Punkerslut to the International
After reading the pamphlet "Where We Stand" published by your organization, there was much that deserved response. Particularly needing comment are the history of the Soviet Union and the main protagonists of the Bolshevik Revolution. For instance, I read this: "Lenin, in theory and in practice, was the first Marxist to develop the organizational framework—a party of the working class consisting of its most class-conscious fighters— through which the liberation of the working class could be fulfilled."
Then you conclude, "...the Soviet Union—a society where workers had lost power by the end of the 1920s." This is a reference to the period where Stalin became politically dominant within the Soviet Union.
There is a tremendous amount of difficulty with these statements. There is the suggestion that workers had power when Lenin was in control of the government. There is one simple, political fact that completely obliterates this understanding: the Politburo, or the unelected kings of the Bolshevik Party, maintained the exact same amount of power from its birth until the collapse of the Soviet Union. There was never a "transfer of power" between the actual workers themselves and those who called themselves "representatives of the workers" -- whether it is the Russian tzar or the Communist Party.
Control and decision-making was always isolated to the hands of a very few, whether it was a Tzarist government or a Bolshevik government. There is no need to romanticize about how "workers had lost power." The political, economic, and social position of the common laborers became even more oppressed after transitioning to the so-called "Dictatorship of the Proletariat." Or, as Engels has said of Authoritarian Communists in his own day, "This is, of course, a dictatorship, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small minority that has made the revolution, and who are themselves previously organized under the dictatorship of one or several individuals." ("The Program of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune," 1874, by Frederick Engels.)
With isolated control of government, Capitalists have ordered the executions of striking workers; and with isolated control of economy, Capitalists have ordered workers into dangerous mines and factories. It is a matter of isolated control of social power that leads to the exploitation of the many by the few. This is exactly what happened in the Soviet Union with the rule of Vladimir Lenin. Instead, you coat the man with your compliments and flattery: "He restored Marx’s theory of the state—that it is a product of class antagonism and will disappear when classes are abolished—to its rightful place in the Marxist movement."
Perhaps you have forgotten Kronstadt, and the Third Russian Revolution? How are you going to praise this "marxist dictator," when he ordered the mass executions of workers on strike? This is well recorded as what happened: Socialist and Communist Revolutionaries, including those who originally fought for Lenin, demanded that workers have the right to unionize, to strike, and to direct control of their industry. That is, they believed they had every right that Lenin had promised them over the past few decades! (See "Democracy and Dictatorship," by Lenin.) Of course, Lenin was no more than a politician, and strictly on the amount of dead bodies, Lenin was infinitely worse than the Tzar. When you speak of Lenin, do not forget that you are speaking of someone who ordered the bombing of those who demanded the world for every worker. You are speaking of the greatest known traitor to the working class itself. (See "The Kronstadt Rebellion," by Alexander Berkman.)
Perhaps you have also forgotten about the Black Guard. Anarchists had organized a workers' militia, but this was a threat to the Soviet Union, because it gave real power directly to the workers. "Workers' control!" was a great slogan for fooling everyone, but it the government was its greatest enemy -- even more so than under the rule of the Tzar. These Anarchists were either killed or imprisoned, as we know of Lev Chernyi, who was executed by Lenin's police forces. (Phillips, Terry (Fall 1984). "Lev Chernyi". The Match! (79).) Lenin's viciousness should be well-known: "You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public sees) at least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the bloodsuckers." ("Lenin's Execution Order.") The executions to follow included the original Russian Revolutionaries.
Trotsky, who worked with Vladimir Lenin, had cooperated in implementing widespread imprisonment of Anarchists, Socialists, and Communists -- in a phrase, "the real revolutionaries." International pressure from abroad pushed Trotsky agree to release them, but when asked by a foreign diplomat when this would have happen, his response was one of the dictator: "...Trotsky drew himself up to his full height, inflated his chest, raising his arms while clenching his fists and, in an explosion of rage, asked me, in a near scream: 'Who are you to ask me, and I don't know you, when I am going to implement the decisions I have made?'" ("Anarchists Behind Bars," by Gaston Leval, 1921.)
The anti-Anarchist and anti-worker tone Sovietism should be perfectly clear. You are aware that workers seized territory for themselves in the Ukraine, and organized libertarian, communist order? This was done in the Free Territory of 1919 to 1921, and Marx's prediction was right: the Libertarian Socialism did not survive long. But he was pathetically wrong about the cause: it was the Authoritarian Socialist government that treated Marx like the Bible that killed the Revolution. In cooperation with German Imperialists, Lenin gave his troops to suppress the workers' uprising, dragging back its organizers and leaders to rot in Russian prisons. (See any of the work written by Nestor Makhno.)
Anti-proletarian feeling was strong within Russian Communist Party officials, as well. Workers had organized seizures of industry in St. Petersburg and Moscow, but similarly, as in the past, these were violently repressed by the government and the state. (See "Syndicalists in the Russian Revolution," by G.P. Maximoff.) This exact trend occurred several decades later under Stalin, who used Soviet troops to violently repress worker collectives in Spain. (See "Anarchism and Barcelona," by Chris Ealham, 2010, AK Press.) "Workers' Power" is a threat to the Communist Party. What you really mean to say is "Executioners of Revolutionary Workers."
Naturally, with so much violence against workers, against oppressed minorities, and against revolutionaries, there is bound to be every other evil associated with Capitalism. Hence, Lenin outlawed the use of the Hebrew language, beginning a very long campaign of violent, coercive anti-Semitism in Soviet Russia. ((The Jewish Soviet Culture Was Doomed Since 1930s) by Nosonovski, Michael) Those who criticize Stalin for violence against Jews forget that he was following the path set for him by Lenin.
And this man, this murderer of workers and revolutionaries, this destroyer of the Russian and European people -- you uphold him as a so-called "hero." What is unbelievable is how you describe Stalin: "Joseph Stalin identified the top-down, one-party bureaucratic monolith he established in Russia in the 1930s as a workers’ government." So, basically, absolutely nothing changed from the transition from Lenin to Stalin? Sounds like it. "One-party bureaucratic monolith?" Don't you realize that Lenin abolished the democratically-elected government, because it was made up of the Libertarian-minded "Socialist Revolutionaries" who opposed Bolshevik violence?
These killers were "necessary," according to your pamphlet. Without Trotsky's cooperation in executing striking workers in St. Petersburg, "important shoots of genuine socialism upon which a new movement can be erected would not exist today." (Page 6 of the pamphlet.) Does it not seem ironic, then, that the Soviet Union fell with a groundbreaking thud? Today, more than ever, the ideas of Socialism and Communism are hated in Russia more than anywhere else in the world. Lenin and Marx carried the dogma of "how the proletariat need to go through this other stage first." Well, after all of those stages that Marx recommended, the average Russian today is more anti-revolutionary than a century ago. The entire program of Leninism and Marxism in Russia only sterilized the Revolution; and we can only really start to begin building again when we reject those pathetic and murderous theories of the State. We don't need a political party -- we need Anarchy.
Thank you; I patiently await a response.
The International Socialist
You've raised a lot of tremendously important questions that can't be answered briefly. However, I think we have a different understanding of why the Russian Revolution degenerated and the consolidation of Stalinist commandism. We think there's nothing inherent or inevitable in Marxism or in 'Bolshevism' that leads to Stalinism. We reject the notion of original sin: Lenin's project and form of revolutionary organization was doomed from the start. If workers' had seized power in Germany between 1918 and 1923 we could have avoided World War II, the holocaust, nuclear destruction of Japan and the Cold War. I think you should continue your research on all these questions. You should revisit your understanding of Lenin in particular. If you're interested here are some suggestions for further reading:[At least ten links to a bunch of ordering pages for "Communist Literature."]
Shaun -- in Chicago
Punkerslut to the International
This is why almost all of the examples of brutality that I brought up were ordered by Lenin, and no one else, at a time when Stalin did not exist, as far as the Bolshevik Party is concerned. The Black Guards who were executed, because they were guarding worker councils? The slaughter of Makhno's troops, because they were resisting German Imperialism? The induction of anti-Semitism into the government and the prohibition of the Hebrew Language? The laws against worker organizations, unions, strikes, and public demonstrations? The bombing of the Kronstadt Soviet after it had supported the rights of workers to organize and strike? One after the other, these are things done by Lenin. As Marx said, to prohibit independent movements of the workers is "inexcusable." ("Political Indifferentism," 1873.)
But Marx can be forgotten, obviously. What use is the ideal of Marxism in opposing Leninism, if it greatest adherents aren't even aware of some of these basic premises? At least Marx's idea of the state was vaguely Democratic. Lenin believed in Democracy when he was without popular to do so, in 1906 ("Democratic Tasks of the Revolutionary Proletariat"). But then he did not believe in it, when he was popular enough to abolish Democracy in 1918 ("'Democracy' and Dictatorship."). Lenin was a Capitalist politician at best. You'd have to have a devout faith, equal to a nun's belief in Catholicism, to really imagine away these atrocities committed by Lenin's hand alone.
And what about concentration camps? Would those have been avoided? I see that was left out of your list, probably due to Soviet Russia being one of the first to build such massive complexes for forced slavery. Concentration camps were a product of Leninist Sovietism, the nuclear bombing of Japan a product of Nationalist-Liberal policy, and the holocaust a product of German Fascism. The only thing that history has proven is that any national government can commit atrocities.
If the German workers had seized control in 1918 or 1923, instead of their leaders seizing power, they may have avoided one of these great atrocities. But, due to their fanatical devotion to the political party, it's also likely that these atrocities may have simply be carried on under a "workers state," as those in Russia were.
Those books are curious propaganda, but little more, I suspect. There is no such thing as a transition from "Workers' State" to "State Capitalism" if, in both systems, the workers are equally subordinated, without the right to vote, and must obey whatever their masters tell them, or starve to death or be killed. And a book titled "What Is to Be Done? In Context," as though I were reading a Christian apology for the mass slaughter of men, women, and children in chapter 31 of Numbers. That's all I hear from those who justify Christian history, is that "it must be taken in context," "slavery was common," and "our side had to win." All this never amounts to a justification, but it does amount to something that might be believable, if you can deaden parts of your conscience.