Reprinted from the No. 5 -- 1968 issue The Western Socialist, pages 17-18.


Double-talk, according to Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, is defined as: "1: language that appears to be earnest and meaningful but in fact is a mixture of sense and nonsense; 2: inflated, involved, and often deliberately ambiguous language." The editorial entitled "Russia's usurpation" in the August 31, 1968 issue of The Weekly People fits both of these definitions. In an attempt to explain the Soviet pressures on Czechoslovakia, immediately prior to invasion, those masters of obscurantism - the Socialist Labor Party - have outdone themselves.

To begin with, they blandly inform us that "without the background of this statement by Daniel De Leon" it is impossible to comprehend the warning by the Russian Communist party that "liberalization" in Czechoslovakia will not be permitted to weaken the supremacy of the party. The De Leon statement, written about 12 years prior to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, reads as follows:

"The political movement of labor that, in the event of triumph, would prolong its existence a second after triumph, would be a usurpation. It would be either a usurpation or the signal for a social catastrophe."

The editorial goes on to make the following points: (1) "Russia's so-called Communist party did retain political power following the revolution of 1917" and to this date "falsely" equates Communist party rule with socialism.

Up to this point the S.L.P. language might be termed "earnest and meaningful," insofar as it relates to the Russian Communist party. But they now befog the issue -- or at least begin to befog the issue -- by showing that (2) Lenin admitted that Russia was not ready for socialism and that it was his hope that she could hold out long enough to enable more advanced nations to go through socialist revolutions and help the Soviet Union with their modern techniques. And, further, that Arnold Peterson, Secretary of the S.L.P. in Nov. 1917 (and still National Sec'y to this very day!) stated in an article published in The Weekly People that "Russia could not build Socialism, (and) that 'the day of its victory was the day of its defeat.'"

The De Leonists proceed from this point to argue: (3) that the Bolsheviks, although unable to "build Socialism" did build a coercive State which, they claim, was what De Leon had in mind when he said that "the revolution once accomplished, the prolonging of political power would be 'a usurpation or the signal for a social catastrophe.'" Might we not be within our rights, then, to assume that Arnold Peterson and the S.L.P. regard the Bolshevik Revolution of November, 1917, as the (socialist, or at least, working-class) revolution? That had the Bolsheviks followed the instructions of Daniel De Leon and abdicated political power one second after they had achieved it that Russia, then could have gone about the business of "building socialism?"

But it develops that this is not at all what is meant. Their point (4) makes plain enough that socialism "is not dictatorship," that "it is industrial democracy and human freedom." And, even more explicit in their brief return to "earnest and meaningful" language, "it is the social ownership of the means of wealth production." Then the masters of double-talk tell us, however, that these requirements were not present in Russia in 1917, that they could not have been present but that they might have been built at a later date when Russia had developed industrially only for the fact that it was too late because the "Stalin-trained heirs of Lenin" had become so corrupt by political power that this was no longer possible!

To summarize up to this point: Russia had a socialist (or, at least, an incipient socialist) revolution in November of 1917. But the Bolsheviks made the error of hanging on to political power instead of abandoning it immediately. By the time Russia had become industrialized, the "Stalin-trained heirs of Lenin" (who, apparently, was not corrupt) were beyond redemption insofar as being the type needed to institute the "building of socialism."

But alas! The double-talk has not ended, the coup de grace is yet to come. The real reason that Russia was not ready for socialism in 1917 was the fact that "there were no Socialist Industrial Unions (in that unfortunate land) to take over from the coercive State once Socialism became possible." (Emphasis ours.)

Glory be to Daniel! What means this nonsense? Was socialism possible in Russia in 1917? Or was it not? Or was it possible in Russia some time after 1917 and before the state became coercive under Stalin (notwithstanding De Leon's "one second" time warning)? Or was it not? You can't have it both ways at the same time, or is this some sort of De Leon dialectic that is beyond the comprehension of mere political socialists? (To use a favorite contemptuous epithet applied by the SLP against us.)

Did a political socialist revolution actually take place where there existed no economic basis for socialism? Could "Socialist Industrial Unions" have existed where the economic base of society at the time of the October Revolution was predominantly agrarian? (Indeed, there seems to be no indication of such unions developing in industrially developed nations, either). And if such unions could have existed what would they have done if their comrades of the political party had still not abdicated one second after triumph, refusing thereby to abandon the armed forces in their control? The implication in De Leon's words is strong that nothing could have been done about it, that there had to be "either a usurpation or the signal for a social catastrophe" in such an event, and since it is apparent that there was a "usurpation" would it not have been better for all concerned to have had the "social catastrophe", instead?

It is too much for us and we hereby abandon this hopeless project this second.