Reprinted from the September-October 1940 issue The Western Socialist, page 83.

This OCR scan was produced from a fragment of the article which is missing the beginning. The following text shows the article already in progress, in the middle of a quotation from an SLP pamphlet, indicated in an indented paragraph. If a copy of the complete article can be found, this defect will be corrected.

I arbitrarily assigned a title to the article.

-- M.L.

WSM Criticism of SLP Position on the Soviet Government



By all that is logical in Marxian science, Soviet Russia should be discarding, bit by bit, the State apparatus and by degrees be constructing the new governmental or administrative machinery, which, of course, can be nothing else than the Industrial Union government. Has Soviet Russia been doing this? The answer is no -- in fact, the Political State trappings have been amplified, at the expense of the natural, i.e., logical trend toward the goal of Socialism, the Industrial Union form of government -- and this is what gives Marxists pause. (Soviet Russia - Promise or Menace, page 18. Italics theirs.)

Apparently the "Marxists" of the S.L.P. did not "pause" long enough. Had they done so, they would have rejected Russia long ago as "the proletarian star of emancipation." Notwithstanding the "amplification" of the political state in Russia, anathema to all S.L.P. members, (a process that was growing since the revolution of 1917) they did not hesitate to pour forth praise for that country. Twelve years after the revolution we find the S.L.P. stating:

Soviet Russia has rounded its even dozen years. It has won the Proletarian Revolution and held fast to the Proletarian Republic in spite of attack, blockade, prejudices, lying campaigns, etc. (Weekly People, October 18, 1929. Italics ours.)

Four years later, without any improvement in the Russian political apparatus, but if anything a growth on its coercive side, the S.L.P. stated the following:

The Russian worker is becoming industrial minded. Sooner or later this was bound to reflect itself in the composition of the government, if Russia was truly moving toward Socialism, as we all hoped she was. The reflection has appeared, ond perhaps even sooner than might have been expected, which proves the fundamental soundness of the Russian Workers Revolution. (Weekly People, August 26, 1939. Italics ours.)

A little more than a year after the above was printed, the "reflex" as it showed itself in the "composition of the government," was demonstrated in the wholesale executions that took place in Russia. The Russian state machine was functioning like all other state machines throughout the entire capitalist word, i.e., to coerce. But did the Socialist Labor Party analyse that event in such a manner? Here is one of their reactions to the incident.

We agree with the liberals that it is shuddering business to think of 117 lives being snuffed out, but it is better, if the threats are actual, than running the risk of having the life of the first Workers Republic snuffed out. (Weekly People, December 1934. Italics ours.)

Even later events in which the Russian state machinery was used to wipe out hundreds of men and women, executions, forced migrations, etc., did not make the S.L.P. waiver in its support of Russia. Having accepted the belief that Russia was a "Workers Republic," all things were more or less justified - or excused. Even as late as this year (prior to the big shock), the S.L.P. justified the ruthlessness of the Russian dictatorship, and in dealing with the charge that that dictatorship is as ruthless as the Nazi-Fascist dictatorships, excuses such ruthlessness on the ground that it was inspired by concern for the safety of the workers republic (see: Soviet Russia: Promise or Menace. Pages 11-12.)

Similar apologetics were offered at the time of the infamous Moscow trials, as the following:

What the bourgeois scribes do not understand, or will not in honesty acknowledge, is that, through these trials, Soviet Russia is proclaiming to the capitalist powers and their supporters everywhere: "We are growing so powerful that you must resort to the most despicable means to weaken us. You send spies, saboteurs and wreckers to disrupt our government and our economy. You conspire with traitors within our boundaries, corrupting them, in the hope of conquering us, and for the purpose of partitioning among yourselves this land which we call the Socialist Fatherland...." (Weekly People, March 26, 1938. Italics ours.)

It should be noted that the S.L.P. while praising and supporting the Russian set-up was careful in refraining to call it Socialist. However, it should also be noted that they do not question the above claim which they put into the mouths of the Soviet Russians, that theirs is the "Socialist Fatherland." While they also pointed out that Russia is "putatively" a "Socialist Commonwealth," they did little to show that such a report was erroneous.

S.L.P. literature dealing with the Russian question is almost barren of any information or analyses regarding the social relationships existing in that country. In the pamphlet "Soviet Russia - Promise or "Menace" containing some sixty pages, nothing is said on this most important aspect of Russian society. Instead the author deals with eight questions, none of which are basic in understanding the system of society extant in Russia and the social relationships that make up that society. Can it be that he S.L.P. does not know the answer ? The following gives us every reason to believe this to be the case.

The writer of "Socialism Defined" was not entirely without precedent for calling the Russian Soviet Republic "State capitalism," since Lenin himself designated it when Russia turned from what was called strict Communism to the "New Economic Policy." However the stage which Lenin characterized may be said to have passed after the government discontinued giving large concessions to foreign capitalists and also as it has gone more and more into the cooperative policy. At the same time you are undoubtedly right that state capitalism, with later developments in Italy, Germany, etc., attaches itself closely to Fascist governments. On the other hand, we do not consider that either of the designations, "State Socialism" or "Communism" should be applied to Soviet Russia. "State" Socialism, in fact, is a term that is so clearly contradictory in itself that it can scarcely be applied to anything. The State and Socialism do not go together so that where the State rules, Socialism does not exist. On the other hand, Communism is not at all suitable to Soviet Russia, for Communism, as we all know, in the modern sociological sense is only another term for Socialism, and Socialism, of course, has not been established as yet and probably not by a long distance in Russia today. Editorially we refrain carefully from putting a label on the present state, seeing no necessity therefore. The term "Soviet Republic," that is, the council government under the particular dictatorship of the Communist Party, is clear and well enough understood to need no further designation. The economic and social situation within Soviet Russia today is so curious, so many sided and in such a state of flux that it is obvious it does not readily fall under any particular designation. (Weekly People, January 19, 1935. Italics ours.)

Furthermore, although the economic and social situation within Soviet Russia today is so curious, so many sided and in such a state of flux that it is obvious that it does not readily fall under any particular designation, the S.L.P. with all the restraint they could muster to refrain from putting a label on the present state in Russia, have continually referred to that country as a Proletarian Republic, Workers' Republic, and by implication as the Socialist Fatherland.