Dialogue with Stalin (4)

Third Day (Afternoon)

On the first two days and during today's morning we dealt with all passages in Stalin's scripture which allow to find those laws by which the Russian economy can be directed.

In theoretical regard, we have fundamentally refuted that an economy denoted by such laws could be defined as socialism or its lower stage, equally we disputed that one is able to appoint to Marx's and Engels' fundamental texts for such a purpose. In those scriptures, we find, even if not in the banal ease which one glazes over a comic, the economic characteristics of capitalism, as well as those of socialism and the phenomena which allow to verify the economic transition from one to the other mode of production.

In empirical regard, we could draw a series of definite conclusions. In the Russian domestic market, the law of value prevails; therefore:

The products have commodity character; A market exists The exchange takes place, according to the law of value, between equivalents; and the equivalents have a monetary expression.

The great mass of agrarian businesses works solely with regard to commodity production and partly in form of an individual appropriation of products on the side of parcel farmers (which in the other part of his labour time functions as cooperative farmer, kolkhozniki), a form therefore, which is even further away from socialism, in some sense precapitalistic and barter economic.

The small and medium sized businesses, which manufacture factory commodities, also work for sales on the market.

The large enterprises finally are owned by the state, which doesn't mean much: their bookkeeping carries a monetary character and by prices – in which the reign of the law of value is already implied – expenditures (for raw materials, wages) and revenues (sold products) are confronted with each other, therefore audited whether the enterprises operate viable, meaning whether they yield a profit, a surplus.

The reasoning about the scope of the Marxist law of the rate of profit and its fall was good for exposing Stalin's hollow antithesis: Because the proletariat wielded power, the gigantic apparatus of nationalized industry wouldn't aim for maximum profit (like in the capitalist countries), but is concerned for the maximum welfare of the workers and the people.

Towards the thesis according to which between the interests of the workers in the state industry and those of the "Soviet people" – this mishmash of individual- and cooperative farmers, hucksters, managers of small and mid-sized industrial firms and so on – there weren't any fundamental antagonisms, not on the level of daily demands either, we have the biggest reservations. But apart from that, we have got the proof precisely out of the "law of the planned development of the national economy in geometrical progression" confirmed by Stalin, that the capitalist law of the fall in the rate of profit is in effect. If a five year plan purports an increase in production by 20%, meaning from 100 to 120, and the following plan again purports a growth of 20%, then this means that production should not grow from 120 to 140, but from 120 to 144 (20% increase of the new cycle, which now starts with 120). He who is a bit familiar with numbers knows that the difference at the start seems marginal, later however assumes gigantic magnitudes. Do you remember the story of the creator of chess, who wanted to make a present to the emperor of China? He asked for one corn on the first square, two on the second, four on the third... all corn chambers of the heavenly empire wouldn't have sufficed to fill the 64 squares.

Now, his law is de facto nothing else than the categorical imperative: produce evermore! This imperative belongs solely to capitalism and the following chain of causes is at its foundation: Increase of labour productivity – increase of constant capital in relation to variable capital, thus the organic composition – fall in the rate of profit – necessity to compensate the fall with the rampant increase of capital investments and production of commodities.

If we had really started to build up the socialist economy in a rudimentary way, we would have noticed that the economic imperative had changed, and that it would have turned out to be ours: since the power of human labour is multiplied by technical achievements: with steady production, work less! And where the conditions of a revolutionary power of the proletariat really do exist, that is to say, in those countries which are already over-equipped with facilities: produce less and work even less!

The mere fact that Russia has to issue the slogan of "increasing product mass" confirms our thesis. It is finally confirmed by the fact that a significant proportion of the products of major state-owned industry are sold on foreign markets, and here Stalin openly states that the relationship is not only for accounting purposes, but by the very nature of things a commodity relation.

Basically, this includes the confession that "building socialism in one country" is not possible, even if it were only because of worldwide competition (which is always prepared to shoot with cannons and atomic bombs instead of the artillery of low prices). Only in the absurd hypothesis that the "socialist country" could close itself off behind a real iron curtain would it be possible for the country to take the first steps in one direction (planning "by society in the interest of society"), which, thanks to the labour productivity achieved by technical achievements, would lead to a reduction in labour efforts and exploitation of the worker. And only within such a hypothesis could the plan be, after the insane geometric curve of capitalist madness has been abandoned: Let us determine a certain standard of consumption for all residents, set by the plan; once we have reached that level, we will stop production and resist the criminal temptation to push it further, just to see where we get rid of it again, who we can force it on.

However, the Kremlin's full attention, both ideologically and practically, is focused on the world market.

Competition and Monopoly

A superficial approach places the Marxist theories of modern colonialism and imperialism next to the Marxist description of capitalism of free competition (which supposedly unfolded until about 1880), as if these were different treatises or at best supplements.

In various speeches we have insisted that the allegedly sober description of a "liberal" and "peaceful" capitalism in Marx, which by the way never existed, is in reality nothing more than a gigantic "polemical demonstration from a party and class point of view", on the basis of which – if one recognises for a moment that capitalism functions in accordance with the unrestricted dynamics of free exchange between the bearers of equivalent values (which doesn't express anything else than the famous law of value) – the character of capitalism can be conceived: Namely, to be a societal class monopoly which, from the first episodes of primitive accumulation up to today's robbery, incessantly strives to heist the generated "balances" under the mask of the contractually secured, free and equal exchange.

Starting from the exchange of equal commodity values, Marx shows the creation of surplus value, which is invested, leading to the accumulation of new, increasingly concentrated capital; he further shows that the only way (compatible with the continuation of capitalist production) to resolve the contradiction between the accumulation of wealth on one pole and the accumulation of misery on the opposite pole and to escape the resulting law of the fall in the rate of profit is to produce more and more beyond what is necessary for consumption; by pointing this out, it becomes clear that from the outset the clash between the capitalist countries is looming; everyone feels the irresistible urge to sell their own commodities on the territory of the other and to avert their own crisis by stirring it up at the rival.

Official economics tried in vain to prove the possibility of achieving a stable equilibrium on the world market with the rules and mechanisms of commodity production, even claiming that crises would be a thing of the past once the "civilized" organization of capitalism had spread everywhere. That is why Marx had to engage in an abstract discussion of the laws of a single, non-exporting, fictitious country of fully developed capitalism – and he proved that this country will "explode". It is all the more obvious that, where the above-mentioned commodity relations arise between two closed economic zones, they are not an element of pacification but one of shock and the thesis of the "civilized world organization" becomes all the more obsolete. Only in one case would we be in serious theoretical embarrassment: if the first 50 years of this century had continued to be wrapped in economic and political cotton wool, with serious free trade, neutrality and disarmament agreements. Since the world on the contrary has become a hundred times more capitalist, it has been shaken a hundred times more by earthquakes in every respect.

To show who doesn't twist the words here, we quote a footnote from the 24th chapter of Capital volume I: "We here take no account of export trade, by means of which a nation can change articles of luxury either into means of production or means of subsistence, and vice versà. In order to examine the object of our investigation in its integrity, free from all disturbing subsidiary circumstances, we must treat the whole world as one nation, and assume that capitalist production is everywhere established and has possessed itself of every branch of industry."

The work of Marx – in which, as we always emphasize, theory and programme form an inseparable whole – was conceived from the outset in such a way that it concludes with the phase in which the contradictions of the first capitalist centers are reproduced on an international level. The demonstration that a "social partnership" between the social classes of a country is impossible as a definitive solution and regressive as a temporary solution, attends the in all points analogous demonstration of the illusory character of a peace treaty between states.

It has been recalled several times that in the preface to his 1859 book "A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy", Marx outlined the order of the headings as follows: "capital, landed property, wage-labour; the State, foreign trade, world market. The economic conditions of existence of the three great classes into which modern bourgeois society is divided are analysed under the first three headings"; and he adds: "the interconnection of the other three headings is self-evident."

When Marx began writing down "Capital", whose first part integrates the subject of "A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy", the plan was on the one hand deepened and on the other hand it seemed to be restricted. In the preface to the first volume ("The Process of Production of Capital") Marx announced that the II. volume deals with the "process of circulation" (simple and extended reproduction of the capital invested in production) and the III. would deal with "the forms assumed by capital in the course of its development". Apart from book IV about the history of the theories of value, whose materials have been available since the "Critique", volume III indeed deals with the representation of the overall process, examines the distribution of surplus value between industrialists, landowners and bankers, and concludes with the "discontinued" chapter on "The classes". The final version was obviously intended to develop the question of the state and the international market, for which the preparatory work had been done before and after Capital in other landmark texts of Marxism.

Markets and Empires

Already in the "Manifesto" and the volume I of Capital, the emergence of the overseas market in the wake of the geographic discoveries of the 15th century is highlighted as a fundamental factor of capitalist accumulation and the primary importance of the trade wars between Portugal, Spain, Holland, France and England is pointed out.

At the time of the polemical and class-struggling portrayal of "typical" capitalism, the English Empire dominated the world stage, and so Marx and Engels paid the greatest attention to it and its economy. In theory, this economy pretended to be liberalism; in reality, it was an imperialism that had held the world monopoly at least since 1855. In "Imperialism", Lenin refers in this respect to letters from Engels and to the foreword that he 1892 put in front of the new edition of his study "The Situation of the Working Class in England" of 1844. Engels refused to "strike out of the text the many prophecies, amongst others that of an imminent social revolution in England" from the text bearing the "stamp of the author's youth". Much more important to him seemed to have foreseen that England would lose its industrial world monopoly; and he was right a thousand times. While the "world market and colonial monopoly" had the effect of putting the English proletariat to sleep – the world's first proletariat with a pronounced class character – the end of the British monopoly spread the seeds of class struggle and revolution throughout the world. Clearly, this takes more time than in the "fictitious single, thoroughly capitalist country"; but for us, the revolutionary solution is already theoretically foreseen, the detours and reasons for its "postponement" only confirm its validity. It will come.

Let's go back to the foreword by Engels (which is reproduced a little differently in Lenin's case): "The Free Trade theory was based upon one assumption: that England was to be the one great manufacturing centre of an agricultural world. And the actual fact is that this assumption has turned out to be a pure delusion. The conditions of modern industry, steam-power and machinery, can be established wherever there is fuel, especially coals. And other countries besides England-France, Belgium, Germany, America, even Russiahave coals. And the people over there did not see the advantage of being turned into Irish pauper farmers merely for the greater wealth and glory of English capitalists. They set resolutely about manufacturing, not only for themselves, but for the rest of the world; and the consequence is that the manufacturing monopoly enjoyed by England for nearly a century is irretrievably broken up."

A paradox? We could only refute the comedy of "liberal" capitalism because this was the – for a limited period – unprecedented historical fall of a world monopoly. "Laissez faire, laissez passer" , but keep the fleet (larger than all the others put together) on alert so that none of the Napoleons escape from the Saint Helena's....

In the "morning" we have quoted a passage from volume III, concluding a new synthesis of capitalist characteristics with the words: "Creation of the world-market". It will not do us any harm to repeat another powerful passage.

"The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself. It is that capital and its self-expansion appear as the starting and the closing point, the motive and the purpose of production; that production is only production for capital and not vice versa, the means of production are not mere means for a constant expansion of the living process of the society of producers. The limits within which the preservation and self-expansion of the value of capital resting on the expropriation and pauperisation of the great mass of producers can alone move – these limits come continually into conflict with the methods of production employed by capital for its purposes, which drive towards unlimited extension of production, towards production as an end in itself, towards unconditional development of the social productivity of labour. The means – unconditional development of the productive forces of society – comes continually into conflict with the limited purpose, the self-expansion of the existing capital. The capitalist mode of production is, for this reason, a historical means of developing the material forces of production and creating an appropriate world-market and is, at the same time, a continual conflict between this its historical task and its own corresponding relations of social production."

Once again, it remains true: Russian "economic policy" has certainly developed the material productive forces, has indeed expanded the world market, but within the capitalist forms of production. It does indeed represent a useful historical tool: no less than the industrial invasion at the expense of the starving Scots and Irish or the Wild West Indians, but it cannot loosen the relentless grip of the contradictions of capitalism, which very well potentiates the forces of society, but which for that must debilitate and subjugate the workers' association.

No matter from which side you look at it, the end point is always the world market – just as with Stalin. It has never been "uniform", except in abstract terms, as in that hypothetical country of absolute and chemically pure capitalism, whose unrealizability we have mathematically proven. Should it ever arise, it would immediately disintegrate into its individual parts, such as certain atoms and crystals that only exist for a fraction of a second. Therefore, when the dream of a unified sterling market had been over, Lenin was able to give a fitting description of the colonial and semi-colonial division of the world between five or six imperialist monster states on the eve of World War I. The war was not followed by a system of equilibrium, but by a new and different division; even Stalin admits, that Germany "having broken out of bondage and taken the path of independent development", had reason to turn its forces against the imperialist Franco-English-American bloc during the Second World War. But how can all this be reconciled with the hypocritical propaganda that for years represented the war of this bloc as non-imperialist, even "democratic"? How can this be reconciled with the hysterical shouting about the pardon of the "war criminal" Kesselring ? Woe betide comrades Tomovich, Dickovich and Harryvich if they dare to ask such questions!

So, new division of the world, and a new reason to wage war. Before coming to Stalin's judgement of the division resulting after the Second World War, we cannot resist the temptation to mention another passage from Lenin's "imperialism", which we dedicate in particular to the economic part of the "dialogue" of the previous days. Lenin mocks a German economist named Liefmann, who wrote the following song of praise for imperialism: "Commerce is an occupation having for its object the collection, storage and supply of goods". Lenin gives him a blow that hits him with many other Liefmanns: "From this it would follow that commerce existed in the time of primitive man, who knew nothing about exchange, and that it will exist under socialism!" The exclamation mark is of course from Lenin. Moscow, where will you put it?

Latitude and longitude degrees

According to Stalin, the most important economic outcome of the Second World War is not so much to have knocked out two major industrialised countries, namely Germany and Japan (although disregarding Italy), in search of sales markets, but rather to have split the world market into two parts. First he uses the expression "disintegration", then he specifies "that the single all-embracing world market disintegrated, so that now we have two parallel world markets, also confronting one another". It is clear who these two camps should be: on the one hand, the United States, England, France and all the countries that first came under the spell of the Marshall Plan for European "reconstruction", then the North Atlantic Pact for "defence", better the rearmament of Europe and the West; On the other hand, Russia, which together with the "people's democratic countries" and China, which are exposed to a blockade, forms a new, separate market. Geographically, this is correct, but the wording is not very fortunate (save for the usual translation errors). Let us assume for a moment that, on the eve of the Second World War, there would have been a genuine, uniform world market, the trading places of which would have been accessible to all products from all countries, then it would not have been able to disintegrate into "two world markets", but the world market would have ceased to exist and would have been replaced by two international markets, separated by a rigorous curtain which would not allow commodities and payments to pass through (theoretically, and only according to what the customs authorities are aware of, which is very little today). Two such markets are now facing each other, but in parallel, indirectly admitting that the domestic economies of the two major camps into which this globe is divided are "parallel", i. e. of the same historical type; this is consistent with our theoretical treatise and contradicts the thesis that Stalin's writings are intended to put into circulation. In both camps the market exists, ergo the commodity system, ergo the capitalist economy. So we allow the expression of the parallel markets to pass through, but what we completely reject is the definition according to which there is a capitalist market in the West and a socialist one in the East, a contradictio in adjecto .

Well: Two "half-world" markets, whose dividing line, by the way – at least if it is about the more developed part of the populated world – does not run on a parallel circle or latitude, but on the longitude of the defeated Berlin. This line leads Stalin to a most remarkable conclusion (especially when compared to the failed hypothesis of the single world market, which would have been either under the control of a confederation of all winning states or under the sole control of the Western bloc led by the United States), namely, that the sphere of exploitation of the world's resources by the major capitalist countries (U.S.A., Britain, France) will not expand, but contract; that their opportunities for sale in the world market" (means: on the foreign market) "will deteriorate, and that their industries will be operating more and more below capacity. That, in fact, is what is meant by the deepening of the general crisis of the world capitalist system in connection with the disintegration of the world market."

This has, of course, stirred up some dust; while various puppets have been sent off, of the batch of an Ehrenburg or a Nenni to fight for "peaceful coexistence" and "competition" between the parallel economic areas, Moscow is sending the message that it is still expecting the West to suffocate under a mountain of unsalable commodities (which could not even be given away because then the debts would pile up even more) and blow up as a result of this crisis. Not even in the unbridled arms race or in the Korean war and other imperialist raids, Moscow sees an opportunity to save the West.

If this has shaken the bourgeoisie, it is not enough to get us Marxists going. We have to ask what will determine such a process in the other "parallel" camp – on the basis of the official text we have already shown that it is subject to the same constraints: produce more and sell more products to the outside world. And then, as always, we must draw the decisive conclusions from the rise of this historical movement [of Stalinism] and the contradiction that we are witnessing today: On the one hand, the posthumous attempt to "rehabilitate" Marx/Lenin's revolutionary vision of the future – accumulation, overproduction, crisis, war, revolution; on the other hand, in the course of a long period of development, to have established virtually irreversible historical and political positions that are still persistently defended by the "communist" parties operating in the West (which will soon be plagued by the crisis) and diametrically contradict any unfolding of class antagonism and the revolutionary preparation of the masses.

Classes and States

Before the First World War, two perspectives collide. The inevitable dispute over the markets will lead to war; regardless of who wins from the war, imperialist tensions will persist until the proletarian revolution or until a new global conflict: that is Lenin's perspective. The opposite is the traitor of the working class and the International: after the suppression of the "aggressor" (Germany), the world will again be civilised, peaceful and open to "social progress". Different perspectives correspond to different solutions: the traitors call for national Burgfrieden, Lenin for revolutionary defeatism within each nation.

The war was postponed until 1914, because the world market was still in its "formation phase" in the Marxist sense. As we have shown with regard to capitalist commodity production, the Marxist basic concept of "creation of the world market" is based on the limited "spheres of life and spheres of action" characterizing pre-capitalism, in which a local, self-sufficient economy is used to produce and consume (as in the aristocratic principalities and Asian feudal states) is dissolved in in the single economic magma of commodity trade and sales. As long as these "oil stains" of the autarchic economies "merge" with the universal solvent of capitalism both internally and externally, the bourgeois bubble of production can sustain the tempo of its "geometric" swelling without bursting. However this is not yet the reason why these islands will enter into a global and unified market that is free of barriers: Protectionism is an ancient affair for the national territories, and for the foreign trade centres discovered by seafarers it applies that the various nations are trying to place them under their monopoly – be it by means of concessions from the colourful rulers and tribal princes; be it through trading companies, such as those of the Dutch, Portuguese and English; or be it under the protection of the war fleet and, in the beginning, even the pirate ships of roaming "marine partisans."

In any case, according to Lenin, we are not only facing an almost worldwide saturation, but the ones who have arrived most recently are in a crisis on the sales markets; hence the war.

Second World War. According to Stalin, Germany's reappearance as a large industrialized country was at the instigation of the Western powers, who were only too happy to rearm the stronghold against Russia. In reality, the reasons for this are primarily to be seen in the fact that the German territory was not devastated during the war and was not occupied by military forces after the ceasefire. In the same breath, Stalin admits that the imperialist and economic causes, and not the "political" and "ideological" ones, were decisive for the outbreak of the Second World War, especially since Germany had rushed first to the West and not to Russia. Thus it remains true that the war of 1939-45 was an imperialist war. Consequently, there were again the two perspectives: either new wars (irrespective of who would win) or revolution (provided that the war would not be responded to with national "social partnership" but with class struggle) and, in contrast, the bourgeois perspective, identical to that of the First World War: Everything depends on the repression of the criminal Germany; if this succeeds, the way is clear for peace, general disarmament, freedom and prosperity of the peoples.

Stalin is now taking up the first Leninist perspective, and puts the imperialist cause of war and the struggle for markets in the foreground; but it is too late for someone who yesterday threw the full potential of the international movement onto the other perspective: the fight for the liberation from fascism and National Socialism. Today, the incompatibility of the two perspectives is acknowledged; but why does one then continue to drive the (now shattered) movement on the path of liberal and petty-bourgeois progress thinking, of "war for ideals"?

Perhaps to have a politically easy game in the next war by presenting it as a battle between the capitalist ideal of the West and the socialist ideal of the East? To shoot themselves into the politicians' stupid competition, in which each camp insists on smothering the other under the terrible accusation of "fascism"?

Now, the interesting thing about Josef Stalin's text is that he replies to this with "no."

Completely unimpressed by his historical responsibility to have destroyed Lenin's theory on the inevitability of wars between the capitalist countries and on proletarian revolution as the only way out of World War II, and equally serene in the face of the even more serious responsibility to have broken with the only political orientation corresponding to Lenin's theory by ordering the Communists, first in Germany and then in France, England and America, to make "Burgfrieden" with their own state and bourgeois government, the head of today's Russia reprimands those comrades who believe in the necessity of an armed clash between the "socialist" and the "capitalist" world or demimonde. But instead of evading the prophecy of a war between capitalism and socialism with the worn-out ideology of pacifism, competition and the coexistence of the two worlds, he says that it is only "theoretically" correct, that "the contradictions between capitalism and socialism are stronger" now and in the future "than the contradictions among the capitalist countries."

True Marxists must take seriously all possible predictions about the contradictions within the Atlantic group of states and the resurgence of autonomous and strong capitalisms in defeated countries such as Germany and Japan. But Stalin's conclusion with regard to the next conflict is to be treated with caution, since he invokes the situation on the eve of the Second World War by analogy: "Consequently, the struggle of the capitalist countries for markets and their desire to crush their competitors proved in practice to be stronger than the contradictions between the capitalist camp and the socialist camp."

What socialist camp? If, as we have shown in your own words, your "socialist" labelled camp produces export commodities at the to be maximally increased speed, is it not the same "struggle for markets" and "desire to crush competitors" (or not to be crushed, which amounts to the same thing)? Will you not and will you not have to join the war, as producers of commodities, which in the Marxist language means: as capitalists? The only difference between you Russians and the others is that the fully developed industrialized countries have long since left behind the alternative of "inner colonization" of surviving pre-commodity producing islands while you are still going through this process. The consequence of this can only be one thing: the western states will squeeze you out on the ground of market competition like a lemon (don't forget, you have accepted the movement of commodities and money, and as long as you are at the level of competition, you also can only take the path of low costs, meagre wages and a mad rush to work for the Russian proletariat); because it will inevitably come to war and the others will have better "armament", they will beat you militarily after they have done away with you economically.

So how can we proceed in order to prevent an American victory, which is also the greatest of all evils for us? Stalin's formula is quite clever – but above all, it is best suited to keep the revolutionary proletariat in stunned condition and doing the greatest service to Atlantic imperialism. He avoids at all costs declaring the famous "holy war", which would put him in a bad light to a world public that has been caught up in the entertaining discussion about the aggressor; he therefore backs out on an "economic determinism", which in no way causes him to return to the ground of class struggle and class war (a return that is historically impossible anyways).

The Stalinist language is rather dubious: as Lenin said, the war is fought between the capitalist states. And what are we gonna do? Do we call, as he did, the workers of all countries on both fronts to the class war, to turn the guns around? Never again. We'll repeat the same elegant manoeuvre we did in World War II. We are joining with one of the two coalitions, for example France and England against the USA. In this way, we are breaking the front line and the day will come when we will take on the "last Mohawk" no matter whether it is a former ally or not.

Such pills are administered to the last gullible proletarians in dark back rooms, as long as they have not yet been converted to conformism by even worse means.

War or Peace?

But, have many asked the supreme leader, if we now believe again in the inevitability of war, what will happen to the huge apparatus we have built for the peace campaign?

The answer reduces the possibility of a peace campaign to a meagre degree. It could "result in preventing a particular war, in its temporary postponement, in the resignation of a bellicose government" and its replacement by a peace-keeping government (is this likely to curb the appetite for markets, which has been presented as a decisive fact many times before?). But "the inevitability of wars" remains. "It is possible that in a definite conjuncture of circumstances the fight for peace" (a democratic movement, not a class movement) "will develop here or there into a fight for socialism". And in this case, it is no longer a question of securing peace (which is impossible), but of overthrowing capitalism. What will the tens of thousands of fools who believe in world peace and "Burgfrieden" say?

To eliminate the wars and their inevitability, that is Stalin's final sentence, "it is necessary to abolish imperialism."

Good. And how do we do that, how do we destroy imperialism?

Stalin: "In this respect, the present-day peace movement differs from the movement of the time of the First World War for the conversion of the imperialist war into civil war, since the latter movement went farther and pursued socialist aims". Completely clear: Lenin's slogan was the social civil war, i. e. the proletariat's war against the bourgeoisie.

But you, however, have already left the Leninist way before World War II and instead practised national "collaboration" or "partisan war"; you have rejected the social war, defending one bourgeois and capitalist camp against another.

So we will be attacking imperialism – but when, in war or in peace? If one day imperialism and capitalism fall, will it be in times of peace or war? In peaceful times you say: Leave the USSR alone, and we will abide strictly by the laws – no talk of overthrowing capitalism. In times of war you say: the times of civil war are over, the situation is no longer that of 1914-18; the workers will have to coordinate their actions with our respective political and military alliances with this or that capitalist camp. That's how, country after country, the class struggle gets smothered in mud.

Whatever nonsense the parliament and the press may say, big capital can easily understand that Stalin's "document" is not a declaration of war, but a life insurance policy.

Jus primae noctis

As in his accountability reports, Stalin likes to talk about the great deeds of the Russian government on a technical and economic level. So now, too: one had to face a virgin ground, "in view of the absence in the country of any ready-made rudiments of a socialist economy, it had to create new, socialist forms of economy, "starting from scratch", so to speak". This "unprecedented" task, Stalin says, was "accomplished [...] with credit."

Well, it's true: you were facing a virgin soil. That was your fortune and the misfortune of the proletarian revolution outside Russia. A revolution – no matter which kind it may be in history – then storms forward with full force when it only has to do with the obstacles of a wild, merciless but untouched ground.

But when, in the years following the conquest of power in the vast tsarist empire, the delegates of the Red Proletariat of the whole world met in the Kremlin's baroque gold-plated halls to set the guidelines for that revolution which was supposed to destroy the imperial fortresses of the Western bourgeoisies, something essential was said in vain, not even Lenin understood it . If, therefore, the balance sheet of the large dams and power stations, the balance sheet of the colonisation of the vast steppes, is concluded with honour, the balance sheet of the revolution in the capitalist West was not only concluded dishonourable, which would not be the worst, but with a defeat from which it would not recover for decades to come.

What has been said in vain: in the bourgeois world, the world of Christian parliamentary civilisation and production of commodities, the revolution faces a prostitute ground.

You let it contaminate itself and die of it.

But even from this dark experience IT will arise again.


[1] Refers to Stalin: "Marxism and Problems of Linguistics", 1950, Criticized in "The Factors of Race and Nation in Marxist Theory" (I fattori di razza e nazione nella teoria marxista), Il programma comunista, No. 16-20,1953.

[2] Quod differtur, non aufertur (lat.): postponed is not cancelled.

[3] Stalin: Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, 1952.

[4] Barbariccia: "curly beard", one of the devil's names in Dante's "Divine Comedy": "Hell", 21st chant, where verse 139 says: "and he used his butt as a trumpet".

[5] The theoretical organ of the communist left in Italy has been called "Battaglia comunista" since 1945; after the split in 1951, the organ of the movement to which Amadeo Bordiga belonged was called "Il programma comunista".

[6] Confession: Bordiga means that the economic and social structure of Russia will force Russian politicians to admit (the present paper dates from 1952) that "socialism" in Russia is nothing more than capitalism, even if they do not formulate it explicitly.

[7] All quotes marked with "Stalin" are taken from: "Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR". 1952.

[8] V.I. Lenin: "Karl Marx", 1914, Lenin's Collected Works, Moscow, 1974, Volume 21, pp. 43-91.

[9] See among others: Filo 92, "In the Vortex of Capitalist Anarchy"; Battaglia comunista, no. 9, May 1952, where the Marx chapter: "The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret thereof" is taken as a basis.

[10] The 19th Party Congress of the CPSU took place in October 1952 and coincided with the economic debate discussed here.

[11] State industrialism here means that the state is the owner of the industry which it also manages and administers, while agriculture is hardly affected at all (except for the small part of the Soviets). For Lenin, state capitalism was the highest goal that the proletariat's dictatorship could set itself in anticipation of the international revolution. It was to serve as a lever for the transformation of agriculture, which remained at the level of small-scale and patriarchal natural production. The Stalinist counterrevolution maintained state leadership and property rights in industry (without excluding private forms of enterprise), but in agriculture, in the form of the collective farm, it fortified a mode of production that was even far below the state capitalist level.

[12] See: Karl Marx, Capital Volume I, 1867, Chapter 6, p. 123.

[13] Allusion to the closing sequence of each fairy tale from "Thousand and One Nights". Scheherazade is the narrator's name. Through her narrative, the clever Scheherezade captivates a king who intends to kill her. She spins the fairy tales from night to night, through 1001 nights, and achieves that life is given to her.

[14] Malenkov (1902-88): Member of the Politburo. After Stalin's death, the prime minister was removed from his post in February 1955, after a failed "coup attempt" against Khrushchev in July 1957. He then became director of an electricity plant in Kazakhstan.

[15] Stachanov movement: another attempt to increase labour productivity and establish the piecework wage. For Stalin, she prepared the "transition from socialism to communism". But soon enough, however, the Stachanovists ("heroes of labor") seemed to have a rather inhibiting effect on productivity, and so they were gradually "dismantled" as leading political figures. See also Trotsky: the Stachanov movement in "The Revolution Betrayed".

[16] Artel: an old form of peasant, cooperative union of Tatar origin; it served Stalin as the basis of the collective farm.

[17] The 26 years refer to the year 1925, when Zinoviev had given the Italian communists the slogan: "Long live freedom!" In 1952 at the 19th Party Congress, Stalin said: "The flag of national independence and sovereignty was thrown overboard [by the bourgeoisie]. There is no doubt that you, the representatives of the communist and democratic parties, will have to lift this flag and carry it forward if you want to be patriots, if you want to become the leader of the nation. You are the only one who can pick them up".

[18] Allusion to Bukharin and Bogdanov.

[19] "As long ago as 1844 I stated that the above-mentioned balancing of useful effects and expenditure of labour on making decisions concerning production was all that would be left, in a communist society, of the politico-economic concept of value. (Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, p. 95) The scientific justification for this statement, however, as can be seen, was made possible only by Marx's Capital". – Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, 1877.

[20] Lenin: Remarks on Nikolai Bukharin's "Economy of the Transformation Period", 1981.

[21] In this context, Stalin puts the word "commodity" in quotation marks. He proposes to replace the term "commodity delivery" with "product exchange" and suggests that the "transition from socialism to communism" would mean narrowing the scope of circulation of commodities and broadening that of product exchange.

[22] L' apres-midi d'une faune: "The Afternoon of a Faun"; music by Debussy.

[23] Laissez faire, laissez passer (French): "Laissez faire, laissez passer, le monde va de lui-même" ("Let it happen, let it pass, the world will go on on its own"), a statement by Vincent de Gournay (1712-59), attributed to a French economist. Applies as a buzzword of economic liberalism, as an invitation to the state power not to intervene in economic processes.

[24] Kesselring: from 1941-45 commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht in Italy and North Africa.

[25] Contradictio in adjecto (lat.): Contradiction in itself.

[26] Ehrenburg: Russian writer. Apologete of peaceful coexistence and the "thaw". Nenni: Secretary General of PSI. Otherwise see Ehrenburg.

[27] Jus primae noctis (lat.): "Right to the first night"; the right of the feudal lord to the first night with the newlyweds of his serf.

[28] Amadeo Bordiga refers to the discussions of the first Comintern congresses on tactics to be used in the capitalist countries, which are no longer "virgin" but rather overripe. The Italian left has emphasised the danger of an "elastic" tactic towards the social democratic parties, particularly with regard to the tactics of the political (non-union!) united front and a common workers government with these parties. The Left considered that the young Communist parties should not compromise themselves by acting in concert with social democratic or similar parties, while other delegates and the Bolsheviks argued that they should first gather all forces to "sift" at a later date.

First published: as Dialogato con Stalin in Il Programma Comunista, in 4 parts, October-December 1952;
Translated: by Libri Incogniti, libriincogniti.wordpress.com. www.marxists.org

Historical Archive 1952 - 1970
"On the Thread of Time" Articles