Property and Capital (16)

16. Phases of Transformation in Russia after 1917

Such an economic history has not been written, and there is no data such as to be able to make it, even on the part not of an author but of a special independent research organisation (a term that in the current phase has lost all concrete meaning), an exhaustive outline, comparable to that given by Marx of the birth and life of English and European capitalism in general. First of all, the powers of the victorious capitalist class were neither hermetic nor esoteric, and in the first period they did not have an interest in disguising the facts of their economy, which they naively believed to be "natural" and eternal: Marxism therefore found in England not only economic theories that were pushed to a remarkable level, from which they have then hastily recoiled, but above all immense genuine materials. That same can not be said for Russia today.

It is necessary to put aside the fundamental ambiguity of model-making. Correct is the doctrine that the political revolution, the first proletarian battlefield, can and must be waged at the point of least historical resistance, and it matters little that Petrograd 1917 was the capital of a less developed country than France at the time of the Paris Commune. It is not necessary to abandon such solid terrain for revolutionary communists, to mock the position of those who said: have you been to Russia? Then propagate the proof of the experiment that communism as a productive organisation can function optimally.

Lenin has said and written a hundred times that first of all an isolated model is not a marxistically serious affair, but that in order to go ahead with an overwhelming step in implementing socialism it was necessary to take Berlin, Paris and London. That was not to be. And so it is necessary to see clearly the economic facts and the programmatic social positions in the various periods, claiming those of the Bolsheviks from 1903 to 1917 and from 1917 to about 1923, demonstrating, in the workers' sense, the counter-revolutionary positions of the Russian government from then on, and increasingly serious in the phases: destruction of the revolutionary Bolshevik group - alliance with the Western capitalist powers, Germany first, Anglo-American after - current phase of class collaborationist propaganda in all countries and on a world scale.

1. The rise of Russian capitalism in limited areas is due to the initiative of the feudal state and not to the powerful formation of an indigenous bourgeoisie (1700-1900).

2. In the phase in which Russia was the only European nation not governed by the bourgeoisie, which impeded a diffusion of capitalist production in the immense territory, it was right that the proletariat and its revolutionary party should take on the problems of two immediately welded revolutions. Politically, Russia proved to be the most favourable country for the tactics of revolutionary defeatism in war (1900-1917).

3. The social measures in the period immediately following the conquest of power by the proletarian party could not be but empirical and transitory, rather than "models of propaganda", since the primary task was to defeat the counter-revolutionary forces: a) feudal - b) bourgeois, democratic and the internal opportunists - c) external, not indefinitely blocking the armed interventions, an illusory historical perspective, but attacking with the class revolution inside the bourgeois metropoles.

As Lenin described it, the Russian economic picture was a mixture of all economic forms: pre-mercantile (primitive communism, Asian seigniory and theocracy, land baronage); mercantile (industrial, commercial and banking capitalism, free landed private property); post-mercantile (first implementations of "war" communism, i.e. "social war", such as bread, housing, free transportation to big cities, and the like). Already in such a transitory picture, the statisations of factories, companies and banks, and of agricultural farms are revolutionary measures, yes, but of capitalistic revolution. So are the requisitions of wheat without compensation, made by force on farmers who quickly became serfs of the autonomous glebe producers. The bourgeois revolutions did similar things: history shows it (1917-1921).

4. Lenin said all this strongly at the time of the N.E.P., Trotsky who shared his directives explained that it was socialism with capitalist accounting; in fact the type of accounting is what defines the economic form. The correct Marxist expression was: capitalism with capitalist accounting, but with registers kept by the proletarian state. There was the free market and trade, the free artisan and small bourgeois production and the small and medium free cultivation of the land: all mature forms erupting, but until then suffocated by the feudal-tsarist governmental scaffolding. A revolutionary social valve was opened.

In Lenin's perspective, the danger of this turning point was clarified without subtext: the formation of a capitalist class and capitalist accumulation, inevitable on the plot of market freedom. Lenin thought that the proletarian revolution in the West would come sooner. Only then could the further despotic measures of intervention into the body of the Russian economy take on a socialist direction (1921-1926).

5. Having abandoned the prospect of political revolution in the capitalist countries, the alleged theory of socialism in one country, and the central interventions of state power in the sense of repressing the forces of small and medium agricultural cultivation, trade, industry, preventing them from becoming political forces, are examples of state capitalism without the slightest proletarian and socialist character. The general maturity of the technique, which in a certain sense is an international heritage, and therefore the beginning of a capitalism and an industrialism with a degree of technical productivity much higher than that with which it began in England, France, Germany, America, shortened the stages of concentration and accumulation.

The state that had been born as the state of the victorious proletariat became a capitalist state and constituted itself - the only way to achieve large-scale production - as the employer of the Russian industrial proletariat and, to a large extent, of the agricultural proletariat: from that moment on, its policy did not have a dynamic relation with the proletarian class of the capitalist countries, but rather a relation with the bourgeois states, be they of alliance, war or bargaining.

6. In the situation that has emerged in such an original way, the capitalist economy of market and firm exists in full. The difficulty of identifying the physical group of men who replace this bourgeoisie which did not form spontaneously, or, insofar as it was formed under Tsarism, was destroyed after October, is a serious difficulty only for those who labour under the effect of the democratic and petty-bourgeois way of thinking, which the so-called leaders of the working class have been infecting the latter for many decades. As bourgeois corporations and enterprises become, from personal, collective and anonymous, and finally "public", the bourgeoisie, which has never been a caste, but has emerged defending the right of total "virtual" equality, becomes "a network of spheres of interest that are constituted within the radius of every enterprise". The personalities of this network are very varied: they are no longer proprietors or bankers or shareholders, but increasingly profiteers, economic consultants, business-men. One of the characteristics of the development of the economy is that the privileged class has a human material that is increasingly mutable and fluctuating (the oil baron who was once a janitor, and so on).

As in all epochs, this network of interests, and of people, who may or may not appear on the surface, has to do with the state bureaucracy, but is not the bureaucracy; it has to do with "circles of politicians", but it is not the political category.

Above all, in times of capitalism this network is "international" and today there are no longer national bourgeois classes, but a world bourgeoisie. There are instead the nation states of the world capitalist class.

The Russian state today is one of these, but with its own particular historical origin. It is in fact the only one that has emerged from two revolutions welded together in political and insurrectionary victory; it is the only one that has fallen back from the second revolutionary task but has not yet exhausted the first: to make all of Russia an area of mercantile economy. With the consequent profound effects on Asia.

The quickest way to achieve this, without which one cannot fight - or fornicate - victoriously with the other nation-states, is that of the state owning land and capital, the most fertile and warmest incubator of a vigorous young mercantilism and "impresismo" .

The key to Marxist criticism is that capitalism does not reduce production forces to zero with the very limited consumption of surplus value that company owners make, but with the destructive and beastly competition between companies and between groups of leeches (even the vane ones) that each of them breast-feed: in the anatomy of Russian society, where it is not very convenient to go and introduce the scalpel, this parasitic phenomenon is


[1] "Enterprisism", neologism created by the authors.

Prometeo, No. 4, July-September 1952.
Translation by Libri Incogniti

(Italian Version)


The potent defence of the Programme and of the Communist Party