As a political magnitude, or as a group claiming to play a political role, the “Left Communist” group has presented its “Theses on the Present Situation”. In an utterly childish manner, by means of amusing “scientific” explanations, they try to conceal their own bankruptcy, to conceal the facts, the mere review of which would show that it was precisely the declassed, intellectual “cream” of the party, the elite, who opposed the peace with slogans couched in revolutionary petty-bourgeois phrases, that it was precisely the mass of workers and exploited peasants who carried the peace.
Nevertheless, in spite of all the above-mentioned declarations and evasions of the “Lefts” on the question of war and peace, the plain and obvious truth manages to come to light. They were right in having drummed into the minds of the lovers of ostentation that one must be able to calculate the balance of forces and not help the imperialists by making the battle against socialism easier for them when socialism is still weak, and when the chances of the battle are manifestly against socialism.
Our “Left” Communists, however, who are also fond of calling themselves “proletarian” Communists, because there is very little that is proletarian about them and very much that is petty-bourgeois, are incapable of giving thought to the balance of forces, to calculating it. Every page of Kommunist shows that our “Lefts” have no idea of iron proletarian discipline and how it is achieved, that they are thoroughly imbued with the mentality of the declassed petty-bourgeois intellectual.
Perhaps all these phrases of the “Lefts” about war can be put down to mere childish exuberance, which, moreover, concerns the past, and therefore has not a shadow of political significance? Anyone aspiring to political leadership must be able to think out political problems, and lack of this ability converts the “Lefts” into spineless preachers of a policy of vacillation, which objectively can have only one result, namely, by their vacillation the “Lefts” are helping the imperialists to provoke the Russian Soviet Republic into a battle that will obviously be to its disadvantage, they are helping the imperialists to draw us into a snare. The Russian workers’ revolution cannot *&8216;save itself’ by abandoning the path of world revolution, by continually avoiding battle and yielding to the pressure of international capital, by making concessions to ’home capital’.
“From this point of view it is necessary to adopt a determined class international policy which will unite international revolutionary propaganda by word and deed, and to strengthen the organic connection with international socialism (and not with the international bourgeoisie). If war is waged by the exploiting class with the object of strengthening its rule as a class, such a war is a criminal war, and “defencism” in such a war is a base betrayal of socialism. If war is waged by the proletariat after it has conquered the bourgeoisie in its own country, and is waged with the object of strengthening and developing socialism, such a war is legitimate and “holy”.
We have been “defencists” since October 20, 1917. If in approximately six months’ time state capitalism became established in our Republic, this would be a great success and a sure guarantee that within a year socialism will have gained a permanently firm hold and will have become invincible in our country.
I can imagine with what noble indignation a “Left Communist” will recoil from these words, and what “devastating criticism” he will make to the workers against the “Bolshevik deviation to the right”. And that is why we must deal with this point in greater detail.
Firstly, the “Left Communists” do not understand what kind of transition it is from capitalism to socialism that gives us the right and the grounds to call our country the Socialist Republic of Soviets.
Secondly, they reveal their petty-bourgeois mentality precisely by not recognising the petty-bourgeois element as the principal enemy of socialism in our country.
Thirdly, in making a bugbear of “state capitalism”, they betray their failure to understand that the Soviet state differs from the bourgeois state economically.
Let us examine these three points.
No one, I think, in studying the question of the economic system of Russia, has denied its transitional character. Nor, I think, has any Communist denied that the term Socialist Soviet Republic implies the determination of Soviet power to achieve the transition to socialism, and not that the new economic system is recognised as a socialist order.
But what does the word “transition” mean?
Let us enumerate these elements:
1) patriarchal, i.e., to a considerable extent natural, peasant farming;
2) small commodity production (this includes the majority of those peasants who sell their grain);
3) private capitalism;
4) state capitalism;
The shell of our state capitalism (grain monopoly, state controlled entrepreneurs and traders, bourgeois co-operators) is pierced now in one place, now in another by profiteers, the chief object of profiteering being grain.
It is in this field that the main struggle is being waged. It is not state capitalism that is at war with socialism, but the petty bourgeoisie plus private capitalism fighting together against both state capitalism and socialism. The petty bourgeoisie oppose every kind of state interference, accounting and control, whether it be state capitalist or state socialist. We know that the million tentacles of this petty-bourgeois hydra now and again encircle various sections of the workers, that, instead of state monopoly, profiteering forces its way into every pore of our social and economic organism.
Those who fail to see this show by their blindness that they are slaves of petty-bourgeois prejudices. Every politically conscious worker will say that if better order and organisation could be obtained at the price of 300 out of the 1,000 he would willingly give 300 instead of 200, for it will be quite easy under Soviet power to reduce this “tribute” later on to, say, 100 or 50, once order and organisation are established and once the petty-bourgeois disruption of state monopoly is completely overcome.
This simple illustration in figures, which I have deliberately simplified to the utmost in order to make it absolutely clear, explains the present correlation of state capitalism and socialism. because the continuation of the anarchy of small ownership is the greatest, the most serious danger, and it will certainly be our ruin (unless we overcome it), whereas not only will the payment of a heavier tribute to state capitalism not ruin us, it will lead us to socialism by the surest road. When the working class has learned how to defend the state system against the anarchy of small ownership, when it has learned to organise large-scale production on a national scale, along state capitalist lines, it will hold, if I may use the expression, all the trump cards, and the consolidation of socialism will be assured.
Is it not clear that the higher we stand on this political ladder, the more completely we incorporate the socialist state and the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviets, the less ought we to fear “state capitalism”?
He declared, among other things, that on the question of high salaries for specialists “we” (evidently meaning the “Left Communists”) were “more to the right than Lenin”, for in this case “we” saw no deviation from principle, bearing in mind Marx’s words that under certain conditions it is more expedient for the working class to “buy out the whole lot of them” (namely, the whole lot of capitalists, i.e., to buy from the bourgeoisie the land, factories, works and other means of production).
This extremely interesting statement shows, in the first place, that Bukharin is head and shoulders above the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and anarchists, that he is by no means hopelessly stuck in the mud of phrase-making, but on the contrary is making efforts to think out the concrete difficulties of the transition—the painful and difficult transition—from capitalism to socialism.
In the second place, this statement makes Bukharin’s mistake still more glaring.
Let us consider Marx’s idea carefully.
Marx was talking about the Britain of the seventies of the last century, about the culminating point in the development of pre-monopoly capitalism. They know them from experience, and it would be extremely useful indeed for the workers to think over the reason why such lackeys of the bourgeoisie should incite the workers to resist the Taylor system and the “establishment of trusts”.
Class-conscious workers will carefully compare the “thesis” of Isuv, a friend of the Lieberdans and the Tseretelis, with the following thesis of the “Left Communists”.
“The introduction of labour discipline in connection with the restoration of capitalist management of industry cannot considerably increase the productivity of labour, but it will diminish the class initiative, activity and organisation of the proletariat. These workers in the central leading institutions like Chief Leather Committee and Central Textile Committee take their place by the side of the capitalists, learn from them, establish trusts, establish “state capitalism”, which under Soviet power represents the threshold of socialism, the condition of its firm victory.
This work of the advanced workers of Russia, together with their work of introducing labour discipline, has begun and is proceeding quietly, unobtrusively, without the noise and fuss so necessary to some “Lefts”. .”.
“Accounting and control—that is mainly what is needed for the smooth working, for the proper functioning of the first phase of communist society” [The State and Revolution, page 473.] And this control must be established not only over “the insignificant capitalist minority, over the gentry who wish to preserve their capitalist habits”, but also over the workers who “have been thoroughly corrupted by capitalism”[The State and Revolution, page 474.] and over the “parasites, the sons of the wealthy, the swindlers and other guardians of capitalist traditions” (ibid.).