Chapter 7: The Great Transformation in Russia and its Consequences

As to both internal and foreign policy Russia stands today with both feet in the camp of the counter-revolution. Stalin has organized his own Thermidor in order to rid himself of the last representatives of Old Bolshevism who could in any way be dangerous to his plans. But these plans culminate in the renunciation of all the former political principles of the old Communist Party of Russia and the setting up of a sort of Soviet aristocracy which rests upon the new bureaucratic machinery, freed of all the old elements, in order to make the great masses of the peasants and the industrial workers amenable to its domination. The so-called "democratic constitution," the greatest farce that the world has ever seen, merely serves to veil the real intentions of the Russian autocrats and give them a different aspect as seen from the outside.

This change in the nature of the Russian dictatorship must also, of course, have its influence on the attitude of the Communist parties abroad. That a radical swing to the right has set in here, and that the Communist parties today advocate things which only a few years ago they were violently opposing, even the blindest can see. But the deeper-lying reasons for this change, which slaps in the face all the old party principles advocated by Lenin and his friends, remain hidden from most people.

When, in his day, Lenin came forward with his "twenty-one points" to weld the Communist parties of the whole world into one iron-bound, centralized organization which would be blindly obedient to every order from the Moscow Central, he had a definite purpose in view. He wanted thus to give the proletarian movement in every country a fixed direction and to safeguard it against any coalition with bourgeois or so-called Menshevist parties. Wherever a revolutionary situation developed in any country the workers were to set to work immediately to seize political power for themselves, and through a system of soviets on the Russian pattern proceed to the expropriation of the land and the industrial plants without entering into any compromise with other factions. Russia was, moreover, to afford every possible moral and material assistance to these efforts.

It is not our task here to pass critical judgment on the worth or unworth of such tactics; we are concerned only in establishing the fact in order to show that between the present tactics of Stalin and his adherents and the principles advocated by Lenin there are no points of contact whatever, but that they differ as much as do fire and water. It was chiefly these tactics of Lenin which brought about the complete break with the big Socialist parties abroad, whose leaders Lenin fought tooth and nail and publicly pilloried as "betrayers of the proletariat." In Germany, for example, where the Social Democrats held to the theory that it was first necessary to consolidate the republic internally and externally before it would be possible to proceed through social reform to the establishment of socialism, their tactics were combatted by the Communists by every means possible and with fanatical bitterness. The adherents of Social Democracy were branded as "Social-Fascists" and counter-revolutionaries, and every ordinary Communist in Germany was firmly convinced that in comparison with the Socialist Party, Hitler was the lesser evil. The word "Menshevism" came to eptomize every kind of treason against the working class. From the Communist point of view the "Menshevik" was public enemy number one and had to be fought by every means available.

And today? Everything which only a few years ago was damned to the bottomless pit by the Communist International is now for Stalin and his followers the acme of political wisdom. Stalin has become the executor of the will of the once-hated Menshevism and tries to outdo it in concessions to the bourgeois world. The whole idea of the popular front is just a sweeping repudiation of the principles laid down by Lenin and the Old Bolsheviks. One might perhaps object that it is at any rate a step in advance if Stalin and his following ahroad have convinced themselves of the untenability of those old principles and have therefore set out along new lines. That would be correct, if along with the new insight there had occurred a change in disposition; if they had finally decided to respect even the opinions of others and to quit playing the part of red popes. But it is just in this regard that there has been the least change.

Stalin, who is today making the most far-reaching concessions to the shallowest reformism and to the defenders of the bourgeois state, has transformed Russia into a vast slaughterhouse and persecutes his real or fancied enemies of the left with the pitiless obsession of an oriental despot. The same man who is today supporting in Spain the interests of his imperialist allies and defending the bourgeois republic against the struggles of the Spanish workers and peasants for social liberation, is having his miserable hired scribblers abroad shamelessly malign and drag through the mud the heroic fighters of the C.N.T. and the F.A.I., who are bearing the brunt of that struggle, just as he does with his political opponents in Russia. The same man who set himself up as the attorney for the so-called United Front is today with cynical deliberateness destroying the anti-Fascist front in Spain so that in the interest of foreign capitalists he can attack the Spanish revolution from the rear.