The Workers' Revolt against State Capitalism's Oppressive Policies Continues

From Battaglia Comunista #10, October/November 1956 - Translated by the CWO in 2006

From first impressions of the dramatic events which have unfurled over the last few days in Poland and Hungary it would appear that a genuine process of disintegration is spontaneously occurring in the Soviet bloc that was created, nurtured and defended by Stalin at all cost, including the use of terror. But a more dispassionate, thoughtful investigation, one that is more in line with objective reality, leads us to conclude that almost the opposite is really the case.

It is undeniable that the composition of the Soviet front has been changing since even before the 20th Congress and it’s important to discern whether this is a movement of disintegration which has finally breached the ramparts or whether it is a process of tactical shifts and readjustment in keeping with Khrushchev’s new line.

What is the basis for this new policy? What were the underlying causes and are they still the same?

Will Russia succeed in saving its economic and strategic unity through the attempted liberalisation of the people’s democracies?

We will be able to reply to this question if we free the ground from a quite widespread prejudice: would the revolt of the satellite countries against the policies and authority of the ‘guiding’ state have broken out if Stalin had remained at the helm or if it had been guaranteed that his policies would remain in place? Perhaps Khrushchev, having broken the flood barrier of this policy, i.e. having liberated the forces which had been suppressed, maybe he had signalled the end of Soviet hegemony and opened the way for a return to the traditional forms of capitalism as in the West?

This is not the first time we have encountered this argument and we are happy to deal with it again here, given the relevance that current events have conferred upon it, as well as the need for precision and rigour.

Stalin completed the colossal construction of the Soviet state based on a planned economy where the strengthening of industry (heavy industry) and the collectivisation of agriculture allowed for the normal course of economic evolution to be telescoped. This has been possible thanks to technical and scientific conquests from the capitalist world through, above all, the two world wars.

State capitalism was thus subject to the dynamic of its own construction and came into conflict - as much internally as on a world level - with the economic, political and military strength of the Western world alongside which Stalin had victoriously conducted the anti-Nazi war and with whom interests of world supremacy were divided. But the life of this monstrous modern Moloch that is state capitalism had to be nourished, not only by the labour and lifeblood of the Russian proletariat who had allowed it to be spilt under the illusion that socialism was being constructed, but also it required the circle of exploitation to be widened to include the people’s democracies whose economic potential and labour were regarded as colonies to be exploited. Thus we see the economic absurdity of predominantly agricultural, depressed backward countries where agriculture is still practised extensively, all of a sudden transformed into industrial countries, and a ragged crowd of peasantry transformed into an army of industrial workers with all the social, domestic and psychological upheaval which only a policy of first force, then terror could enable them to hide.

Even if the course of Russian history had not changed with the 20th Congress the combined pillar of heavy industry and collectivisation of the land on which the Stalinist state rested would have exploded from its internal contradictions. But it had changed, not as a result of a sudden radical economic change of direction imposed either at home or in the satellite countries but by the overthrow of the ideological frame of reference in favour of the language of social democratic liberalisation in the attempt to demolish the cult of personality and the figure and role of Stalin which the stupid and supine Soviet propaganda had “gigantified” in the imagination and consciousness of millions of communist activists.

When the floodgates were suddenly opened it was inevitable that all the centrifugal forces which Stalinism had known how to effectively and violently contain and suppress would be let loose. The steps in this progressive uncoupling from the economic and political influence of the “guiding” state can be observed with the disturbances in Vorkuta [Russia], the unrest in East Berlin, the Poznan uprising and now the open rebellion of Poland and Hungary. The contradiction of an economy forced to compete with the leading American imperialism instead of developing at a natural economic pace, the contradiction between the necessity to accumulate on the basis of the exploitation of human labour, the creation of a bureaucracy asserting itself as the exploiting class in the master state on the one hand, and on the other the political con-trick, once believed by the masses, of the construction of a socialist society; such contradictions had already matured and reached the explosive stage on the periphery of the Russian front at a time when the central power had fewer cards to play to curb national independence movements.

We do not know when Khrushchev realised just what was brewing in the satellite countries along the liberalising line that appeared to be embodied in Tito’s Yugoslavia. Nevertheless we believe Khrushchev embarked on the only course left open to Russia in order to postpone the catastrophe.

Just as Stalin was obliged to follow the imperative of a strong policy and a dictatorial state in order to extort as much labour as was necessary to pursue his power politics disguised as socialism, so Khrushchev was obliged to reach the same goal by opposite, or apparently opposite, means such as formal freedom, democracy, of equal rights for political parties and between parties and the state. And in the event, during the course of consolidating the new positions, liberty lent a hand to ... the liberators and the malicious beast of nationalism was unchained with all the reactionary outpourings history knows.

Up to now Krushchev’s approach, by means of the Gomulka stratagem, has been able to resist this and the country still remains in the rouble zone but in Hungary the possibility of the country sliding towards the dollar zone is not excluded.

Who can exclude the possibility that this dramatic convergence of forces towards international social democracy from Nenni to Gomulka, from Togliatti to Nagy, from Tito to Khrushchev, will prepare the ground for a durable coexistence between Russia and America and assure both a long breathing space for capitalism in danger?

For revolutionary minorities sentimental protests against a state which has dared to fire on its workers are not important; but it’s worth the historical observation that when the workers take up arms to defend their rights as a class then the state defends itself against them.

Against the state of the dictatorship of capital which imprisons workers in the name of socialism. Together with the workers in order that they finally rediscover the real life of socialism. This is what revolutionaries now look forward to.