand to establish
networks, finance counter revolutionaries, and to do all in their power to
crush the Bolshevik menace in its infancy.m
B u t th e R e d T e r r o r a ls o ra n b e y o n d th e s e g r o u p s . T h e u ltim a te c a u s e
o f th e

extent

o f R e d T e r r o r lie s , o n c e a g a in , in th e is o la tio n o f th e

R u s s i a n w o r k i n g c l a s s . T h e s e a o f p e a s a n t s w e r e t h e e l e m e n t in w h i c h
th e c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n s w a m . T h e S R s . w h o c la im e d to re p re s e n t th e
p e a s a n tr y , w e re th e f o r e m o s t p r o m o te r s o f c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n b e h in d
R e d l i n e s . A n d it w a s t h e p o v e r t y o f t h e r e v o l u t i o n w h i c h o b l i g e d i t to
u s e f o r c e r a t h e r t h a n f i n a n c e a g a i n s t t h e p e a s a n t s w h o h o a r d e d g r a i n in
th e c o u n try s id e .
T h e B o ls h e v ik s w e re fa c e d w ith a tte m p ts a t a s s a s s in a tio n a n d
c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n s u c h a s th o s e m o u n te d b y th e (S R s u p p o r te d ) m ili
ta ry c a d e ts , tw o d a y s a f te r th e y h a d b e e n re le a s e d o n p a r o le fo llo w in g
t h e i r c a p t u r e in t h e W i n t e r P a l a c e , a n d b y th e S R s a t t h e t i m e o f t h e d i s
p e rs io n o f th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly . L e n in n e v e r tr ie d to h id e o r d is
g u is e th e fa c t th a t th e r e v o lu tio n w o u ld h a v e to u s e te r r o r , u p to a n d
in c lu d in g s h o o tin g p e o p le . In th e s tr u g g le b e tw e e n r e v o lu tio n a n d
c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n p e o p le o n b o th s id e s w e re w illin g to d ie f o r th e ir
c a u s e : p r is o n , le t a lo n e p a ro le , w o u ld n o t d e te r m a n y c o u n te r - r e v o lu
tio n a rie s .

How can one make a revolution without firing squads? Do you think you
will be able to deal with your enemies by laying down your arms? What
other means of repression do you have? Imprisonment1 No one attaches
any importance to this during a civil war when each side hopes to win.'"
In th is L e n in w a s f o llo w in g th e e x a m p le o f th e F r e n c h R e v o lu tio n
w h ic h , a ls o u n d e r th e im p a c t o f fo r e ig n in v a s io n a n d c o u n te r - r e v o lu
tio n a ry p re s s u re fro m th e p e a s a n tr y , u s e d te r r o r to e n s u r e its e x is te n c e
d u r i n g its d a r k e s t h o u r . A n d i n 1 8 4 8 M a r x , i n r e a c t i o n t o t h e c a n n i b a l -

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

49

i s m o f t h e c o u n t e r - r e v o l u t i o n , a r g u e d t h a t t h e r e w a s o n l y o n e m e a n s
to c u rta il, s im p lify a n d lo c a lis e th e b lo o d y a g o n y o f th e o ld s o c ie ty a n d
th e b ir th p a n g s o f th e n e w . o n ly o n e m e a n s th e r e v o lu tio n a r y
t e r r o r . ''1*
In D e c e m b e r 1 9 1 7 th e S o v ie t f o r m e d th e A ll- R u s s ia n E x tra o rd in a ry
C o m m is s io n t o f ig h t C o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n a n d S a b o t a g e , k n o w n b y its
R u s s ia n a c r o n y m a s th e C h e k a o r V e c h e k a . T h e C h e k a w a s o n ly o n e
e l e m e n t in t h e R e d T e r r o r , a n d n o t n e c e s s a r i l y t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t p a r t.
T h e R e d A rm y , th e g r a in r e q u is itio n in g a n d ro a d b lo c k d e ta c h m e n ts
w e re m o r e im p o rta n t. N e ith e r w a s th e C h e k a a s p e c if ic a lly B o ls h e v ik
p ro p o s a l. It g r e w o u t o f a n u m b e r o f in v e s tig a tiv e c o m m is s io n s o f th e
S o v ie t a n d o u t o f th e M ilita ry R e v o lu tio n a r y C o m m itte e o f th e S o v ie t
w h ic h h a d c a r r ie d o u t th e in s u r r e c tio n . G e o r g e L e g g e tt, th e in te n s e ly
rig h t w in g h is to r ia n o f th e C h e k a , re c o rd s :

there a no direct evidence that the Bolshevik party , . played arty part in
the creation of the Vecheka; perhaps this is indicative of the relative lack of
importance attached at that moment to the hasty improvisation o f yet an
other investigative commission
It w a s a c o m m o n u n d e r s ta n d in g a m o n g a ll th o s e in th e r e v o lu tio n a ry
c a m p th a t th e r e v o lu tio n a ry t e n o r w a s n e c e s s a r y , a lth o u g h th e y m ig h t
a rg u e a b o u t s p e c ific m e a s u re s . T h e fo rm a tio n o f th e C h e k a w a s q u ite
o p e n : i t w a s a n n o u n c e d i n t h e S o v i e t 's n e w s p a p e r ,

h vestia.

a lo n g w ith

its o f f ic e a d d r e s s , its o p e n in g h o u r s a n d a n a p p e a l to th e p u b lic to h e lp


c o m b a t c o u n t e r - r e v o l u t i o n . F o r a p e r i o d it p r o d u c e d th e

Weekly Bulletin

Vecheka

i n w h i c h t h e c o m m i s s i o n 's a c t i v i t i e s , i n c l u d i n g t h e

n a m e s o f t h o s e it s h o t, w e r e p u b lic ly d is c u s s e d . B ru c e L o c k h a r t w a s
t a k e n o n t h e C h e k a 's f i r s t r a i d a s a p u b l i c w i t n e s s . 1'* I n i t s e a r l y d a y s
th e C h e k a h a d a s m a ll s ta f f a n d

its h e a d , th e

B o ls h e v ik

F e lix

D z e r z h i n s k y , c o u l d c a r r y a ll i t s f i l e s a r o u n d i n h i s b r i e f c a s e . '
T h e L e f t S o c i a l i s t R e v o l u t i o n a r i e s p l a y e d a p r o m i n e n t r o l e i n th e
C h e k a b o th d u r in g a n d a f te r th e ir tim e a s p a rt o f th e S o v ie t g o v e rn
m e n t t h e y l e f t t h e g o v e r n m e n t in M a r c h 1 9 1 8 in p r o t e s t a t t h e B r c s t L ito v s k tre a ty . B u t it w a s th e a c tio n s o f th e L S R s . a lo n g s id e th e w o r s
e n in g c iv il w a r a n d th e m o u n tin g im p e r ia lis t in te r v e n tio n , th a t p r e c ip i
ta te d a s h a rp e n in g o f th e R e d T e rro r.
T h e s p r in g a n d s u m m e r o f 1 9 1 8 w a s a tim e o f c r is is f o r th e w o r k e r s '
s t a t e . I n A p r i l , a s w e h a v e s e e n , t h e W h i t e T e r r o r b e g a n in F i n l a n d . T h e
G e r m a n s o c c u p ie d th e U k r a in e fo llo w in g th e B r e s t- L ito v s k tre a ty .
S o m e 2 0 0 K u la k re v o lts f la r e d th ro u g h th e c o u n tr y s id e . In Ju n e
P e o p l e 's C o m m i s s a r V o l o d a r s k y w a s m u r d e r e d . I n A u g u s t U r i t s k y . t h e
h e a d o f th e P c tro g ra d C h e k a , w a s k ille d b y a S o c ia lis t R e v o lu tio n a ry .
In th e m id s t o f th is c r is is , in J u ly 1 9 1 8 . th e F ifth A ll-R u s s ia n C o n g re s s

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

50

o f S o v ie ts m e t. T h e L S R s c h o s e th is m o m e n t t o a n n o u n c e th a t th e ir o p
p o s itio n t o th e B re s t-L ito v s k tre a ty w a s n o w g o in g t o ta k e th e fo rm o f
a r m e d c o n f lic t w ith th e B o ls h e v ik s . T h e ir le a d e r . M a ria S p ir id o n o v a ,
a p p e a r e d a t t h e C o n g r e s s a n d a n n o u n c e d t h e p a r l y 's r e t u r n t o i t s t e r r o r
i s t t r a d i t i o n s w i t h t h e i n s t r u c t i o n t o 't a k e u p t h e r e v o l v e r a n d t h e h a n d
g r e n a d e '. T h e n e x t d a y s h e f o l l o w e d h e r o w n a d v i c e a n d a p p e a r e d a t
th e C o n g r e s s b r a n d is h in g a B r o w n in g a n d c r y in g L o n g liv e th e
r e v o lt !
T h e L S R r e v o lt to o k p la c e s im u lta n e o u s ly in l a r o s la v a n d o t h e r
t o w n s . It c o i n c i d e d w i t h t h e t h e r e v o l t o f t h e c o m m a n d e r o f t h e e a s t e r n
f r o n t a t S i m b i r s k . I n M o s c o w th e L S R s u s e d t h e i r b a s e i n t h e C h e k a t o
e x e c u te th e ir p la n s . Ia k o v B liu m k in . th e L S R h e a d o f C h e k a c o u n te r
e s p i o n a g e . f o r g e d D z e r z h i n s k y 's s i g n a t u r e o n a p a s s , g a i n e d a c c e s s t o
t h e G e r m a n d i p l o m a t i c r e p r e s e n t a t i v e in M o s c o w a n d s h o t h i m . h o p i n g
to s m a s h th e B r e s t- L ito v s k tr e a ty a n d p r o v o k e a n e w

w a r w ith

G e r m a n y . B liu m k in th e n fle d to th e b a r ra c k s o f th e C h e k a C o m b a t
D e ta c h m e n t, w h o w e re s y m p a th e tic to th e L S R s . W h e n D z e rz h in s k y ,
w ith g re a t h e ro is m b u t n o t m u c h ta c tic a l s e n s e , a r riv e d a n d d e m a n d e d
th a t B liu m k in b e h a n d e d o v e r , th e c o m m a n d e r a n c s t c d D z e rz h in s k y .
A n o th e r B o ls h e v ik C h e k a le a d e r . L a ts is , w a s a r re s te d b y th e L S R s

inside

th e C h e k a h e a d o ffic e .

T h e d a y a fte r U rits k y w a s m u rd e re d . L e n in w a s s h o t b y S o c ia lis t


R e v o lu tio n a ry F a n n y K a p la n . A lth o u g h h e w a s s e rio u s ly w o u n d e d h e
c o u l d n 't b e t a k e n t o h o s p i t a l f o r f e a r t h a t t h e s u r g e o n w o u l d h a v e L S R
s y m p a th ie s . L e n in r e c o v e r e d a n d th e L S R re v o lt w a s s u p p r e s s e d , b u t
th e s c i g c a tm o s p h e r e in th e r e v o l u t i o n a r y c a m p w a s h e ig h t e n e d .
S p ir id o n o v a , w h o c la im e d fu ll r e s p o n s ib ility f o r th e r e v o lt, w a s g iv e n a
o n e y e a r ja i l s e n te n c e a n d a n im m e d ia te a m n e s ty b e c a u s e o f h e r p r e v i
o u s 's e r v i c e s t o t h e r e v o l u t i o n '. E l s e w h e r e t h e R e d T e r r o r r e a c h e d a
p e a k o f f e r o c i t y . I n K r o n s t a d t t h e s a i l o r s a n d t h e C h e k a k i l l e d 4 0 0 in a
s in g le n ig h t. In la r o s la v l, o n e o f th e s c a ts o f r e v o lt. 2 0 0 w e re k ille d . O n
a s in g le d a y . 3 O c to b e r . 2 0 0 k illin g s w e re re p o rte d in v a r io u s p a rts o f
th e c o u n t r y . A l t h o u g h L e n i n w a s w h o l e h e a r t e d l y in f a v o u r o f t h e t e n o r ,
h e tr ie d t o lim it th e f e r o c i ty w h ic h r e s u l te d fr o m th e a n g e r o v e r th e
L S R r e v o lt a n d th e a tte m p t o n h is life . B ru c e L o c k h a rt h i m s e l f re c o rd s
th a t:

The whole situation seemed hopeless until Lenin was aNe to take a hand in
affairs After he recovered contcioutness, his first remark, it w a r said, was
'Stop the Terror'
C e r t a i n l y th e t e n o r r a r e l y a s s u m e d t h e p o p u l a r , n a t i o n w i d e i n t e n s i t y
t h a t i t r e a c h e d in t h e p e n o d a f t e r t h e a t t e m p t o n L e n i n 's l i f e . Y e t i t is
fro m th is p e n o d th a t m a n y r ig h t w in g h is to r ia n s d r a w t h e ir m o s t lu rid

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

51

x lo ric s o f C h e k a a tr o c it i e s . L e t u s e x a m i n e th r e e w h ic h f r e q u e n tly
re c u r. T h e f ir s t c o n c e r n s th e q u e s tio n o f to rtu re . A le tte r fro m a p ro v in
c ia l b r a n c h o f th e C h e k a , p u b lis h e d in th e C h e k a p a p e r in O c to b e r
1 9 1 8 . d e m a n d s t o k n o w , 'W h y a r c y o u s o s o f t ? R e f e r r i n g t o t h e a r r e s t
o f B r u c e L o c k h u t it d e m a n d s t h a t h e s h o u l d b e s u b j e c t t o t h e m o s t r e
f i n e d t o r t u r e s * a n d t h e n s e n t t o t h e o t h e r w o r l d ' . ' " W e a r e l e s s f r e
q u e n tly to ld th a t th e B o ls h e v ik C e n tr a l C o m m itte e im m e d ia te ly
u p b r a id e d th e e d i t o r i a l b o a r d a n d c l o s e d th e b u l le t in a n d th a t th e
S o v ie t, w h ile d e f e n d in g th e te r r o r , re n e w e d its c o n d e m n a tio n o f
t o r t u r e . 1*'
T h e p o in t is n o t th a t u n its o f th e C h e k a n e v e r u s e d to r tu r e , a lth o u g h
th e m o s t e x tr e m e e x a m p le s ( s c a lp in g o f v ic tim s , d r i v in g r a ts d o w n a
h e a t e d p i p e h e l d a g a i n s t t h e v i c t i m 's s t o m a c h u n t i l t h e r a t g n a w e d its
w a y th r o u g h th e f le s h ) c o m e a lm o s t e x c lu s iv e ly fro m W h ite lite r a
t u r e D e n i k i n 's C o m m i s s i o n o n t h e C h e k a a n d R S R l e a d e r C h e r n o v s
m a t e r i a l s a s e v e n L e g g e t t a d m i t s . 1" T h e p o i n t is t h a t t h e l e a d e r s h i p o f
th e B o l s h e v i k p a r t y , t h e S o v i e t a n d t h e C h e k a i t s e l f t r i e d t o s t a m p i t o u t
w h e n e v e r it b e c a m e k n o w n . S o v i e t l a w f o r b a d e t o r t u r e . L e n i n d e f e n d e d
th e te rro r a n d th e C h e k a , b u t h e w a s ru th le s s in p u n is h in g a n y a b u s e o f
its p o w e r:

H t was concerned to establish, in each case that came to his attention,


whether the arrest had been necessary on purely pragmatic security
grounds Why had the Kotelntcht Chela arrested the teacher Lubnin* Why
had the Vecheka not released Kin! Semenovich Gmsburg. despite assur
ances g iv e n by two parry members? Why had the Samara Provincial Cheka
arrested the members of an expedition o f irrigation experts to Turkestan7
Had the food confiscation detachments and the Gavnlovo-Posadnaia Cheka
acted correctly in confiscating grain? Could not Viktor Ivanovich
Dobrovolskn. under arrest in Petrograd. be released? He was said to be ill.
apolitical, and his family's only breadwinner . . On 20 May 1919 Lenin
telegraphed to the Novgorod Soviet, with a copy to the local Cheka: 'It ap
pears that Bulatov was arrested for putting a complaint to me I warn you
that for this I shall arrest the chairman of the Cheka and the chairman and
members of executive committee, and I shall press for their execution Why
dui you not reply at the time to my enquiry*'*1
T h e s e c o n d is s u e is th e p r is o n r e g im e u n d e r th e R e d T e r r o r . It is a
s t a n d a r d c la i m o f th e r i g h t w i n g , p e r h a p s m o s t f a m o u s ly m a d e in
S o l z h e n i t s y n s

The Gulag Archipelago,

th a t th e p ris o n s a n d c o n c e n tr a

t i o n c a m p s o f W a r C o m m u n i s m l e d d i r e c t l y t o t h e g u l a g o f S t a l i n s
d a y . T h e f ir s t a n d m o s t o b v io u s o b je c tio n t o th is is th e q u e s tio n o f
n u m b e rs : u n d e r S ta lin

millions

d is a p p e a re d in to th e c a m p s , b u t e v e n at

t h e h e i g h t o f t h e c i v i l w a r t h e r e w e r e l e s s t h a n 1 0 0 ,0 0 0 , i n c l u d i n g o r d i -

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

52

n a r y c r im in a ls , in th e p r is o n s y s te m . T h e C h e k a its e lf h a d 5 6 c a m p s
w i t h a h o l d i n g c a p a c i t y o f j u s t 2 4 , 7 5 0 in 1 9 2 2 . T h e f o l l o w i n g y e a r t h e
n u m b e r o f c a m p s h a d b e e n h a l v e d . "* S o l z h e n i t s y n s u g g e s t s t h a t th e l o w
n u m b e rs a rc a re s u lt o f m a s s e x e c u tio n s . C e r ta in ly , th e re w e re s o m e
s u c h e x e c u tio n s o f p ris o n e rs , a lth o u g h th e y w e re n o t C h e k a p o lic y a n d
t h e m o s t s e r i o u s w e r e in d i r e c t c o n t r a v e n t i o n o f C h e k a o r d e r s . '" I n t h e
W h ite a r e a s th e re w e re fe w c a m p s f o r th e s im p le re a s o n th a t m a s s e x e
c u tio n w a s th e p o l ic y , c o n tr a r y t o P i p e s ' r i d ic u l o u s c l a i m th a t 't h e
W h i t e a r m i e s . . . n e v e r e l e v a t e d t e r r o r t o t h e s t a t u s o f p o l i c y . '1* I n t h e
W h ite c o n tro lle d D o n o f K ra s n o v a n d K a le d in , f o r in s ta n c e . O rd e r N o .
2 4 2 8 re ad :

It is forbidden to orreu workers The orders are to hang or shoot them.


O r d e r N o . 2 4 3 1 e la b o ra te d :

The orders are to hang all arrested workers in the street The bodies are to
be exhibitedfor three days."'
N o t o n ly w a s th e

extent

o f th e p r is o n s y s te m u tte rly d if f e r e n t u n d e r

W a r C o m m u n i s m t h a n it w a s u n d e r S t a l i n , s o w a s i t s

nature.

T h e sy s

te m a tic d e g r a d a tio n a n d to r tu r e o f p r is o n e r s , s o p o w e r f u lly re c o u n te d


b y S o lz h e n its y n , w a s n o t. a s h e m a in ta in s , a fe a tu re o f th e p re -S ta lin
p e r i o d . T h e 1 9 2 4 C o r r e c t i v e l a b o u r C o d e s t a te d :

The regimen should be devoid of any trace o f cruel or abusne treatment,


the following by no means permitted handtuffs. punishment cells, solitary
confinement, denial o f food, keeping prisoners behind bars during
conversations with visitors.188
M e d v e d e v a r g u e s t h a t 'i n m o s t c a s e s t h i s c o d e w a s o b s e r v e d a t t h e
t i m e ' a n d t h a t a l t h o u g h in t h e e a r l y 1 9 2 0 s t h e r e w e r e q u i t e a f e w i n
s ta n c e s th a t c o u ld b e c la s s if ie d a s in s u ltin g tr e a tm e n t o f p r is o n e r s . . .
t h i s w a s t h e e x c e p t i o n , n o t th e r u l c . ' ,H I n d e e d t h e B o l s h e v i k s i n s i s t e d
t h a t p r i s o n e r s r e c e i v e d t h e s a m e f o o d a s t h o s e o u t s i d e , p o o r t h o u g h it
w a s. P ris o n e rs w e re a llo w e d fre e d o m o f s p e e c h a n d o f th e p re s s . T h e y
o f te n p r o d u c e d th e ir o w n jo u r n a ls w h ic h e x p r e s s e d v ie w s h o s tile t o th e

Thought Behind Bars, in


P rison er's Thought a p p e a r e d a n d in
p l a c e s The P riso n er's Voice w a s p u b

g o v e rn m e n t. In Irk u ts k p r is o n e r s p r o d u c e d
V ite b s k . O m s k a n d e ls e w h e re
K h a rk o v . P e n z a a n d o th e r

l i s h e d . " * N e e d l e s s t o s a y n o t a t r a c e o f t h i s r e g i m e w a s t o s u r v i v e i n to
th e S ta lin y e a rs. In a n y c a s e , th e B o ls h e v ik s w e re c le a r th a t th e p ris o n
r e g i m e w a s a p r o d u c t o f t h e c i v i l w a r . A C h e k a d e c r e e o f J a n u a r y 1921
re a d :

53

IS DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

the prisons are filled to overflowing, not with bourgeois but for the most
part with workers and peasants ( i n v o lv e d in t h e f t o r s p e c u la ti o n ) . This
legacy (o l th e c iv il w a r) must be done away with, the prisons must be emp
tied and we must carefully see to it that only those who are really dangerous
to the Soviet regime should be put there.m
T h e th ir d e x a m p le o f te n u s e d b y rig h t w in g h is to ria n s is b a s e d o n
C h e k a l e a d e r L a ts is * 1 9 1 8 c l a i m t h a t w h e t h e r a s u s p e c t w a s a c a p i t a l i s t
o r a w o r k e r w a s e n o u g h t o d e te rm in e th e ir g u ilt o r in n o c e n c e . H e w e n t
o n t o u r g e . D o n t s e a r c h t h e r e c o r d s f o r w h e t h e r s o m e o n e 's r e v o l t
a g a i n s t t h e S o v i e t w a s a n a r m e d o r o n l y a v e r b a l o n e . 1*5 S a m F a r b e r
q u o t e s L a t s i s , b u t d o c s n o t b o t h e r t o q u o t e L e n i n 's a n g r y r e b u t t a l in
w h i c h h e s a i d t h a t o n e n e e d n o t g o t o t h e s a m e a b s u r d l e n g t h s a s
C o m r a d e L a t s i s . L e n i n w e n t o n t o i n s i s t t h a t L a t s i s 'w a n t e d t o s a y t h a t
R e d T e rro r m e a n t th e fo rc ib le s u p p r e s s io n o f e x p lo ite r s w h o a tte m p te d
t o r e s t o r e t h e i r r u l e , b u t i n s t e a d h e p u t it t h i s w a y . . . ' D o n t s e a r c h f ! ! ? )
th e r e c o r d s fo r e v id e n c e o f w h e th e r h is re v o lt a g a in s t th e S o v ie t w a s a n
a r m e d o r o n l y a v e r b a l o n e ' . 1*
N o r w a s th is a ttitu d e p e c u lia r t o L e n in . D / c r / h i n s k y h im s e lf p e r s o n i
fie d th e h ig h id e a ls a t w h ic h th e C h e k a a im e d . H e h a d s p e n t a th ird o f
h i s l i f e in p r i s o n f o r h i s p o l i t i c a l b e l i e f s a n d h e r u t h l e s s l y p u n i s h e d
C h c k is ts w h o w e re g u ilty o f a b u s e s . H e in s is te d th a t C h c k is ts m u s t
h a v e a c o o l h e a d , a w a r m h e a r t a n d c l e a n h a n d s . ' * D z e r z h i n s k y 's i n
te g rity w a s ir r e p r o a c h a b le : h e a n g r ily tu r n e d a w a y a fe llo w w o r k e r w h o
tr ie d to g iv e h im b a c o n a n d p o ta to e s d u r in g th e te r r ib le d a y s o f
R u s s i a 's f a m i n e . T h e b u r d e n o f h i s w o r k w e i g h e d h e a v i l y o n h i s s h o u l
d e rs . O n th e e v e o f 1 9 1 9 . d u rin g th e w o rs t d a y s o f th e te rro r, h e tu rn e d
t o h is fe llo w B o ls h e v ik s s a y in g :
/ have spill so much blood that I no longer have any right to live You must
shoot me now,m
T h e s a m e m o o d s e iz e d m a n y o t h e r C h e k is ts . B u k h a rin o n c e sa id :

Do not let us forget how many of them who remain are nervous wrecks, and
sometimes hopelessly ill For their work was such torture, demanding such
enormous concentration, it was so hellish, that it called for a truly iron
character'**
O f c o u r s e n o t a l l C h c k i s t s p o s s e s s e d t h i s i r o n c h a r a c t e r . S o m e
a b u s e d th e ir p o w e r , s o m e to r tu r e d , im p ris o n e d a n d e x e c u te d u n ju s tly .
L a ts is ,

h is o u tb u r s t n o te d

above

n o tw ith s ta n d in g , c o u ld , lik e

D z e r z h i n s k y , s h o w u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e c o m p l e x i t y o f t h e C h e k a 's
ta s k . H e i n s i s t e d t h a t t o s t o p th e p o w e r o f th e C h e k a c o r r u p t i n g its

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

54

m e m b e rs Ih e y s h o u ld m e c i ih r c e c r ite r ia : th e y s h o u ld b e a p a rly
m e m b e r , th e y s h o u ld h a v e a h ig h d e g r e e o f p e r s o n a l in te g r ity a n d th e y
s h o u l d n o t s t a y l o n g in t h e s e r v i c e o f t h e C h e k a . 1 R o t a t i o n o f s t a f f w a s
p a r t i a l l y i m p l e m e n t e d a n d m a n y B o l s h e v i k s s p e n t a t l e a s t s o m e l i m e in
th e C h e k a .
A re th e s e m e re a n e c d o ta l o r b io g ra p h ic a l d e ta ils ? N o . th e y s p e a k o f
th e v e r y n a t u r e o f t h e r e g i m e . A m o n g t h e W h i t e s c o r r u p t i o n a n d u t te r l y
in d is c rim in a te te rro r r a n fro m to p to b o tto m o f th e r e g im e ; in d e e d , a s
w e h a v e s e e n , in m a n y c a s e s th e s e n io r c o m m a n d e r s w e re p e rs o n a lly
r e s p o n s ib le f o r s o m e o f th e w o r s t a tr o c itie s . W ith th e B o ls h e v ik s th e
a tr o c itie s ra n a g a in s t th e n a tu re o f th e re g im e a n d o n c e th e n e c e s s ity o f
th e R e d T e r r o r c o u ld b e d is p e n s e d w ith th e B o ls h e v ik s m o v e d s w iftly
t o c u r t a i l i t. F .v e n w h i l e t h e c i v i l w a r r a g e d t h e r o l e o f t h e C h e k a w a s
r e s tr ic te d o n c e th e p e r io d s o f im m e d ia te d a n g e r w e re p a s t. L e g g e tt
n o te s :

In the inevitable clash between the arbitrary violence of the Cheka and the
system of Soviet law evolved by the People's Commissariat for Justice, the
Cheka gained the upper hand whenever the regime came under threat:
when the crises receded, the |P e o p l e 's C o m m is s a ria t] won the advantage "*
A n d L a ts is h im s e lf a rg u e d th a t th e C h e k a :

has no place in our constitutional system The time of civil war. the time of
extraordinary conditions of existence o f Soviet power, will pass, and the
Cheka will become superfluous,'m
B u t th e lo n g e r th e c iv il w a r la s te d , th e m o re d e c la s s e d th e p ro le ta ria t
b e c a m e , t h e m o r e r e l a t i o n s w i t h t h e p e a s a n t r y w o r s e n e d , t h e m o r e th e
C h e k a g r e w a n d th e w o r s e th e q u a lity o f its m e m b e r s b e c a m e . L a ts is
n o t e d 'u n w o r t h y e l e m e n t s , s o m e t i m e s e v e n c o u n t e r - r e v o l u t i o n a r i e s , a t
ta c h e d th e m s e lv e s to th e V e c h e k a , s o m e fo r m o tiv e s o f p e rs o n a l
g a i n . '* * S e r g e o b s e r v e d t h e 'r a p i d e f f e c t s ' o f p r o f e s s i o n a l d e g e n e r a
t i o n ' a m o n g t h e C h c k i s l s a n d r e c o r d e d t h a t 'D z e r z h i n s k y h i m s e l f
ju d g e d th e m t o b e " h a lf r o t t e n " , a n d s a w n o s o lu tio n to th e e v il e x c e p t
in s h o o tin g th e w o rs t C h c k is ls a n d a b o lis h in g th e d e a th p e n a lty a s so o n
a s p o s s ib l e .'* *
T h e B o ls h e v ik s m o v e d to d is m a n tle th e C h e k a a s s o o n a s th e c iv il
w a r w a s o v e r . In 19 2 1 D z e r z h in s k y m a d e h i s o w n p r o p o s a ls f o r th e
re fo rm o f th e C h e k a . K a m a n e v b e lie v e d th e y d id n o t g o fa r e n o u g h a n d
w ro te t o L e n in w ith h is o w n p ro p o s a l:

55

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

I Relieve the Cheka of everything except political crimes, espionage, ban


ditry. security of railroads and stores. Nothing more The rest to go to the
NKIu IPeople's Commissariat of Justice!.
2. The Cheka's investigative apparatus to be merged with the NKIu

..

l - e n i n r e p li e d :

Comrade Kamenev! my position is closer to yours than to Dzerzhinsky s. /


advise you not to give h ay. and to raise |hc issu e ) in the Politburo Then
t*e shall make a stand for the very maximum In addition we shall make the
NKIu responsible for any failure to report to the Politburo . . . on the
Vecheka's defects and errors.
In F e b r u a ry 1 9 2 2 th e S o v ie t g o v e r n m e n t a b o lis h e d th e C h e k a a n d r e
p l a c e d i t w i t h a n e w f o r c e , t h e G P U . T h e C h e k a s e x t r a o r d i n a r y p o w e r s
w e r e n o t t r a n s f e r r e d t o t h e G P U . It c o u l d o n l y d e a l w i t h p o l i t i c a l c a s e s ,
i t h a d n o p o w e r t o s e n t e n c e a n d i t h a d n o p o w e r t o e x e c u t e . E v e n its
p o w e r s o f s e a rc h a n d a r r e s t w e re m o r e lig h tly d e f in e d th a n th o s e o f
m o d e m B n t a i n 's S p e c i a l B r a n c h . A n y a r r e s t e d p e r s o n h a d t o b e t o l d o f
th e c h a r g e a g a in s t h im w ith in 14 d a y s a n d s e n t to t r ia l o r r e le a s e d
w ith in e ig h t w e e k s . O f c o u r s e , e v e n w h e n th e s e r e fo r m s w o r k e d fu lly
th e y le ft in ta c t in s titu tio n s w h ic h h a d b e e n b r u ta lis e d b y th e e x p e r ie n c e
o f c i v i l w a r . Y e t i t w a s o n l y l a t e r in t h e 1 9 2 0 s . a s S t a l i n 's h a n d c l o s e d
a r o u n d th e th ro a t o f th e r e v o lu tio n , th a t th e G P U b e c a m e th e te rro ris t
o rg a n o f a n e w b u r e a u c r a tic ru lin g c la s s :

The reconstruction o f the Cheka GPU went on for some years in the first
half o f the 1920s. But it slowed down after the deaths o f Lenin and
Dzerzhinsky, indeed things started moving in an entirely different direction
The GPU gradually began to resume the functions that were appropriate
only for a period o f civil w a r Under pressure from Stalin, a punitive organ
turnon reappeared, with the right to put people in /ail and camps, to exile
them to remote places, and later even to shoot them without any judicial
procedure, simply as an administrative act.m
W h e n , in 1 9 3 0 . o n e o f S t a t i n 's v i c t i m s t o l d h i s i n t e r r o g a t o r t h a t h i s
m e t h o d s w o u l d h a v e b e e n i m p o s s i b l e i n D z e r z h i n s k y 's d a y . t h e i n t e r
r o g a t o r l a u g h e d . ' Y o u v e f o u n d s o m e o n e t o r e m e m b e r ! D z e r z h i n s k y
t h a t 's a b y g o n e s t a g e in o u r r e v o l u t i o n . '" * A n d B u k h a r i n , s h o r t l y b e f o r e
h i s o w n e x e c u t i o n in 1 9 3 8 , o b s e r v e d :

Dzerzhinsky is gone: the remarkable traditions of the Cheka have gradually


faded into the past, when the revolutionary idea guided all Us actions.**

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

56

P e a s a n t re b e llio n . K r o n s ta d t a n d th e c r is is o f W a r C o m m u n is m
T h e B o ls h e v ik s w o n th e c iv il w a r , b u t o n ly a t e n o r m o u s c o s t. A f te r th e
F irs t W o rld W a r th e c o u n try w a s b a tte re d a n d b lo o d ie d , la rg e s e c tio n s
o f its in d u s try w e r e ru in e d a n d a g r ic u ltu r e w a s s e v e re ly d is o rg a n is e d .
A f t e r th e c i v i l w a r t h e s i t u a t i o n w a s f a r w o r s e . T r a v e l l i n g in R a s s i a in
1 9 2 0 H G W e l l s s a w o n l y a v a s t i r r e p a r a b l e b r e a k d o w n '. " * T h e
C e n tra l C o m m itte e fo r L a b o u r C o n s c rip tio n re p o rte d :

The workers of the ron ns and some o f the villages choke in the throes o f
hunger The railroads barely crawl. The houses are crumNing. The towns
are full of refuse Epidemics spread and death strikes to the right and left
Industry is ruined **
Pravda r e p o r t e d t h a t t h e r e w e r e
every house in P c t r o g r a d b e c a u s e it

N o n e o f th is w a s a n e x a g g e ra tio n .
1 7 c a r t l o a d s o f r u b b i s h p i l e d u p in

h a d n o t b e e n c o lle c te d d u r in g th e c iv il w a r. In th e d e p o p u la te d s tre e ts
o f t h e r e v o l u t i o n s f i r s t c i t y g r a s s a n d f l o w e r s b r o k e t h r o u g h t h e p a v i n g
sto n e s . In 1921

Pravda

re p o rte d th a t 2 5 m illio n w e re s u f f e r in g fro m

f a m i n e . I n t h e c o u n t r y p e o p l e d u g u p b u r i e d h o r s e s a n d a t e t h e f l e s h . In
s o m e a r e a s c a n n i b a l i s m w a s t h e o n l y a l t e r n a t i v e t o d e a t h . 'E v e r y d a y
l i f e w a s p r e h i s t o r i c , s a i d I l i a E h r c n b u r g . 't h e e v e r y d a y l i f e o f t h e c a v e
a g e .''* * O n e R u s s i a n e c o n o m i s t o f t h e 1 9 2 0 s w r o t e : 'S u c h a d e c l i n e in
th e p r o d u c tiv e f o r c e s . . . o f a n e n o r m o u s s o c ie ty o f a h u n d r e d m illio n
is u n p r e c e d e n te d in h u m a n h i s t o r y . '- ' P e r h a p s n o th in g c o n v e y s th e
p o v e r t y o f R u s s i a m o r e v i v i d l y t h a n t h e f a c t t h a t a v e r a g e i n c o m e in
R u s s ia w a s n e a r ly 2 0 p e rc e n t

less

th a n th a t o f B rita in in 1 6 8 8 . A n d th a t

w a s in 1 9 1 3 ; a f te r th e c iv il w a r th e p r o p o r tio n m u s t h a v e b e e n m u c h

lower.1'1
T h e W h ite a n d im p e ria lis t a rm ie s h a d o f c o u r s e d ire c tly c a u s e d m u c h
o f th e d a m a g e . T h e w o r k e r s ' s ta te w a s c u t o f f fro m c o tto n u n til 1 9 2 0 .
fr o m B a ltic fla x a n d B a k u o il u n til la te 1 9 1 9 , a n d f r o m iro n a n d c o a l
fr o m th e U k ra in e u n til 1 9 2 0 . T h e e c o n o m ic b lo c k a d e b y th e im p e ria lis t
p o w e r s w a s o n l y l i f t e d in 1 9 2 0 . A n d t h e w a r e f f o r t h a d e a t e n u p m u c h
o f w h a t re m a in e d o f in d u s tr y . T h e B o ls h e v ik s , s a id th e c r itic V ik to r
S h k lo v s k i, ru in e d w h o le f a c to n e s t o m a k e b o o ts o u t o f (m a c h in e ) fa n
b e l t s . '1' I n R u s s i a a s a w h o l e t h e s i z e o f t h e w o r k i n g c l a s s w a s m o r e
th a n h a lv e d . I n th e m a jo r c i t i e s th e p r o p o r tio n o f w o r k e r s f e ll e v e n
m o re d r a m a tic a lly . In F e b r u a ry 192 1

P ravda

a n n o u n c e d a 's e v e r e

d e f e a t o n th e l a b o u r f r o n t '. S i x t y f o u r o f th e l a r g e s t f a c t o r i e s in
P e lro g ra d w e r e f o rc e d t o c lo s e f o r la c k o f fu e l. A m o n g th e m w a s th e
P u t i l o v w o r k s , t h e c r a d l e o f t h e r e v o l u t i o n . 1*
In m id - 1 9 2 0 th e P o lis h a r m y in v a d e d R u s s ia f r o m th e W e s t a n d th e
la s t W h ite a rm y in E u ro p e a n R u s s ia , h e a d e d b y G e n e r a l W ra n g e l,

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

57

d ro v e n o r th fro m th e C r im e a . In th e m id s t o f th is c r is is r e b e llio n s w e p t
t h e c o u n t r y s i d e o n c e a g a i n . R e q u i s i t i o n i n g w a s s t i ll i n f o r c e , d e s p i t e th e
p o o r h a rv e s t o f 1 9 2 0 . T w o o f th e p e a s a n t re v o lts fro m

1 9 2 0 a n d 1921

h a v e a c q u i r e d p o l i t i c a l s i g n i f i c a n c e : A n t o n o v s G r e e n ' r e v o l t i n t h e
p r o v i n c e o f T a m b o v , a n d M a k h n o 's r e v o l t i n t h e U k r a i n e . F o r S a m
F a t h e r t h e R e d s r e s p o n s e t o t h e s e r e b e l l i o n s w h i c h w e r e s o c i a l l y a n d
p o litic a lly q u ite d if f e r e n t fr o m th e W h ite r e b e llio n s ' w a s b a s e d in p o rt
o n a m o n s t r o u s a n d s c h e m a t i c m o c k e r y o f M a r x i s t c l a s s a n a l y s i s '
w h i c h a f f e c t e d t h e r e v o l u t i o n 's i n t e r n a l s t r e n g t h a n d a b i l i t y t o r e s i s t
t h e l o g ic o f S t a l i n i s t p o l i t i c s . 115
In fa c t th e T a m b o v a n d U k ra in ia n r is in g s g a in e d p o p u la r s u p p o r t fo r
p r e c i s e l y t h e s a m e r e a s o n a s t h e W h i t e r e b e l l i o n s : t h e p e a s a n t r y 's o p
p o s itio n to g r a in r e q u is itio n in g . O f c o u rs e th e W h ite r e b e llio n s w e re
h e a d e d b y th e p e rs o n n e l o f th e T s a r is t o ld o r d e r w h ile th e T a m b o v a n d
U k ra in ia n r is in g s w e re n o t. Y e t th e o n ly p o s s ib le b e n e fic ia rie s o f a n y
s u c c e s s th a t th e p e a s a n t r e b e llio n s m ig h t h a v e h a d a g a in s t th e R e d s
w o u ld b e th e W h ite s : th e r e is n o q u e s tio n th a t e ith e r A n to n o v o r
M a k h n o h a d e ith e r s u p p o rt o u ts id e lim ite d g e o g ra p h ic a l a r e a s o r a n a r
tic u la te d p o litic a l p ro g r a m m e o f th e ir o w n . In d e e d A n to n o v h a d b a c k e d
W ra n g c l. a s h is fe llo w S R s h a d b a c k e d th e W h ite s th r o u g h o u t th e c iv il
w a r ( a l t h o u g h t h e y d i s t a n c e d t h e m s e l v e s f r o m A n t o n o v 's r e v o l t ) . T h e
S R in flu e n c e d U n io n o f W o r k in g P e a s a n try in th e d e n s e ly w o o d e d , i n
t e n s e l y r u r a l T a m b o v r e g i o n h a d v o w e d t o 'f i g h t t h e B o l s h e v i k s t o th e
e n d . ' ,,
A n d th e m e th o d s u s e d b y M a k h n o a n d A n to n o v in th e ir fig h t a g a in s t
th e R e d A rm y o f te n m ir r o r e d th o s e u s e d b y th e W h ite s . B o ls h e v ik s
c a u g h t b y th e T a m b o v G r e e n s w e re n a ile d to tr e e s , a s in g le r a ilro a d
s p ik e d r iv e n th r o u g h th e ir le ft h a n d a n d fo o t liftin g th e m a fe w fe e t
a b o v e th e g r o u n d . B ru c e L in c o ln w rite s :

Dte Greens maimed and mutilated their victims, flaying same, quartering
others, and disemboweling still others . . . (th e y ) gouged out eyes, chopped
off limbs, mutilated sexual organs, slashed tendons
unravelled intestines
often buried captured enemies alive, but took care to leave their victims'
heads above ground so that peasant women could urinate <vi them before
the village dogs closed in to gnaw the still living flesh from their faces and
skulls"'
In r e s p o n s e , th e R e d A rm y 'a t f ir s t a lte r n a te d b e tw e e n w h o le s a le
c r u e l t y , in w h i c h t h e y b u r n e d w h o l e v i l l a g e s . . . a n d e x t r e m e l e n i e n c y
i n w h i c h t h e y p a r d o n e d p r i s o n e r s e n m a s s e 11* L a t e r m a s s s h o o t i n g s
b e c a m e m o r e w i d e s p r e a d a s t h e R e d A r m y b e c a m e b o g g e d d o w n in a
g u e r r illa b a ttle w ith a n e n e m y little d if f e r e n t fr o m th e m a s s o f p e a s a n ts

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

58

w h o s h e lte re d th e m . C h a ra c te ris tic a lly . S a m F a th e r m e n tio n s th e s h o o t


in g s b u t n o t th e p a rd o n s , th e R e d T e r r o r b u t n o t th e G r e e n T e rro r.
M a k h n o 's s m a l l e r r e b e l l i o n i n t h e U k r a i n e is d i s t i n g u i s h e d f r o m t h e
T a m b o v ris in g o n ly b y th e m u d d le d a n a r c h is m

of

i t s l e a d e r . M a k h n o 's

r e l a t i o n s w i t h t h e B o l s h e v i k s w e r e c h e q u e r e d , r e f l e c t i n g th e f a s t c h a n g
i n g m i l i t a r y s i t u a t i o n in t h e U k r a i n e t h r o u g h o u t t h e c i v i l w a r . T h e r e v o
l u t i o n r e l e a s e d M a k h n o f r o m p r i s o n a n d . w i t h L e n i n a n d S v e r d l o v 's
h e l p , h e r e t u r n e d t o t h e U k r a i n e in J u l y 1 9 1 8 w h i l e it w a s s t i ll u n d e r
G e r m a n p u p p e t r u le r H e tm a n S k o ro p a d s k y . M a k h n o o r g a n is e d a p a r ti
s a n I n s u r g e n t A r m y t o f i g h t S k o r o p a d s k y a n d s i d e d w i th t h e R e d A r m y
w h e n it m a r c h e d a g a i n s t t h e W h i t e s in D e c e m b e r 1 9 1 8 . C o - o p e r a t i o n
c o n tin u e d u n til J u n e 1 9 1 9 w h e n th e I n s u r g e n t A r m y b r o k e f r o m th e
R e d A r m y : a s s o o n a s M a k h n o l e f t t h e f r o n t h e a n d h i s a s s o c i a t e s
b e g a n to o r g a n is e n e w p a r tis a n d e ta c h m e n ts in th e B o ls h e v ik s * re a r,
w h ic h s u b s e q u e n tly a tta c k e d s tr o n g h o ld s , tr o o p s , p o lic e , tr a m s a n d
fo o d c o lle c to rs .
D e n i k i n 's a d v a n c e a g a i n s t M a k h n o 's t e r r i t o r y in a u t u m n

1919

q u ic k ly fo rc e d a re n e w a l o f th e tr e a ty w ith th e B o ls h e v ik s . M a k h n o h a
r a s s e d D e n i k i n 's t r o o p s f r o m t h e r e a r , m a k i n g t h e i r a d v a n c e m o r e d i f f i
c u lt. B u t b y th e e n d o f 1 9 1 9 th e im m e d ia te W h ite th re a t w a s re m o v e d .
M a k h n o re fu s e d to m o v e h is tro o p s to th e P o lis h fro n t to m e e t th e im
m in e n t in v a s io n a n d h o s tilitie s w ith th e R e d A rm y b e g a n a g a in o n a n
e v e n m o r e w i d e s p r e a d s c a l e T h e e n t r i e s i n t h e d i a r y o f M a k h n o 's w i f e
b e t r a y t h e n a t u r e o f t h e m o v e m e n t in t h i s p e r i o d :

February 23.1920 -Our men seized Bolshevik agents, who Here shot
February 25. 1920Moved to Maiorovo Caught three agents for the col
lection of grain there. Shot them
March 14. 1920Today we moved into Velikaya Mikhailovka. killed here
one Communist.m
R e p o n s fro m th e S o v ie t U k ra in ia n F ro n t g iv e th e s a m e p ic tu re :

June 18Makhno carried out a raid on the station at Grishno. held out
there three hours, shot fourteen captured officials o f the Soviet and work
ers' organisations, destroyed the telegraph communication and robbed the
food warchouse of the railroad workers.
July 2bBursting into Konstantinograd County. Makhno in the course of
two days cut down 84 Red Army soldiers
August lbhaving seized Mirgorod for a day and a half Makhno's follow
ers robbed all the warehouses of the county food committee, destroyed the
buildings of the Soviet and workers' organisations, smashed 15 telegraph
machines, killed 21 workers and Red soldiers.a '

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

59

T h e s e a c tio n s w e re c o n s is te n t w ith a n e a r l ie r r e s o lu tio n o f th e


I n s u r g e n t A r m y w h ic h d e c la r e d th a t it w a s th e a c t i o n s o f th e
B o ls h e v ik r e g im e w h ic h c a u s e a re a l d a n g e r t o th e w o r k e r - p e a s a n t r e v
o l u t i o n . ' I n f a c t it w a s M a k h n o s a c t i o n s a g a i n s t t h e R e d A r m y w h i c h
m a d e a b r i e f r e t u r n o f t h e W h i t e s p o s s i b l e * . " 1 G e n e r a l W r a n g e l a t
t a c k e d w h i l e M a k h n o 's f o r c e s w e r e f i g h t i n g t h e R e d A r m y : 'A s
W r a n g e l a d v a n c e d . . . M a k h n o r e t r e a t e d n o r t h . . . l e a v i n g b e h i n d s m a ll
p a r t i s a n u n i t s in t h e v i l l a g e s a n d t o w n s t o c a n y o u t c o v e r t d e s t r u c t i o n
o f t h e B o l s h e v i k a d m i n i s t r a t i v e a p p a r a t u s a n d s u p p l y b a s e s . " T h e s e
a c tiv itie s w e re s o e f fe c tiv e th a t W h ite C o lo n e l N o g a re p o rte d to h e a d
q u a r t e r s t h a t M a k h n o w a s c r u c i a l t o W r a n g e l 's a d v a n c e . '1* I n d e e d
W r a n g e l a p p r o a c h e d M a k h n o f o r a f o r m a l a ll i a n c e a n d a lth o u g h th is
w a s tu r n e d d o w n M a k h n o d id n o t f ig h t w ith th e R e d s a g a in u n til
O c t o b e r 1 9 2 0 w h e n W r a n g e l a d v a n c e d o n M a k h n o 's b a s e . It w a s . u n
s u rp ris in g ly . a tre a ty o f c o n v e n ie n c e o n th e p a rt o f b o th s id e s a n d a s
s o o n a s W ra n g e l w a s d e f e a te d a t th e e n d o f th e y e a r th e R e d A rm y
fo u g h t M a k h n o u n til h e g a v e u p th e s tru g g le a n d c r o s s e d th e D n ie s te r
r i v e r i n t o R o m a n i a in A u g u s t 1 9 2 1 .
C o u ld M a k h n o h a v e p r o v id e d a lib e r ta r ia n a lte r n a tiv e to th e
B o l s h e v i k s ? T h e a n s w e r l i e s in t h e n a t u r e o f t h e M a k h n o m o v e m e n t .
F ir s tly , th e m o v e m e n t n e v e r h a d a n y r e a l s u p p o r t f ro m th e w o rk in g
c la s s . N e ith e r w a s it p a r tic u la r ly in te r e s te d in d e v e lo p in g a p ro g ra m m e
w h ic h w o u ld a p p e a l to w o rk e rs . R a u l A v r ic h . th e s y m p a th e tic h is to ria n
o f th e a n a rc h is ts , w rite s th a t M a k h n o :

failed to win o v e r more than a minority of workers, for unlike the farmers
and artisans of the village, who were independent producers accustomed to
managing their own affairs, factory hands and miners operated as interde
pendent parts of a complicated industrial machine . . . He never understood
the complexities of the urban economy, nor did he care to understand
them.,n
M a k h n o 's a d v i c e t o w o r k e r s a i m e d a t r e p r o d u c i n g t h e p e t i t - b o u r
g e o is p a tte rn s o f th e c o u n tr y s id e h e to ld

ra ilw a y

w o r k e r s in

A le k s a n d ro v s k w h o h a d n o t b e e n p a id fo r m a n y w e e k s th a t th e y s h o u ld
s im p ly c h a r g e p a s s e n g e r s a f a ir p ric e a n d s o g e n e r a te th e ir o w n
w a g e s ." * I n t h e c o u n t r y s i d e o f c o u r s e s u c h p o l i t i c s c o u l d h a v e g r e a t e r
a p p e a l. B u t e v e n h e r e a n y a tte m p t t o g o b e y o n d th e tra d itio n a l p e a s a n t
e c o n o m y w a s d o o m e d . M a k h n o 's m e m o i r s a d m i t t h a t 't h e m a s s o f th e
p e o p le d id n o t g o o v e r ' t o h is p e a s a n t c o m m u n e s , w h ic h o n ly in v o lv e d
a f e w h u n d r e d f a m i l i e s . 1" T h e r e a l b a s i s o f M a k h n o 's s u p p o r t w a s n o t
h is a n a r c h is m , b u t h is o p p o s itio n t o g r a in r e q u is itio n in g a n d h is d e te r
m in a tio n n o t to d is tu r b th e p e a s a n t e c o n o m y :

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

60

Makhno had not put an end to the agricultural inequalities. His aim as to
avoid conflicts with the tillages and to maintain a sort o f united front o f the
entire peasantry
In 1 9 1 9 th e lo c a l B o ls h e v ik a u th o r itie s m a d e m is ta k e s w h ic h p la y e d
i n t o M a k h n o 's h a n d s : d e s p i t e L e n i n 's a d v i c e t h e y w e r e d i s m i s s i v e o f
U k r a in ia n n a tio n a lis m a n d th e y tr ie d t o c a r r y th r o u g h s o c ia lis a tio n o f
th e la n d , r a th e r th a n h a n d in g it o v e r t o th e p e a s a n ts . B u t b y s p r in g 1 9 2 0
th e y h a d r e v e r s e d th e p o lic y to w a r d s th e p e a s a n ts a n d in s titu te d
C o m m i t t e e s o f P o o r P e a s a n t s , t h e s e 'h u r t M a k h n o . . . h i s h e a r t b e c a m e
h a r d e n e d a n d h e s o m e t i m e s o r d e r e d e x e c u t i o n s '. 0 * T h i s p o l i c y h e l p e d
th e B o ls h e v ik a s c e n d a n c y .
I t is h a r d l y s u r p r i s i n g , g i v e n t h i s s o c i a l b a s e , t h a t m u c h o f M a k h n o s
lib e rta ria n is m a m o u n te d t o liu lc m o r e th a n p a p e r d e c r e e s . O n p a p e r th e
o f f i c e r s o f th e I n s u r g e n t A rm y w e r e e l e c t e d in p r a c tic e th e m o s t
s e n i o r c o m m a n d e r s w e r e a p p o i n t e d b y M a k h n o . " O n e r e s o l u t i o n
a d o p te d a t a m e e tin g o f th e p a r tis a n s g iv e s th e f la v o u r o f th e m o v e
m e n t: 't o o b e y th e o r d e r s o f th e c o m m a n d e r s i f th e c o m m a n d e r s a rc
s o b e r e n o u g h t o g i v e t h e m . ' 01 I n t h e o r y M a k h n o s w a s a v o l u n t e e r
a r m y , in r e a l i t y 'h e w a s c o m p e l l e d t o i n a u g u r a t e a f o r m o f c o n s c r i p t i o n
i n o r d e r t o r e p l e n i s h h i s f o r c e s . ' M a k h n o h e l d e l e c t i o n s , b u t n o p a r
t i e s w e r e a l l o w e d t o p a r t i c i p a t e in t h e m . P a p e r s c o u l d b e p u b l i s h e d , b u t
th e B o ls h e v ik a n d L e ft S o c ia lis t R e v o lu tio n a r y p r e s s w e re n o t a llo w e d
t o c a l l f o r r e v o l u t i o n . 1 M a k h n o w a s q u i c k t o d e n o u n c e t h e S o v i e t ' i n
s t i t u t i o n s o f v i o l e n c e , s u c h a s y o u r C o m m i s s a r i a t s a n d C h e k a s . b u t
'M a k h n o s p r i v a t e C h e k a . . . q u i c k l y d i s p o s e d o f a n y o n e w h o w a s s u s
p e c t e d o f p l o t t i n g a g a i n s t h i s l i f e . 4 M a k h n o 's a r m y a c t u a l l y h a d t w o
s e c u rity fo rc e s , th e C h e k a - lik e

razvedka

a n d th e P u n itiv e C o m m is s io n ,

w h i c h a p p e a r s t o h a v e b e e n h e a d e d b y M a k h n o 's w i f e '. T h e i r a c t i v i
tie s w e re f a r fro m n e g lig ib le :

Makhno's later campaigns are among the most bloody and vindictive tn his
tory. and in the circumstances ne can safety assume that these ( s e c u rity ]
services were responsible for frequent injustices and atrocities Volin
| M a k h n o 's c lo s e a s s o c ia te ) is witness to the fact that they were under no ef
fective control.21*
W h e n a B o ls h e v ik c e ll, w h ic h in c lu d e d a d iv is io n a l c o m m a n d e r , w a s
d i s c o v e r e d in t h e I n s u r g e n t A r m y , t h e B o l s h e v i k s w e r e d e n i e d a n o p e n
t r i a l a n d s u m m a r i l y s h o t b y M a k h n o 's

ra:vedka."

N e i t h e r M a k h n o 's s o c i a l p r o g r a m m e n o r h i s p o l i t i c a l r e g i m e c o u l d
p r o v i d e a n a l t e r n a t i v e t o th e B o l s h e v i k s . E v e n h i s m i l i t a r y t a c t i c s c o u l d
o n l y b e e f f e c t i v e in l i m i t e d c i r c u m s t a n c e s a n d o n l y t h e n s o l o n g a s t h e y

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

61

d id n o t d i s t u r b th e a g e o ld c la s s s tr u c tu r e o f th e c o u n tr y s id e . U ltim a te ly
h is a n a r c h i s m w a s a t h i n v e n e e r o n p e a s a n t r e b e l l i o n .
T h e r i s i n g in K r o n s t a d t in M a r c h 1 9 2 1 h a d e s s e n t i a l l y t h e s a m e r o o t
a s th e p e a s a n t r e b e llio n s . A lth o u g h i t w a s p r e c e d e d b y a w a v e o f s e r i
o u s b u t q u ic k ly re s o lv e d s tr ik e s , th e m o tiv a tio n o f th e K ro n s ta d t r e b e l
lio n

w as

m uch

c lo s e r to

th a t o f th e

p e a s a n try

th a n

it w a s to

d is s a tis f a c tio n a m o n g w h a t r e m a in e d o f th e u rb a n w o rk in g c la s s .
K ro n s ta d t h a d , o f c o u r s e , b e e n a s tr o n g h o ld o f th e r e v o lu tio n in 1 9 1 7
h u t in 1 9 2 1 i t w a s s t r o n g l y i n f l u e n c e d b y t h e m o o d o f t h e p e a s a n t r y .
I h e r e a r c s e v e r a l i n t e r l o c k i n g r e a s o n s w h y it b e c a m e p r e y t o t h e m o o d
s w e e p in g th e c o u n try s id e .
F irs tly . th e c o m p o s itio n o f th e g a rris o n h a d c h a n g e d . In S e p te m b e r
a n d O c to b e r 1 9 2 0 th e w r ite r a n d B o ls h e v ik p a rty le c tu r e r I e ro n y m u s
Y a s in s k y w e n t to K ro n s ta d t to le c tu re 4 0 0 n a v a l re c ru its . T h e y w e re
's t r a i g h t f r o m t h e p l o u g h . ' A n d h e w a s s h o c k e d t o f i n d t h a t m a n y , 'i n
c lu d in g a fe w p a rry m e m b e rs , w e re p o litic a lly illite ra te , w o rld s r e
m o v e d fro m th e h ig h ly p o litic is e d v e te ra n K ro n s ta d t s a ilo r s w h o h a d
d e e p l y i m p r e s s e d h i m . ' Y a s i n s k y w o r r i e d t h a t t h o s e 's t e e l e d in t h e r e v
o l u t i o n a r y f i r e ' w o u l d b e r e p l a c e d b y 'i n e x p e r i e n c e d , f r e s h l y m o b i l i s e d
y o u n g s a i l o r s . " '"
B y D e c e m b e r 1 9 2 0 o n l y 1 ,3 1 3 r e c r u i t s o f t h e t y p e i n t e r v i e w e d b y
Y a s in s k y h a d a r r i v e d in th e B a ltic F le e t ( o u t o f a p la n n e d to ta l o f
1 0 .3 8 4 ) . W e d o n o t k n o w h o w m a n y m o r e n e w r e c r u i t s a r r i v e d i n th e
t h r e e m o n t h s b e f o r e K r o n s t a d t e r u p t e d in M a r c h 1 9 2 1 . B u t w e d o k n o w
a b o u t t h e c o m p o s i t i o n o f s o m e o t h e r u n i t s b a s e d a t K r o n s t a d t , l i k e th e
2 . 5 0 0 U k r a i n i a n s o f t h e 1 6 0 th R i f l e R e g i m e n t , r e c r u i t e d f r o m a r e a s p a r
tic u la rly frie n d ly to th e M a k h n o g u e r rilla s a n d w ith le s s th a n 2 p e rc e n t
o f B o l s h e v i k s in i t s r a n k s . 0 *
F u rth e r e v id e n c e o f th e c h a n g in g c la s s c o m p o s itio n o f th e g a rris o n
c a n b e g le a n e d f r o m th e b r e a k d o w n o f th e s o c ia l b a c k g o u n d o f th e
B o ls h e v ik s a t th e b a s e . I n S e p te m b e r 1 9 2 0 . s ix m o n th s b e f o r e th e
re v o lt, th e B o ls h e v ik s h a d 4 .4 3 5 m e m b e rs a t K ro n s ta d t. S o m e 5 0 p e r
c e n t o f th e s e w e re p e a s a n ts . 4 0 p e rc e n t w e re w o rk e rs a n d 10 p e rc e n t
w e r e i n t e l l e c t u a l s . * T h e s a m e f i g u r e s f o r t h e B o l s h e v i k p a r t y a s a
w h o l e i n 1 9 2 1 a r e : 2 8 . 7 p e r c e n t p e a s a n t s . 4 1 p e r c e n t w o r k e r s a n d 3 0 .8
p e r c e n t w h i t e c o l l a r w o r k e r s a n d o t h e r s . 1*' T h u s t h e p e r c e n t a g e o f p e a s
a n t s i n t h e p a r t y in K r o n s t a d t w a s c o n s i d e r a b l y h i g h e r t h a n n a t i o n a l l y .
It w a s a l s o h i g h e r t h a n t h e a l r e a d y u n u s u a l l y h i g h p e r c e n t a g e o f p e a s
a n ts a m o n g th e m e m b e r s w h o h a d jo in e d th e p a r ty in I 9 2 I .* M I f w e
a s s u m e th a t th e B o ls h e v ik p a r ty w a s m o r e w o rk in g c la s s in c o m p o s i
tio n th a n th e b a s e a s a w h o le , th e n it s e e m s lik e ly th a t th e p e a s a n ts h a d
in c re a s e d th e ir w e ig h t in th e K r o n s ta d t, a s T r o ts k y s u g g e s te d .
S a m F a rb e r a r g u e s th a t th e n e w p e a s a n t r e c ru its w o u ld n o t h a v e b e e n
e n o u g h to a lt e r th e m o o d o f th e o t h e r s a ilo r s . H e c r i t i c i s e s th e

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

62

T r o t s k y i s t t r a d i t i o n i n g e n e r a l , a n d C h r i s H a n n a n s

w as L ost

How the Revolution

in p a r tic u la r , f o r a r g u in g th a t K r o n s ta d t in 1 9 2 0 w a s n o t

K r o n s t a d t o f 1 9 1 7 . T h e c l a s s c o m p o s i t i o n o f i t s s a i l o r s h a d c h a n g e d . 1*
B u t e v e n i f . f o r t h e s a k e o f a r g u m e n t , w e a c c e p t S a m F a r b c r 's i n t e r p r e
ta tio n o f th e e v id e n c e (a n d h e d o e s n o t lo o k a t th e f ig u r e s fo r th e c o m
p o s itio n o f th e B o ls h e v ik s ) h is p o in t o n ly h a s a n y v a lid ity if w e ta k e
t h e s t a t i s t i c s in i s o l a t i o n . B u t in r e a l i t y t h i s c h a n g e i n c o m p o s i t i o n a c t e d
o n a fle e t w h o s e tic s w ith th e p e a s a n try h a d re c e n tly b e e n s tre n g th e n e d
in o t h e r w a y s . I n p a r t i c u l a r , t h e K r o n s t a d t s a i l o r s h a d r e c e n t l y b e e n
g ra n te d le a v e f o r th e firs t tim e s in c e th e c iv il w a r. M a n y r e lu m e d to
th e ir v illa g e s a n d c a m e fa c e t o fa c e w ith th e c o n d itio n o f th e c o u n tr y
s i d e a n d t h e t n a l s o f th e p e a s a n t r y f a c e d w i t h f o o d d e t a c h m e n t s . S t e p a n
P e t n c h e n k o . th e le a d e r o f th e K ro n s ta d t r is in g , r e tu r n e d t o h is n a tiv e
U k ra in e b e tw e e n A p ril a n d th e a u tu m n o f 1 9 2 0 . H e fo u n d th a t:

When w r returned home our parents asked us why we fought for the oppres
sors. That set us thinking.**
In f a c t P c tr ic h e n k o b e c a m e s o e m b itte r e d th a t h e tr ie d t o j o in th e
W h ite s , a n d w a s o n ly tu rn e d a w a y b e c a u s e o f h is p re v io u s b r ie f m e m
b e r s h i p o f t h e C o m m u n i s t P a rty .* M a n y o t h e r s a i l o r s h a d s i m i l a r e x p e
r ie n c e s to P c tr ic h e n k o w h e n th e y r e tu r n e d to th e v illa g e s , a s th e
h u n d r e d s o f l e t t e r s t o th e C o m p l a i n t s B u r e a u o f t h e B a l t i c F l e e t t e s t i f y .
H e re is p a rt o f ju s t o n e fro m a s a ilo r o f th e

Petropavlovsk.

th e b a ttle

s h ip a t th e h e a r t o f th e re b e llio n :

Ours is an ordinary peasant farm, neither Kulak nor parasitical, yet when I
and my brother return from serving the Soviet republic people will sneer at
our wreckedfarm and say 'What did you serve for? What hat the Soviet republic given you?'**
D e s e r tio n s b e g a n to s p ir a l a n d le a v e w a s c a n c e lle d . B y 1921 th e
f l e e t w a s f a l l i n g a p a r t a s a n o r g a n i s e d m i l i t a r y f o r c e . * I t w a s t h e
f l e e t 's l i n k s w i t h t h e p e a s a n t r y w h i c h p r o v i d e d t h e b e d r o c k f o r t h e r e
b e l l i o n . b u t o t h e r f a c t o r s e x a c e r b a t e d t h e s i t u a t i o n . T h e i d e o l o g y o f th e
K r o n s t a d t g a r r i s o n w a s o n e f a c t o r . F .v c n i n i t s h e r o i c d a y s t h e g a r r i s o n
h a d a n u ltr a - le f t a ir. M a n y K ro n s ta d tc rs h a d s id e d w ith th e le ft c o m m u
n is ts a t th e tim e o f B r e s t- L ito v s k . a n u m b e r o f th e m h a d j o in e d th e
L S R s u p r i s i n g in t h e s u m m e r o f 1 9 1 8 . t h e y h a d o p p o s e d f o o d r e q u i s i
t i o n i n g in 1 9 1 8 a n d w e r e f i e r c e o p p o n e n t s o f R e d A r m y t y p e d i s c i p l i n e .1*
A n o t h e r f a c t o r in t h e r e b e l l i o n w a s t h e d e c l i n e o f t h e B o l s h e v i k s i n
f l u e n c e in K r o n s t a d t . M a n y o f t h e b e s t B o l s h e v i k m i l i t a n t s o f 1 9 1 7 h a d
f a l l e n d u r i n g t h e c i v i l w a r a n d in t h e s i x m o n t h s b e f o r e t h e r i s i n g th e
p a rty lo s t h a lf its m e m b e rs a t th e g a rris o n .

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

63

W h e n th e re v o lt b ro k e th e s a ilo rs to o k o v e r th e b a ttle s h ip s a n d g a r ri
so n . It w a s c le a r f r o m th e s ta r t th a t th e a c c u m u la te d p r e s s u r e w o u ld
a llo w n o e a s y s o lu tio n s . I n d e e d , in P e tr o g r a d Z in o v ie v h a d a lre a d y e s
s e n t i a l l y w i t h d r a w n t h e m o s t d e t e s t e d a s p e c t s o f W a r C o m m u n i s m in
re s p o n s e to th e s trik e s . T h e K ro n s ta d t s a ilo r s re s p o n s e w a s c o n ta in e d
in t h e i r

What We Are Fighting For.

(here is no middle ground in the struggle against the Communists . . . They


give the appearance o f making concessions in Petrograd province road
block detachments have been removed and 10 million gold roubles have
been allotted for the purchase of foodstuffs But one must not he deceived
No there can be no middle ground Victory or death!**
T h e K r o n s t a d t e r s ' i n s i s t e n c e t h a t t h e y w e r e f i g h t i n g f o r a t h i r d r e v o
l u t i o n '. f r e e d o m o f e x p r e s s i o n a n d f o r s o v i e t s w i t h o u t p a r t i e s h a s c o n
v in c e d m a n y h is to r ia n s th a t th is re v o lt w a s fu n d a m e n ta lly d is tin c t fro m
th e W h ite r e b e llio n s . B u t o n e m u s t b e c a r e f u l to a n a ly s e e x a c tly th e d i f
fe re n c e b e tw e e n th e c o n s c io u s a im s o f th e re b e ls a n d th e p o s s ib le o u t
c o m e o f th e ir a c tio n s . T h e B o ls h e v ik r e g im e s till re s te d o n th e s h a tte re d
r e m n a n ts o f th e w o rk in g c la s s . T h e K ro n s ta d t s a i lo r s ' a p p e a ls to th e
P e tro g ra d w o r k e r s h a d m e t w ith little o r n o r e s p o n s e . T h e s a ilo rs re p re
s e n te d th e e x a s p e r a tio n o f th e p e a s a n try w ith th e W a r C o m m u n is t
r e g im e , b u t K ro n s ta d t h a d n o n a tio n w id e o r g a n is a tio n a n d n o o th e r
p e a s a n t in s u rre c tio n re p ro d u c e d th e K r o n s ta d te r s ' d e m a n d s .
H a d t h e K r o n s t a d t e r s ' d e m a n d s f o r 's o v i e t s w i t h o u t p a r t i e s ' b e e n r e
a lis e d th e y w o u ld h a v e e x p r e s s e d th e f e ro c io u s , e le m e n ta l h o s tility o f
th e p e a s a n ts t o th e B o ls h e v ik s in p a r tic u la r a n d t o th e c itie s in g e n e ra l.
Y e t in t h e w a k e o f t h e f a l l o f t h e B o l s h e v i k s i t w o u l d n o t h a v e b e e n th e
m o d e r a t e s o c i a l i s t s w h o t o o k p o w e r . T h e y w e r e in a n y c a s e w e a k e r
th a n th e B o ls h e v ik s a n d w h e r e th e y h a d tr ie d to g o v e r n in th e n o n B o ls h e v ik a r e a s th e y h a d . tim e a n d a g a in , s u c c u m b e d to (a n d o fte n
a id e d ) m ilita r y d ic ta to r s h ip s . T h e W h ite s , e v e n th o u g h th e ir a rm ie s h a d
b e e n b e a t e n in t h e f i e l d , w e r e s t i l l n o t f i n i s h e d a s t h e e m i g r e r e s p o n s e
to th e K ro n s ta d t r is in g s h o w s . In th e v a c u u m w h ic h w o u ld h a v e f o l
lo w e d th e fa ll o f th e B o ls h e v ik s , th e W h ile s w e r e th e o n ly re m a in in g
p o l i t i c a l f o r c e w h i c h c o u l d h a v e p r o f i t e d . T h i s m a y n o t h a v e b e e n th e
a im o f t h e K r o n s t a d t r e b e l l i o n b u t . g i v e n i t s u t o p i a n p r o g r a m m e a n d its
c la s s ro o t, th is w o u ld h a v e b e e n its o u tc o m e .
T h e W h i t e s s e n s e d t h i s i m m e d i a t e l y . T h e y h a d p r e d i c t e d a r i s i n g in
K ro n s ta d t a n d th e W h ite N a tio n a l C e n tr e a b r o a d s tr a in e d m ig h t a n d
m a in to p r o v id e f o o d f o r th e K r o n s ta d te rs . ra is in g a to ta l o f n e a r ly 1
m illio n F re n c h f r a n c s . 2 m illio n F in n is h m a rk s , 5 0 0 0 . $ 2 5 ,0 0 0 a n d
9 0 0 t o n s o f f l o u r in j u s t t w o w e e k s . I n d e e d th e N a t i o n a l C e n t r e w a s a l
re a d y m a k in g p la n s f o r th e f o r c e s o f th e F r e n c h n a v y a n d th o s e o f

INTERNATIONA!. SOCIALISM

64

G e n e r a l W r a n g c l . w h o M ill c o m m a n d e d 7 0 . 0 0 0 m e n i n T u r k e y , t o la n d
in K r o n s t a d t i f t h e r e v o l t w e r e t o s u c c e e d . * A s i t b e c a m e c l e a r t h a t th e
re v o lt w a s is o la te d P e tric h e n k o w a s fo rc e d to c o m e to te r m s w ith th e
r e a l i t y o f t h e b a l a n c e o f c l a s s f o r c e s . O n 13 M a r c h P e t n e h e n k o w i r e d
D a v id G rim m , th e c h ie f a g e n t o f th e N a tio n a l C e n tr e a n d G e n e ra l
W r a n g c l 's o f f i c i a l r e p r e s e n t a t i v e in F i n l a n d , f o r h e l p i n g a i n i n g f o o d .
O n 16 M a rc h P e tr ic h e n k o a c c e p te d a n o f f e r o f h e lp fro m B a ro n P V
V i l k m . a n a s s o c i a t e o f G r i m m 's w h o m 't h e B o l s h e v i k s r i g h t l y c a l l e d a
W h i t e a g e n t . ' N o n e o f t h e a i d r e a c h e d t h e g a r r i s o n b e f o r e i t w a s
c r u s h e d , b u t t h e t id e o f e v e n t s w a s p u s h i n g t h e s a i l o r s i n t o t h e a r m s o f
t h e W h i t e s , j u s t a s t h e l a t t e r h a d a l w a y s s u s p e c t e d it w o u l d .
A f t e r t h e r e v o l t w a s c r u s h e d t h e l in k b e t w e e n t h e l e a d e r s o f t h e r e
b e llio n a n d th e W h ile s b e c a m e e v e n m o re m a r k e d . P a u l A v r ic h . th e
h i s t o r i a n s y m p a t h e t i c t o t h e K r o n s t a d t n s i n g . s a y s t h e r e is 'u n d e n i a b l e
e v id e n c e ' th a t th e le a d e r s h ip o f th e r e b e llio n c a m e to a n a g r e e m e n t
w i t h t h e W h i t e s a f t e r t h e y h a d b e e n c r u s h e d a n d t h a t o n e c a n n o t r u l e
o u t th e p o s s ib ility th a t th is w a s th e c o n tin u a tio n o f a lo n g s ta n d in g r e la
t i o n s h i p . P e t r i c h e n k o h i m s e l f g o t in t o u c h w i t h W r a n g c l . o n c e m o r e
u s in g G r im m a s a n in te rm e d ia ry . H e jo in e d f o r c e s w ith W r a n g e l. r e
c r u itin g s a ilo rs to jo in a n u n d e r g ro u n d c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n a r y fig h tin g
o r g a n is a tio n in P e tr o g r a d . P e tr ic h e n k o f u r th e r s u g g e s te d to W ra n g e l
t h a t h e m a k e u s e o f t h e s l o g a n s o v i e t s w i t h o u t p a n i c s ' b u t o n l y a s a
' c o n v e n i e n t p o l i t i c a l m a n o e u v r e . O n c e t h e B o l s h e v i k s w e r e b e a t e n
't h e s l o g a n w o u l d b e s h e l v e d a n d a t e m p o r a r y m i l i t a r y d i c t a t o r s h i p i n
s ta lle d .' T h e b a la n c e o f c la s s fo rc e s h a d fin a lly b ro u g h t id e o lo g y a n d
re a lity in to a lig n m e n t.
T h e B o ls h e v ik s h a d n o c h o ic e b u t t o c r u s h th e r e v o lt. H a d th e y
w a i t e d t h e i c e in t h e G u l f o f F i n l a n d w o u l d h a v e m e l t e d a l l o w i n g th e
b a ttle s h ip s to a tta c k P e tro g ra d . T h e b a ttle to ta k e th e g a rris o n w a s
b lo o d y , e s p e c ia lly f o r th e B o ls h e v ik s . A s th e y m a d e th e ir w a y a c r o s s
th e ic e th e g u n s o f th e b a ttle s h ip s a n d th e is la n d f o r tr e s s e s c u t th e m
d o w n in in te rlo c k in g f ie ld s o f f ire . H u n d re d s o f R e d A rm y s o ld ie r s d i s
a p p e a re d th r o u g h h o le s in th e ic e . T h e d e a th to ll w a s 6 0 0 K ro n s ta d t
s a ilo r s , in c lu d in g th o s e s h o t a f te r th e b a s e w a s c a p tu r e d , a n d a t le a st
1 0 ,0 0 0 R e d s , in c lu d in g 15 o f th e 3 2 0 d e le g a t e s f r o m th e B o ls h e v ik
p a r t y 's 1 0 th C o n g r e s s w h o h a d j o i n e d t h e a s s a u l t . I t w a s . a s T r o t s k y
s a id , a tra g ic n e c e s s ity .
T h e e n d o f W a r C o m m u n is m

w o u ld h a v e c o m e w h e th e r o r n o t

K ro n s ta d t h a d r e v o lte d . B u t th e r e v o lt m a d e it a b s o lu te ly c le a r th e e ra
w a s o v e r . 'T h e K r o n s t a d t e v e n t s w e r e l ik e a f l a s h o f l i g h t e n i n g w h i c h
th r e w m o r e g la r e u p o n r e a lity th a n a n y th in g e l s e ', s a id L e n in .* T h e
T e n th P a rty C o n g re s s a d o p te d th e N e w E c o n o m ic P o lic y ( N E P ) w h ic h
e n d e d g r a i n r e q u i s i t i o n i n g . L e n i n t o l d t h e C o n g r e s s : 'o n l y a n a g r e e
m e n t w ith th e p e a s a n try c a n sa v e th e s o c ia lis t r e v o lu tio n u n til th e re v o -

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

65

l u l i o n h a s o c c u r r e d in o t h e r c o u n t r i e s .* " T h e N E P w a s a r e t r e a t f r o m
W ar C o m m u n is m

w h ic h its e lf h a d b e e n a re tre a t fro m th e p o lic ie s

>lop<ed i m m e d i a t e l y a f t e r t h e O c t o b e r r e v o l u t i o n . T h e l o n g e r t h e r e v o
lu ti o n r e m a i n e d i s o l a t e d a n d t h e m o r e d e s p e r a t e t h e e c o n o m i c c o n d i
t i o n s in R u s s i a , t h e m o r e t h e r e t r e a t w o u l d n e c e s s a r i l y b e c o m e s e v e r e
a n d d a n g ero u s.

I h e r is e o f S ta lin is m
I l ie c i v i l w a r h a d r e d u c e d i n d u s t r y t o r u b b l e . T h e w o r k i n g c l a s s b a s e o f
lire w o r k e r s ' s t a t e , m o b i l i s e d t i m e a n d a g a i n t o d e f e a t t h e W h i t e s , th e
to c k o n

w h ic h

B o ls h e v ik

p o w e r s to o d , h a d d is in te g ra te d . T h e

B o ls h e v ik s s u rv iv e d th re e y e a rs o f c iv il w a r a n d w a rs o f in te rv e n tio n ,
b u t o n l y a t t h e c o s t o f r e d u c i n g th e w o r k i n g c l a s s t o a n a t o m i s e d , i n d i
v id u a lis e d m a s s , a f r a c tio n o f its f o r m e r s iz e , a n d n o lo n g e r a b le t o e x
e r c i s e t h e c o l l e c t i v e p o w e r t h a t it h a d d o n e in 1 9 1 7 . L e n i n w r o t e :

The industrial proletariat . owing to the


and to the desperate poverty
and ruin, has become declassed.. dislodgedfrom its class groose. and has
ceased to etui as a proletariat . . It has sometimes figured in statistics, hut
it has not held together economically
T h e b u r e a u c r a c y o f th e w o r k e r s ' s ta te w a s le ft s u s p e n d e d in m id a ir,
u s c la s s b a s e e r o d e d a n d d e m o r a lis e d . S u c h c o n d itio n s c o u ld n o t h e lp
b u t h a v e a n e f f e c t o n th e m a c h in e r y o f th e s ta te a n d o r g a n is a tio n o f th e
B o ls h e v ik P a rty .
T h e B o ls h e v ik s * m o n o p o ly o f p o litic a l p o w e r h a d b e e n e s ta b lis h e d
b y v irtu e o f th e s im p le f a c t th a t, o n e b y o n e . th e p a rtie s w h o o p p o s e d
th e m p a s s e d o v e r to th e c a m p o f a rm e d c o u n te r-re v o lu tio n . T h e C a d e ts
h a d . o f c o u r s e , b e e n h a n d in g lo v e w ith K o rn ilo v e v e n b e fo re th e
O c t o b e r r e v o l u t i o n a n d w e r e th e m a i n s t a y o f e v e r y W h i t e d i c t a t o r s h i p
w h ic h

su rfa ce d

d u rin g

th e

c iv il

w a r.

The

R ig h t

S o c ia lis t

R e v o lu tio n a rie s h a d p la n n e d a r m e d c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n a t th e tim e o f


th e d is p e rs a l o f th e C o n s titu e n t A s s e m b ly a n d h a d b e c o m e in d is tin
g u is h a b le fro m th e C a d e ts d u rin g th e c o u r s e o f th e c iv il w a r. T h e L e ft
S o c i a l i s t R e v o l u t i o n a r i e s h a d b e e n p a r t o f t h e S o v i e t g o v e r n m e n t in
1 9 1 8 a n d r e m a in e d a le g a l o p p o s itio n u n til, in th e s u m m e r o f th a t y e a r ,
t h e y a t t e m p t e d t o o v e r t h r o w t h e g o v e r n m e n t in a n a r m e d c o u p .
T h e M e n s h e v ik s w e re d iffe re n t. T h e y v a c illa te d . S o m e M e n s h e v ik s ,
a n d s o m e L S R s . s p lit a n d jo in e d th e B o ls h e v ik s . S o m e jo in e d th e
W h ite s . T h e r e s t a lte r n a te d b e tw e e n a c c e p tin g th e le g itim a c y o f th e
g o v e r n m e n t a n d a g ita tin g fo r its o v e r th r o w . T h e B o ls h e v ik s tr e a te d
th e m a c c o r d in g ly . T h e M e n s h e v ik s w e r e le g a lis e d o r e x te n d e d g re a te r

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

66

f re e d o m d u r in g th o s e p e rio d s w h e n th e y a c c e p te d th e O c to b e r r e v o lu
t i o n a n d s u p p r e s s e d d u r i n g t h o s e p e r i o d s w h e n t h e y v o w e d t o r e t u r n to
a p r e - O c to b e r r e g im e . A s E H C a n n o te s :

If it wat true that the Bolshevik regime was run prepared after the first few
months to tolerate an organised opposition, it was equally true that no op
position was prepared to remain within legal limits The premise of the dic
tatorship was common to both sides o f the argument T
T h e v i c e - l i k e p r e s s u r e o f t h e c i v i l w a r h a d t r a n s f o r m e d t h e s t a t e in
o th e r w a y s . T h e w e ig h t o f th e b u re a u c ra c y , o f th e a rm y , o f th e C h e k a
h a d g r o w n e n o r m o u s ly d u r in g th e c iv il w a r. W ith o u t th e s e in s titu tio n s
th e O c to b e r re g im e w o u ld h a v e b e e n s w e p t a w a y in a b lo o d y , r e a c
tio n a r y c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n . W ith th e m th e O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n h a d
b e c o m e s c l e r o t i c a n d a u t h o r i t a r i a n . T h e r e w e r e s o m a n y 'h o r r i f y i n g
fa c ts a b o u t d ru n k e n n e s s , d e b a u c h e ry , c o rru p tio n , ro b b e ry a n d irre s p o n
s ib le b e h a v io u r o f m a n y p a rty m e m b e r s th a t o n e 's h a ir s im p ly s ta n d s
o n e n d , o n e C e n tr a l C o m m itte e m e m b e r to ld th e E ig h th P a rty
C o n g r e s s ." ' T h e p o w e r o f th e b u r e a u c r a c y , a n d w ith in th e b u re a u c ra c y
th e p o w e r o f its to p la y e rs , g re w .
T h e B o l s h e v i k P a r t y i t s e l f h a d u n d e r g o n e d r a m a t i c c h a n g e s . B y th e
e n d o f th e c i v i l w a r o n ly o n e p a r t y m e m b e r in e v e r y te n a c tu a lly
w o r k e d i n a f a c t o r y , 1 s i x o u t o f e v e r y t e n w e r e e m p l o y e d i n t h e g o v
e r n m e n t o r p a r t y m a c h i n e a n d a q u a r t e r o f p a r t y m e m b e r s s e r v e d i n th e
R e d A rm y , o f te n in p o s itio n s o f p o litic a l o r m ilita r y a u th o r ity . T h e m il
i t a r y o f t e n r e t u r n e d h o m e a n d 'a s s u m e d l e a d i n g p o s t s i n t h e l o c a l s o v i
e ts . in th e e c o n o m y , in e d u c a tio n a n d th e y p e r s is te n tly in tro d u c e d
e v e r y w h e r e t h a t r e g i m e w h i c h e n s u r e d s u c c e s s i n t h e c i v i l w a r ', a r g u e d
T r o t s k y in

The Resolution B e tra yed *

T h e n e e d fo r d is c ip lin e d u rin g th e c iv il w a r. fo r c e n tra lis a tio n , w a s


n o t s o m e th in g s im p ly f o is te d o n th e p a rty b y th e le a d e rs h ip . It w a s a
p r e s s i n g n e e d f e lt b y t h e r a n k a n d f i l e m e m b e r s e v e r y b i t a s m u c h a s b y
th e le a d e rs h ip :

There were times between 1918 and 1921. indeed, when Lenin and his asso
ciates lagged somewhat behind a vociferous body o f local opinion which
urged an extension and reinforcement o f the centralising and disciplinary
trends. . .**
. . . i t was the civil war which did the trick. Almost overnight U was i*irnessed that nearly all those dyed-in-the-wool defenders of local rights in
1917 were now ready, howeser reluctantly, to recognise that the military
crisis calledfor the introduction o f stern internal discipline . . .**

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

67

T h e T e n th P a rty C o n g re s s w a s a tra u m a tic e x p e rie n c e . T h e c r is is o f


W a r C o m m u n is m p ro d u c e d a m a s s iv e w a v e o f d e b a te a n d o p p o s itio n
a m o n g th e B o ls h e v ik s . T h e r e w e r e n o f e w e r th a n e ig h t d if f e r e n t p la t
fo rm s p u t fo rw a rd b y d if f e r e n t g ro u p s a n d in d iv id u a ls . T h e W o rk e rs*
O p p o s itio n p r e s e n te d a n e x te n s iv e c r itiq u e o f th e d ir e c tio n th e re g im e
w a s h e a d in g . T h e W o rk e rs* O p p o s itio n w a n te d to re fo r m th e s y s te m b y
h a n d i n g p o w e r t o t h e t r a d e u n i o n s a n d w o r k e r s in t h e f a c t o r i e s . T h e d i f
fic u lty w a s th a t th e w o r k in g c la s s , a s w e h a v e s e e n , h a d b e e n d e c i
m a te d . T h e W o rk e rs * O p p o s itio n s p la n s c o u ld o n ly h a v e le d to a
d is in te g r a tio n o f th e re g im e .
l x n i n h a d a d i f f e r e n t , t w o f o l d s o l u t i o n . F i r s t l y , h e w a n t e d t o s t o p th e
p a r t y w h i c h h e d e s c r i b e d a s s i c k , f e v e r i s h f r o m t e a r i n g i t s e l f a p a r t
u n d e r th e p re s s u re o f e v e n ts . H e d e c la re d :

there should not be the slightest trace o f factionalismwhatever its mani


festations in the past. That h * must not have on any account. . . (w h e n th e re
is a ) tremendous preponderance of peasants in the country. when their dis
satisfaction with the proletarian dictatorship is mounting, and when the de
mobilisation o f the peasant army is setting loose hundreds and thousands of
broken men who have nothing to do. whose only accustomed occupation is
H sir and who breed banditry . . The atmosphere of the controversy is be
coming extremely dangerous and constitutes a direct threat to the dictator
ship of the proletariatM
T h e C o n g r e s s v o te d t o b a n f a c tio n s . A g a in , it w a s n o r s im p ly a le a d
e r s h ip d ik ta t. R a d e k s p o k e f o r m a n y w h e n h e to ld th e C o n g re s s :

in voting for this resolution. I feel that it can well be turned against us. nev
ertheless I support i t . . . Let the Central Committee in a moment of danger
take the severest measures against the best party comrades, if it finds this
necessary. Let the Central Committee even be mistakenThat is less dan
gerous than the wavering which is now observable **
N e ith e r w a s th e b a n c o n s id e re d to ta l o r p e rm a n e n t. W h e n o n e s e n io r
B o ls h e v ik trie d t o g e t th e C o n g r e s s to a g re e a b a n o n s e p a ra te p la tfo rm s
in C e n tr a l C o m m itte e e le c tio n s . L e n in re p lie d :

We cannot deprive the parry and the members of the Central Committee of
the right to appeal to the parry in the event of disagreement on fundamental
issues . . Supposing we are faced with a question like. say. the conclusion
of the Brest peace? Can you guarantee that no such question will arise 7 No.
you cannot In the circumstances, the elections may have to be based on
platforms

68

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM
S e c o n d ly . L e n in fo u g h t, in th e la s t b a ttle o f h is lif e , t o r e fo r m th e b u

r e a u c r a c y f r o m w ith in . H e sa id :

you can throw out the Tutr. throw out the landowners, threrw out the capi
talists but you cannot throw out' the bureaucracy in a peasant country
You can only reduce it by slow and stubborn effort . . . for many years to
come."*
L e n i n s o u g h t T r o t s k y 's a i d in u n d e r m i n i n g S t a l i n 's g r o w i n g p o w e r ,
h e fo u g h t t o s tr e n g th e n th e W o r k e r s ' a n d P e a s a n ts ' In s p e c to ra te w h ic h
w a s m e a n t to c o u n te r b u r e a u c r a tic a b u s e a n d h e tr ie d to c o m b a t th e
g r o w i n g R u s s i a n c h a u v i n i s m i n t h e s t a t e m a c h i n e . B u t L e n i n 's w o r s e n
i n g h e a l t h h a m p e r e d h i m . H e f i r s t b e c a m e ill in m i d - 1 9 2 1 . s u f f e r e d a
s t r o k e in M a y 1 9 2 2 . r e l u m e d t o w o r k b u t f e l l i l l a g a i n i n D e c e m b e r
1 9 2 2 . I n M a r c h 1 9 2 3 h e w a s a g a i n s t r i c k e n b y a s t r o k e w h i c h le f t h i m
p a r t i a l l y p a r a l y s e d a n d v i r t u a l l y u n a b l e t o s p e a k u n t i l h i s d e a t h in
J a n u a ry 1 9 2 4 . H is la s t n o te s w e re in s is te n t (h a t S ta lin s h o u ld b e r e
m o v e d fro m th e p o s t o f G e n e ra l S e c re ta ry .
B u t L e n i n 's l a s t b a t t l e , l i k e T r o t s k y s o p p o s i t i o n t o S t a l i n w h i c h
b e g a n in 1 9 2 3 , s u f f e r e d f r o m a f u n d a m e n t a l w e a k n e s s . A f t e r t h e w a r
th e r e g im e w a s le ft s tr a n d e d , th e w e ll-h e a d o f re n e w a l a n d th o ro u g h
r e f o r m th e

a c tiv ity

of

th e

w o rk e rs h ad

d rie d

to

tric k le .

B u re a u c ra tic a b u s e a n d c o r ru p tio n w e re th e in e v ita b le r e s u lt. T o a p p e a l


o u ts id e th e m a c h in e , a s th e W o r k e r s ' O p p o s itio n h a d w a n te d , w a s im
p o s s ib le . T h is is th e tr a g e d y o f L e n in s la s t f ig h t a n d o f th e L e ft
O p p o s itio n . T h e y k n e w th e p ro b le m b u t th e m e a n s at th e ir d is p o s a l w a s
n o t e q u a l to th e ta s k . H e n c e th e p a u c ity o f th e m e a s u r e s th e y a d v o
c a t e d : s e l f - r e f o r m o f t h e b u r e a u c r a c y . H e r e i s t h e r o o t o f T r o t s k y 's
d e fe a t. T o fig h t w ith in th e b u re a u c ra c y w a s to fig h t o n te rm s m o re
f a v o u r a b l e t o S t a l i n t h a n t o T r o t s k y . T r o t s k y s s t r e n g t h , l ik e L e n i n s ,
h a d a lw a y s b e e n h is lin k w ith th e w o rk e rs . F ro m th e m h e d r e w in s p ir a
tio n . O n th e m h e p la c e d a ll h is h o p e s f o r a s o c ia lis t s o c ie ty . A g a in s t
th e ir e x p e rie n c e h e ju d g e d th e c o r re c tn e s s o f h is s tra te g y . A n d . m o s t o f
a ll. it w a s o n th e c o n s c io u s n e s s a n d o r g a n is a tio n o f th e w o r k e r s th a t h e
re lie d in e v e r y m a jo r s tru g g le .
S ta lin , b y c o n tr a s t, r e lie d o n th e m a c h in e o n th e c o m m itte e , th e
th re a t, th e

o rd e r an d

th e

b rib e .

He

w as

d e te rm in e d

to

'b u r y

T r o t s k y i s m ', i n s i s t i n g t h a t t h e T r o t s k y i s t 'c a d r e s c a n b e r e m o v e d o n l y
b y c iv il w a r .' A n d c iv il w a r th e re w a s . It b e g a n w ith O p p o s itio n s p e a k
e r s b e in g h e c k le d a n d a s s a u lte d . T h e n th e w h o le v a s t p r o p a g a n d a m a
c h in e o f th e b u r e a u c r a c y w a s tu r n e d a g a in s t th e m . L a te r, th e y w e re
e x ile d , im p ris o n e d a n d s h o t.
T h e T r o t s k y i s t O p p o s i t i o n f o u g h t c o u r a g e o u s l y . I t s o m e t i m e s s a w its
a rg u m e n ts g a in in g c o n s id e r a b le g ro u n d a m o n g p a rty m e m b e rs . M a n y

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

69

p a rly m e m b e rs , e s p e c ia lly ih e e x p e r ie n c e d p a r ty m e m b e r s w h o h a d
liv e d a n d fo u g h t th ro u g h 1 9 1 7 , w e re s u p p o r te r s o f th e O p p o s itio n .
B u i u ltim a te ly , w ith o u t a re v iv a l o f s tru g g le in R u s s ia o r s u c c e s s fu l
re v o lu tio n e ls e w h e r e , th e O p p o s itio n w a s d o o m e d t o f a ilu re . T h a t h o w
e v e r c o u l d n o t b e k n o w n in a d v a n c e . T r o t s k y f o u g h t o n . e v e n t h o u g h
Ih e g r o u n d o n w h i c h h e s t o o d w a s b e i n g c o n s u m e d b y f i r e , in t h e h o p e
th a t a r e v iv a l o f d o m e s tic o r in te r n a tio n a l s tr u g g le w o u ld c o m e t o h is
a id . T h e o n ly o t h e r c h o ic e w a s c a p itu la tio n .
T h e T r o t s k y i s t s ' s t r u g g l e d e l a y e d S t a l i n 's r i s e t o p o w e r , a r i s e w h i c h
w a s o n l y c o m p l e t e a f t e r t h e 1-cft O p p o s i t i o n w a s b r o k e n i n 1 9 2 8 . n o t
b e fo re . T h is is w h y th e m a jo rity o f h is to ria n s n o te th e d if f e r e n c e b e
t w e e n t h e 'r e v o l u t i o n ' f r o m a b o v e w h i c h c a m e a f t e r 1 9 2 8 a n d t h e
p e r i o d b e f o r e 1 9 2 8 . T h e s t r u g g l e o f t h e L e f t O p p o s i t i o n a l s o m a d e it
o b v io u s th a t S ta lin w a s th e b e tr a y e r o f th e r e v o lu tio n a n d th a t h is
re g im e w a s th e c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n a r y a n tith e s is o f th e O c to b e r r e v o lu
t i o n . S t a l i n 's r e g i m e n o t o n l y r e v e r s e d e v e r y r e m a i n i n g g a i n o f O c t o b e r
b u t h a d to a n n ih ila te th e e n tir e le a d e r s h ip a n d m a n y o f th e o r d in a r y
B o ls h e v ik s w h o h a d m a d e th e O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n . T h e f a c t th a t h e
c o u ld d o s o b y a d m in is tr a tiv e te rro r, n o t b y th e m o re n o rm a l m e a n s o f
a n a rm e d c o u n te r re v o lu tio n a ry s e iz u r e o f p o w e r, w a s a re s u lt o f th e
a to m is a tio n o f th e w o rk in g c la s s . N o w id e r u s e o f f o r c e w a s n e c e s s a ry ,
n o m a r tia l la w . n o c u r f e w o r s tr e e t b a ttle s , b e c a u s e th e c o n d itio n o f th e
w o rk in g c la s s h a d r e d u c e d th e b a ttle b e tw e e n re v o lu tio n a n d c o u n te r
re v o lu tio n to a s tru g g le c o n c e r n in g , a lb e it n o t e x c lu s iv e ly , d if f e r e n t
s e c tio n s o f th e B o ls h e v ik p a rty . T h is s h o u ld n o t b lin d u s t o th e s c a le o f
th e c o u n te r - r e v o lu tio n w h ic h d id ta k e p la c e , to th e e s s e n tia l d iffe re n c e
b e tw e e n th e S ta lin r e g im e a n d . e v e n , th e r e g im e o f th e m id - 1 9 2 0 s .
S te p h e n C o h e n a rg u e s:

Stalin's new policies o f 1929-33. the great change' as they became known,
were a radical departure from Bolshevik programmatic thinking. No
Bolshevik leader or faction had ever advocated anything akin to imposed
collectivisation, the liquidation of allegedly prosperous peasants (kulaks),
breakneck heavy industrialisation, the destruction of the entire market
sector, and a plan' that was in reality no plan at all. only hypercentrahsed
control of the economy plus exhortations These years of revolution from
above' were, historically and programmatically, the birth period of
Stalinism
M i c h a l R e i m a n 's i n v a l u a b l e

The Birth o f Stalinism

a rriv e s a t s im ila r

c o n c lu s io n s b y tr a c in g in im p r e s s iv e d e ta il th e c o m p le te n e s s o f th is
r u p t u r e .* * C o h e n a l s o a r g u e s :

70

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM
Official ideology changed radically under Stalin. Several of thoie changes
have been noted by Western and Soviet scholars : the revival o f nationalism,
statism. anti semitism, and conservative, or reactionary, cultural and be
havioural norms: the repeal o f ideas and legislation favouring workers,
women, schoolchildren, minority cultures, and egalitarianism, as well as a
host of revolutionary and Bolshevik symbols. and a switch in emphasis from
ordinary people to leaders and official bosses as the creators of history.
They were not simply amendments but a new ideology that u j changed in
essence' and that did 'not represent the same movement as that which took
power in I9l7.m

T h e p o in i is n o l t o id e a lis e th e B o ls h e v ik r e g im e o f th e e a r ly 1 9 2 0 s.
O f c o u r s e th e y h a d a r riv e d a t a p o in t fa r d is ta n t fro m th e g o a ls o f 1 9 1 7 .
T h is a n a ly s is is m e r e ly m e a n t t o d e m o n s tr a te t w o p o in ts : i) th a t i t w a s
o v e rw h e lm in g ly

th e

fo rc e

o f c irc u m s ta n c e

w h ic h

o b lig e d

th e

B o l s h e v i k s t o r e t r e a t s o f a r f r o m t h e i r g o a l s . T h e y t r a v e l l e d t h i s r o u t e in
o p p o s itio n to th e ir o w n th e o ry , n o t b e c a u s e o f it n o m a tte r w h a t
r h e to r ic a l ju s tif ic a tio n s w e r e g iv e n a t th e tim e . a n d ii) th e a lte rn a tiv e s
a v a ila b le a t th e tim e w e r e w o rs e th a n th e B o ls h e v ik s . E v e n th o s e m o v e
m e n ts w h ic h , o n p a p e r, a p p e a re d to h a v e a m o re d e m o c ra tic p r o
g r a m m e ( W o rk e r s O p p o s itio n . K r o n s ta d t. M a k h n o ) w e re e ith e r fra u d s
( M a k h n o ) o r U to p ia n s . T h e y w e r e U to p ia n s b e c a u s e t h e y l o o k e d b a c k t o
th e in s titu tio n s o f 1 9 1 7 w h e n th e c la s s w h ic h m a d e s u c h in s titu tio n s
p o s s i b l e n o l o n g e r h a d t h e c o l l e c t i v e c a p a b i l i t y t o d i r e c t p o l i t i c a l l if e .
T h i s i s t h e t r a g e d y o f th e e a r l y 1 9 2 0 s : th e B o l s h e v i k s h a d b e a t e n t h e i r
o p p o n e n ts b y d e s tr o y in g th e b a s e o n w h ic h th e y s to o d lite r a lly d e
s t r o y e d it b y d e a t h i n c u r r e d a t t h e f r o n t o r b y d e p o p u l a t i n g t h e c i t i e s a s
a r e s u lt o f s ta r v a tio n , d is e a s e a n d flig h t to th e c o u n tr y . T h e la c k o f
d e m o c ra c y w a s a r e s u lt o f th is , n o t a firs t c a u s e . T h e s e c re t o f th e
S t a l i n i s t b u r e a u c r a c y 's s u c c e s s l a y i n t h e d e v a s t a t i o n a n d i s o l a t i o n o f
t h e w o r k e r s s t a te .

T h e O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n a n d p o litic s to d a y
In m a n y m a jo r in d u s tr ia lis e d c o u n tr ie s th e 1 9 8 0 s w e r e m o s tly a p e rio d
o f r e tr e a t f o r th e w o r k e r s ' m o v e m e n t a n d th e le f t, ir r e s p e c tiv e o f
w h e th e r rig h t w in g g o v e rn m e n ts ( R e a g a n . T h a tc h e r. K o h l) o r rig h t
w in g s o c ia l d e m o c ra tic g o v e r n m e n ts (M itte r r a n d . H a w k e . G o n z a le s )
w e r e in p o w e r . U n d e r t h e s e c o n d i t i o n s v e r y c o n s i d e r a b l e s e c t i o n s o f
t h e le f t b e g a n t o e v o l v e , f i r s t , in t h e d i r e c t i o n o f l e f t

re fo rm is m . T h is

w a s t h e e r a o f i n f a t u a t i o n w i t h t h e L a b o u r l e f t in B r i t a i n , t h e S o c i a l i s t
P a r t y i n F r a n c e . P A S O K in G r e e c e , t h e c o l l a p s e o f th e I t a l i a n r e v o l u
tio n a ry le ft a n d th e ris e o f m o v e m e n tis m in te rn a tio n a lly , l-a tte rly . fa c e d
w ith th e fa ilu re o f th e s e p r o je c ts a n d v e r y m u c h u n d e r th e in f lu e n c e o f

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

71

e v e n ts in E a s te rn E u ro p e a n d th e c o n s e q u e n t c o lla p s e o f th e W e s te rn
C o m m u n is t P a rtie s , th is e v o lu tio n h a s te n d e d to w a rd o u tr ig h t a n d
a l m o s t u n q u a l i f i e d i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h b o u r g e o i s d e m o c r a c y , a t l e a s t in
in te lle c tu a l c irc le s .
T h is p r o c e s s w a s a c c e le ra te d b y th e s e c o n d G u l f W a r. d u r in g w h ic h
a n u m b e r o f s o c ia lis ts (N o rm a n G e r a s . F re d H a llid a y in B rita in , fo r in
s ta n c e ) d e c id e d to b a c k U S a n d B ritis h im p e ria lis m . S ig n ific a n t n u m
b e rs o f o th e r s , n o ta b ly th e e d ito ria l b o a rd o f

N ew Left Review,

w e re, a t

b e s t , c a r e f u l t o c o u c h t h e i r p a r t i a l o p p o s i t i o n in t e r m s c i r c u m s c r i b e d b y
b o u r g e o is d e m o c r a c y ( s u p p o rt fo r s a n c tio n s , a d v o c a c y o f th e U N ). T h e
r e s u l t is t h a t m u c h o f w h a t n o w p a s s e s f o r s o c i a l i s t t h o u g h t i s i n d i s t i n
g u is h a b le fro m ru n o f th e m ill lib e ra lis m . T h e s w e llin g lite ra tu re o n c it
iz e n s h ip . d e m o c ra tic a n d c o n s titu tio n a l re fo rm , th e v ir tu e s o f c iv il
s o c ie ty a n d s o o n a r e th e u n m is ta k a b le s y m b o ls o f t h is p ro c e s s . In th is
w o r l d t h e s u p e r i o r i t y o f t h e m a r k e t is t a k e n a s a x i o m a t i c .
In th e s e d e v e lo p m e n ts th e h is to r y o f th e O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n h a s a
k e y p l a c e . O n c e t h e a r g u m e n t t h a t L e n i n l e d t o S t a l i n is e s t a b l i s h e d ,
a n y a lte r n a tiv e t o th e m a r k e t a n d b o u r g e o is d e m o c r a c y b e c o m e s th a t
m u c h m o re d if f ic u lt to m a k e . T o s tra y f r o m th e s tra ig h t a n d n a rro w
ro a d w a lk e d b y

S M i l l a n d A d a m S m i t h is t o c o u r t t h e g u l a g . W e l iv e

in t h e b e s t o f a ll p o s s i b l e w o r l d s , r u n s t h e a r g u m e n t , a n d t h e f a t e o f t h e
O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n d e m o n s tr a te s th e f o o lh a r d in e s s o f tr y in g t o c h a n g e
it. P a u l H i r s t , n o w a l e a d i n g f i g u r e in t h e c i v i l r i g h t s g r o u p C h a r t e r 8 8 .
h a s la tte rly b e c o m e s o c o n v in c e d th a t th e m a rk e t a n d th e ru le o f la w a re
th e o n ly v ia b le fo rm s o f s o c ie ty th a t a n y v is io n o f a n a lte rn a tiv e
w h e t h e r L e n i n 's o r t h e e c o - s o c i a l d e m o c r a c y o f V a c l a v H a v e l a r c
tre a te d a s d a n g e r o u s u to p ia n d r e a m s . *
R o b i n B l a c k b u r n 's a t t e m p t t o t r y a n d f i n d t h e n o n - e x i s t e n t t h r e a d
t h a t is s u p p o s e d t o c o n n e c t t h o s e h i g h p r i e s t s o f t h e f r e e m a r k e t , v o n
M i s c s a n d v o n H a y c k , w i t h T r o t s k y is a n o t h e r r e s p o n s e t o t h e s e d e v e l
o p m e n t s . B l a c k b u r n 's p o i n t s e e m s t o b e t h a t , a s T r o t s k y a r g u e d t h a t
s o m e f o r m o f m a r k e t m e c h a n i s m w o u l d b e u s e d in t h e t r a n s i t i o n t o a
c o m m u n is t s o c ie ty , th e le a d e r o f th e R u s s ia n R e v o lu tio n m u s t h a v e
s o m e t h i n g i n c o m m o n w i t h t o d a y 's d e s c e n d a n t s o f v o n H a y e k a n d v o n
M i s e s . T h e s m a l l q u e s t i o n o f w h i c h c l a s s i s in p o w e r , t h e c a p i t a l i s t
c l a s s o r t h e w o r k i n g c l a s s , d o e s n o t i m p i n g e o n t h i s a n a l y s i s . O r a t le a s t
it o n l y i m p i n g e s t o t h e e x t e n t t h a t t h e m a r k e t i s a s s u m e d t o b e a s t r a t
e g y fo r g a in in g p o w e r, ra th e r th a n a m e c h a n is m th a t m a y b e u s e d ,
u n d e r g r e a t l y a l t e r e d c o n d i t i o n s , o n c e a r e v o l u t i o n h a s s u c c e e d e d . I t is .
th e n , m e r e ly th e d if f e r e n c e b e tw e e n r e fo r m a n d re v o lu tio n .
S o m a n y o f t h e s e a r g u m e n t s d e p e n d o n a r e v i v a l , in w h o l e o r i n p a r t,
o f a n e s s e n tia lly C o ld W a r in te r p r e ta tio n o f th e R u s s ia n R e v o lu tio n .
Y e t i f t h e h i s t o r y o f t h e O c t o b e r r e v o l u t i o n is n o t a s o n e - t i m e s o c i a l i s t s
w o u ld h a v e u s b e lie v e , th e n th e w o r k e r s m o v e m e n t o f to d a y s till h a s a

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

72

p o w e rfu l w e a p o n in its a rm o u ry - M a s s u n e m p lo y m e n t, w a r a n d im p e ri
a lis m . th ir d w o r ld s ta rv a tio n a n d firs t w o rld p o v e rty , h o m e le s s n e s s a n d
e c o n o m ic e x p lo ita tio n , ra c is m a n d s e x is m , a n ti-u n io n la w s a n d . a t b e s t,
c a s t r a t e d p o l i t i c a l r i g h t s a r c n o t a ll t h a t t h e w o r l d h a s t o o f f e r . T h e n th e
u n p r e c e d e n t e d p o l i t i c a l f r e e d o m , t h e c u l t u r a l a n d a r t i s t i c e x p l o s i o n , th e
u n iq u e e c o n o m ic lib e r a tio n , th e s e x u a l a n d n a tio n a l r is in g s th a t w e re
th e h a llm a r k o f th e e a r ly d a y s o f th e O c to b e r r e v o lu tio n , a n d w h ic h th is
e s s a y o n th e d a r k h o u r s o f th e r e v o lu tio n h a s h a d little tim e t o c o n s id e r ,
a r e s t i l l w i t h i n o u r r e a c h . T h e O c t o b e r r e v o l u t i o n is

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G e n c h e v . L i n d r e y G e r m a n . C h m H a rm a n . M ik e H a y n e s . J o h n M o iy -n e u t. FVee M o rg a n
a n d . e s p e c ia lly , t o N ik o la i P r e o b r a z h e n s k y .
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( L o n d o n . I9 9 0 X

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S e e J o n a th a n S t e e le . S o lz h e n its y n O f f T h e P r e s s . T r o t s k y U n d e r W r a p s '.

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4

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S e e J S k s v o . S o c ia lis t A s p ira tio n s a n d S o c ia lis t R e a litie s . The A fr ic a n C o m m u n ist.


N o 1 2 4 . ( J o h a n n e s b u r g . 1 9 9 1 ). p 9 S im ila r b u t m o r e c o d e d f o e m u la lio n s a p p e a r in J
S l o s o . H a t S o c ia lism F a ile d 7 ( L o n d o n . 1 9 9 0 )

R B la c k b u r n . 'F i n d e S i e c l c : S o c i a l i s m a f t e r th e c r a s h '. N e w L e ft R e v ie w 1 8 5 .
J a n u a r y iT e b r u a iy 1 9 9 1 . p 2 l .

9
10
11

P H i r s t . 'T h e S t a l e . C i v i l S o c i e t y a n d i h e C o l l a p s e o f S o v i e t C o m m u n i s m '.

F c o n o m y a n d S o c ie ty . V o lu m e 2 0 . N o .2 . M a y 1 9 9 1 . p 2 l 9
S F a r b e r . B e fo re S ia h m im ( P o lity P r e s s . 1 9 9 1 ). p p 9 9 a n d 109.
S e e A g a in s t th e C u r r e n t. N o s . 2 9 a n d 3 2 ( D e t r o i t ) T h e p a r tic u la r ly n g h r w in g , a n ti
L e n in is t a c c o u n t rs T S m i th . T h e E th ic s o f S o c ia lis t P r a a i c '. A g a in it th e C u rren t.
N o . 3 2 . p p 4 3 -4 5 .

12

S e c S F a r b e r . o p o t . p l 2.

13

B K a g a r l i t s k y . T h e T h in k in g R e e d ( L o n d o n . 1 9 8 8 ) . p p 4 l a n d 6 5 . a lt h o u g h t h e
g e n e r a l te n o r o f K a g a r l i t s k y 's a c c o u n t is le s s c r itic a l o f th e B o ls h e v ik s in sh iv w o rk
th a n m h is l a t e r T h e D ia le c tic o f C h a n g e . P o s s i b ly t h i s is b e c a u s e T h e T h in k in g

R e e d w a s w ritte n w h e n th e o p p o s itio n m o v e m e n t b a re ly e n v i e d a n d w h e n th e d e c a y
o f th e r e g im e w a s n o t s o a d v a n c e d .
14

R B la c k b u r n , o p c t l . p 8 .

15
16

L T r o ts k y . R e s u lts a n d P r o s p e c t s ' in The P e rm a n e n t R r v o lu h o n a n d R e su lts a n d


P ro sp e c ts ( N e w Y o rk . 1 9 6 9 ). p l 0 5 .
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17

Ib sd , p p l 7 - 1 8 .

18

I N d .p S S

19
20

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E H C a rr, o p c it. pS9.

21

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K K a u ts k v . T h e D ic ta to r s h ip o f th e P ro le ta ria t ( U n i v e r s i t y o f M ic h i g a n . 1 9 6 4 ) .

F*
23

V S e r g e , f e a r O n e O f th e R u ssia n R e v o lu tio n ( L o n d o n . 1 9 7 2 ). p p 3 1 4 -3 1 5 .

24

V S e r g e . D r w ir y o f a R e v o lu tio n ( L o n d o n . 1 9 3 7 ). p I 4 4

25

V S e r g e . Y ea r O n e

26

Q u c * e d i n T C l i f f . L e m n V o J 4 : T V B o lsh e v ik s a n d th e W o rld R e v o lu tio n ( L o n d o n .

27
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S e e T C l i f f . T ro tsk y . 1 9 1 7 -1 9 2 3 . th e S w o r d o f th e R e v o lu tio n ( L o n d o n . 1 9 9 0 ). p 2 l I .
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S e e 'T h e B e r lin U S P D d r h u e o n I V N a ro n a l A s s e m b l y ' in T h e T h ird In te rn a tio n a l

30

in L e n i n ' t T im e . T h e G e r m a n R e v o l u t io n a n d t h e D e b a te o n S o v i e t P o w e r ,
d o c u m e n tt 1 9 1 8 -1 9 1 9 ( t ie r , Y o rk . I 9 8 6 ) . p l 2 8
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.o p c iL p 3 2 5 .

1 9 7 9 ). pH

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R P tp n .o p c it.p 4 9 t.

32

Q u o te d in W B ru c e L i n c o ln . R e d V u to r y (N e w Y o r k . 1 9 8 9 ). p p 2 8 . 3 9 - 4 0

33

Q u o t e d in M F e r r o . O c to b e r 1 9 1 7 . a S o c ia l H is to r y o f th e R u s s ia n R e v o lu tio n
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L T r o t i k y . H is to r y o f th e R u ssia n R e v o lu tio n ( L o n d o n . 1 9 7 7 ). p 2 4 0 .
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V S e t f t . T ear O ne

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M J o n e i . 'Y e a r o f T w o R e v o l u t i o n i * . i n M J o n e s ( e d ) . S to r m in g th e H e a v e n s .
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.o p e n . p l0 9

T h e B o ls h e v ik s w ith d re w th e s lo g a n

A ll p o w e r t o t h e s o v i e t s ' a f te r th e d e f e a t o f

t h e J u ly t> y i s in c e th e y w o m e d t h a t th e le a d e r s h ip o f th e s o v ie t s h a d irr e trie v a b ly


f a lle n i n t o th e h a n d s o f th e m o d e r a te s o c i a l i s t s

I n s t e a d th e y b r i e f l y b a s e d th e ir

s tr a te g y o n t h e m o re re s p o n s iv e lo c a l fa c to r y c o m m itte e s W h e n th e p o p u la r m o o d
t u r n e d d e c i s i v e l y a g a i n s t th e P r o v i s i o n a l g o v e r n m e n t a n d th e m o d e r a t e s in th e
s o v ie t s th e B o ls h e v ik s r e tu rn e d to th e ir o r ig i n a l fo r m u la tio n . N o n e o f th is a lte r s th e
e s s e n c e o f th e B o ls h e v ik s ' s tr a te g y w h ic h w a s t o ta k e p o w e r f r o m t h e P r o v is io n a l
g o v e rn m e n t a n d p u t it in th e h a n d s o f p o p u la r o r g a n s o f w o r k in g c l a s s p o w e r
p o in t la te r m a d e e x p lic it b y T r o ts k y in h is L e s io n s o f O cto b er.
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IN d . p 4 6
( V o t e d in R M e d v e d e v . o p c i l . p p 7 ( V 7 l.

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49

( e d ) . S to rm in g th e H e a v e n s, o p c i t . p i 16.
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a itu d y in o r g a n is a tio n a l c h a n g e
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S C o h e n R e th in k in g ih e S o v ie t E x p e r ie n c e ( O U P . 1 9 8 5 ). p 5 . P r o b a b l y th e b e s t
k n o w n o f th e C o ld W a r h is to r ia n s is L e o n a rd S h a p iro . C o h e n p r o v id e s a n
im p r e s s iv e lis t o f q u o t e s a b o u t th e 's t r a i g h t l i n e ' fr o m L e n in t o S ta lin o n p p 4 2 -4 3 .

'4

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M ill w e a k , w e a k i n c o m p a n i o n w i t h i h e o v e r w h e l m i n g d e m a n d o f I h e a c t i v e

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R M e d v e d e v , o p c u . p p l 1 0 - 111 S in c e t h e c k c t i o m w e re c o n d u c t e d o n t h e h a u l o f

p ro le ta ria n m i s s e s fo r s o c ia l d e m o c r a tic le a d e r s h ip

U n d e r L e n in (L o n d o n . 1 9 7 5 ) . p 2 4 5 .

p r o p o r t i o n a l r e p r e s e n t a t i o n t h e L S R m u l t i a r e e v e n m o r e i m p r e s s i v e th a n th e y
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th e T sa r to th e a ss u m p tio n o f p o w e r b y th e B o ls h e v ik s (P r in c e t o n U n iv e r s ity P re s * .
1 9 8 7 ). p 3 7 0 W H C h a m b e r l i n 's h is to r y n im p o r ta n t u n c e h is a c c o u n t a b a s e d o n
m a te ria l a v a i la b le t o h i m d u n n g h is s la y m M o n c o w ( 1 9 2 2 - 1 9 3 4 ) . b u t u n a v a i la b le to
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o p c i t . p 9 T h i s is th e lite r a r y e q u iv a le n t o f th e
t a c tic n o w b e in g p u r s u e d b y m u s e u m c u r a to r s in M o s c o w T r o t s k y s p o r tr a i t h a s
b e e n r e s t o r e d t o t h e g a l l e r i e s , b u t i t i s a l w a y s p l a c e d a l o n g s i d e S t a l i n 's . T h e
m e a n in g i t u n s p o k e n b u t c l e a r 'S t a l i n w a s b a d . b u t s o w a s T r o ts k y s o th e r e is n o
p o u il m lo o k in g to h im f o r a n a l t e r n a t i v e ' S l o v o m a k e s t h e p o in t e x p lic it: I b e lie v e
w e s h o u ld e x e r c i s e s o m e c a u t io n b e f o r e w e a c c e p t P a llo J o r d a n s r a th e r s w e e p in g
ju d g e m e n t th a t w e m u s t tu r n t o th e w o r k s o f 'o p p o s i t r o n n t s " ( in c lu d in g T r o ts k y ) ,
t o d i s c o v e r th e tr u e m e a n in g o f th e c o m m u n is t v is io n ' R a d

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87

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1 9 8 0 ). p $ l 9 .
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ICU Ib id
1 0 5 Ib id
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114 I b id , p 2 2 6 .
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121 I b id . p 3 l 7 .
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1 2 3 Ib id
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k illin g ! o f th e C h e k a w e r e tr u e . 1 4 0 ,0 0 0 o v e r th e w h o le o f th e c iv il w a r d e e P ip e i.
o p c i l . p 8 3 8 ) . t h u f ig u r e i t u i l l l o w e r th a n th e n u m b e r o f J e w t m u r d e r e d b y th e
W b i t e t m Ju m o n e a r e a , in ju s t o n e y e a r : th e U k ra in e in 1 919.
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13 4 Q u o te d in W B r u c e L in c o ln , o p c i l . p 2 4 7 a n d p 2 6 3 .

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76

US

Q u o te d in i b i d . p 2 6 3

1 3 6 Q u o te d in W I I C h a m b e r lin . V o l II . o p c i u p 4 0 3 .
13 7 Q u o te d m W B r u c e L i n c o ln , o p c i t . p 2 8 3 .
1 3 8 W H C h a m b e r l m . V o t l l . o p c i t . p l 38.
1 3 9 Q u o te d in i b i d . p 2 6 l .
140 IN d .p 2 8 3
141 I b id . p ! 6 9 .
142 W B ru c e U n c o ln . o p c it. p2 9 4
1 4 3 W H C h a m b e r lin . V o l I I . o p c i t . p 2 5 8
144 S e e W B ru c e L i n c o ln , o p c i t . p p 2 * 0 -2 8 2 .
M S w H C lu m b e h n . V o l II . o p c i t . p 4 6 l
14 6 W B ru c e L i n c o ln , o p c i t . p 2 6 6
1 4 7 T C l i f f . T r o ts k y o o S u b v ir tu iio m im '. In te rn a tio n a l S o c ia lis m ( o ld t e n e t ) . N o . 2 .
A u tu m n I 9 6 0
14 8 S A S m i th . R e d P esro g ra d (C a m b r id g e U n iv e r s ity P r e s s . 1 9 8 3 ). p 2 1 0 I n d e e d o n e o f
U n m ' i f i r s t a r t i c l e ! o n t h e e c o n o m y a f t e r th e r e v o l u t i o n w a s t i t l e d 'H o w t o
o r g a n is e c o m p e t i t i o n ? ' a n d m i n t e d : 'N o w th a t a s o c ia lis t g o v e r n m e n t is in p o w e r
o u r t a l k is to o r g a n is e c o m p e titio n .' C W . V o l 2 6 . p 4 0 t
1 4 9 S A S m i th . iN d . p 2 0 9
1 5 0 I b id . p p 2 2 0 - 2 2 l .
151 I b id . p p 2 2 2 - 2 2 3 .
1 5 2 S e e T C lif f , t e a m . V o l 3 . o p c i t . p 8 1 .
1 5 3 I b id . p 8 1 . S A S m i th , o p c it. a lv o t h a n * t h n p r o c e s s in t o m e d e ta il, t e e . f o r in s ta n c e .
p p 2 3 8 -2 3 9 . H e a l s o p o in ts o u t th a t s o m e w e r t e r s ' ta k e o v e r s w e r e m e a n t t o p u s h th e
g o v e rn m e n t i n t o ta k in g s o m e s h a r e in m a n a g e m e n t b e c a u s e ' w o r k e r s ' m a n a g e m e n t
p r o v e d i n c a p a b l e o f d e a l i n g w i t h th e im n v e m e p r o b l e m s a f f e c t i n g p r o d u c t i o n ',
e s p e c ia lly in th e b i g fa c to rie s .
1 5 4 K n t / m a n q u o te d in T C l i f f . L e n in . V o l 3 . O p C it. p 8 3 .
1 5 5 S e e W B ru c e L in c o ln , o p c i l . p l 16.
1 5 6 I N d . p p l 1 5 -1 1 6 .
1 5 7 Q u o te d in S A S m ith , o p c i t . p 2 3 9 .
1 5 8 V S e r g e . T ea r O n e . o p c i t . p 3 S 3 .
159 S A S m n h .o p c it.p 2 4 2
1 6 0 S A S m ith , o p e n . p p 2 3 0 - 2 5 l .
161 Q u o te d in L T L ih . 'B o l s h e v i k . R a n e r ts h a a n d W a r C o m m u n i s m '. S la v ic R e n e w
V ol 4 8 . N o. 4 . 1986. p679.
1 6 2 P A vrvch. K ro n sta d t 1921 ( P r in c e t o n U n iv e r s ity P r e s s . 1 9 9 1 ). p l 9 .
1 6 3 C ite d in W B ru c e L i n c o ln , o p c i t . p 6 3 .
1 6 4 S e e S F a th e r , o p c iL p 7 0 .
1 6 5 Q u o te d in L T l a h . o p e n . p 6 7 8 -6 7 9 .
1 6 6 W B ru c e L i n c o ln , o p e n . p6S
167 lb ld .p 4 K 0 a n d p lb .
1 6 8 Q u c c d in i b id . p 3 4 5 .
1 6 9 W I I C h a m b e r lin . V o l II . o p c n . p 3 4 7
1 7 0 W H C h a m b e r lin . V o l I. o p e n . p 3 3 2 . a n d V o l I I . p p 6 8 - 6 9
171 P K n rg h tlc y . T h e S e c o n d O ld e s t P ro fe ssio n ( L o n d o n . 1 9 8 6 ). p p 5 7 -7 2 .
172

I b id . p p 5 7 5 8 .

1 7 3 Q u o te d m T C lif f . L e n in . V o l 4 . o p c it. p i 8
1 7 4 S e e T C lif f . T ro tsky, th e S n o r d o f R e v o lu tio n . V o l 2 (L o n d o n . 1 9 9 0 ). p p 3 2 - 3 3 .
1 7 5 0 L e g g e tt. The C h e k a L e m n 's P o litic a l P o lic e ( O t f o r d . 1 9 8 1 ) . p 2 l .
1 7 6 I N d . p p 3 0 . 3 5 -3 7 .
1 7 7 W B ru c e L in c o ln , o p c i t . p i 3 8
178 IN d . p l2 7
1 7 9 Q u o te d in K m g h tle y . o p c it. p 7 5 .

IN DEFENCE OF OCTOBER

77

I 0 S e t . f o r in s ta n c e , W H C h a m b e r lin V o l II . o p c i l . p p 7 0 - 7 1 .
181 C L e g g e d , o p c i l . p p l 3 0 131.
1 8 2 I b i d . p l 9 7 . l- e g g e tt a l t o c i t e s S P M e l g o u n o v 's T h e R e d 1 e r r o r m R u i u a

B ui

l e g g e t l t* q u i t e w r o n g lo d e s c r ib e M e lg o u n o v a s a 'r e s p e c t e d s o c ia lis t p o litic ia n '


( p 1 8 5 ). M e lg o u n o v s a c c o u n t n p a r tia l a n d f il le d w ith u n b a la n c e d j u d g e m e n t ! F o r
e i a m p le .

N o t f o r n o th in g d o th e th r e e k n e w w h ic h t u n d f o r t h e title o f t h e A ll-

R u s s ia n F a ir a o r d i n a r y C o m m is s io n o f th e C h e - K a H a n d a l t o f o r t h e th r e e R u s s ia n
w o r d s w h ic h d e n o t e " D e a t h t o e v e r y m a n ." ( ! ) . p i I.
I 8 J G L e g g e tt, o p c i t . p p 16 8 - 1 6 9
184 S e e G L e g g e t t . o p c i t . p p l 7 6 182
18$ F o r in s ta n c e th e C h e k a e x e c u te d p r is o n e r s th e n ig h t b e fo re th e d e a th p e n a lty w a t
a b o lis h e d m 1 9 2 0 . t e c M a r y M c A u le y . B r e a d a n d A u th o r try. S ta te a n d S o c ie ty in

P e tro g r a d 1 9 1 7 -1 9 2 2 ( O x f o r d . 1 9 9 1 ). p 3 9 l . T h e C h e k a a l t o e a r n e d o u t e x e c u tio n s
b y tr a n s f e r r in g p ris o n e r s to fro n t lin e a r r a s w h e n th e d e a t h p e n a l ly w a s a b o lis h e d in
th e r e a r d u n n g th e c i v i l w a r F u r th e r e v id e n c e th a t, u n lik e th e W h ite T e r r o r , th e R e d
T e r r o r w a s m o r e s e v e r e th e f u r t h e r i t w a s f r o m t h e l e a d e r s h i p i t c o n t a i n e d in
M c A u le y . p 3 * 6 : 'A s in th e F r e n c h r e v o lu tio n . . t e r r o r w a s w o r s e m p r o v in c ia l
to w n s
. . th a n in c a p i t a l c i t i e s . It w a s t h e t e r r i b l e p r o v i n c i a l M o o d le t t i n g th a t
c a u s e d th e c o n c e r n in t h e p a r ty p r e s s o f O c to b e r D e c e m b e r 1 9 1 8 . .
th e te n o r o f
S e p t e m b e r a n d O c t o b e r p r o v o k e d a r e a c t i o n w i t h i n th e p a r t y a n d w a s t a c i t l y
a b a n d o n e d w ith in a fe w w e e k s .'
1 8 6 R P ip e s , o p c it, p 7 9 2 .
1 8 7 V S e r g e . Year O n e . o p c i l . p p 3 2 6 -3 2 7 .
1 8 8 Q u o te d in R M e d v e d e v . L e t H iu o r y J u d /te ( O x f o r d . 1 9 8 9 ). p $ 0 2 .
189 Ib id
1 9 0 S e e B K a g a r lits k y , o p C it. p $ 3
191

Q u o te d m R M e d v e d e v . L e i H isto ry J u d g e , o p c i t , p 6 5 5 .

1 9 2 Ib id . p 6 5 4 .
1 9 3 l- c n in . C o lle c te d W o rk s. V o J 2 8 . p $ 8 9 .
1 9 4 G L e g g e tt, o p c i t . p i 87 .
19 $ Q u o te d m W B ru c e L in c o ln , o p c i t . p i 39.
1 9 6 Q u o te d in G L e g g e tt, o p c i t . p l 6 2 .
197 I b i d .p l 6 l .
1 9 8 Ib id , p i 71 .
1 9 9 Q u o te d in ib id . p 3 5 7 .
200

I b id , p i 88 .

2 0 1 Q u o te d m ibK l. p t 8 9 .
2 0 2 I b id . p M 2
2 0 3 Q u o te d in ib id .
204

I b id . p 3 4 S .

205

R M edvedev.

206

I b id . p 6 $ 7

Let H isto r y J ttd te , o p c i t . p 6 $ 6

2 0 7 Q u o te d i n G l e g g e n , o p e n . p l 6 3 .
2 0 8 Q u o te d in W B ru c e L in c o ln , o p c n . p 3 6 4 .
2 0 9 I b id . p 3 7 l .
210

I b id . p 3 6 4 .

211

Ib id . p p 3 7 2 - 3 7 3 .

212

S ee T C lif f .L e a r n . V o l 3 . o p c il.p 9 5 .

2 1 3 Q u o te d in W B r u c e L in c o ln , o p c n . p 3 S 8 .
2 1 4 W H C h a m b e r lin . V o l II , o p c i l . p 4 3 2 .
215 S F a ib e r .o p c it.p p l2 2 .l2 4
2 1 6 W 8 n i c e L i n c o ln , o p c it. p p 4 6 8 - 4 ? 0
2 1 7 I b id . p 4 7 1 .
218

Ib id

78

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

219

M P a h ) . T h r A n a rc h is m o f N e tto r M a k h n o ( U n i v m i i y o f W a s h in g to n P m v 1 9 7 6 ).
p !7 7 .

2 2 0 W H C h a m b e r lin . V o l II . o p c k . p 2 3 7 .
2 2 1 I b id . p p 2 3 7 - 2 3 * .
2 2 2 S e e W B ru c e L in c o ln , o p cal. p 3 2 7 .
223 M P a h j.o p c it.p 2 l9
224

I b id . p 2 14.

22$
226

P A v n c h . A n a r c h is t P o rtra its (P r in c e t o n U n iv e r s ity P r e s s . 1 9 8 8 ) . p p l 2 0 - l 2 l


I b id . p ! 2 0 .

M A r m s t r o n g . 'N e s t o r M a k h n o : th e f a i l u r e o f a n a r c h i s m ' in S o c ia lis t R e v ie w


( A u s tr a lia ) , S u m m e r 1 9 9 0 . N o . 3 . p i 14.
2 2 * M P a li) .o p e n . p214
227

2 2 9 Ib id .p p 2 l3 -2 l4 .
2 3 0 P A v n c h . A n a /c h u t . . o p e n , p i 14.
2 3 1 W H C h a m b e r lin . V o l II . o p CH. p 2 3 6
2 3 2 P A v n ch . A n o rrh u r. . o p e n . p l2 l
2 3 3 S e e M P a l i j . o p e n . p l 52.
2 3 4 W H C h a m b e r lin . V o l II . p p 2 3 4 a n d 2 3 2 .
2 3 5 S e e F S y s y n . 'N e s t o r M a k h n o a n d th e U k ra in ia n R e v o h m o n '. in T H u n c r a k le d ) .
T h e U k r a in e 1 9 1 7 -1 9 2 1 . a S tu d y in R e v o lu tio n ( H a r v a r d Lm v c r v t y P r e s s . 1 9 7 7 ).
p 2 9 0 n 4 9 . M a k h n o s e e m s t o h a v e h a d t w o 'w i v e s '. T h e o n e w h o h e a d e d t h e
P u n it iv e C o m m is s io n is n o t th e o n e w h o k e p t th e d u t y q u o te d e a r lie r in th e le a l.
2 3 6 D F o o tm a n . C iv il W a r in R u ssia ( L o n d o n . 1 9 6 1 ). p 2 * 8 .
2 3 7 llH d .p 2 8 2 .
2 3 * I G c u l e r . K ro n sta d t 1 9 1 7 -1 9 2 1 ( L o n d o n . 1 9 * 3 ). p p 2 0 6 2 0 7
2 3 9 S e e D F e d o t o f f W h ite . T h r G r o w th o f th e R e d A rm y (P n n c e s o n U n iv e r s ity P r e s s .
1 9 4 4 ). p | J 4 .
2 4 0 I b id , p i 4 0
2 4 1 I b id , p 1 42
242

I b s d .p l 4 3 -

243
244

S F a rb e r.o p c il. p p l9 2 -l9 3 .


Q u o te d in W B ru c e L i n c o ln , o p c i t . p 4 9 5 .

245

P A v n ch . K ronvadt

. . o p e n . p p 9 4 -9 5

2 4 6 Q u o te d in I G c t r l c r . o p c it. p p 2 0 9 2IO .
2 4 7 P A v n c h . K r o n sta d t . . . o p c i l . p 6 8 .
248

I b id . p p 6 3 6 6

2 4 9 W h a t W e A r t F if h t i n r F o r . m P A v ric h . ib id . p p 2 4 2 -2 4 3 .
2 5 0 S e e P A v n c h . K r o n s ta d t .... o p c i t . p 2 4 0 .
2 5 1 I b id . p p l 0 7 . 1 2 1 -1 2 2 .
2 5 2 I b id , p p l 1 0 - 1 1 1
2 5 3 Ib td .p p l2 7 -I 2 8
2 5 4 Q u o te d in T C lif f .

Lenin. V o l 4 . o p

c it. p l 3 4 .

2 5 5 Q u o te d m P A v n c h . K ro n sta d t . p 2 2 2 .
2 5 6 Q u o te d in T C lif f . T ro tsk y . V o l 2 1L o n d o n . 19 9 0 ) . p 188
2 5 7 Q u o te d in ib id , p i 9 3 .
2 5 * Q u o te d in W B ru c e L in c o ln , o p c i t . p 4 ? 9 .
259

I n d e e d Use s itu a tio n w a s e v e n w o rs e th a n t h i s : o f th o s e w h o w o r k e d in f a c to r ie s


m o s t w e re in a d m in is tr a tio n , nc< a t th e b e n c h '.

2 6 0 Q u o t e d i n M v o n H a g e n . S o l d i e r s i n th e P r o le ta r ia n D i c t a t o r s h i p ( C o r n e l l
U n iv e rs ity P r e s s . 1 9 9 0 ). pS .
261
262
263
264

R S e r v ic e , o p c i t . p * .
I b id . p 2 0 * .
Q u o te d in T C lif f . L e n in . V o l 4 . o p c i l . p i 36.
lb w J .p l 38 .

iV

DEFENCE OF OCTOBER
I b id , p i 37.
Q u o te d in W B ru c e L i n c o ln , o p c i l . p 3 8 0 ,
S C o h en , o p c it. p62.
M R e i m a n . T h e B ir th o f S ta lin ism ( L o n d o n . 198 7 ).
S C o h e n , o p c it. pS2.
P H in s t.o p c it.p p 2 2 4 .2 2 J .

79

INTERNATIONAL

SOCIALISM* 55

Did Lenin lead to Stalin?

ROBERT SERVICE

Very few scholars and commentators nowadays contend that there was
an inevitability about the passage from the political, economic and
social policies of Lenin to the Stalinist programme of the 1930s and
1940s. Stalin introduced a regime of long term mass terror. Stalin
imposed a grotesque and uniform official ideology, ludicrously
overstating his own m eritseven at the expense of Lenin. He
completely rewrote history. Stalin had dictatorial power over his party,
his government and the state. He exercised this power with systematic
and extreme brutality over a period of more than 20 years. Stalin also
brought into direct or semi-direct state ownership every single sector of
the economy: trade, agriculture, industry and banking. And Stalin
initiated a covert policy of Russian nationalism, spilling over into
virulent anti-semitism in the post-war years: the Bolshevik leader from
Georgia was the greatest Russian chauvinist of them all.
Undeniably Lenin did much to distance himself from Stalin. In
1922-3, as he lay on his deathbed and composed his political testament,
he recommended Stalins removal from the General Secretaryship of
the Russian Communist Partys Central Committee. There can be no
clearer indication of the alienation of the founder of the Soviet state
from the colleague who directed the partys administrative machinery.
No other Politburo member had earned so fierce a criticism from Lenin.
Even so, Lenin by no means suggested that Stalin should be ejected
entirely from the party leadership; and he certainly did not propose the
expulsion of Joseph Stalin from the party: in the 1920s such a

78

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

suggestion would have been inconceivable. Stalins sins were many in


Lenins judgement. Yet these did not induce him to seek to terminate
his political career. Nor did Lenin, even on his deathbed, rehearse some
of the nastier elements of Stalins pastelements that were visible
even in the civil war. When Stalin was on the southern front in mid1918, for example, he had encouraged a mass terror and a fundamental
lawlessness that was notorious in the Tsaritsyn region. Lenin had not
disciplined him over that nor did he see fit to include any reproof in his
political testament.
Lenin also had an especially bossy personality. Once he had taken
against someone in a particular matter, he tended to get preoccupied
and even obsessed. His illness aggravated this trait. His spat with Stalin
in 1922-3 over foreign trade, bureaucracy and the federal constitution
made him beside himself with fury against one of the two Bolshevik
leaders whom he identified as his likely successors. A psychological
factor was involved: and only those who like their politics to consist of
the purest saints and entirely irredeemable villains find this an
uncomfortable observation.
Consequently, although much attention is paid to what divided
Lenin and Stalin in those crucial years, we must not overlook what
continued to unite them. The unifying points go unmentioned in the
testament for the precise reason that they were not divisive. Among
them were the belief of both of them in dictatorship; in the one party
state; in the continued deployment of terror whenever the partys power
was thought to be threatened; in the im position of a single
unchallengeable ideology; in the subjugation of all public institutions
and mass organisations to the will of the party; in the strictest internal
party discipline; in the efficacy of crude political language and
methods; in the need to indoctrinate the working class.
This system of beliefs was in a condition of partial construction
before the October Revolution. The scaffolding for its walls was in
place by the middle of the civil war. The roof was added at the
inception of the New Economic Policy in 1921. The collective architect
was the central and local party leadership, and its major thinker and
planner was Vladimir Lenin.
And what about this Lenin? There is natural sympathy for him in
1922-4. The effort needed to dictate his last thoughts to a group of
secretaries was enormous. After his physical collapse in spring 1922,
he had only residual use of his limbs and his power of speech was
limited; and he was kept isolated in the government sanatorium at
Gorki, tended by several Russian and German doctors and by his wife
Nadezhda and sister Maria. He was dying, and knew it. He was only in
his early fifties. Had disease not struck him down, there was every
reason to expect that he would continue to guide the Bolshevik Party

DID LENIN LEAD TO STALIN?

79

and Soviet state. What became known as his political testament were
words extricated from a still lucid mind by a man determined that he
would not leave this life before communicating his worries to party
comrades.
No wonder that Gorbachev encouraged professional Soviet
historians to accentuate the importance of this last period in Lenins
life. Here was Lenin apparently at his gentlest. Lenin the harrier of
Stalin and his cronies. Lenin of the New Economic Policy. Lenin the
protector of the peasants. Lenin the advocate of commercial interests
and of concessions to private enterprise. Lenin the opponent of
bureaucrats and nationalists. Nor was this an image of Lenin which was
confined to the Soviet Union. On the contrary, Lenin as the
embodiment of Soviet communism with a human face has been a
widely, albeit not universally, reproduced picture in the West.
The portrait bears as little relation to reality as H olbeins
representation of Anne of Cleves for the delectation of Henry VIII.
Lenin, after introducing the New Economic Policy in 1921, by no
means rejected terror. Admittedly he narrowed the range of its
operations. But certain social categories could expect no mercy. For
example, it was in 1922 that he recommended the arrest and execution
of Russian Orthodox Church bishops. This was said in the privacy of
Politburo discussions. His plan derived not from the revelation of some
definite anti-regime plot but rather from a wish to terrorise the clergy
into a condition of fear which would last decades.
Cultural controls were tightened under the New Economic Policy.
To be sure, there remained much latitude for creative self-expression.
The murderously bizarre attempts at monolithism in the 1930s were as
yet unimagined. But the New Economic Policy, coming after an
exhausting civil war, was used by Lenin to assert the partys general
authority in areas of social life previously touched little by him. Thus
Lenin was responsible for the expulsion from Soviet Russia of dozens
of leading philosophers, poets and novelists in 1922. Lenin in the last
phase of his career was far from being a liberal communist in policy
for the arts.
Least of all was he liberal towards outright political adversaries. He
refused to revoke the ban on internal factions he had imposed at the
10th Party Congress in March 1921. Nothing in his testament indicated
a change of mind. Expulsion from the party was his ambition for
Alexander Shlyapnikovs W orkers Opposition if the Opposition
refused to cease activity. This, however, was mild in comparison with
his attitude to non-Bolshevik political opponents. In 1922 he
notoriously demanded that the leadership of the Party of Socialist
Revolutionaries be arrested, put on trial and executed. Negotiations
about the Civil Code in the same year, moreover, demonstrated a

80

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

readiness to treat the Mensheviks with the same ruthlessness. Only the
intervention of his central party colleagues stopped him from acting
quite so dictatorially towards rival parties.
But what about Lenins economic policy in 1921? Certainly he
aimed at short term concessions to private enterprise after the civil war.
But his projections in the medium term were for increased state
intervention, increased state regulation, increased state ownership. The
New Economic Policy was only a strategic manoeuvre. Furthermore,
Lenin had no realistic answer to the aggravation of bureaucratic
problems that any future amassment of state-economic authority would
involve.
Nor did Lenin have much practical respect for national self
determination. A dispute occurred between him and Stalin over
proposals for a federal constitution in 1922. The specific bone of
contention was Stalins wish to deprive his native Georgia of its
republican status and push it into a Transcaucasian republic which
would seek incorporation in the greater Soviet Union. Lenin, on
reflection, demurred but found Stalin reluctant to give way to him. And
yet not even in the heat of the controversy did Lenin differ from Stalin
in wishing to deny national self determination to the Georgian people.
Both took it for granted that the Georgians would be held in the USSR
willy nilly. No plebiscite would be held. And the central party leaders
in Moscow would ensure Georgian political compliance by maintaining
direct control over the Georgian Communist Party. G eorgias
subjection to the Kremlin would be sternly enforced.
Lenins last struggle, then, was certainly the struggle of a dying man
who fought right to the end and passed away with dignity. But Lenin
also died a Bolshevik; and his Bolshevism contained many genes which
were to produce Stalinism in the following decade.
If Lenin had been a fit man and had lived into that decade, the
theories and policies and practices of his party would have been
different from Stalins in several basic respects. It over-stretches belief
that Lenin would have exterminated his close colleagues or that he
would deliberately have sent millions to their deaths in the blood
purges of the late 1930s. It cannot be discounted that Lenin too would
have resorted to at least some degree of force in introducing collective
farming; but Lenin would have been unlikely to have collectivised the
peasantry at the expense of the lives of the millions who were either
de-kulakised or else reduced to starvation in the early 1930s. And yet
Bolshevism itself had a predisposition in favour of political, economic
and social ultra-authoritarianism; and, even if not Stalin but Trotsky or
Bukharin or even Kamenev had assumed the supreme party leadership
after Lenins death, an ultra-authoritarian system of rule would have

D ID L E N IN L E A D T O S T A L IN ?

81

prevailed. Trotsky, Bukharin and Kamenevlike Leninadvocated a


milder variant of Bolshevism than Stalins. But it was still Bolshevism.
Admittedly the Bolsheviks were a party whose members in 1917,
among them selves, acted relatively dem ocratically but their
orientation in public policy had never been democratic. Indeed their
aim was to establish a dictatorship of the working class and the poorest
peasants. It requires naivete of a specially impervious order to deny that
this orientation would corrupt the internal life of both the Bolshevik
Party and the new Soviet state. All dictatorship corrupts; but totalist
dictatorship, even if it falls short of its planned realisation, corrupts
totally.
Thus the degeneration of the October revolution is not attributable
exclusively to factors outside the control of the Bolshevik Party
leadership. To be sure, the intervention of the Allies in the postOctober civil war exacerbated political conflict. And the Reds were not
the only perpetrators of terror: the brutality of the Whites was equally
ghastly. Furthermore, not all the consequences of the October
revolution were foreseen or even forseeable by the Bolsheviks
(although the Mensheviks had given them warning about several). Even
so, these were not the factors which, above all others, brought about the
violent and authoritarian excesses which took place in the former
Russian Empire in the Lenin era. There really was something violent
and authoritarian both about Bolshevism from its inception after the
turn of the century and about the October revolution from its earliest
days.
A grievous responsibility must be laid at the door of a handful of
leaders such as Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. They formulated the ideas
and consolidated the practices which offered land, peace and workers
control to the mass of the population. They truly believed that a new
society was buildable which would benefit all mankind. To them it
seemed that the dawn of socialism was about to direct its rays across all
Europe. But their utopianism had its overpoweringly dark side; and
they also found dictatorship and terror entirely congenial.
Yet these figures were not the whole party. They would not have
had such an impact if their assumptions had not been shared by leaders
at lower levels of the hierarchy of territorially based committees. The
Bolshevik Party in the 1920s, the party of Lenin and Stalin, was guided
by ex-undergrounders. Such cadres had endured the persecutions of the
T sarist period. They had em erged as tough and dedicated
revolutionaries. They wanted to form not a routinised administration
but a dynamic, flexible regime which emphasised action at the expense
of procedures. They were legal nihilists. As opposition and difficulties
mounted after the October revolution, their trust in dictatorship and in
the supreme virtues of their own party was reinforced. Ruthlessness

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gave way to extreme ruthlessness. By the end of the civil war even
those central and local leaders such as Lev K am enevs
sympathiserswho had had trepidations about this approach to the
construction of socialism accepted it as natural and desirable.
Consequently Stalin found no need, even at the height of his power in
the 1930s and 1940s, to draw up a new party programme to replace the
Leninist programme of 1919. Stalin altered much in Lenins policies.
Yet he left the party programme not merely unmodified but absolutely
intact. It was not until 1961, under Nikita Khrushchev, that a new
programme was ordered to be written. Stalins apparent indolence is
not hard to explicate: the basic tenets of the 1919 programme were
totalitarian in aspiration.
This same party was united in its fundamental anti-peasantism. Its
notions were deeply attached to urban developments, to large scale
organisations, to the industrial proletariat. It was united, too, in a
commitment to the speedy promotion of the working class to state
administrative posts. In addition, it was united by a determination to
stamp on the throat of all other political parties both socialist and non
socialist. Not only that: there were lamentably few Bolshevik leaders at
the centre or in the provinces who were reluctant to crush the autonomy
of trade unions and factory committees from 1918 onwards. The deep
streams of a pre-1917 ultra-authoritarianism welled up to cover a
massive flood plain.
It is amazing that anyone in the late 20th century can still believe
that the Bolshevik party was quintessentially socialist. A party which
could thrust its jackboot into the face of the labour movement, as did
the Bolsheviks in their first years of government, has so distorted a
conception of socialism that it should no longer be described as
socialist.
The people to feel sorry for are not only the workers and soldiers
who voted for the Bolsheviks in the local soviet elections of 1917 but
also the vast bulk of ordinary Bolshevik Party members. Most of them
had read no Marx, seen nothing of Lenin and rarely went to party
meetings. Socialism was a vague and ill defined concept for most rank
and file Bolsheviks. But such recruits, before the October revolution,
cannot be shown to have wanted their party ruling Russia dictatorially
and alone. Most evidence suggests that the party masses (as the
leaders called them, with characteristic condescension) shared the sort
of aspirations that most Russian workers had in 1917. An all party
socialist coalition was a priority for them. They also wanted both peace
and an extension of workers rights in factories and mines. Many of
them left the party in disgust in 1918-19 or else joined the faction that
in 1920-1 became known as the Workers Opposition.

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83

But the rank and filers were outmanoeuvred. In 1917 they had had
influence over policies without fully predetermining them. Quickly
thereafter they lost even this influence. The cadres from the emigration
and the Tsarist underground tightened their own command in the one
party state. These cadres, contrary to the myth sedulously propagated
by those such as Trotsky who sought to explain away their own fall
from power in the mid-1920s, were not newcomers to prominence in
the party. They were the Old Bolsheviks. They were the backbone of
the party of Lenin from the revolutionary period.
It was this party that Stalin inherited, after the intra-party political
struggles of the 1920s, from Lenin. Of course, Stalin proceeded to
introduce features of his own to party affairs. A difference existed
between Lenins party and the faction within it that Stalin eventually
led. Stalin wanted to go even further than Lenin in brutalising Russian
politics. Stalin wanted to go faster, and he was going to do it at the cost
of millions of lives of completely innocent and unsuspecting people.
Stalins personality was also deeply unbalanced by suspiciousness and
vengefulness. He not only wanted to get rid of real enemies, he wanted
to get rid of potential enemies as well. He accomplished this aim by
means of a mass surgical strike involving the deaths of millions.
Lenins wife, Krupskaya, was to confide to a friend in the 1930s that, if
Lenin had not died prematurely in 1924, he would have ended up in
one of Stalins prisons.
All this notwithstanding, the regime that would have existed had
Lenin lived longer or had been succeeded by Leon Trotsky would still
have been extremely grim. It would still have been a regime which had
recourse to terror to secure itself in power and to impose its ideology. It
would still have been a regime which was a prison for the peoples. It
would still have been a regim e with an excess of economic
nationalisation, to the point of stifling flair, enthusiasm and practicality.
It would still have been a regime which found the technological and
output gap widening between itself and the major capitalist powers.
The debate as to whether Lenin led to Stalin, taken in narrow terms,
is a non-debate. It is akin to one of those mediaeval theological
discussions about the number of angels who can stand on a single pin.
Few people even in the Middle Ages were exercised by angel
enum eration. Sim ilarly, hardly anyone nowadays is seriously
contending that, as night follows day, so Leninism was bound to
develop into Stalinism. But the matter does not end there. Debate
rightly exists over the degree and type of continuities that existed
between Leninism and Stalinism; and only the wilfully blind would fail
to see that those continuities are very strong indeed. Similarly the
disputes about the alternative paths of evolution for the party after
Lenins death Bukharinism, Trotskyism or Stalinism have an

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INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

importance not to be ignored. But each strategical option was a


Bolshevik one. Each involved journeying down a cul-de-sac of history
with no prospect of creating a society without exploitation and
oppression.

In defence of democratic
revolutionary socialism

SAMUEL FARBER

David Finkel has shown elsewhere in this issue the various ways in
which John Reess In Defence of October (International Socialism,
52, Autumn 1991) seriously mischaracterised the contents of my book
Before Stalinism, The Rise and Fall of Soviet Democracy (published by
Polity in Britain and in paperback by Verso in the USA). For my part, I
want to restate some of the key theses and arguments put forward in
that work.
Without questioning that there were major qualitative differences
between Stalins and Lenins rule in Russia, Before Stalinism shows
that, by the time Stalin came to power, soviet democracy had already
disappeared. Basing myself on the abundant and mostly recent
scholarship on the early revolutionary period, I showed how by 1921,
and certainly by 1923 when Lenin ceased to function as the leader of
revolutionary Russia, soviet democracy no longer existed. I provide
extensive documentation to support this claim not only in relation to
the soviets in the strict sense of the term, but also in regard to the press,
the institutions of workers management and control and the unions.
Here I would like to concentrate on two topics which have been
mystified or ignored by many in the revolutionary socialist tradition:
the trade unions and socialist legality. In the case of the trade unions,
Before Stalinism specifically showed how Lenins defence of trade
union autonomy in 1921 was no more than symbolic. By this time the
trade unions had already come, through the mechanism of party

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fraction discipline, under the effective control of the Communist Party.


In any event, the Eleventh Party Congress in March and April of 1922,
the last in which Lenin actively participated, left little doubt about the
meaninglessness of Lenins proposed union autonomy. This Congress
resolved that the secretaries and chairmen of the central committees of
the unions must be party members of long standing and that the
chairmen, secretaries and members of the leading regional trade union
bodies had to be party members of at least three years standing.
Furthermore, the Congress decided that party members could be co
opted rather than elected to union office. Finally, it was agreed that all
conflicts and frictions on union questions would be resolved by the
party and the Comintern rather than by the unions themselves.1Finally,
the notion that there is no need for trade union autonomy under
socialism had been established by the Bolshevik majority at a number
of trade union congresses that took place before 1921. In fact, as early
as the first trade union congress which met at the end of 1917,
Zinoviev, who attended the congress as a representative of the
Bolshevik Party, made this very claim as a matter of theory and
principle. At that congress Zinoviev made an argument that has since
become all too familiar, I ask you, why and from whom do you need
independence: from your own governm ent...? He also explicitly
rejected the right to strike, arguing along the same lines that the strike
would be directed against the workers themselves.2
Before Stalinism discusses issues pertaining to socialist legality, a
topic that many revolutionary socialists would rather not talk about. At
the theoretical level, the book criticises L enins inclusion of
law lessness as an intrinsic feature of the dictatorship of the
proletariat, a term which of course refers to a whole historical period
and not merely to the violent days and months during and immediately
after the overthrow of the old order. At a more concrete and specific
level. Before Stalinism examines such matters as the post civil war
Crim inal Code of 1922 which attem pted to legalise arbitrary
government. For instance, this code continued to uphold the notion
developed during the civil war (1918-20) that an act could be
considered a criminal offence even if it was not expressly forbidden by
any existing law. In addition, the 1922 code allowed for no procedure
equivalent to the right of habeas corpus which was meant to ensure that
an arrested person was charged and brought before a judge, or else
released.
Before Stalinism also examines Lenins endorsement of collective or
categorical punishments, ie terror, during and well after the end of the
civil war. The term collective or categorical punishment refers to the
use of punishment against people who are not even suspected of having
been actually involved in carrying out, or helping to carry out, any

IN DEFENCE OF DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALISM

87

specific acts against the revolutionary government. Instead, what made


these people victims of punishment was that they were thought to share
with the possible suspects a common political ideology, party or class
membership, or even ethnicity. My book also shows some of the many
instances where leaders of the revolutionary government resisted or
opposed the use of collective punishments, sometimes even provoking
Lenins anger (eg the Petrograd Bolshevik Central Committee on the
occasion of Volodarskys assassination in June of 1918).4
While a student at the LSE from 1961 to 1963 I was a member of
the Socialist Review tendency (renamed International Socialism while I
was still in London). I still remember our strong arguments against the
soviet workers bomb defended by some Young Socialist comrades.
At the time we insisted that the workers bomb was incompatible with
revolutionary socialist principles. Along the same lines, I want to argue
that while collective or categorical punishments (terror) are perfectly
compatible with petty bourgeois dictatorships (eg Robespierre), let
alone capitalist imperialism, fascism or Stalinism, they are by their very
indiscriminate nature unacceptable to a workers state. There is a major
and qualitative difference between measures designed to deprive the
form er ruling classes of their social and economic power (eg
confiscation) and the quite different matter of legally penalising people
on the basis of group membership and social origins, rather than of
particular criminal or political offences committed by specific
individuals. The issue here is not ones love or hatred for the former
ruling classes, but what all this reveals about the revolutionary
governments legal conceptions and the future consequences of this for
all.
Western Cold War historiography argued that Stalinism was not that
different from Leninism and that the authoritarian character of
Leninism in power was already built into the original conceptions of
Bolshevism as it was developed at the beginning of the 20th century.
Before Stalinism clearly and unam biguously rejects such an
interpretation. Instead my book endorses and articulates the reasons for
the October revolution and also emphasises the fundamentally
democratic character of that upheaval. In the process, I argue against
several of Rosa Luxemburgs criticisms of the Bolsheviks and show,
for example, how the suppression of the Constituent Assembly was
quite defensible on democratic grounds.
I also put forward the argument that most of the undemocratic
practices of Leninism in pow er developed in the context of a
massively devastating civil war and in fact cannot possibly be
understood outside such a context. But while the devastation caused by
the civil war is a very necessary part of the explanation for the decline
and disappearance of soviet democracy, it is by no means sufficient.

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I him ilimg, ilic civil war devastation does not explain why the
iiii'iii'itirum Bolshevik leadership as a whole made a virtue out of
in i *\siiy and theorised the undemocratic and dictatorial measures as
permanent features of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia. This
in turn had helped, by the early 1920s, to kill the free and authentic
political life of the country, thus depriving soviet society of a variety of
possible political defences against the subsequently rising Stalinist
monster.
These often programmatic mainstream Bolshevik politics did not
just happen occasionally or were simply a matter of rhetorical
power as John Rees claims. If Trotskys Terrorism and Communism or
Krupskayas 1923 defence of the crudest forms of book censorship are
not in the words of John Rees considered analyses of events, what are
they then? Lest the reader conclude that these may have been
theoretical and political excesses of Trotsky and Krupskaya but not of
Lenin, then what are we to make of Lenins insistence in 1918 that until
a German revolution was forthcoming, the soviets should study the
state capitalism of the Germans, . . . spare no effort in copying it and
not shrink from dictatorial methods to hasten the copying of it.5
Similarly for Lenins highly undemocratic views (as a rule not
justified as temporary measures applying only to the existing situation)
as expressed in a wide variety of situations: for example, his reply to
the old Bolshevik worker Myasnikov when the latter argued vigorously
for freedom of the press in 1921,6 or Lenins several pronouncements
defending the one party state made during and after the civil war,7 or
Lenins intervention in the debate over one man management of
industry at the time of the Ninth Congress of the Communist Party in
1920. On that particular occasion Lenin in fact argued that whether
there was collegial management or individual management on the shop
floor was irrelevant to the question of how a class governs and what
class domination actually is, since
the victorious proletariat has abolished property, has completely annulled
itand therein lies its domination as a class. The prime thing is the
question of property. As soon as the question of property was settled
practically, the domination of the class was assured.
Furtherm ore, Lenin claim ed that there was absolutely no
contradiction in principle between Soviet (that is, socialist) democracy
and the existence of dictatorial power by individuals. (Lenins
emphasis).*
John Rees also suggests that the economics of War Communism
(1918-20) was merely a desperate reaction to the terrible economic
situation facing the Bolshevik government. Beyond Stalinism makes it

IN DEFENCE OF DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALISM

89

quite clear that the mainstream Bolshevik leadership did not plan for or
anticipate the development of War Communism. However, my book
does show that once this policy was adopted, initially as a response to
the enormous economic crisis facing the country, the government then
made a virtue out of necessity just as it had done with the suppression
of democracy in the political realm. This was clearly reflected in the
mainstream Bolshevik writings of the period and most notably in
Bukharins idealisation of War Communism in his The Economics of
the Transition Period, a study claiming to be nothing less than the
process of the transformation of capitalist society into communist
society.9 As it developed, War Communism did come to mean a
dogmatic and absolutist attempt to suppress money and the market and
revert to a natural economy of barter and state administrative
commands. This new economic philosophy became so encompassing
and widespread that it even affected activities quite unrelated to the
feeding and physical survival of the population or to the conduct of the
civil war. Thus for example in Petrograd, people in need of legal
services were not allowed to have any say over their own attorneys and
had to accept the one chosen for them by the state.10
It is particularly important to underline that War Communism also
signified the end of workers management, control and trade union
autonomy. This however was no obstacle to the mainstream Bolshevik
leadership coming to see the widespread bureaucratic nationalisations
of War Communism as a great advance towards the communist goal. It
is especially noteworthy that while in 1921 the implementation of the
New Economic Policy (NEP) of concessions to capitalism was defined
by Lenin as a retreat, the disappearance of soviet democracy and
workers control was never so regretted by the mainstream Bolshevik
leadership. This does not lead me to conclude that Lenins mainstream
leadership had developed a worked out and hardened political
philosophy opposed to workers management, control and trade union
autonomy (as was later the case with Stalinism). I do conclude that in
the eyes of Lenin and his co-thinkers these were not defining
characteristics of socialism and had a decidedly lower priority than the
centralised state control that clearly obtained the upper hand during the
years of War Communism. In any case, the political pronouncements of
the mainstream Bolshevik leadership in the period subsequent to the
civil war cannot be reconciled with what one would have expected
from a leadership that did see soviet democracy and workers power at
the point of production as being of the essence of socialism. Among
other things, a leadership thus committed to socialist democracy would
have repeatedly stressed the temporary nature of the repressive and
undemocratic measures and would have spelled out the specific
conditions and possible time frames for their removal.

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However, my critique of what I have termed m ainstream


Bolshevism is by no means applicable to the whole of Bolshevism. If
anything, my whole book could be seen as a brief in support of Victor
Serges often quoted observation that Bolshevism contained a mass of
other germs other than the germ of Stalinism . As mainstream
Bolshevism developed new politics in the context of civil war
conditions, this was opposed by both the early left oppositionists,
(workers opposition, democratic centralists) and right oppositionists
(Riazanov, Lozovsky) inside the Communist Party. As a matter of fact,
practically all my specific criticisms of Leninism in power were made
at the time by one or another revolutionary and most notably by the
early Left and Right Bolshevik oppositions. Therefore, John Rees and
the Socialist Workers Party leaderships quarrel is as much with the
critique of those Bolshevik opposition groups as it is with my own.

Marxs statement about the democratic nature of the socialist movement. . .


and Lenin's, that revolutionary social democracy represents the Jacobins
indissolubly connected with the organisation of the proletariat are
definitely contradictory. A conscious, organised minority at the head of an
unorganised mass of the people suits the bourgeois revolution, which is,
after all, a revolution in the interests of the minority. But the separation of
conscious minority from unconscious majority, the separation of mental and
manual labour, the existence of manager and foreman on the one hand and
a mass of obedient labourers on the other, may be grafted on to socialism
only by killing the very essence of socialism, which is the collective control
of the workers over their destiny."
The fact that the mainstream Bolshevik leadership made a virtue out
of the anti-democratic necessities imposed by the enormous hardships
of the civil war did not develop in an ideological and political vacuum.
Instead, this constituted the exacerbation of a Jacobin aspect of
Bolshevik politics that became dominant under the stimulus of the civil
war crisis.
I would contend that pre-civil war Leninism had two sides that were
at odds with each other. On one side was the clearly democratic Lenin
who always insisted on the close connection between the struggle for
democracy and the struggle for and democratic content of socialism. In
fact I believe that Lenin had a better understanding than any of his
revolutionary socialist contemporaries of the importance of political
democracy as a political goal to be pursued by the workers movement
on behalf of society as a whole. This in contrast to other revolutionary
socialists (sometimes including Rosa Luxemburg) who for reasons of
economism, workerism or a schematic economic determinism derided

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91

the political struggle for general democratic demands such as the right
of nations to self determination.
Yet, alongside this emphasis on the struggle for democracy, Lenin
and his co-thinkers also held a number of essentially Jacobin ideas
particularly in regards to revolution. Or, speaking more precisely, a
quasi-Jacobin view since Lenin, unlike petty bourgeois Jacobinism,
was committed to rooting the revolutionary movement in the politically
organised working class. The Jacobin element in this quasi-Jacobinism
refers to a heavy emphasis on the will and dedication of the activist
minority as contrasted with the weight of institutions that encompass
that minority as well as much broader sectors of the working class and
population as a whole. It is also useful to recall in this context Lenins
repeated tendency, noted in Before Stalinism, to solve grave political
problems through the appointment of what he considered to be good
reliable individuals to positions of power (eg in the Cheka) rather than
through the carrying out of structural institutional changes. Similarly,
Lenin often tended to see, as in the case of the governmental reforms he
proposed towards the end of his rule, the democratisation of socio
economic life solely in terms of promoting leaders and office holders
with working class and peasant backgrounds without placing equal
emphasis on democratic mechanisms that would make these newly
promoted leaders institutionally responsible to popular constituencies.
The key problem with Lenins quasi-Jacobin approach was that the
working class, unlike the bourgeoisie, can exercise power in society
only democratically and collectively through institutions such as soviets
and factory committees. Thus classical Jacobinism could develop
dictatorial power without fundamentally affecting the social or
economic power that the bourgeoisie held as individuals. However, the
moment the working class is deprived of democratic control over the
institutions through which it exercises power in society, that working
class has lost its power, period.
The Jacobin conception of revolutionary leadership is also
incompatible with working class power. To the extent that there exists a
Jacobin belief that the truth of the revolutionary activists vision is
sufficient guarantee of their authority to act, to that extent the actions of
revolutionary leaders cannot be corrected or reversed by representative
popular institutions such as the soviets. This Jacobinism becomes even
more dangerously anti-democratic when combined with Hegelian
sounding notions such as Trotskys allusion to the revolutionary
birthright of the party12 in 1921 or the very similar and no less
pernicious idea that H istory, in its inevitably progressive
development, has reserved the role of revolutionary leadership to a
particular party or political formation.

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W hile political parties are necessary since they provide


indispensable leadership and formulate alternative choices and
programmes, it is the representative institutions rather than the parties
that must in the last analysis be the repositories of working class and
popular sovereignty. From this it follows that the representative
institutions must have the ability to replace the party in power. While
recognising that this would have been, from a practical point of view, a
quite difficult task in the conditions of Russia in the early 1920s, I want
to stress that the quasi-Jacobin side of Lenins politics, which became
dominant after 1918 and especially after 1921, weighed heavily against
his even considering such a possibility in principle.
The Jacobin tradition, besides having a strong and uncritical
tendency to favour centralisation for its own sake, is not inclined to
support the defence of minority rights and civil liberties. While Before
Stalinism argues that there are of course situations (eg in a civil war)
where civil liberties may have to be restricted on a temporary basis, it
insists that there can be no real socialist democracy, or for that matter
full and genuine innovation and progress, with dissident individuals
and minorities terrorised into silence and conformity, and forcefully
prevented from attempting to become the new majorities. Today any
democratic revolutionary socialism worthy of its name must at the very
least cease to regard the defence of civil liberties and the rights of
political minorities, both before and after the revolution, as being
merely a liberal, let alone petty bourgeois, concern.
I began to work on the project that became Before Stalinism in 1984,
one year before Gorbachev came to power and, of course, before the
breakdown of Stalinism and the Soviet Union. I had no inkling that the
work I was embarking on would acquire a special relevance within just
a few years.
My interest in going back to the 1917-24 period in Russia was a
response to political phenomena that had surfaced in the 1970s and
early 1980s. On one hand the development of Eurocommunism in
Western Europe and on the other hand the rise of a rather distinctive
East European and especially Polish dissident political thought which
became very prominent after the rise of Solidarity in 1980. These two
quite different political traditions coincided in claiming that not only
Stalinism but revolution itself was antithetical to democracy. The East
Europeans in particular, including people with roots in revolutionary
Marxism such as Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron, borrowed from Karl
Poppers idea that the attempt to reshape society as a whole, especially
if there is violent action involved, was itself totalitarian. Consequently,
democracy was only compatible with peaceful and piecemeal reform. It
was hardly surprising that the Russian Revolution was the paradigmatic
example chosen by East European dissidents attempting to prove the

IN DEFENCE OF DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALISM

93

validity of Poppers dictum. The Eurocommunists for their part also


came to the conclusion that they would have to drop Russian
Leninism (by which they meant revolution) in order to prove
themselves true democrats.
I wanted to demonstrate the compatibility of revolution and
democracy. In trying to answer Eurocommunists and East Europeans
and taking a closer look at the origins and development of the Russian
Revolution I re-examined an explanation for the degeneration of the
revolution I had never found fully convincing. I am referring to the
views of the left Shachtmanite bureaucratic collectivist tradition and
to the British Socialist Workers Party tradition as developed in the
1970s and 1980s. These two traditions, while correctly emphasising the
heavy weight of objective factors such as the impact of the civil war
and economic collapse, had greatly underestimated the political and
ideological sides. The purposes, specific political choices and changes
in the political orientation of the main political actors involved had for
all intents and purposes been ignored.
I also discovered that these two traditions had unwittingly created a
Lenin who was only in part the real historical Lenin. Thus, for
example, I found that the very points emphasised by Hal Draper
socialism from below and the importance of political democracy and
civil liberties were a lot closer to the early right and left Bolshevik
oppositions than to mainstream Leninism. Similarly, I discovered other
things that I had never been taught by either tradition; for example, that
in 1923, the last year of his life, Lenin had significantly moved in the
direction of socialism in one country without of course reaching the
extreme of adopting Stalins later political line.
The collapse of Stalinism, the Soviet Union and most of the
worldwide Communist movement has helped to create a radically new
situation for the international left. We now find ourselves in a political
situation with features sim ilar to the collapse of the Second
International in the years subsequent to 1914. As a result, we are
confronted with the task of reorganising the left, a task that we should
try to help carry out on the basis of building a new democratic and
revolutionary socialism.
I hope that Before Stalinism offers the elements of a usable past and
will make its small contribution to the rethinking of past revolutionary
experiences, a necessary task in this process of reorganisation. In
particular we cannot ignore the scepticism and pessimism that the
failure of Stalinism has created everywhere. The right wing slogan No
more experiments has had a powerful appeal in the post-Stalinist
Eastern Europe. We cannot respond to such a political climate with
evasions and Karl Marxs warnings against utopian blueprints quite
justified in the political climate of his day, but today conveying the

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message that we simply dont have answers to the tough questions that
legitimately trouble people.
We know now that a socialist revolution can be lost in more than
one manner or fashion. Not only can the revolution be lost to the
counter-revolutionary restorationists wanting to re-establish the old
order, it can also be lost to a perhaps less obvious but no less
devastating counter-revolutionnamely, those supporting a new order
devoid of democratic control from below unavoidably opening the road
for the formation of a new type of ruling class. This can come about
because in following the maxim, Hold on to power no matter what,
power may indeed be retained, but in order to maintain a type of
society radically different from the one the revolutionaries had
originally fought for.
A socialist revolution in an advanced industrial country may
encounter many of the same objective difficulties faced by
revolutionary Russia. We cannot assume that a revolutionary takeover
will not be preceded by massive destruction, and we certainly cannot
expect the ruling classes in industrialised capitalist societies to hand
over a carefully preserved intact economy to the revolutionary
opposition. Given this and the ever present possibility of civil war,
L enins challenge to Gorky to present alternative criteria for
determining which blows delivered by a revolutionary government
were necessary and which blows were superfluous is as relevant today
as it was then.131 hope Before Stalinism can help us to think of how to
meet Lenins challenge.
I would like to conclude this essay by recalling the spirit of the
Socialist Review!International Socialism tendency with which I am
glad to have been associated in the early 1960s. This was a serious,
militant and hard working group that with its humility and lack of
dogmatism differed dramatically from practically all the other
revolutionary groups that 1 have known in the subsequent 30 years.
Least of all did this group suffer from the political obsession of
hardness, ie the tough macho bolshevik posturing counterposed to
the equally obsessive political softness of social democracy. The
SR/IS tendency was also animated by a fresh and creative political
spirit that expressed itself in its willingness to engage in a vigorous
revolutionary revisionism, eg Tony Cliff on Lenins theory of the
labour aristocracy and on Trotskys theory of permanent revolution,
and Michael Kidron on imperialism. This is the sort of political
openness, freshness and flexibility that is necessary in the present
period a period of great crisis for the left but also of great
opportunities for those who have new and constructive directions to
propose.

IN D E F E N C E O F D E M O C R A T IC R E V O L U T IO N A R Y SO C IA L ISM

95

At that time Tony Cliff also had a lot to say about the Russian
Revolution and its degeneration, and what he said was not contained
within the boundaries of Trotskyist or Leninist orthodoxy. I am
thinking in particular about the article Trotsky on Substitutionism
(International Socialism , 2, Autumn 1960), or the book Rosa
Luxemburg (published as a double issue of International Socialism in
1959). The readers of this journal can and will judge for themselves,
but I have the strong feeling that what Cliff wrote then is closer to my
Before Stalinism than to John Reess In Defence of October.
Notes
1
2
3

4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13

I Deutscher, Soviet Trade Unions. Their Place in Soviet Labour Policy (London
and New York, 1950), p65, and Jay B Sorenson, The Life and Death o f Soviet
Trade Unionism 1917-1918 (New York, 1969), ppl70-71.
I Deutscher, op cit, p21, and SA Smith, Red Petrograd. Revolution in the Factories
1917-1918 (Cambridge, England), p218.
I Lapenna, Lenin, Law and Legality', in L Schapiro and P Reddaway (eds), Lenin.
The Man, the Theorist, the Leader, a Reappraisal (New York, 1967), p261, and
J Hazard, Settling Disputes in Soviet Society. The Formative Years o f Legal
Institutions (New York, 1960), p314.
V I Lenin, letter to Zinoviev, Lashevich and other members of Central Committee,
26 June 1918, in Collected Works, Vol 35, February 1912-December 1922
(Moscow, 1966), p336. (Lenins emphasis.)
V I Lenin, Left Wing Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality,
Collected Works, Vol 27 (Moscow, 1965), p340.
V I Lenin, A Letter to G Myasnikov, 5 August 1921, in Collected Works, Vol 32,
December 1920-August 1921, pp504-9.
See, for example, the citations in EH Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, Vol 1 19171923 (London, Pelican Books), p236.
C Sirianni, Workers Control and Socialist Democracy. The Soviet Experience
(London, Verso Editions and New Left Books, 1982), p216, and SA Smith, op cit,
p228. (Lenins emphasis.)
Cited in SF Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution. A Political Biography.
1888-1938 (Oxford, 1980), p87.
E Huskey, Russian Lawyers and the Soviet State. The Origins and Development of
the Soviet Bar, 1917-1939 (Princeton, 1986), pp59-61.
T Cliff, Rosa Luxemburg (London, 1986), p49.
I Deutscher, op cit, p55.
M Gorky, Days with Lenin (New York, 1932), pp44-45.

Defending October or
sectarian dogmatism?

DAVID FINKEL

John Reess lead essay titled In Defence of October (International


Socialism, 52) could have been a useful contribution. Sadly, in his
defence of the revolutionary tradition Rees winds up doing violence
to it. For one thing, his rigid recitation of what he takes to be Marxist
orthodoxy surprisingly does more to verify than refute the logic of an
inevitable totalitarian outcome of the Russian Revolution. (Rees is
quite likely oblivious of this implication of his argument, to which I
will briefly turn later.)
What is much worse, however, is Reess systematic violation of the
first principle of revolutionary polemics: that it is obligatory to present
and refute other points of view accurately and honestlyparticularly
opposing views that are also within the revolutionary camp. In Reess
article the arguments of non-revolutionary or even reactionary authors
are accurately stated, because Reess orthodoxy is adequate to answer
them. When it comes to a different revolutionary perspective, however,
Rees engages in a systematic falsification, despite or rather because of
the fact that it is the closest to his own.
The perspective I am referring to is that of Sam Farbers book
Before Stalinism, The Rise and Fall of Soviet Democracy.' Reess In
Defence of October includes a running polemic against Farbers

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INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM

perspective. To demonstrate the blatant falsification on Reess part of


what Farber actually wrote admittedly will make tedious reading and
comrades are forewarned that they may wish to skip the exercise. This
is perfectly OK; the time would be better spent in any case actually
reading Farbers excellent book. But I think there is at least some small
value in documenting the abuse and reflecting on its cause.
Reference I: Rees begins by citing recent works by the right wing
historian Richard Pipes, the British left wing historian Eric Hobsbawm,
the South African Stalinist Joe Slovoall of whose views are cited
clearly enough so you know what they are talking aboutand New Left
Review editor Robin Blackburn, who is quoted in a fragment so that
you cant really tell whether or not Blackburn is for the October
revolution.2
Then follows Reess first reference to Farber: In Before Stalinism
American socialist Sam Farber argues that Lenins views and actions
inevitably and necessarily led to an elitist form of government and
that the Bolsheviks firmly adopted policies that moved them a
considerable distance towards what later became the Stalinist
totalitarian model. 3 The reference is to pages 99 and 109 of Sams
book. Clearly Sam is in the Bolshevism-led-to-Stalinism camp.
Right?
For one thing, Rees shows little interest in the substantial distance,
carefully noted by Farber, between a m erely elitist form of
government and the Stalinist totalitarian model. But Reess distortion
proves really shocking when you actually check the references. Farber
writes, in regard to Bolshevik policies on freedom of the press: Thus,
it was only after the end of the civil war that Lenin and the Bolsheviks
firmly adopted policies that moved them a considerable distance
towards what later became the Stalinist totalitarian model.4 To say the
least, this alters the meaning somewhat: here and elsewhere Farber
stresses political choices made by the Bolsheviks, and the fact that
many of these were made after the desperate pressure of civil war had
receded. And the deletion of the clause it was only after... changes
this passages whole meaning.
Maybe Rees innocently overlooked this subtlety. Lets look at
Farber: [Lenins] post-civil war views and actions on freedom of the
press and other democratic questions inevitably and necessarily led to a
thoroughly elitist form of governm ent.5 The same distortion is
repeated: Farbers explicit specification of the period after the civil war
as a focus of critical political analysis is deleted by mutilating the
quotation. Can this happen twice by mistake?
The point is important, because for Reess wooden orthodoxy,
political choices made after the civil war are basically irrelevant
inasmuch as the working class base of the workers state...had

DEFENDING OCTOBER OR SECTARIAN DOGMATISM?

99

disintegrated6 in the war. This makes it impossible in his frame of


reference to answer Farbers argument, and thus inconvenient to
accurately quote it. (More on this below.)
Reference la: Immediately following this butchery Rees attempts a
clumsy amalgam: The same sort of argument has surfaced among
oppositionists in Eastern Europe. Adam Michnik criticised the
totalitarian temptation of those activists in Polish Solidarity who
wanted the movement to...struggle for state power. The reference is
to Farber, p i 2. The ordinary reader will assume Sam is quoting
Michnik favourably; in fact Sam is sharply critical of the antirevolutionary political philosophy of Michnik, of whom Sam says he
has come to see radical political change as somehow totalitarian.
Because Farber believes that Solidamosc should have struggled for
power in 1981, and that the Bolsheviks were right to take power in
1917 (see Farber, p61, for Sams real views on October 1917), Rees
seems to feel compelled to distort him on both points.
Reference 2: After a cogent, orthodox and correct recitation of the
reasons why the Bolshevik led revolutionary seizure of power was
necessary and justified (Rees is quite competent wherever no original
thinking is needed), Rees launches into a discussion on The
Bolsheviks: A Monolithic Party?7He quotes Stephen Cohen ridiculing
the evil genius theory of Lenins all powerful leadership, then makes
this reference to Farber:
The left used to set its face firmly against what Cohen calls this malignant
and straight line' theory. Now, however, things have changed. Sam Farber
connects Lenins attitude to legality in the early Soviet state, which he
defines as one o f expediency at best and o f contempt at worst, with
Lenins chronic distaste fo r codified rules, legal or otherwise. This
attitude, Farber says, had sometimes played an important role in his
political practice concerning internal party organisation. This lack of
respect for rules and legality helped pave the way for Stalin.

The reference is to Farber, pp 149-150, where we find what Sam


actually says, which needs to be quoted in full because it involves a
complex point. In his chapter Socialist Legality, Sam is critically
reviewing some of Lenins theoretical writings on the meaning of the
dictatorship of the proletariat as unrestricted by any laws (Lenins
own phrase), then continues:
In practice, however, Lenin on more than one occasion insisted on the strict
observance o f revolutionary legality [example cited from November 1918],
Ironically, it was the introduction o f NEP and the need to provide a degree

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of security to capitalists that later brought about Lenins greatest degree of


emphasis on legality. In sum, it seems that his attitude was that of
expediency at best and o f contempt at worst. It should be noted that Lenin's
chronic distaste for codified rules, legal or otherwise, had sometimes played
an important role in his political practice concerning internal party
organisation.

Examples are then cited from old factional battles between 1903 and
1909. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the caricature that Rees is
supposedly arguing against, that the Bolsheviks were some kind of
monolithic party or leadership cult. Farbers real point here and
elsewhere is the lack of a systematic theorisation of revolutionary
democracy, legality and rights in the Bolshevik legacy. Undoubtedly,
the relationship of the internal organisation of any revolutionary
leadership (be it the Bolsheviks, Sandinistas, etc) before taking power
with its practice once in power is a hugely complicated issue. Many
socialist writers have written seriously on the subjectamong others
Marcel Liebmanbut not Rees. The only point of this reference is to
score a stupid debaters point that Farbers characterisation of Lenins
party is to the right of the liberal Cohens, requiring another mutilated
quotation.
Reference 3: Regarding the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly,
Rees cites arguments by Kautsky, Blackburn and Tim Wohlforth
denouncing this action, then states:
Sam Farber is half willing to defend the Bolsheviks, but only if we assume
that their arguments in defence o f the soviet system.. .represented a genuine
long term commitment to that alternative form o f democratic government.
Yet this is precisely what Farber is not willing to assume since his whole
book is supposed to demonstrate that the Bolsheviks failed to show any such
commitment. Sam Farber too [ie like Robin Blackburn] quotes Rosa
Luxemburg, whose criticism o f the B olsheviks dissolution o f the
Constituent Assembly is cited by right wingers who would never dream of
endorsing any other word that she wrote*

The reference is to Farber, p56, where Sam writes, The Bolshevik


rationale for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly would have
been justified from a revolutionary-democratic point of view only if
[passage as quoted by Rees]. Miraculously, Rees has for once quoted
without blatant distortion. He quickly makes up for this, however. First,
he fails to mention Farbers detailed justification of Bolshevik
arguments against the unrepresentative character of the Constituent
Assembly. Second, there is Reess stupid amalgam of anyone who cites
Rosa Luxemburgs criticism with right wingers who would never

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101

dream of endorsing any other word that she wrote. Third, contrary to
Reess implication Farber does not endorse, and in fact sharply
criticises, most of Luxemburgs argument against the Bolsheviks on
this point.91 dont have room to quote here, but part of my purpose will
be served if comrades actually read it for themselves.
Reference 4: This comes in Reess section on The Civil War and
the White Terror, and is tied up with Reess running attempt to create
an amalgam of the South African Stalinist Joe Slovo (who throws
Trotsky in the same pot with Stalin, a now standard smear), Robin
Blackburn (who now believes, if I understand him correctly, that the
October Revolution was historically premature and a mistake), and
Sam Farber. The underlying purpose of this amalgam is hardly to
defend Octoberif it were, Rees would use Farbers work as that of
an ally, not an opponentbut to show the reader that only the British
Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and its international satellite groups are
left to defend the Russian Revolution.
Rees tells us that, For many writers it was in this period of War
Communism that the first seeds of Stalinism were sown.10 (There is a
good reason why many writers say this, namely that it is clearly true. In
fact the statement should be criticised for its banality, not heresy.)
Slovo and Blackburn are duly quoted, then:
Sam Farber is happy to repeat Robert C Tuckers designation of this period
as Stalinist Leninism' and then goes on to argue: The governmental
euphoria with war communism also implicitly revealed the political and
ideological priorities o f mainstream Bolshevism. Thus, while this set o f
policies greatly expanded the powers o f the central state and vigorously
attempted to reduce the role o f the market, at the same time it not only
consolidated the Red Terror but for alt intents and purposes eliminated
workers control of industry and democracy in the soviets. Again there is no
evidence indicating that Lenin or any mainstream Bolshevik leaders
lamented the loss of workers control or o f democracy in the soviets..."

The reference is to Farber, p44. Since we are by now suspicious of


what Rees may have left out, we turn to the page and see how Sam
finishes that sentence: ...or at least referred to these losses as a retreat,
as Lenin declared in connection with the replacem ent of war
communism by NEP in 1921a significant point in the argument,
since the question at hand is whether the Bolsheviks made voluntarist
virtue out of material necessity during War Communism! And Sam
continues: In fact, as we shall see in the next chapter, the very opposite
is the case, eg Lenin defended one-man management as perfectly
compatible with socialism. Rees cant refute these facts, but he can
simply delete them.

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Farbers citation from Robert C Tucker is instructive in its own


right:
In fact, Robert C Tucker has referred to this period as Stalinist Leninism,
by which he meant not just the hegemony o f certain general ideas and
systems o f political belief, but the ingrained habits o f mind, ways of
defining and responding to situations, styles o f action, common memories,
mystique, etc that collectively constitute the culture o f a political movement
in so fa r as a given age cohort o f its membership (and leadership) is
concerned... The heritage o f that formative time in the history o f Soviet
culture was martial zeal, revolutionary voluntarism and elan, readiness to
resort to coercion... [I am truncating the quote here for spaceDF] and no
small dose o f that Communist arrogance (komchvanstvo) that Lenin later
inveighed against.'2

For Rees the content of all this is irrelevant; only the provocative
phrase Stalinist Leninism is useful because lifted out of context it
serves the purposes of his amalgam.
Compared to Farber or for that matter Tucker, Reess own argument
is strikingly threadbare. The subjective factor (conscious political
choices) was for Rees crucial only in the arena of the European
Revolution. But inside Russia in the civil war, the limits of action were
reduced to withstanding, under ever narrowing constrictions, a siege...
It is a tribute to the power of the Bolsheviks politics and organisation
that they took the measures necessary and withstood the siege for so
long.13 Those who refuse to accept this rather sweeping proposition
without question, who seek to subject the Bolsheviks ideological
inebriation (Farbers phrase) with War Communism to serious
analysis, are targets for Reess abuse.
Reference 4a: Immediately below the foregoing, Rees issues forth
with the following wisdom:
Sam Farber cheerfully brandishes his desire to concentrate on the political,
and criticises others who see the question o f democracy as if it was in some
way derivative o f economics. Presumably, in this schema, democracy is
equally possible under starving, plague ridden feudalism as it is under 20th
century capitalism. [Who is actually stupid enough to believe thator more
to the point, to believe that anyone else would believe it? DF] In Sam
Farbers analysis o f the civil war we are blankly told that the atrocities
carried out by the White Terror are assumed to be given. Yet this is what
cannot be assumed to be given. I f we do not give a full account o f the
economic crisis, the international situation and the depth o f the White
Terror how can we be expected to judge how far the Bolsheviks acted from
necessity? How can we assess the force o f circumstance?

DEFENDING OCTOBER OR SECTARIAN DOGMATISM?

103

The reference is to Farber, pi 17. It would appear that Farber lightly


brushes off the White Terror and the economic crisis. To get the full
flavour of this Really Big Lie, you have to see what Sam actually
wrote. The quoted phrase about democracy and economics does not
appear at all in the cited passage! I had to find it on p3 of Sams
introduction: In the absence of a theory o f revolutionary democracy
[my emphasisDF] these [socialist and Marxist analyses of the
economics of the transition to socialism] tend to deal with the question
of democracy as if it was in some way derivative from the economics,
if not altogether irrelevant. Obviously this has nothing to do with some
idiotic notion, attributed by im plication to Sam by Rees, that
democratic institutions could be organised independent of material
conditions.
What Farber does on pi 17 is, first, to quote W H Chamberlin on the
horrors of the civil war and the counter-revolutionary (White)
massacres in particular, and then to say:
Nevertheless, my main concern here is not the total number killed by both
sides, shocking as these figures are. Instead, my purpose is to analyse the
actions carried out by the Bolshevik leaders...focus[ing] on the political
control over the repressive agencies o f the revolutionary regime and the
criteria guiding the latters work in such matters as choice of victims and
types and severity o f punishment. The atrocities carried out by the White
Terror are assumed to be given in this context, and are thus o f interest only
insofar as they may be said, in given instances, to justify or not justify the
particular tactics carried out by the Red Terror. From this vantage point,
several features o f the Red Terror are extremely troublesome and indeed
highly disturbing. [Analysis of Cheka procedures follows.]

The reader will note that Reess truncated quotation is a cynical


manipulation, complete with omission of Sams explicit phrase in this
context. Rees now proceeds to compound the slander with:
Reference 4b: On page 53, in the midst of a lengthy discussion of
the civil war, White atrocities and Red Terror, Rees tells us that an
example often used by right wing historians is based on Cheka leader
Latsis 1918 claim that whether a suspect was capitalist or a worker
was enough to determine their guilt or innocence. He went on to urge,
Dont search the records for whether someones revolt against the
Soviet was an armed or only a verbal one. Sam Farber quotes Latsis,
but does not bother to quote Lenins angry rebuttal in which he said
that one need not go to the same absurd lengths as Comrade Latsis.
We are therefore to believe that Farber has smeared Lenin with the
brush of Latsis. But Rees doesnt give a page reference to Farbers
booksince Farber does not bother to quote Lenin. So search

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through Sams book to page 121, locate the quote from Latsis, and read
Sams very next sentence: Latsis comments provoked widespread
criticism from a variety of Bolshevik leaders including Lenin. Guess
why Rees omitted the page reference!
Had enough? So have I, which is why I am going to omit most
additional examples. But I must add just one more.
Reference 4c: On pages 57-58 of his article Rees recounts the
horrifying tortures practised on Bolshevik prisoners by the Makhno and
Antonov (Green) partisans, and the Red Army reprisals, then throws
in: Characteristically, Sam Farber mentions the shootings [by the Red
Army] but not the pardons, the Red Terror but not the Green Terror.
No specific reference is given, but Rees is generally referring to ppl22124 of Farber. On page 122 Farber quotes the scholarly historian Oliver
H Radkey, who wrote our impression is that there was an excess of
torture on the side of the Greens, an excess of killing on the side of the
Redsbattle deaths excluded. Thus in this case Rees has not only
falsified Farbers supposed omission, but gratuitously so; the reference
is tangential to his argument, and its only point to smear Sam Farber
once more.
What remains to be asked is, what is Reess problem anyway? Why
cant the editor of International Socialism, to say nothing of seven
other British SWP leaders cited for their helpful contributions to the
article manage to quote another revolutionary socialist without repeated
flagrant misrepresentation?
The sneering tone of Reess references to Farbers Before Stalinism,
combined with the above documented falsifications, indicates strongly
that Rees wants his readers to dismiss the book without reading it. If
Before Stalinism is just one more trashing of the October Revolution,
reading it is indeed hardly worth the trouble. I suggested above that the
British SWP needs to present itself as the only remaining defender of
October. And there are, I believe, two reasons behind this impulse:
(a) First and most obvious is simple sectarianism. The SWP is
driven by the need to claim a unique revolutionary purity as the basis
for its international tendency.
(b) Less obvious, perhaps, I detect a lack of confidence on Reess part
in the orthodoxy he is defending. It is as if the entire defence of October
depends on upholding the Bolsheviks correctness at every significant
moment, aside from purely tactical matters. This is a brittle orthodoxy
indeed: it seems to say that if at any point there were principled violations
of revolutionary democracy by Bolshevism in power up to (say) the early
NEP, the whole case for the revolution may crumble.
As historical analysis this is of course absurd, but it does have its
own logicas a kind of theology. And I can see where the fear of
critical questions arises from Reess own argumentation, which can be

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105

summarised as follows: everything the Bolsheviks did was not only


100 percent correct but in essence unavoidable, from organising the
seizure of power, through War Communism, to the crushing of
Kronstadt, banning of factions and the introduction of NEP. Everything
depended on the European revolution. With its failure the Russian
workers state was as if suspended in mid-air; the Russian working
class itself was practically dissolved. The secret of the Stalinist
bureaucracys success lay in the devastation and isolation of the
workers state.14
Obviously there is truth in all this, as an elementary recitation of the
material constraints on the Russian Revolution. But Rees cannot afford
to ask himself a deeper level question: if the failure of the European
revolution made socialism in Russia impossible, as we would all agree,
was Stalinism then inevitable?
If the answer is no, then Rees would have to inquire what kind of
politics in the early post-revolutionary years might have improved the
chances of a successful social and especially working class resistance
to Stalinism, a challenge for which SWP orthodoxy is unprepared.
Even if we cannot reasonably condemn Bolshevism for failing to
anticipate the literal destruction o f a world revolutionary movement
and tens of millions of human lives under the leadership of Stalinism,
we ourselves dont have the right not to ask what lessons might be
learned from the pre-Stalin period.
But if the answer is yes, then Reess argument becomes: without
European revolution, Bolshevism did lead straight to Stalinism. And
then it is hard to resist the arguments of a Kautsky or a Blackburn, was
that gamble worth the risk? Wasnt the October Revolution indeed
disastrously premature if its failure to immediately spread made a
catastrophic destruction o f socialist politics on a world scale for many
decades inevitable?
If Rees were seriously interested in engaging the arguments of Sam
Farber, then instead of falsifying them he could have chosen to cite Sams
book as strengthening the case for the October Revolution, despite his
differences with Sams harsh criticism of Bolshevik policy. Or he could
have left it alone. Instead he felt impelled to treat it as a threat.15
All this tells us a sad story about International Socialisms ability to
confront arguments inside the revolutionary camp honestly. Such
practices cannot fail to have negative consequences, not the least of
which are the sectarian mis-education of valuable cadres and the high
percentage loss of those cadres when they confront, in the real world,
questions that the orthodoxy has not prepared them to answer.

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Notes
1
2

3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15

S Farber, Before Stalinism, The Rise and Fall o f Soviet Democracy (Polity Press,
1990).
Blackburns lengthy article Socialism After the Crash appears in NLR 185,
Jan/Feb 1991 and in his anthology After the Fall (Verso, 1991). It is not about the
Russian Revolution per se so much as a lengthy discussion on the possibilities and
limitations of socialist planning and the market. I wont try to analyse Reess
discussion of the Blackburn piece here, because a different set of issues are
involved.
J Rees, International Socialism 52, p5.
S Farber, op cit, p99.
Ibid, pl09.
J Rees, op cit, p65.
Ibid, ppl8ff.
Ibid, p22.
S Farber, op cit, pp57-59.
J Rees, op cit, p29.
Ibid, pp29-30.
R Tucker, From Lenin to Gorbachev (Norton, 1987), p84.
J Rees, op cit, p30.
Ibid, p70.
This choice, in itself revealing, is apparently the SWPs party line, since a review
of Before Stalinism was published in the SWPs monthly Socialist Review under
the title The New Menshevism. This review, by Phil Gasper, also appears in the
September 1991 issue of the ISO paper under the title Did Leninism Lead to
Stalinism? Thus the New Menshevism title is not Gaspers but the British
SWPs own invention. It must be said that Gaspers method of quotation and
argument is infinitely more honest than that of Reess article. Gasper nonetheless
misses Sams point in at least two key respects: (a) He writes that Farber seems to
believe that after 1921 the eventual triumph of Stalinism was inevitable. This is
not Sams view; indeed it is closer to what is implied by Rees, (b) He writes that,
The fundamental weakness in Farbers book is his failure to grasp that Stalinism
represented not a continuation of the politics of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, but a
counter-revolution. Really! This kind of thing can be laughed off as good natured
sectarian foolery, but Gasper should be reminded that some of his readers may be
naive enough to take it seriously.

A reply to John Rees

ROBIN BLACKBURN

John Reess article In Defence of October (International Socialism,


52) advances a justification of the leaders of the Russian Revolution of
1917-21 and claims to rebut recent socialist writings which try to draw
up a critical balance sheet of Bolshevism. The contingent justification
of the Bolsheviks is rather well donebut the same cannot be said of
the riposte to Farber, Hobsbawm, Slovo and myself. This having been
said, I must confess I felt absolutely no discomfort reading the article at
all. Rees could have made clearer the evident differences between those
he is criticising, but I did not feel unhappy, either at being included in
their number, or at the occasional selective references to my article. I
quickly gathered that the author had a single minded determination to
defend the Bolshevik record and that the references to myself and
others were a sort of polemical garnish. Writing a piece like this is a
considerable undertaking and maybe the authors adversarial zeal
helped him to carry it out. Facile critics of Bolshevism should be
abashed by the material it contains but not most of the left writers that
Rees targeted. Perhaps an authors primary duty is to his own
argument, not to doing justice to everybody elsesthough it is always
impressive when both tasks are combined.
I think some comments are in order just in case readers of
International Socialism imagine that Rees really did deal with the
arguments of Farber, Hobsbawm or myself. The interest of these
criticisms of Bolshevism surely arises from the fact that they come
from people who, by background and conviction, are scarcely sworn

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enemies of October. Indeed it may be that most of us still see more in


the Russian Revolution to defend than does Rees himself. I would
certainly be disposed to credit the Russian Revolution, and the state it
established, with playing a critical role in the eventual military defeat
of Nazism, with a generally positive contribution to anti-colonial and
anti-im perialist struggles, and with providing somewhat more
favourable conditions for the Western workers struggles for better
rights and conditions. I am referring here to the broad objective impact
of the revolution, and the state it established, not to the particular
policies of Soviet rulers who often sought to accommodate themselves
to capitalist forces. Strangely enough, John Rees, in his lengthy article,
does not deal with such matters which surely have some bearing on the
ultimate historical significance of the Russian Revolution.
Reess defence of October seems to imply two different arguments.
Firstly, there is the line of defence which treats the Russian Revolution
as a somewhat more sustained Paris Commune, a heroic defeat
displaying at once the creativity of popular or proletarian revolution
and the barbarism of reaction. On such a view the force of
circumstance and stark historical conditions put into the shade the
mistake of the revolutionary leaders. I do not think that Slovo,
Hobsbawm or Farber would deny that there was an historical grandeur
to the Russian Revolution and that Lenin had a far firmer grasp of its
political dynamic than the majority of his political opponents.
But Rees seems to be straining for another conclusion, namely that
revolutions of essentially the Russian type still offer us a model. For a
variety of reasons this is a conclusion that I would strongly contest. The
Russian Revolution took place in a society where bourgeois institutions
of all types were weak and bourgeois representative democracy a very
frail import. I think Reess own account of the lack of popular esteem
for the Constituent Assembly may have a relevance he has not noticed.
There are today few countries where bourgeois democratic assemblies
are as little esteemed as was the case in Russia in 1917-18. The
existence of the soviets meant that the Constituent Assembly did not
have the sort of monopoly on general political representation which is
the norm for such representative bodies today. Indeed the experience of
dual power must now seem to be rather exceptional in the light of the
history of the 20th century. In Russian conditions the backdrop of a
crumbling feudal Absolutist order combined with an exceptionally
weak bourgeoisie allowed a new anti-bourgeois power to consolidate
itself and to bypass the Constituent Assembly, though even in Russia
the Bolsheviks themselves paid some tribute to the legitimacy of the
Assembly by calling for it to be elected and convened. And they soon
discovered the enduring significance of bourgeois representative
assemblies in much of the rest of Europe.

A R E P LY TO JO H N REES

109

Lenin in Left Wing Communism and Trotsky in his writings on


Germany both memorably warned of the dangers of underestimating
bourgeois democracy or failing to establish a vigorous revolutionary
presence within it. No doubt Lenin and Trotsky were still inclined at
this time to go on regarding the Russian Revolution as a model. But we
now have the perspective of a further half century. Fascism was
overthrown in Germany and Italy in the 1940s, and in Spain and
Portugal in the 1970s, without workers councils bidding to become
rival state structures. Colonialism has been thrown back nearly
everywhere without workers councils playing the key role. Stalinism
has been overthrown in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union without
the appearance of institutions of dual power. Hungary had workers
councils in 1956 and Poland had Solidarity in 1980. But if
representative assemblies had been conceded would they have been
rejected by the Hungarian or Polish working class? I doubt it. France in
1968 and Portugal in 1974-5 did not throw up workers councils
eitherin both cases the revolutionary movement was outflanked by
the holding of elections to a bourgeois democratic assembly. Saudi
Arabia is the only political entity which today might be compared with
Tsarist Russia. Perhaps we will see workers councils thereI certainly
hope so-but without depreciating the Saudi revolution I do not think
that the rest of the world will follow the same pattern. Where consent
of the governed has been solicited by democratic representative bodies
I do not think it is either practical or desirable for socialists to imagine
that they can be ignored or bypassed. Typically such institutions will be
hedged around with a host of undemocratic features and these should
be campaigned against by socialists. And situations may arise in which
one set of democratic institutions are arrayed against another, weaker
and less democratic set, in which case a different sort of dual power
will appear. Thus a Scottish Assembly might find itself at loggerheads
with Westminster and British socialists might decide to support it. But
that would be a quite different scenario to 1917. I would imagine that
this is what Hobsbawm was driving at when he refers to the Russian
Revolution as a freak result.
None of the authors directly criticised by Rees, so far as I am aware,
makes very much of the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly. Samuel
Farber, who offers by far the most detailed account, stresses that he
believes this particular Bolshevik decision to have been justified. What
he criticises is the many ways in which the Bolsheviks violated the
democratic workings of the sovietsoverturning of elections, non
convening of meetings, intimidation of minority currents and so forth. I
think his account is a sobering one, raising many serious questions,
even if, as I said in my article, I think he does not give sufficient weight
to the terrible constraints of the timesboth the conduct of the Whites,

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the ravages of famine and the bloody example given by the supposedly
advanced countries in their own Great War. But while I agree that
Farber does not take due account of the force of circumstances I think
his book is very valuable because it makes it clear what a flawed model
this really is and because it draws attention to the existence of currents
within Bolshevism which contested this or that unfortunate or
deplorable decision.
While Farber gives insufficient weight to the force of circumstance
argument, he does arouse the lively suspicion that many arbitrary
measures were adopted as harsh necessities when they were not
actually necessities at all; and, once adopted, there was a tendency to
glorify them, so that they became, officially, not harsh necessities at all
but expressions of revolutionary virtue and a party minded spirit. In this
category could come the celebration of the absence of law as a positive
feature of the workers state, the introduction of one man management
in most branches of industry, the wholesale forced requisition of
foodstuffs from the peasantry, the falsification of elections to the
soviets, the failure to convene the Central Executive of the Soviets, the
harassment of even those anarchists and Mensheviks who favoured
active collaboration with the Reds, the application of the death penalty,
contrary to soviet legislation, to suspects arrested outside the war zone
and much else all copiously documented by Farber. Of course by the
standards of Ypres and the Somme, or of European colonial warfare,
the Bolsheviks could be regarded as quite restrained and humanitarian.
But that does not mean that all their arbitrary measures were indeed
harsh necessities since, as Farber shows, they were often counter
productive even in terms of beating the Whites and corresponded
instead to a sort of Jacobin frenzy, as Rosa Luxemburg noted.
John Rees is shocked at my contention that Lenin was not a
systematic thinker. This quote was extracted from a sentence which
paid tribute to an aspect of Lenins thought: Lenin, though not a
systematic thinker, actually developed a greater grasp than Marx of the
necessary complexity of both politics and economics. What I had in
mind here was that Lenins writings on the party, on the limits of trade
union consciousness or on parliamentarism addressed questions which
Marx never really considered. On the other hand Lenin did not
reconcile what he had said about the party in his earlier writings with
what he wrote about soviets in State and Revolution. The practice of a
party dictatorship corresponded, perhaps, to a certain silence in these
texts. While Lenin practised pluralism within the workers movement
he did not theorise it. It was possible to conclude from his writings that
ideally there should only be one party, that representing the true
interests of workers, in the workers state. Does John Rees himself
subscribe to this view? Indeed I would be interested to know whether

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111

the editors of International Socialism think that there is a necessary


role for law in a socialist democracy. Do they think that workers should
have more votes than members of the middle classes, or the retired, or
housewives? It may be that I am wrong in supposing that we will not
see workers committees challenge the sovereignty of parliament. I
think those who believe this owe us some sort of account of the
political principles which would inform these new institutions of a
workers democracy. For my own part I am sure that bourgeois
democracy can be greatly improved uponbut not by regressing to
assemblies without party competition, or without legal defence of the
right to disagree, or without universal and equal adult suffrage. The
reader of Reess critique might suppose that my argument had been
comprehensively dealt with.' Actually the principal theme of my
piecethe need for a workable picture of a socialist economywas
not even m entioned. The Bolsheviks were forced into War
Communism by what they saw as military necessity. In the 1919 party
programme they committed themselves to intoxicating visions of the
suppression of commodity relations. Among other things I try to show
that Trotsky came to reject the view that the outright suppression of
market relations was either necessary or desirable. His November 1932
essay on The Dangers Facing the Soviet Economy published in the
Bulletin of the Opposition contained a remarkable analysis showing
that the power of the ruling bureaucracy was itself based on a
voluntaristic attempt to suppress market relations. This might achieve
limited goals but would breed great economic irrationality and would
be contrary to the interests of the direct producers. While I can well
imagine that the editors of International Socialism will not agree with
the conclusions I advance in this essay I do think they should explain
their own view of the sort of economic institutions that would
characterise a genuinely socialist economic system. I suppose they
would support a system embodying public ownership, planning and
workers control. But would they subscribe to the vision of workers
self management developed by Ernest Mandel in New Left Review, 159,
or Diane Elson in NLR, 171, or Pat Devine in his book. Democracy and
Economic Planning? It is all very well saying that workers committees
are to run everything, but how are prices to be arrived at? What
happens when one committee disagrees with another? What assurance
is there that socially necessary labour really is socially necessary?
Presumably means will have to be found for making producers views
on this question harmonious with the views of consumers (communities
as well as individuals). And since socialism can only really exist on a
global basis, to what extent would a worldwide planning authority
actually control production? How would it tackle the appalling
problems of poverty, inequality and ecological danger bequeathed by

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capitalism, yet not attempt the impossible and undesirable task of


prescribing how much of everything is produced, and for whom?
These are the sort of questions which it is now even more necessary
than before for socialists to answer, or at least debate. However much
we may admire the heroism and creativity of Russian workers in 1917
the revolution itself was eventually lostand the revolution itself
usurped. Those of us who advocate the suppression of capitalism will
be expected to explain why we expect things to turn out quite
differently next time. And that cannot be done by dwelling only on the
heroic aspects of October, and neglecting to consider the ways in which
Bolshevism may itself have provided openings for the rise of Stalinism.
Notes
1

My essay is reprinted in Robin Blackburn (ed), After the Fall: the Failure o f
Communism and the Future o f Socialism (Verso, 1991). While Rees finds me too
critical of Lenin, Neal Ascherson, reviewing this book for the London Review o f
Books, 6 March 1992, chides me with being too indulgent towards Lenin and the
Bolsheviks. This divergent criticism leads me to believe that Ive got it about
right. Incidentally I do try to make clear in this somewhat expanded version of my
essay that Luxemburg was not wholly in the right in her criticism of the
Bolsheviks, though I believe her vindication of pluralism remains fundamental.

Dedicated followers of fashion

JOHN REES

The history of great revolutions is always refracted through the prism


of contemporary politics. The English Revolution has long had its
hostile narrators on the right and, on the left, its fate has been fought
over by Whig and Marxist historians. The relative popularity of these
interpretations has been largely shaped by the contours of the domestic
class struggle. But the influence of conflicting interpretations of the
Russian Revolution has been decided by international considerations:
on the one hand the success of popular movements from below, and on
the other hand the rivalry between the various imperial powers.
Understanding this context is as vital to understanding the revolution as
a grasp of the relevant historical facts.
In Defence of October was written, not for the quasi-psychological
motives attributed to me by Robin Blackburn, but because there is a
marked shift in this debate for the first time since the 1960s. The Cold
War produced its own viciously anti-socialist orthodoxy and a
corresponding attitude to the October revolutionLenin led to Stalin.
The Stalinists had their own reasons for endorsing this view. In the
1960s and 1970s this orthodoxy was challenged, not just by Trotskyists
and other anti-Stalinist socialists, but by a number of academics
influenced both by social upheaval in the West and by the moves
towards detente between the superpowers.
The East European revolutions and the subsequent collapse of the
USSR have inevitably reshaped the intellectual landscape once more.
The Stalinist model has been demolished but the right wing, in the

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historiography of the revolution as in reality, have so far been the major


beneficiaries. One reason for this is that many on the left shared some
or all of the assumptions about the nature of Russian society which
underpinned the Stalinist model and therefore found themselves
ideologically disarmed in the face of a newly confident right wing.
Robert Service simply denies that very many scholars or
commentators nowadays contend that there was an inevitability about
the passage...from Lenin to the Stalinist programme of the 1930s. Two
points need to be made about this assertion: i) In Defence of October
produced a significant amount of evidence, notably from Stephen
Cohen and Edward Acton, to the contrary1and ii) Robert Services own
article is testimony that this argument is alive and well.
Did Lenin Lead to S talin ? shrinks from using the word
inevitable, settling instead for the claim that only the wilfully blind
would fail to see that those continuities are very strong indeed. The
construction of the Stalinist regime is, in Robert Services account, a
single, continuous and unbroken process. The one party state was:
in a condition o f partial construction before the October revolution. The
scaffolding for its walls was in place by the middle o f the civil war. The roof
was added at the inception o f the New Economic Policy...

Rarely has the malignant straight line theory (Stephen Cohens


phrase quoted in my original article),2 received such a concise
formulation. Lenins Bolshevism contained many genes which were to
produce Stalinism. Thus, even if not Stalin but Trotsky or Bukharin
or even Kamenev had assumed the supreme party leadership after
Lenins death, an ultra-authoritarian system of rule would have
prevailed.
But perhaps this is because the desperate straits in which the
revolution found itself would have imposed similar policies on anyone
who led it? Nothing so historical. The real problem, according to
Robert Service, is that there really was something violent and
authoritarian both about Bolshevism from its inception after the turn of
the century and about the October revolution... So Trotsky merely
argued for a milder variant of Bolshevism than Stalins. But it was still
Bolshevism. This is the theory of original sin: Lenin ate of the apple in
1903 and damnation followed in 1917.
Mere historical facts are of little use in combating this kind of
reasoning: the judgment has already been made. Nevertheless, it is
worth correcting some of the inaccuracies with which Did Lenin lead
to Stalin? tries to bolster its metaphysics. Lenin, we are told, did not
try to term inate S talins political career because he did not
recommend his expulsion from the party. Yet surely the removal of

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115

Stalin as general secretary was designed to remove him from all


effective power. Lenin had rarely recommended anything more severe.
Zinoviev and Kamenev, whom Lenin described as scabs and strike
breakers for their role in publicly opposing the October revolution,
were two of the few prominent Bolsheviks who would have suffered
expulsion from the party if Lenin had had his way. But Lenin did not
get his way. Indeed, far from being bossy and obsessive, Lenin
continued to work with Zinoviev and Kamenev, as he continued to
work with Bukharin during and after Bukharin led the opposition to the
Brest-Litovsk treaty which almost resulted in a split in the Bolsheviks.
Lenins tolerance for such debate, right up to and including the 10th
party congress, belies the tale that he shared Stalins desire for a single
unchallengeable ideology. Similarly, the contention that both Lenin
and Stalin deployed terror whenever the partys power was thought to
be threatened obscures much more than it reveals. Lenin did advocate
the use of force, predominantly against those who used force, or gave
succour to those who used force, against the revolution.
Robert Services own example of the treatment of Russian Orthodox
bishops in 1922 is a case in point. This seemingly despotic act was
actually committed in the midst of famine in which a total of 5 million
died; the bishops were hoarding gold that could have paid to help feed
the starving. The law was carefully framed so that removal of valuables
would only take place in the presence of believers and so that no object
would be removed that was necessary for worship. Here is a rather less
distorted account of events following the proclamation of a law
sequestrating church valuables for the aid of famine victims:
Patriarch Tikhon...branded this law as sacrilegious and non-canonical, and
called upon the faithful to resist its realisation with every available means.
The agitation which began was carried on in much the same way as the
previous agitation against the 1918 decree separating church and state, but
with the difference that the issue was now o f an entirely humanitarian
nature...
To argue the question on the basis o f church canons and state laws in a
country just emerging from a state o f war and revolution and struggling for
the very life o f starving millions was a futile task. Even legally, religious
groups could not refuse to return to the state that which they had received
for use only and for which they had signed contracts to that effect...
The conflict that developed between the church and the government,
because o f the Patriarchs resistance, claimed not a few victims. There were
riots with some bloodshed, followed by repressive measures on the part of
the sta te ...In all were reported 45 executions and 250 long term
imprisonments. The church throughout the country was in a state o f

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anarchy. Large sections o f it, particularly in the famine area, resented the
Patriarchs stand...3

Indeed, when the house arrest of the Patriarch became known.


Bishop Antonine and priests Vedensky, Belkoff and Krasnitsky led a
group to the Patriarchs residence:
the day before the execution o f the Moscow priests, they appeared before
the Patriarch and remonstrated with him that he was chiefly responsible for
the terror and the anarchy in the church and that with his name was
associated the whole counter revolutionary policy o f the church in recent
years. They forced the retirement o f the Patriarch and appealed to the
church to make peace with the new social order *

But Robert Service is right about one thing concerning Lenins


attitude to the clergy at this time: his plan derived not from some
definite anti-regim e p lo t. No it was the far more im portant
consideration of saving at least some of the millions who were losing
their lives. In the end, the amount of surplus wealth taken from the
church was enormous, and yet so much remains that its loss is hardly
noticeable to the visitor.5 Naturally one expects that a Professor of
History and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies would at
least mention this historical context.
Stalins terror, on the contrary, was not used to alleviate famine. Nor
did it defend the revolution or Lenins Bolshevik Partyit destroyed
both. Stalins terror tried to eliminate great swathes of the population
and succeeded in eliminating virtually the entire leadership and many
of the rank and file of Lenins Bolsheviks. Such an internal civil war
was necessary precisely because the transition from Lenins regime to
Stalins state was not simply a quantitative change, as Robert Service
contends, but a difference in kind, the difference between a workers
revolution, albeit degenerated, and the emergence of a new ruling class.
Sam Farber and David Finkel, the attorney who deals with the
legalistic side of Sam Farbers affairs, object to being associated with
the kind of establishment historical opinion which Robert Services
article represents. They argue that Before Stalinism was misrepresented
and should have been interpreted as a useful addition to the
revolutionary argument. David Finkel barely bothers to address the
substantive issues, mostly confining himself to his brief. He is wrong
on all points and readers who are interested to know why will find my
reply in the footnotes.6
Sam Farber does raise some issues of importance. The first concerns
the trade unions. He baulks at using the kind of language that Robert
Service employs (the party thrust its jackboot into the face of the

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117

labour movement), but his argument bears a strong family likeness.


The Bolsheviks were anti-union from as early as 1917, claims Sam
Farber, quoting Zinovievs argument that trade unions are unnecessary
in a workers state and noting his explicit rejection of the right to
strike.
Typically he does not quote Lenins 1921 rebuttal of this same
argument when it was advanced by Trotsky:
Trotsky seems to say that in a workers state it is not the business o f the
trade unions to stand up fo r the material and spiritual interest o f the
working class. That is a mistake. Comrade Trotsky speaks of a workers
state. May I say that this is an abstraction...it is...a patent error to say:
Since this is a workers' state without any bourgeoisie, against whom then
is the working class to be protected, and for what purposes? Ours is a
workers state with a bureaucratic twist to it.
We now have a state under which it is the business o f the massively
organised proletariat to protect itself, while we must use the workers'
organisation to protect the workers from their state, and get them to protect
our state.1

But perhaps Sam Farber doesnt quote Lenin because he believes


this statement to be no more than symbolic? So whose ideas were
reflected in the practice of the trade unions, Zinovievs or Lenins?
Sam seems to have forgotten the answer he himself gave in Before
Stalinism. There he noted that though there was disillusionment with
the unions in the mid-1920s:
Yet, strikes had not been outlawed. Thus, and even though the unions
pursued a no-strike policy, there were reports o f 102 strikes involving
43,000 workers in 1921-22, and 267 strikes involving 42,000 workers...in
1924. In 1925 no strikes were sanctioned by the unions but there were still
186 strikes involving 43,000 workers. In 1926 there were 327 strikes
involving 32,900 strikers in state industries...'1

None of this is to deny the very real degeneration of the revolution


that was taking place during this period or that such degeneration
affected the trade unions. Nevertheless, even when there were formal
restrictions on union democracy it would be wrong to conclude that
democratic debate on trade union issues did not take place in the key
institutions of the revolution. Arthur Ransome, for instance, records the
1920 debate on trade union issues at a conference at Jaroslavl held in
preparation for the All-Russian Communist conference. The old
Menshevik Larin opposes one man management in industry. After a
heated debate:

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Larin and Radek severally summed up and made final attacks on each
others positions, after which Radeks resolution approving the theses o f the
Central Com m ittee was passed alm ost unanim ously. L arins fo u r
amendments received one, three, seven and one vote apiece. This result was
received with cheering throughout the theatre, and showed the importance
of such conferences in smoothing the way o f the dictatorship, since it had
been obvious when the discussion began that a very much larger proportion
o f the delegates than finally voted for his resolution had been in sympathy
with Larin in his opposition to the Central Committee

After the vote delegates were elected to the All-Russian conference.


Larin declined to stand but:
Rostopchin put it to the conference that although they disagreed with Larin,
yet it would be as well that he should have the opportunity o f stating his
views at the All-Russian conference, so that the discussion should be as
many-sided as possible. The conference expressed its agreement with this.
Larin withdrew his withdrawal, and was presently elected.'0

Of course discussions like this are not the same as discussions inside
the trade unions themselves and Sam Farber is quite right to point to
the spread of the practice of appointing union and party officials by the
mid-1920s. But he is hardly original in making this point. Indeed the
mainstream Bolshevik tradition, which he is so keen to denigrate,
made precisely these points. Trotskys first attack on the bureaucracy,
partly in response to a wave of strikes in Sormovo, Kharkov and the
Donets Basin, insisted that:
the present regime...is much farther from workers democracy than the
regime o f the fiercest period o f War Communism. The bureaucratisation of
the party apparatus has developed to unheard o f proportions by means of
the method of secretarial selection...dissatisfaction...does not dissipate itself
by way o f influence o f the mass upon the party organisation (election of
party committees, secretaries, etc) but accumulates in secret and thus leads
to interior strains..."

Socialist legality is the second issue which Sam Farber raises. Again
he will not quite use Robert Services phraseology (legal nihilists),
merely insisting that Lenin saw lawlessness as an intrinsic feature of
the dictatorship of the proletariat.
So were Lenin and the Bolsheviks monsters with no care for the
justice or otherwise of individual cases, simply arresting and executing
people because of their class origin? In Defence of October showed
that Lenin completely rejected this idea when it was advanced by

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119

Latsis, one of the leaders of the Cheka, and cited a series of incidents
where Lenin personally intervened to correct injustices.12 To this we
can add instances recorded in John Keeps recent and largely hostile
account of the early months of Bolshevik rule.13 The first incident
involved the murder of two leading Cadets by anarchist sailors. Keep
tells us Lenin took this seriously, bombarding the investigators with
requests for information (nine actions from 7 to 31 January)but that
in the end the case fizzled out since the perpetrators could not be
found.14In a second incident Lenin backed strenuous investigation into
accusations of arbitrary searches and profiteering by Red Guards,
although he was by no means convinced of their guilt.15
But what of the wider question, raised both by Sam Farber and
Robin Blackburn: do revolutionaries stand for the systematic and equal
application of the law? It would be easy to give the glib answerthat
any democrat, let alone socialist, wants to see justice done and that this
involves people knowing what the law is and only being prosecuted for
demonstrably breaking it. That is certainly what we would wish to be
the case in a socialist society. But such a situation can only exist where
there is a social consensus to the effect that the law makers and the
system of justice are legitimate. In capitalist society most of the time
the ruling order, through a mixture of force, fraud and propaganda, can
convince a large enough section of the population of their legitimacy to
enable the rule of law to prevail. A revolution and civil war are, by
definition, times when no such consensus, and therefore no such
legitimacy, exists.
The case of the bishops who hoarded church riches, cited above, is
an example. Despite their explicit recognition of the separation of
church and state, despite signing legal documents that the church riches
now belonged to state agreed trustees and despite the Patriarchs public
guarantee not to enter the political arena, the church took the first
available opportunity to break all such undertakings. And it did not
break them in a way which would allow simple police methods of
arrest and trial to deal with the question. It chose methods of class
warfare calling on its followers to use any available means to resist
the government.
Faced with such situations, and the revolution and civil war were
replete with far more dangerous examples than this, the Bolsheviks
moved between trying to establish a socialist legal framework and
themselves having to use the methods of open warfare. And in warfare
individual justice (did this particular soldier point his rifle at me and am
I therefore justified in shooting at him in reply?) is inevitably replaced
by categorical judgments (is he or she on our side or not?)16. One
wishes for the former, but cannot rule out the latter. It is for precisely

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this reason that I recorded the judgement of such a hostile witness as


George Leggett in my original analysis:
in the inevitable clash between the arbitrary violence of the Cheka and the
system o f Soviet law evolved by the Peoples Commissariat for Justice, the
Cheka gained the upper hand whenever the regime came under threat;
when crises receded the [People's Commissariat] won the advantage.'1

Sam Farber objects to having his account of the revolution likened


to those of the right wing. In one sense of course he is right: Sams
intention is to strengthen the socialist tradition, not to bury it. But he
nevertheless uses arguments which are close relatives of those
deployed by the right because he rejects mainstream Bolshevism and
because his analytical method is badly flawed.
Sams rejection of mainstream Bolshevism is conducted under the
banner of a possible alternative outcome of events which he sees latent
in the criticisms of Lenin advanced by the Right and Left Bolsheviks in
the 1920s. The chapter in Before Stalinism entitled Alternatives to
Lenin has sections dealing with Right Bolsheviks, Left Bolsheviks,
anarchists and Left Social Revolutionariesbut no section on the Left
Opposition and only a handful of references to Trotsky. So when Sam
claims that all my specific criticisms of Leninism in power were
made at the time by...the early Left and Right Bolshevik oppositions
he is right. But he has chosen to construct a retrospective historical
alternative composed of a pick and mix of all their programmes. Now,
of course, if there were an animal which was half sheep and half pig we
could happily carve pork chops and lamb chops from the same carcass.
The Left and Right Bolsheviks had mutually incompatible programmes
in every areaforeign policy, the peasantry, the economy, military
affairswhich is why an effective opposition could not emerge until
Trotsky built an opposition based on an economic and social, as well as
democratic, alternative to the bureaucracy.
But Before Stalinism's search for an alternative to mainstream
Bolshevism is not really to do with the history of 1920s Russia. It is to
do with political organisation in the 1990s. Sam Farber rejects Lenins
model of the party as Jacobinand since this conception of the party
was with Lenin since at least 1902, and since Sam Farber clearly
believes it was an im portant cause of the degeneration of the
revolution, it is pointless, though understandable, for him to deny that
his thesis bolsters the right wings claim that the authoritarian
character of Leninism in power was already built into the original
conceptions of Bolshevism.
The charge of Jacobinism is itself misguided. The authoritarian
nature of the societies established by bourgeois revolutions does not, in

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121

any case, stem primarily from the political forms of organisation


adopted by the revolutionaries. Rather both are a function of the fact
that the bourgeoisie is itself a minority, albeit leading a majority against
the old order, and therefore tends to develop such organisations as can
mobilise the masses but at the same time represent the bourgeoisies
own sectional interest against the masses.
The need for a revolutionary party springs from the quite different
profile of the workers revolution. Here the problem is that although the
revolution represents a movement of the immense majority, in the
interests of the immense majority, the process by which a class moves
into struggle and becomes politically conscious is both uneven and
lengthy. If the minority of revolutionaries created by day to day
struggles are to survive and to have influence on the subsequent course
of the struggle they must necessarily organise themselves, even though
they are for the time being a minority. How this minority becomes the
majority involves the whole body of revolutionary strategy and tactics.
Clearly there are dangers, both that the minority will become impatient
and substitute itself for the class and that it will become demoralised
and dissolve itself or blunt its revolutionary politics. But this problem
cannot be wished away with talk of Jacobinism.
Such political positions carry a methodological dimension. Sam has
accomplished the astounding feat of writing an entire book about the
rise of Stalinism without ever saying exactly what sort of society he
believes Russia had become by the 1930s. Was it a new class society,
state capitalist or what? The answer to this question matters because if
you see the rise of Stalinism involving a social counter-revolution then
the economic and international isolation of the regime became crucial
because it deprived the Bolsheviks of the material basis for socialism.
If, however, this is not the case it opens the way to locate the transition
to socialism only, or mainly, at the political level. This seems to be
Sam Farbers position as his quotation of Rakovskys point about
income differentials and political influence being the defining
characteristic of the bureaucracy indicates.18 Further evidence for this
interpretation comes from the way in which Before Stalinism locates
the origin of such repressive societies as China, Cuba and Vietnam.
These revolutionary leaderships, we are told, made conscious
political choices favouring undemocratic political arrangements...not
as lesser evils im posed by ...econom ic and other objective
difficulties.'9
All this, in turn, opens the way for an analysis of the October
revolution which insists that democracy, legality and a socialist
constitution could have turned the tide where Trotsky failed. Hence
Sams summary of his position:

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the moment the working class is deprived o f democratic control over the
institutions through which it exercises power in society, that working class
has lost its power, period.

There is no gainsaying this as a general statement, but it utterly fails


as an account of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution. In this
context it would be far more accurate to say that the moment the
working class ceases to exist as a social force even the most democratic
institutions will lose their power over society. The isolation of the
revolution meant the destruction of the working class in the civil war
and the famine that followedwhich is why concentration on the
purely political is not an antidote to determinism but a failure to
observe the most elementary requirements of the Marxist method.
Since Robin Blackburn relies exclusively on Sam Farber for his
interpretation of the October revolution, I hope that I have already
supplied adequate replies to at least some of the issues raised in A
Reply to John Rees. He does however go on to raise a number of
questions about the contemporary relevance of the October revolution
which require a response.
Let me begin by giving answers to two direct questions posed by
Robin Blackburn: does the tradition in which International Socialism
stands believe in socialist legality and a plurality of parties and do we
have any analysis of the kind of economic structure which a socialist
society would entail? The first point is easily answered. Of course we
believe in socialist legality and a plurality of partiesand so did the
Bolsheviks until the darkest days of the civil war. But, as I have already
said in my reply to Sam Farber, to win such freedoms requires victory
in a class struggle. Only on that basis can the consensus necessary for
the operation of any form of legality be established. And in that
struggle the laws of battle will sometimes contradict the rules of polite
debate. Our chances of success are greater than those faced by the
Bolsheviks for the very good reason that we hope to be at the head of a
working class that is the overwhelming majority of the population, not
one which numbered merely 3 million out of total population of 160
million, and in an advanced industrialised country, not in a still largely
peasant land.
The economic structure of a socialist society cannot be fully
examined here. But Robin Blackburn is mistaken in believing that it
has not been a subject of discussion in our tradition. The Bolsheviks
early attempts at a mixture of state guided and market mechanisms
were referred to in In Defence of October. Robin Blackburn himself
has noted Trotskys writings on the same subject. Related issues have
been examined by Chris Harman in The Myth of the M arket
{International Socialism 42), and Alex Callinicos who devoted a

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considerable part of his book, The Revenge of History, to the kind of


political and economic structure that a socialist society might need.
But Robin Blackburns major objection to In Defence of October
is that it argues that the Bolshevik experience still supplies us with a
model for a socialist strategy today. This is mistaken, the argument
runs, because the Bolsheviks failed to appreciate the enduring
significance of bourgeois representative assemblies in much of the rest
of Europe and could only pursue a successful revolutionary strategy in
Russia because bourgeois institutions of all types were weak and
bourgeois representative democracy a very frail import. Of the great
revolutionary upheavals of the 20th century only Hungary in 1956 and
Poland in 1980 have given rise to genuine institutions of workers
power and even these could have been dispersed easily enough if a
bourgeois democratic set up had been granted.
One immediate result of Robin Blackburns analysis is that the
collapse of the distinctive features of class politics, whether of the
reformist variety or of the revolutionary tradition, is taken to extremes.
In Defence of October noted that one result of the left wing attacks on
the Bolshevik tradition was that much of what now passes for socialist
thought is indistinguishable from run of the mill liberalism. Sadly,
Robin Blackburn has all too quickly provided a striking example.20
The historical facts which supposedly underpin this shift are quite
wrong. In the all important German Revolution of 1919-23 workers
councils were ranged against bourgeois parliaments. The decisive
factor in the defeat of the revolution was the inexperience of the
revolutionaries, not the legitimacy of the National Assembly. The
Finnish revolution of 1918 failed for similar reasons, as did the Spanish
revolution of 1936. In Chile in the early 1970s the inter-factory
committees, the cordones, threatened to become an alternative centre of
power for the working class to that of Allendes left wing government,
and this in a country known as the Britain of Latin America for its
supposed stability. Similarly, whether the crises in France in 1968 and
Portugal in the mid-1970s developed into revolutionary situations was
not, in the final analysis, a question of loyalty to bourgeois institutions
but of political leadership, although not simply in a narrow or
immediate sense. A decisive factor in many of these cases was the
influence of Stalinist popular front politicsstrangely, the very politics
Robin Blackburn is so keen to see revived in the form of Charter 88.
It should scarcely need saying that the legitimacy of bourgeois
democracy even in the advanced capitalist states rests not on some
timeless historical loyalty on the part of workers but largely on their
ability to sustain the standard of living of the population. Yet this is a
time when even American workers have lost 17 percent of their real
income in a generation, when the core of the European economy.

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Germany, is more unstable than it has been at any time in the post-war
period, when the great series of recessions which opened in the early
1970s shows every sign of deepening and when the great bogey of the
Stalinist states has vanished. As I write, Los Angeles is under a curfew
enforced by tanks and over 10,000 troops, a fact reported in The
Observer under the headline Superpower retakes gutted second city
and with the words the upsurge of anger in New York and a score of
other cities showed how precarious the normal order is.2' It seems a
poor time to be arguing, Fukuyama style, the historical inviolability of
bourgeois democracy.
What connects all these responses is that they are written by people
who have altered their appraisal of the October revolution under the
twin impact of the fall of Stalinism and the collapse of the enthusiasm
which was generated by the struggles of the late 1960s and early
1970s.22 Then fashion dictated at least a sympathetic hearing for the
Bolsheviks if not outright identification with revolutionary politics.
Now intellectual fashionfor there have been only essentially minor
revelations of new historical facts about the revolution23 dictate a
different tune. Transitory notoriety can be attained by such methods but
the socialist movement requires more constant companions.
Notes
1 In Defence of October, International Socialism 52, ppIO, 11 and 18.
2 Ibid, p i8.
3 JF Hecker, Religion and Communism (London, 1933) pp207-20. I am grateful to
Mike Haynes for this reference.
4 Ibid, pp209-210.
5 Ibid, p209.
6 David Finkels contribution to this debate is remarkable if only for its tone. Why he
should choose to write in this particularly abusive form is a mystery. Perhaps one
reason is that he overestimates the degree to which In Defence of October was
directed at Before Stalinism. Eight references out of a total of 270 hardly constitutes
a running polemic. Nevertheless, let me deal with the points he raises:
References I and 2: the first objection is that I accuse Sam Farber of believing that
Lenins pre civil war policies led to Stalin, the second that I deleted Farbers explicit
specification of the period after the civil war as a focus of critical political analysis.
This point is particularly easy to deal with since David Finkel provides the refutation
on the next but one page. Finkel reproduces, at slightly greater length but with no
alteration in meaning (supposedly his second objection), the passage in which Sam
Farber tells us that Lenins distaste for codified rules had sometimes played an
important role in his political practice concerning internal party organisation. Finkel
then adds: Examples are then cited from old factional battles between 1903 and
1909. In other words, Lenins pre-1917, never mind about pre-1921, policies are
being used as evidence for his chronic distaste for legal procedures. Finkel
comments that obviously, this has nothing to do with the caricature...that the
Bolsheviks were some kind of monolithic party. Readers will have to judge for
themselves how obvious this is.

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Reference 3: This is a lengthy quote from In Defence of October which even Finkel
admits quotes without blatant distortion. He then goes on to wonder about things
that I imply, ie things that Finkel wishes I had said but which in fact I did not say.
Reference 4, concerns my supposedly ignoring the fact that Lenin and the Bolsheviks
did not call the introduction of War Communism a retreat (as they did the
introduction of the NEP). Yet In Defence of October clearly quotes Lenin
complaining that the nationalisation policies under War Communism were forced on
them and that if they continued we shall inevitably be beaten (p43). I also quote a
Bolshevik leader of the Food Commissariat talking of food requisitioning, the other
major social policy of War Communism, in these terms: What do you think, the
Peoples Commissariat of Food Supply does this for its own satisfaction? No, we do
it because there is not enough food (p45). The forced, makeshift nature of War
Communism is clear enough from contemporary statements, even without looking at
Trotskys and other Bolsheviks later depositions on the accidental nature of
developments in this period.
As to the use of the phrase Stalinist Leninism, I still maintain that no one keenly
aware of the counter-revolutionary nature of Stalinism, of the river of blood running
between the revolutionary tradition and the Stalinist tradition, should dream of
employing such an expression.
Reference 4a and 4c: David Finkel clearly believes that when 1 quoted Farber on the
White T error my om ission of the words in this c o n tex t was a cynical
manipulation. On the contrary, it does not alter my point at all; it is the omission of
a full discussion of the White Terror which is a cynical manipulation of the real
history of the Russian civil war, and to do so in the name of isolating the political
dimension is to compound bad history with bad method. The same technique is used
in the discussion of the Green Terror. Here the impact is even greater since
knowledge of the brutality of the peasant risings is less widely known than that of the
Whites.
Reference 4b: In Defence of October claimed that Sam Farber quoted Latsis but did
not quote Lenin. David Finkels quotation from Before Stalinism shows that I was
rightFarber mentions Lenins objection in a phrase of two words and does not
quote him. This lessens the impact of Lenins forceful intervention and is typical of
the way in which Before Stalinism uses a qualifying phrase to disguise the
importance of the key episodes in the development of the Lenin government.
Quoted in T Cliff, Trotsky Vol 2, The Sword o f Revolution (London, 1990) ppl76177.
S Farber, Before Stalinism (London, 1990) p88.
A Ransome, The Crisis in Russia 1920 (London, 1992) pp52-53. This book and its
companion volume, Six Weeks in Russia 1919, are reviewed by Sheila McGregor
elsewhere in this journal.
Ibid, p53.
Documents of the 1923 Opposition (London, 1975) pp2-3.
In Defence of October, op cit, p53 and p51.
J Keep, Lenins Time Budget: the Smolny Period in E R Frankel, J Frankel and
B Knei-Paz (eds). Revolution in Russia, reassessments o f 1917 (London, 1992).
Ibid, p348.
Ibid, pp350-351.
Warfare is a suitable analogy, although the dangers of mistaking your enemy in a
class war are obviously greater than in a conventional military struggle. Farbers
analogy with the workers bomb argument is, however, potty. We can say with a
high degree of certainty that an exchange of nuclear weapons would destroy the
working class, and that the use of categorical punishment, however undesirable
recourse to such action might be, would not.

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17 In Defence of October, op cit, p54. Although Leggett is exaggerating in describing


all Cheka operations as arbitrary violence.
18 Before Stalinism, op cit, p5.
19 Ibid, p3.
20 Although I did not dream that within a year Robin Blackburn would have carried that
process so far as to call on socialists to vote Liberal in those constituencies where
Labour was not best placed to beat the Tories in the British general election of
1992 advice which, if followed, would allow the Liberals to erode Labour support
in exactly the way that the Labour Party built itself at the expense of the Liberals in
the early decades of the century.
21 The Observer, 3 May 1992.
22 This is even true of Robert Service, whose best book. The Bolshevik Party in
Revolution (London, 1979), was contemptuous of Robert Daniels, Leonard Shapiro
and Merle Fainsod who portray Bolshevik ideology as the original sin and regard
Lenin as the greatest sinner (p6).
23 One of the few exceptions is M Reimans The Birth o f Stalinism which, basing itself
on German archives, shows that the Trotskyist opposition was stronger than
previously thought and just how complete the break between Stalinism and the
revolutionary tradition had to be.