Martin Buber, Paths in Utopia (1949).
LENIN AND THE RENEWAL OF SOCIETY
Just as the principle of the renewal of society from within, by a regeneration of its cell-tissue, found no fixed place derivable from the idea itself, in Marx's doctrine, so there was no place for it in the most tremendous attempt of our time to realize this doctrine through the admirable but highly problematical application of conscious human will. In both cases this negative fact can, as we have seen, be justified as regards the pre-revolutionary era by saying that under the reign of capitalism no social regeneration whatsoever, even if only fragmentary, could be accomplished; but as regards the post-revolutionary era it is stated in both cases that it would be "utopian" to outline the appropriate forms of this regeneration. "Utopia," Engels writes in 1872, "arises when, 'from the existing conditions', people undertake to prescribe the form wherein this, that or the other contradiction in existing society will be resolved." "In Marx," says Lenin, "you will find no trace of Utopianism in the sense of inventing the 'new' society and constructing it out of fantasies." But useless as such fantasy-pictures indeed are, it is also of vital importance to let the idea to which one clings dictate the direction towards which one may actively strive. The socialist idea points of necessity, even in Marx and Lenin, to the organic construction of a new society out of little societies inwardly bound together by common life and common work, and their associations. But neither in Marx nor Lenin does the idea give rise to any clear and consistent frame of reference for action. In both cases the decentralist element of re-structure is displaced by the centralist element of revolutionary politics.
In both cases the operative law is that strictly centralist action is necessary to the success of the revolution, and obviously
there is no small truth in this; what is wanting is the constant drawing of lines of demarcation between the demands of this action and -- without prejudicing it -- the possible implementation of a decentralized society; between what the execution of the idea demands and what the idea itself demands; between the claims of revolutionary politics and the rights of an emergent socialist life. The decision always falls -- in the theory and directives of the movement with Marx, in the practice of revolution and the reordering of the State and economics with Lenin -- essentially in favour of politics, that is, in favour of centralization. A good deal of this can certainly be attributed to the situation itself, to the difficulties which the Socialist movement had to face and the quite special difficulties faced by the Soviet regime; but over and above that a certain conception and a certain tendency subsequently came to the fore which we may find in Marx and Engels and which thereafter devolved upon Lenin and Stalin: the conception of one absolute centre of doctrine and action from which the only valid theses and the only authoritative decrees can issue, this centre being virtually a dictatorship masked by the "dictatorship of the proletariat" -- in other words: the tendency to perpetuate centralist revolutionary politics at the cost of the decentralist needs of a nascent socialist community. It was easy for Lenin to give way to this tendency because of the situation itself, which clearly pointed to the fact that the Revolution had not yet reached its end. The contradiction between Marx's demand for the supersession of the political by the social principle on the one hand and the incontestible persistence of it on the other, is disguised and justified by the alleged incompleteness of the revolution; but this does not, of course, take into account the circumstance that for Marx socialism was to slough off its political skin the moment "its organizing activity begins". Here there lurks a problem which in its turn is masked by nothing less than the materialistic interpretation of history: according to this view, politics is merely the exemplification and expression of the class-struggle, and with the abolition of the class-state the ground will consequently be cut from under the political principle. The life-and-death struggle of the sole valid doctrine and sole programme of action against all other versions of socialism cannot pass itself off as unpolitical; it must, therefore, brand every other kind of socialism as bogus, as a vestige of bourgeois ideologies; for so long as any other version of
socialism exists the Revolution cannot yet be at an end, obviously, and the political principle cannot yet have been superseded by the social, although the organizing activity has already begun. Political power "in the improper sense" can indeed become far more comprehensive, ruthless and "totalitarian" in its centralist pretensions than political power "in its proper sense" ever was. This is not to say that Lenin was a centralist pure and simple: in certain respects he was less so than Marx and in this he was closer to Engels; but in his thought and will the revolutionary-political motif dominated as with Marx and Engels and suppressed the vital social motif which requires decentralized community-living, with the result that this only made itself felt episodically. The upshot of all this was that there was no trace in the new State-order of any agency aiming at the liquidation of State centralism and accumulation of power. How such a liquidation was ever to take place by degrees in the absence of such an agency is inconceivable. Lenin once remarked, in 1918: "What Socialism will be we just don't know. When has any State begun to wither away?" And in history there is indeed no example, however small, to which one could refer. To achieve this for the first time in the world's history one would have needed to set about it with a tremendously vital and idealistic store of decentralizing energy. No such thing happened. That under these circumstances a voluntary renunciation of accumulated power and a voluntary liquidation of centralization would ever take place has not unjustly been characterized (by a Socialist) as a belief in miracles.
The doctrine of the "withering away" of the State after the social revolution was elaborated by Engels from Marx's for the most part very tentative adumbrations. It would not be unprofitable to bring his chief utterances on this subject together in chronological sequence. In 1874 he declared that the State, "as a result of the social revolution of the future, would vanish" because all public functions would simply be changed from political into administrative ones. In 1877 he said more precisely that the proletariat, by converting the means of production into State property, would abolish the State as State and that, moreover, this same seizure of the means of production would "at once be its last independent act as a State", that it would then "fall asleep" or "wither away of itself". In 1882 there follows the eschatological interpretation of this "at once":
there would be the "leap of humanity out of the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom"; nothing could be more outspoken than this. Now, however, a remarkable retreat ensues. After Marx's death we hear no more of this "at once" from Engels' lips. When he announces in 1884 that the whole machinery of State will be relegated to the Museum of Antiquities, the date of this singular proceeding is no longer the moment when the means of production have been nationalized, but evidently a much later moment, and evidently the proceedings will be long-drawn, for the authority which undertakes that relegation to the Museum is now "Society, which will organize production anew on the basis of the free and equal association of the producers" -- a task only inaugurated, naturally, by the unique act of nationalization. This accords with the formula in the Communist Manifesto about "the course of development", a formula which Engels recalls here; save that there the formula speaks of the concentration of production "in the hands of associated individuals" as being the result of a development in whose train public power would lose its political character. In 1891 Engels retreats still further, so far indeed that no additional retreat is necessary or even possible. The proletariat, he says, victorious in the struggle for mastery, will not be able to avoid "at once paring down the worst aspects of the State, until a new generation grown up in new, free social conditions is capable of putting aside the whole paraphernalia of State." Engels says this in his Foreword to the new edition of Marx's Civil War in France, in which the latter had written twenty years previously that the working-class "will have to go through long struggles, a whole series of historical processes which will completely transform men and circumstances alike". In his Foreword Engels transposes this conception to the post-revolutionary period. But by so doing the cogency of that "at once" is enormously weakened. Not only is it no longer the case that the proletariat will abolish the State as State with the nationalization of the means of production, but also it will, to begin with and right up to the coming of age of the "new generation", merely "pare down" the worst aspects of the State. And yet in that same book Marx had said of the Constitution of the Paris Commune that, had the Commune triumphed, it would have given back to the social body all the powers which hitherto "the parasitic excrescence of the State" had eaten up; consequently he had laid the main
stress on the change brought about by the workings of the Commune -- hence on the "at once". But now Engels in his Foreword retreats far beyond this. No doubt certain historical experiences were to blame; but that Engels let himself be influenced by them so profoundly is due to the fact that neither with him nor with Marx was there any uniform and consistent ideal aiming at the re-structuring of society or at preparations for the abolition of the State, or any strong and steadfast will for decentralizating action. It was a divided spiritual inheritance into which Lenin entered: socialist revolutionary politics without socialist vitality.
As is well known, Lenin tried to overcome the problematical nature of Engels' doctrine by pointing out with great emphasis that "the abolition" referred to the bourgeois State but that "the withering away" referred to the "remains of the proletarian State system after the Socialist revolution". Further, that since the State as (in Engels' definition) a "special repressive power" was necessary at first for the suppression of the bourgeoisie, it was also essential as the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the centralized organ of its power. That Lenin hit off Marx's (and Engels') intention is indisputable; he rightly quotes the passage in which Marx, in 1852, had characterized this dictatorship as being the transition to a classless society. But for the Marx of 1871 with his enthusiasm for the Commune it was certain that a decentralization would simultaneously be preparing itself in the midst of the centralism necessary for revolutionary action; and when Engels called the nationalization of the means of production an abolition of the State "as State", he meant the all-important process that would be worked out to the full immediately after the completion of the revolutionary act.
Lenin praises Marx for having "not yet, in 1852, put the concrete question as to what should be set up in place of the State machinery after it had been abolished". Lenin goes on to say that it was only the Paris Commune that taught Marx this. But the Paris Commune was the realization of the thoughts of people who had put this question very concretely indeed. Lenin also praises Marx for having "held strictly to the factual basis of historical experience". But the historical experience of the Commune became possible only because in the hearts of passionate revolutionaries there lived the picture of a decentralized, very much "de-Stated" society, which picture they
undertook to translate into reality. The spiritual fathers of the Commune had just that ideal aiming at decentralization which Marx and Engels did not have, and the leaders of the Revolution of 1871 tried, albeit with inadequate powers, to begin the realization of that ideal in the midst of the revolution.
As to the problem of action Lenin starts off with a purely dialectical formula: "So long as there is a State there is no freedom. Once there is freedom there will be no more State." Such dialectics obscures the essential task, which is to test day by day what the maximum of freedom is that can and may be realized to-day; to test how much "State" is still necessary to-day, and always to draw the practical conclusions. In all probability there will never -- so long as man is what he is -- be "freedom" pure and simple, and there will be "State", i.e. compulsion, for just so long; the important thing, however, is the day to day question: no more State than is indispensable, no less freedom than is allowable. And freedom, socially speaking, means above all freedom for community, a community free and independent of State compulsion.
"It is clear," says Lenin, "that there can be no talk of a definite time when the withering away of the State will begin." But it is not at all clear. When Engels declares that, with the seizure of the means of production, the State will in fact become representative of society as a whole and will thereby make itself superfluous, it follows that this is the time when the withering away must begin. If it does not begin then it proves that the withering tendency is not an integral and determining part of the revolutionary action. But in that case a withering away or even a shrinking of the State cannot be expected of the Revolution and its aftermath. Power abdicates only under the stress of counter-power.
"The most pressing and topical question for politics to-day," states Lenin in September, 1917, "is the transformation of all citizens into workers and employees of one big 'syndicate', namely, the State as a whole." "The whole of society," he continues, "will turn into one office and one factory with equal work and equal pay." But this reminds us, does it not, of what Engels said of the tyrannical character of the automatic mechanism of a big factory, that over its portal should stand written: Lasciate ogni autonomia, voi ch'entrate. To be sure, Lenin sees this factory discipline only as "a necessary stage in the radical purging of society"; he thinks that it will pass as soon
as "everybody has learnt to manage society's production by himself", for from this moment the need for any government whatever will begin to disappear. The possibility that the capacity for managing production is unequally distributed and that equal training may not be able to make up for this natural deficiency, never seems to have entered Lenin's head. The thing that would meet the human situation much more would be the de-politicization of all the functions of management as far as practicable; that is, to deprive these functions of all possibility of degenerating into power-accretions. The point is not that there should be only managers and no managed any more -- that is more Utopian than any Utopia -- but that management should remain management and not become rulership, or more precisely, that it should not appropriate to itself more rulership than the conditions at any time make absolutely necessary (to decide which cannot, of course, be left to the rulers themselves).
Lenin wanted, it is true, one far-reaching change to take place "immediately": immediately after they had wrested political power the workers were to "smash the old apparatus of bureaucracy, raze it to its foundations, leave not one stone upon another", and replace it by a new apparatus composed of these same workers. Time and again Lenin reiterates the word "immediately". Just as the Paris Commune had done, so now such measures shall "immediately" be taken as are necessaiy to prevent the new apparatus from degenerating into a new bureaucracy, chief among them being the ability to elect and dismiss officials and, in Marx's language, to hold them "strictly answerable". This fundamental transformation is not, in contra-distinction to all the others, to be left to the process of "development", it is supposed to be implicit in the revolutionary action itself as one of its most momentous and decisive acts. A "new, immeasurably higher and incomparably more democratic type of State-apparatus" is to be created "immediately".
On this point, therefore, Lenin held an immediate change in the social structure to be necessary. He realized that in its absence, despite all the formidable interventions, the new institutions, the new laws and new power-relationships, at the heart of the body politic everything would remain as of old. That is why, although he was no adherent of any general decentralist tendency, he was such an emphatic advocate of this demand for immediate change which, as far as the Paris
Commune was concerned, had been an organic part of the decentralist order of society and which can only be fulfilled in a society pressing towards the realization of this order. As an isolated demand it has not been fulfilled in Soviet Russia. Lenin himself is reported to have said with bitterness at a later phase: "We have become a bureaucratic Utopia."
And yet a beginning had been made with structural transformation, not indeed on Lenin's initiative, although he recognized its importance if not all its potential structural qualities -- a peculiarly Russian beginning akin to the proposals of the Paris Commune and one that had tremendous possibilities -- namely the Soviets. The history of the Soviet regime so far, whatever else it is, has been the history of the destruction of these possibilities.
The first Soviets were born of the 1905 Revolution primarily as "a militant organization for the attainment of certain objectives", as Lenin said at the time; first of all as agencies for strikes, then as representative bodies for the general control of the revolutionary action. They arose spontaneously, as the institutions of the Commune did, not as the outcome of any principles but as the unprepared fruit of a given situation. Lenin emphasized to the anarchists that a Workers' Council was not a parliament and not an organ of self-administration. Ten years later he stated that Workers' Councils and similar institutions must be regarded "as organs of revolt" which could only be of lasting value "in connexion with the revolt". Only in March, 1917, after the Sovietic pattern had been, in Trotsky's words, "almost automatically reborn" in Russia and after the first reports of the victory of the revolution had reached Lenin in Switzerland, did he recognize in the St. Petersburg Soviet "the germ-cell of a workers' government" and in the Councils as a whole the fruit of the experiences of the Paris Commune. By this he still meant, of course, first and foremost "the organization of the revolution", that is to say, of the "second real revolution" or "organized striking-force against the counterrevolution", just as Marx saw in the institutions of the Commune above all the organs of revolutionary action; nevertheless Lenin described the Councils, which he held to be of the same nature as the Commune, as already constituting "the State we need", that is, the State "which the proletariat needs" or which is "the foundation we must continue to build on". What he demanded immediately after his arrival in Russia was, in
opposition to the opinion prevailing in the Workers' Council itself, "a republic of Workers', Landworkers' and Peasants' Deputy Councils throughout the country, from top to bottom". In this sense the Soviet that then existed was, in his view, "a step towards Socialism", just as the Paris Commune had been for Marx -- but of course only a political, a revolutionary-political step as that also had been for Marx; an institution, namely, in which revolutionary thinking could crystallize, the "revolutionary dictatorship, that is, a power supported from below by the direct initiative of the masses and not by the law, which was dispensed by a centralized State-power"; in other words, "direct usurpation". The devolution of power on the Soviets still meant for Lenin not only no real decentralization but not even the incentive to the formation of anything of the kind, since the political function of the Soviets was not an integral part of a plan for a comprehensive, organic order that should include society as well as its economy. Lenin accepted the Councils as a programme for action but not as a structural idea.
The utterance Lenin made the day after his arrival, at a meeting of the Bolshevist members of the All-Russian Conference of Councils, is characteristic: "We have all clung to the Councils, but we have not grasped them." The Councils, therefore, already had an objective historical significance for him, quite independent of the significance they had for themselves and for their own members. For the Mensheviks and the social revolutionaries the Councils were what they had been for the former in 1905 and what they in fact more or less were at the time of Lenin's arrival in Russia: organs for the control of Government, guarantees of democracy. For Lenin and his adherents among the Bolsheviks they were very much more -- they were the Government itself, the "only possible form of revolutionary Government"; they were, indeed, the new emergent State -- but no more than that. That the decentralist form of this State in statu nascendi did not disturb Lenin is due to the fact that the only thing to make active appearance in the Councils Movement at this purely dynamic phase of the Revolution was the undivided will to revolution.
The model of the Paris Commune was vitally important for Lenin both because Marx had exemplified through it -- and through it alone -- the essential features of a new State-order and because Lenin's mind, like that of all the leading Russian
revolutionaries, had been lastingly influenced by the revolutionary tradition of France as being the "classic" of its kind. The influence of the great French revolution, the habitual measuring of their own revolution by it and the constant comparison of equivalent stages, etc., were themselves sufficient to exercise a negative effect, particularly as regards the bias towards centralism. But Lenin did not apply the model afforded by the Commune to any general understanding of history. The fact that (as Arthur Rosenberg rightly stresses in connexion with Kropotkin and Landauer) whenever, in history, the masses endeavoured to overthrow a feudal or a centralist power-apparatus it always ended in these same Communelike experiments, was either unknown to him or did not interest him; still less did he grapple with the fact (although he once spoke of the Soviets being "in their social and political character" identical with the State of the Commune) that in all those experiments social decentralization was linked up with political decentralization, if in differing degrees. For him, the only decisive lesson of history was the conviction that hitherto humanity had not brought forth a higher and better type of government than the Councils. Therefore the Councils had to "take the whole of life into their own hands".
Naturally Lenin did not fail to realize that the Councils were in essence a decentralist organization. "All Russia," he says in April, 1917, "is already overspread by a network of local organs of self-administration." The specific revolutionary measures -- abolition of the police, abolition of the standing army, the arming of the whole population -- could also be put into effect by local self-government; and that is the whole point. But that these organs could and should come together as a lasting organism based on local and functional decentralization after the accomplishment of this task, is not so much as hinted at by a single word, apparently not even by a thought. The setting up and strengthening of self-administration has no ultimate purpose or object other than a revolutionary-political one: to make a self-administration a reality means "to drive the Revolution forwards". Admittedly in this connexion a social note is also struck, if only in passing: the village Commune -- which, it is said, means "complete self-administration" and "the absence of all tutelage from above" -- would suit the peasantry very well (that "nine-tenths of the peasantry would be agreeable to it" was, be it noted by the way, a fundamental
error). But the reason for this follows at once: "We must be centralists; yet there will be moments when the task will shift to the provinces; we must leave the maximum of initiative to individual localities. . . . Only our party can give the watchwords which will really drive the Revolution forwards." At first glance it does not seem clear how this obligatory centralism can be compatible with the complete self-administration mentioned above; on closer inspection, however, we remark that this compatibility rests on the fact that the guiding point of view is, purely and simply, the revolutionary-political one or even the revolutionary-strategic one: in this case, too, self-administration is only a component of the programme of action and not the practical conclusion drawn from a structural idea. This more than anything else enables us to understand why the programmatic demand for "the absence of all tutelage from above" (a demand not envisaged for any post-revolutionary development, but as something to be secured in the midst of the revolution and destined to drive it forwards) turned so rapidly into its exact opposite. Instead of the watchword, "We must be centralists, yet there will be moments. . .", a genuinely socialist attitude would have put it the other way round: "We must be decentralists, federalists, autonomists, yet there will be moments when our main task will shift to a central authority because revolutionary action requires it; only we must take care not to let these requirements swamp its objective and temporal frame of reference."
For a clearer understanding of the antagonism between centralism and the above-mentioned "moments" we must realize that in the provinces, as Lenin himself emphasized, "communes are being formed at a great rate, particularly in the proletarian centres", so that the revolution was progressing "in the form of local communes". The "watchwords" corresponded to these facts. A watchword corresponding to this description of the situation, such as "Local Communes, complete regional autonomy, independence, no police, no officials, sovereignty of the armed masses of workers and peasants" -- such a watchword, appeal as it might to the experience of the Paris Commune, was and remained a revolutionary-political one; that is, it could not, of its own nature, point beyond the revolution to a decentralized social structure; centralism continued to be its fixed basis. We cannot help being profoundly impressed when we read, in the same draft (of May, 1917), from
which I have quoted just now, of Lenin's demand that the provinces should be taken as a model and communes formed of the suburbs and metropolitan areas; but once again no other raison d'itre is granted them except to drive the Revolution forwards and to lay down a broader basis for "the passing of the total power of the State to the Councils". ("We are now in the minority, the masses do not believe us as yet," says Lenin at about the same time.) Lenin is without a doubt one of the greatest revolutionary strategists of all time; but the strategy of revolution became for him, as the politics of revolution became for Marx, the supreme law not only of action but of thinking as well. We might say that precisely this was the cause of his success; it is certain at any rate that this fact -- together with a tendency to centralism rooted very deeply in him as in Marx -- was to blame for it if this success did not ultimately contribute to the success of Socialism.
Nevertheless these words should not be construed to imply that I would charge the Lenin of 1917 with not intending to permit the nascent power of the Soviets to continue beyond the revolution. That would be nonsensical; for did he not expressly say at the time, in his significant Report on the Political Situation, of the State that would arise when the Councils took the power into their own hands (a State that "would no longer be a State in the accepted sense"), that although such a Power had never yet maintained itself in the world for any length of time, "the whole Workers' Movement all over the world was going in that direction?" What I complain of in Lenin is rather his failure to understand that a fundamental centralism is incompatible with the existence of such a Power beyond the Revolution's immediate sphere of action. It is noteworthy that Lenin says in the same Report that the latter was a State-form "which represents the first steps towards Socialism and is unavoidable in the first phases of socialist society". These words indicate, I think, that it was conceived of as being only a stepping-stone to a higher, "socialist" centralism; and doubtless in the field of economics so vitally important for any final remodelling of society Lenin saw strict centralism as the goal. At that very meeting he emphasized that "the French Revolution passed through a period of municipal revolution when it settled down to local self-administration", and that the Russian revolution was going
through a similar phase. It is difficult not to think of the extreme centralism that followed this period of the French Revolution.
Viewed from yet another angle Lenin's doctrine of 1917 leads us to the same result. "Private ownership of ground and of land must be abolished," he says. "That is the task that stands before us, because the majority of the people are for it. That is why we need the Councils. This measure cannot possibly be carried through with the old State officials." Such is the substance of the answer which Lenin gives in his political Report to the question: "Why do we want power to pass into the hands of the Workers' and Soldiers' Deputy Councils?" Here the Marxist respect for "circumstances" is carried to doubtful lengths: private ownership of land is to be abolished not to build up Socialism but simply and solely because the majority of the people want it; and the Councils are necessary not to serve as cells of the new society but to execute the measures demanded by the majority. I would like to assume that we would do well not to take this argument of Lenin's too literally.
But only now does Lenin's theory of the Councils enter the decisive phase. The months in which he was preparing, from Finland, the Bolshevist "special action", "the Second Revolution", were at the same time those in which he based his thought as to the function of the Councils primarily and in principle on Marx's idea of the Commune (in his well-known State and Revolution), and then expands it in practice, with reference to the action he had prepared (in his most important political essay Will the Bolshevists Maintain Power?). The bulk of the former was written in September at the time of the attempted counter-revolution and its suppression -- an attempt whose only effect was to rouse the fighting spirit of the masses and bring them closer to the radical Party; the second in the middle of October, when the majority of the St. Petersburg and Moscow Soviets opted for this party and, as a direct result of this, the call "All Power to the Soviets!", from being a revolutionary-political demand, became the slogan of the impending attack.
Fired by these events, Lenin glorified in his essay the significance of the Councils for the development of the revolution as never before. In connexion with the statement made by the Menshevik leader Martov that the Councils had been "called
into being in the first days of the revolution by the mighty outburst of genuine creative folk-power", Lenin says: "Had the creative folk-power of the revolutionary classes [this latter term goes beyond Martov's words and gives them a Bolshevist twist] not produced the Councils, the proletarian revolution in Russia would have been a hopeless affair." Here the conception of the Councils as an instrument for "driving the revolution forwards" struck its most powerful historical note.
In this essay Lenin lists for the first time the various elements which in his view give the Councils their fundamental importance. The sequence in which he cites these elements is characteristic of his outlook.
Firstly, the "new State apparatus", by substituting the Red Guard for the standing Army, invests the people themselves with armed power.
Secondly, it establishes an indissolubly close and "easily controlled" bond between the leaders and the masses.
Thirdly, by means of the principle of eligibility and dis-missibility, it puts an end to bureaucracy.
Fourthly, by the very fact that it establishes contact with the various professions [later Lenin puts it more precisely: professions and productive units] it facilitates the weightiest reforms.
Fifthly, it organizes the Avant-garde, which shall raise up and educate the masses.
Sixthly, by means of the tie between the Legislature and the Executive it unites the advantages of Parliamentarianism with those of non-parliamentary Democracy.
The first place is given to revolutionary power-politics; the second to the organization of reforms; the third to the form of the State. The question of the possible importance of the Councils for a reshaping of the social structure is not even asked.
In Lenin's view, however, it only became possible for the Councils to master the tasks set them because the Bolsheviks had seized control in and through the Councils and filled the new form with a concrete content of action, whereas formerly they had been "reduced by the Social Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks to chatter-boxes", more, to "a body rotting on its feet". "The Councils," Lenin continues, "can only really develop, only display their talents and capabilities to the full, after the seizure of supreme power, for otherwise they have
nothing to do, otherwise they are either simple germ-cells (and one cannot be a germ-cell for too long) or a plaything." This sentence is remarkable for more than one reason. The simile of the germ-cells necessarily forces the question on us as to whether in Lenin's opinion the Councils might not, by growth and association, ripen sufficiently to become the cells of a renewed social organism; but evidently that is not Lenin's opinion. And then the expression "plaything" turns up again a few days later in a curious connection, in Lenin's theses for a Conference in St. Petersburg, where we read: "The whole experience of the two revolutions of 1905 and 1917 confirms that the Workers' and Soldiers' Deputy Councils are only real as organs of revolt, as organs of revolutionary force. Outside these tasks the Councils are a mere plaything." This makes it unmistakably plain what the important thing really is for Lenin. He had, to be sure, to lay stress on the question of the hour; but the exclusiveness with which he does so, brooking no thought whatever of the Councils eventually becoming independent and permanent entities, speaks a language that cannot be misunderstood. In addition those phrases of 1915 ("organs of revolt" and "only in connexion with the revolt") recur almost word for word; whatever Lenin may have learnt and thought about the Councils during those two years in which he became essentially the historical Lenin, they still remained for him the means to a revolutionary end. That the Councils might not merely exist for the sake of the revolution, but that -- and this in a far more profound and primary sense -- the revolution might exist for the sake of the Councils, was something that simply never occurred to him. From this point of view -- by which I mean not Lenin as a person but the sort of mentality that found an arch-exemplar in him -- it is easy to understand why the Councils petered out both as a reality and as an idea.
That Lenin's slogan "All power to the Soviets!" was meant in nothing but a revolutionary-political sense is forced upon us even more strikingly when we come to the following exclamation in that essay: "And yet the 240,000 members of the Bolshevik Party are supposed to be incapable of governing Russia in the interests of the poor and against those of the rich!" So that "All power to the Soviets!" means little more at bottom than "All power to the Party through the Soviets!" -- and there is nothing that points beyond this revolutionary-
political, indeed party-political aspect to something different, socialistic and structural. Soon afterwards Lenin asserts that the Bolsheviks are "centralists by conviction, by the nature of the programme and the whole tactics of their party"; hence centralism is expressly characterized as being not merely tactical but a matter of principle. The proletarian State, we are told, is to be centralist. The Councils, therefore, have to subordinate themselves to a "strong Government" -- what remains then of their autonomous reality? It is true that they, too, are conceded a "special centralism": no Bolshevist has anything to say against their "concentration into branches of production", their centralization. But obviously Lenin had no inkling that such "concentrations" bear a socialist, socially formative character only when they arise spontaneously, from below upwards, when they are not concentrations at all but associations, not a centralist process but a federalist one.
In Lenin's summons "To the People" ten days after the seizure of power we read: "From now on your Councils are organs of State-power, fully authorized to make all decisions." The tasks that were assigned soon afterwards to the Councils referred essentially to control. This was due very largely to the situation itself, but the frame of reference was far too small; the positive counterbalance was missing. Such petty powers were not enough to enable the Councils "to display their talents and capabilities to the full". We hear Lenin repeating in March, 1918, at the Party Congress his ideas about the new type of State "without bureaucracy, without police, without a standing Army", but he adds: "In Russia hardly more than a beginning has been made, and a bad beginning at that." It would be a grave error to think that only the inadequate execution of an adequate design was to blame: the design itself lacked the substance of life. "In our Soviets," he says by way of explanation, "there is still much that is crude, incomplete"; but the really dire and disastrous thing about it was that the leaders, who were not merely political but spiritual leaders as well, never directed the Soviets towards development and completion. "The men who created the Commune," Lenin goes on, "did not understand it." This is reminiscent of his utterance the day after his arrival in Russia: "We have clung to the Councils, but have not grasped them." The truth is that he did not "understand" them even now for what they really were -- and did not wish to understand them.
In the same speech Lenin declared in answer to Bukharin, who had demanded that an outline of the socialist order be included in the programme, that "We cannot outline Socialism. What Socialism will look like when it takes on its final forms we do not know and cannot say." No doubt this is the Marxist line of thought, but it shows up in the full light of history the limitations of the Marxist outlook in its relation to an emergent or would-be emergent reality: a failure to recognize potentialities which require, if they are to develop, the stimulus of the idea of social form. We may not "know" what Socialism will look like, but we can know what we want it to look like, and this knowing and willing, this conscious willing itself influences what is to be -- and if one is a centralist one's centralism influences what is to be. Always in history there exist, even if in varying degrees of strength, centralist and decentralist trends of development side by side; and it is of vital importance in the long run for which of the two the conscious will, together with whatever power it may have acquired at the time, elects. What is more, there is scarcely anything harder, or more rare, than for a will invested with power to free itself from centralism. What more natural or more logical than that a centralist will should fail to recognize the decentralist potentialities in the forms it makes use of? "The bricks are not yet made," says Lenin, "with which Socialism will be built." Because of his centralism he could not know and acknowledge the Councils as such bricks, he could not help them to become so, nor did they become so.
Soon after the Party Congress Lenin stated in the first draft of the Theses on the Immediate Tasks of Soviet Authority, in a section not included in the final version: "We are for democratic centralism. . . . The opponents of centralism are always pointing to autonomy and federation as a means of combating the hazards of centralism. In reality democratic centralism in no way precludes autonomy, rather it postulates the need for it. In reality even federation [here Lenin only has political federation in mind] in no way contradicts democratic centralism. In a really democratic order, and all the more in a State built up on the Soviet principle, federation is only a step towards a really democratic centralism." It is clear that Lenin has no thought of limiting the centralist principle by the federalist principle; from his revolutionary-political point of view he only tolerates a federal reality so long as it resolves
itself into centralism. The direction, the whole line of thought is thus unequivocally centralistic. Nor is there any essential difference when we come to local autonomy: it is expedient to permit this to a certain degree and to grant it its terms of action; only the line must be drawn at that point where the real decisions and consequently the central instructions begin. All these popular and social formations only have political, strategic, tactical and provisional validity; not one of them is endowed with a genuine raison d'etre, an independent structural value; not one of them is to be preserved and fostered as a living limb of the community-to-be.
A month after Lenin had dictated his draft the "Left Communists" pointed out how injurious it was for the seeds of Socialism that the form which State administration was taking lay in the direction of bureaucratic centralization, elimination of the independence of the local Soviets and repudiation, in fact, of the type of "Commune-State" governing itself from below -- the very type, therefore, of which Lenin said in his speech that the Soviet Authority actually was. There can be no more doubt to-day as to who was right in assessing the situation and the trends to come -- Lenin or his critics. But Lenin himself knew it well enough towards the end of his life. References to the Paris Commune become fewer and fewer after that speech, until they cease altogether.
A year after the October Revolution, Lenin had stated that "the apparatus of officialdom in Russia was completely shattered", but at the end of 1920 he characterized the Soviet Republic as "a Work-State with bureaucratic excrescences", and that, he said, "was the truth about the transition". The fact that in the years to come the proportion of excrescences to the trunk from which they sprouted increased alarmingly, and the buddings of the state of affairs to which the transition was supposed to lead grew less and less, could not remain hidden from Lenin. At the end of 1922 in the report Five years of Russian Revolution and the World Revolution in Perspective which Lenin made to the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, he says simply: "We have taken over the old State apparatus." He solaces himself with the assurance that in a few years they will succeed in modifying the apparatus from top to bottom. This hope was not fulfilled and could not be fulfilled given Lenin's assumptions: he was thinking in the main of training and attracting new forces, but
the problem was one of structure and not of personnel; a bureaucracy does not change when its names are changed, and even the best-trained graduates of the Soviet schools and Workers' Faculties succumb to its atmosphere.
Lenin's main disappointment was the continued existence of the bureaucracy which, if not in its personnel, certainly in its ruthless efficacy, once more proved stronger than the revolutionary principle. He does not seem to have touched the deeper causes of this phenomenon, and that is understandable enough. The October Revolution was a social revolution only in the sense that it effected certain changes in the social order and its stratification, in the social forms and institutions. But a true social revolution must, over and above that, establish the rights of society vis-a-vis the State. Although in respect of this task Lenin pointed out that the withering away of the State would be accomplished by way of a development whose duration could not as yet be measured nor its manner imagined, yet, to the extent that this development could be realized right now, he acknowledged the task as determining the leaders' immediate programme of action and called the new State-form whose realization was to be tackled at once, the "Commune State". But the "Commune State" had been characterized clearly enough by Marx as freeing economic society to the greatest possible extent from the shackles of the political principle. "Once the communal order of things," he wrote, "had been introduced in Paris and in the centres of second rank, the old centralized government would have had to give way in the provinces also to the producers' self-government." This shifting of the power of decision from the political to the social principle -- which had been worked out and given its ideal basis in France by the social thinking from Saint-Simon to Proudhon -- was proclaimed by Lenin as the baseline for the organizing activity of the leaders, but in point of fact it did not become such a base-line. The political principle established itself anew, in changed guise, all-powerful; and the perils actually threatening the revolution gave him a broad justification. Let it remain undisputed that the situation as it was would not have allowed of a radical reduction of the political principle; what, however, would at any rate have been possible was the laying down of a base-line in accordance with which, as changing circumstances allowed, the power-frontiers of the social principle could have been extended.
Precisely the opposite happened. The representatives of the political principle, that is, mainly the "professional revolutionaries" who got to the top, jealously watched over the unrestrictedness of their sphere of action. It is true that they augmented their ranks with competent persons recruited from the people and that they filled up the gaps as they arose, but those who were admitted to the directorate bore the stamp of the political principle on their very souls; they became elements of the State substance and ceased to be elements of the social substance, and whoever resisted this change could not make himself heard at the top or soon ceased to want to. The power of the social principle could not and dared not grow. The beginnings of a "producers' self-government" to which the revolution spontaneously gave rise, above all the local Soviets, became, despite the apparent freedom of expression and decision, so enfeebled by the all-pervading Party domination with its innumerable ways visible and invisible of compelling people to conform to the doctrine and will of the Central Authority, that little was left of that "outburst of creative folk-power" which had produced them. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" is de facto a dictatorship of the State over society, one that is naturally acclaimed or tolerated by the overwhelming mass of people for the sake of the completed social revolution they still hope to see achieved by this means. The bureaucratism from which Lenin suffered, and suffered precisely because it had been his business to abolish it (the "Commune State" being, for him, nothing less than the debureaucratized State), is merely the necessary concomitant to the sovereignty of the political principle.
It is worth noting that within the Party itself attempts were made again and again to break this sovereignty. The most interesting of them, because it sprang from the industrial workers, seems to my mind to be the "Workers' Opposition" of March, 1921, which proposed that the Central Organs for the administration of the whole national economy of the Republic should be elected by the united trades-associations of producers. This was not a Producers' Government by any means but it was an important step towards it, although lacking any real decen-tralist character. Lenin rejected this "anarcho-syndicalist deviation" on the ground that a union of producers could be considered by a Marxist only in a classless society composed exclusively of workers as producers, but that in Russia at
present there were, apart from remnants of the capitalist epoch, still two classes left -- peasants and workers. So long, therefore, as Communism was still aiming at perfection and had not turned all peasants into workers a self-governing economy could not, in Lenin's opinion, be considered. In other words (since the completion of Communism coincides with the complete withering away of the State): a fundamental reduction of the State's internal sphere of power cannot be thought of before the State has breathed its last. This paradox has become the operative maxim for the directorate of the Soviet Regime.
Only from this point of view can Lenin's changing attitude to the Co-operative System be grasped as a whole.
There is no point, however, in picking on the contradictions in a critical spirit. Lenin himself emphasized in 1918, not without reason, that always when a new class enters the historical arena as the leader of society there comes unfailingly a period of experiment and vacillation over the choice of new methods to meet the new objective situation; three years later he even asserted that things had only proved, "as always in the history of revolutions, that the movement runs in a zigzag". He failed to notice that though all this may be true of political revolutions, yet when, for the first time in history on so large a scale, the element of social change is added, humanity as a whole (and this means the people to whom events happen as well as the witnesses of them) longs despite all the experiments and vacillations to be made aware of the one clear earnest of the future: the movement towards community in freedom. In the case of the Russian Revolution whatever else may have appeared to them in the way of portents nothing of this kind ever became visible, and Lenin's changing attitude to the Co-operative system is one proof the more that such a movement does not exist.
In the pre-revolutionary period Lenin regarded the Cooperatives existing in bourgeois society as "miserable palliatives" only and bulwarks of the petty bourgeois spirit. A month before the October Revolution, faced with the tremendous economic crisis that was sweeping Russia, he put forward among the "revolutionary-democratic" measures to be taken immediately, the compulsory unification of the whole nation into Consumer Co-operatives. The following January he wrote in the draft of a decree: "All citizens must belong to a local Consumer Co-operative" and "the existing Consumer
Co-operatives will be nationalized". In some Party circles this demand was understood and approved as aiming at the elimination of the Co-operatives, for they saw, as a Bolshevist theoretician no doubt rightly expressed it, in the element of voluntary membership the essential hallmark of a Co-operative. Lenin did not intend it to be understood that way. True, the Co-operative as a small island in capitalist society was, so he said, only "a shop", but the Co-operative which, after the abolition of private capital, comprises the whole of society "is Socialism", and it is therefore the task of the Soviet authorities to change all citizens without exception into members of a general State Co-operative, "a single gigantic Co-operative". He does not see that the Co-operative principle thereby loses all independent content, indeed its very existence as a principle, and that nothing remains but a necessarily centralist-bureaucratic State-institution under a name that has become meaningless. The realization of this programme was undertaken in the years immediately following: all Co-operatives were merged under the leadership of the Consumer Co-operatives, which were turned into what amounted to State goods-distribution centres. As to immediate nationalization pure and simple, even two years after he had formulated the "Tasks of the Soviet Authority" Lenin was still holding back. He denounced those who were outspoken enough to demand a single nexus of State organizations to replace the Co-operatives. "That would be all right, but it is impossible", he said, meaning "impossible at present". At the same time he held fast in principle to the idea of the Co-operative as such, which, he declared (recalling Marx and his own attitude at the Copenhagen Congress of the International in 1910, where he had stressed the possible socializing influence of the Co-operative after the capitalists had been expropriated), might be a means of building the new economic order. It was therefore a question, he said, of finding new Co-operative forms "which correspond to the economic and political conditions of the proletarian dictatorship" and which "facilitate the transition to real socialist centralism". An institution the very essence of which is the germ and core of social decentralization was in consequence to be made the building element of a new close-meshed State centralism of "socialist" stamp. Obviously Lenin was not proceeding from theoretical assumptions but from the practical requirements of the hour which, as the
world knows, were extremely grave and necessitated the most strenuous exertions. When Lenin, in a statement reminiscent of the postulates of the "Utopians" and "Anarchists" -- but naturally twisting their meaning into its exact opposite -- demanded the union of the Producer and Consumer Co-operatives, he did so because of the need to increase the supply of goods: the fitness of this measure being proved by the experience of the last two years. A year later we hear him pc5lemicizing violently against the Co-operatives, which in their old and still uncon-quered form were a "bulwark of counter-revolutionary opinion". In his famous treatise on Taxation in Kind (spring, 1921) he points emphatically to the danger that lurks in the co-operation of small producers: it inevitably strengthens petty bourgeois capitalism. "The freedom and rights of the Cooperatives," he continues, "mean under present conditions in Russia, freedom and rights for capitalism. It would be a stupidity or a crime to close our eyes to this obvious truth." And further: "Under Soviet power Co-operative capitalism, as distinct from private capitalism, creates a variant of State capitalism and is as such advantageous and useful to us at present. . . . We must endeavour to guide the development of capitalism into the channels of Co-operative capitalism." This instructive warning only expressed what, in those years of falsely so-called "War Communism" (in October, 1921, Lenin himself spoke retrospectively of the mistake that had been made by "our having resolved to take in hand the immediate changeover to communist production and distribution") had been the guiding principle in practice.
But in the wake of the unfavourable outcome of extreme centralization and in connexion with the "New Economic policy" just beginning, a regressive tendency was already making itself felt. Shortly before that warning declaration of Lenin's a decree had been promulgated on the re-establishment of the various kinds of Co-operative -- Consumer, Agricultural and Industrial -- as an economic organization. Two months later there followed a decree with which a beginning was made for the wholesale cancellation of the previously arranged merging of all Co-operatives in the Association of Consumer Co-operatives, the "Zentrosoyus". Towards the end of the same year the president of this Association declared in a speech on the position and tasks of the Co-operatives that it was only natural that the State Co-operative apparatus, functioning in
accordance with a fixed plan, should have become "bureaucratic, inelastic and immovable", and he made mention of the voices "that spoke of the necessity of freeing the Co-operative from slavery to the State", indeed, he even admitted that there were times "when one had to speak of such a freeing". And true enough the people had often come to compare compulsory organization with bondage. Now the authorities "completely and unreservedly" abjured all official interference in the affairs of the Agricultural Co-operatives and contented themselves with the wide possibilities within the system of State Capitalism for "influencing and regulating the Co-operatives by economic pressure", until those that "could not or would not adapt themselves" had been "rubbed out and liquidated". All the same, care was taken that reliable Party members should get into the directorate of the central as well as of the individual Societies and that the necessary "purges" were carried out under the representatives of the Co-operative.
Two years after the appearance of his Taxation in Kind, Lenin, in May, 1923, the peak period of the New Economic Development, provided the latter with its theoretical foundation in his great essay on the Co-operative System. "When we went over to the New Economics," he said, "we acted precipitately in one respect, namely, we forgot to think of the Co-operative System." But he no longer contents himself now with approving the Co-operative as a mere element to be built into the State economy of the transition period. All of a sudden the Co-operative is jerked into the very centre of the social new order. Lenin now describes the Co-operative education of the people as "the only task that is left us". The "co-operativization" of Russia has acquired in his eyes a "colossal", a "gigantic", a "limitless" significance. "It is," he says, "not yet the actual building of the socialist society, but it contains everything necessary and sufficient for the building of this society." Yes, he goes even further: the Co-operative has become for him not merely the pre-condition of social building but the very core of it. "A social order of enlightened Co-operatives," he asserts, "with common ownership of the means of production, based on the class-victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie -- that is a socialist order of society," and he concludes: "The simple growth of the Co-operative is as important for us as the growth of socialism," yes, "conditional to the complete co-operativization of Russia we would be already standing with both feet on
socialist ground." In the planned, all-embracing State Co-operative he sees the fulfilment of the "dreams" of the old Co-operatives "begun with Robert Owen". Here the contradiction between idea and realization reaches its apogee. What those "Utopians", beginning with Robert Owen, were concerned about in their thoughts and plans for association was the voluntary combination of people into small independent units of communal life and work, and the voluntary combination of those into a community of communities. What Lenin describes as the fulfilment of these thoughts and plans is the diametrical opposite of them, is an immense, utterly centralized complex of State production-centres and State distribution-centres, a mechanism of bureaucratically run institutes for production and consumption, each locked into the other like cog-wheels: as for spontaneity, free association, there is no longer any room for them whatever, no longer the possibility of even dreaming of them -- with the "fulfilment" of the dream the dream is gone. Such at any rate had been Lenin's conception of the dovetailing of the Co-operative system into the State, and in that otherwise very exhaustive essay of his written eight months before his death he did not deny it. He wanted to give the movement which had then reached its peak and which implied a reduction of centralism in all fields, a definitive theoretical basis; but he denied it -- necessarily, given his train of thought -- the basis of all bases: the element of freedom.
Some people have thought they could see in this marked turning of Lenin's towards the Co-operatives an approach to the theories of the Russian Populists, for whom such forms of communal association as persisted or renewed themselves within the body of the people were the core and bud of a future order of society, and whom Lenin had fought for so long. But the affinity is only apparent. Even now Lenin was not thinking for a moment of the Co-operative as a spontaneous, independent formation growing dynamically and a law unto itself. What he was now dreaming of, after all his grievous efforts to weld the people into a uniform whole that would follow him with utter devotion, after all his disappointments over "bureaucratic excrescences", with the mark of illness on him and near to death -- was to unite two things which cannot be united, the all-overshadowing State and the full-blooded Co-operative, in other words: compulsion and freedom. At all periods of human
history the Co-operative and its prototypes have been able really to develop only in the gaps left by the effective power of the State and its prototypes. A State with no gaps inevitably precludes the development of the Co-operative. Lenin's final idea was so to extend the Co-operative in scope and so to unify it in structure that it would only differ from the State functionally but coincide with it materially. That is the squaring of the circle.
Stalin has explained the change in Lenin's attitude to the Co-operatives from 1921 to 1923 by saying that State Capitalism had not gained foothold to the degree desired, and that the Co-operatives with their ten million members had begun to ally themselves very closely with the newly developing socialized industries. This certainly draws attention to Lenin's real motives, but it is not sufficient to explain his unexpected enthusiasm for Co-operatives. Rather, it is obvious that Lenin now perceived in the Co-operative principle a counterbalance to the bureaucracy he found so offensive. But the Co-operative could only have become such a counterbalance in its original free form, not in Lenin's compulsory form, which was dependent on a truly "gigantic" bureaucracy.
As we have said, Lenin's idea of compulsion was not carried out to the full. The regressive movement finally led, in May, 1924, to the restoration of voluntary membership, at first only for full citizens, that is, citizens entitled to vote, but later, early in 1928, in the rural Consumer Co-operatives for others as well, although with some limitation as to their rights. Towards the end of 1923 the Board of the Zentrosoyus stated: "We must confess that this change-over to free membership ought to have been made earlier. We could then have met this crisis on a surer foundation." All the same an indirect compulsion was henceforth exercised by means of preferential supplies to the Co-operatives. In 1925 we hear from the mouth of the then president of the Central Council of the Trades Unions that the Government, when issuing subsidies and loans, took account of a person's membership in a manner that came very near to compulsion. And ten years afterwards the urban Co-operatives, which had long suffered gravely under State interference, were abolished at a stroke in 654 cities.
What has been said will suffice to show how the Soviet regime continually oscillated in practice between immediate radical centralization and provisional tolerance of relatively
decentralized areas, but never, even to the slightest degree, made the trend towards the goal of Socialism as formulated by Marx, namely, "the sloughing off of the political husk", the maxim of its conduct. One might amplify this by mentioning the changing attitude it adopted during the Five Year Plan of 1926 to 1931 to the collectivization of the peasantry. I shall content myself with listing a few characteristic proclamations and procedures in chronological sequence.
Towards the end of 1927, Molotov drew attention to the backwardness of agriculture and in order to overcome it demanded that the village Collectives -- valuable despite their defects -- should develop in conjunction with the general plan of industrialization. In June, 1928, Stalin declared it necessary to expand the existing Collectives as intensively as possible and establish new ones. In April, 1929, the slogan was given out at the Party Congress for the creation, still within the framework of the Five Year Plan, of a socialized area of production as a counterbalance to individual economy. The process of collectivization soon took on more or less obvious forms of compulsion and seemed so successful at first that Stalin stated at the end of the same year: "If collectivization goes on at this rate the contrast between town and village will be wiped out in accelerated tempo." At the beginning of 1930 the Central Committee of the Party estimated that the tempo envisaged in the Plan had been outstripped, and emphatically stressed the need for a concerted campaign against all attempts to slow the movement down. In three years' time complete collectivization would have been achieved with the techniques of persuasion, "aided by certain levers". The Executive Committees of the various districts vied with one another in the thoroughness of their administrative measures; a district was not infrequently declared an "area of complete collectivization" and where persuasion did not help threats were used. But it soon proved that the impression of smashing success, an impression fostered by the marked increase in the number of collective farm-economies, was a delusion. The peasants reacted in their own way, by anything from the slaughtering of cattle to actual uprisings, and the measures taken to liquidate the kulaks did little to remedy the evil; the small peasants often joined forces and the Red Army itself with its peasant sons reflected the prevailing dissatisfaction. Then Stalin, in his famous article "Dizzy with Success", performed the
volte face that seemed necessary. The policy of collectivization, he declared, rested according to Lenin's doctrine on voluntary action. "You cannot create collective economies by force. That would be stupid and reactionary." Lenin had also taught, he said, that "it would be the greatest folly to try to irmtroduce collective cultivation of the land by decree". The volu ntary principle had suffered injury, the tempo of action had not corresponded to that of development, important inter-med iate stages on the way to the complete Village Commune had been by-passed. The Central Committee was therefore arranging, he said, for an end to be made of compulsory methods. In July the Party Congress proclaimed that collective economies could only be based on the principle of voluntary admission, all attempts to apply force or administrative coercion were "an offence against the Party line and an abuse of power". In the autumn the Commissar for Agriculture once more criticized "the crude and ultra-administrative metlods which have been employed in respect of the collective economies and their members". But less than five months lateT, after a considerable number of peasants, as a result of the greater measure of freedom but in spite of the privileges newly offered, had left the Collectives, the same Commissar said, in his Report to the Congress of the Soviets regarding the sma.ll and middling peasants who had not joined the Collective Movement: "Who are they for, for the kulaks or for the Collectives? ... Is it possible to remain neutral to-day?" In other words: he who is not for collectivization is against the Soviet regime. The Congress confirmed this view. During the nex.t few years renewed measures of severity followed the alleviations necessitated by the famine crisis, until in 1936 nearly 90 per cent of the peasants had been collectivized, of -which the Full Communes comprised only a diminishing fraction.
The old rustic Russia, as Maynard has rightly said, lasted up to 1929. That it was bundled out of the world with its traditional system of land-cultivation can, from the point of view of economic efficiency, only be approved. But, from the point of vie-w of social structure, the question must be put very differently. From this angle there should be no talk of an Either-Or; the specific task was so to transform the existing structural units that they should be equal to the new conditions and demands, and at the same time retain their structural
character and nature as self-activating cells. This task has not been fulfilled. It has been said, rightly enough, that Marxist thinking, geared as it is to the rationalized big-business form of farming, the industrialization and mechanization of agriculture, has been grafted onto the old Russian Village Community which had accustomed the peasants to the communal management of land. But the politically inspired tendency to turn agriculture into a department of industry and the peasants into the hired workers of this industry; the tendency to an all-embracing and all-regulating State economy; a tendency which regards the Agricultural Co-operative only as a stepping-stone to the Full Commune and this in its turn only as a stepping-stone to the local branch of the Agricultural Department of the Universal State Factory -- such a tendency destroyed and was bound to destroy the whole structural value of the Village Community. One cannot treat either an individual or a social organism as a means to an end absolutely, without robbing it of its life-substance. "From the standpoint of Leninism," said Stalin in 1933, "the collective economies, and the Soviets as well, are, taken as a form of organization, a weapon and nothing but a weapon." One cannot in the nature of things expect a little tree that has been turned into a club to put forth leaves.
Far longer than with any other people the "medieval" tendency to associate in little bands for the purpose of common work has been preserved among the Russians. Of the most singular social formation to have sprung from this tendency, the Artel, Kropotkin could say some forty years ago that it constituted the proper substance of Russian peasant life -- a loose, shifting association of fishermen and hunters, manual workers and traders, hauliers and returned Siberian convicts, peasants who travelled to the city to work as weavers or carpenters, and peasants who went in for communal corn-growing or cattle-raising in the village, with, however, divisions as between communal and individual property. Here an incomparable building element lay ready to hand for a great re-structural idea. The Bolshevist Revolution never used it. It had no use for independent small communities. Among the various types of "Kolkhoz" it favoured "for the present", as Stalin said, the agricultural Artel for economic reasons, but naturally the revolution saw in it nothing but a stepping-stone. One of Russia's best theoreticians of economics has defined the
aim. Land cultivation, he said, would only be regarded as socialized when all the agricultural Artels had been replaced by State Collectives, when land, means of production and livestock belonged to the State. Then the peasants would live in community-houses as hired labourers of the State, in huge agrarian cities, themselves the nodes of areas blessed with more and more electrification. The fantastic picture to which this conception belongs is in very truth the picture of a society finally and utterly de-structured and destroyed. It is more -- it is the picture of a State that has devoured society altogether.
The Soviet regime has achieved great things in the technology of economics and still greater things in the technology of war. Its citizens seem in the main to approve of it, for a variety of reasons, negative and positive, fictitious and real. In their attitude vague resignation appears mixed'with practical confidence. It can be said in general that the individual submits to this regime, which grants him so little freedom of thought and action, perhaps because there is no going back and as regards technical achievements there is at least a going forward. Things look very different, at least to the impartial eye, when it comes to what has actually been achieved in the matter of Socialism: a mass of socialistic expostulations, no Socialist form at all. "What," asked the great sociologist Max "Weber in 1918, "will that 'association' look like of which the Communist Manifesto speaks? What germ-cells of that kind of organization has Socialism in particular to offer if ever it gets a real chance to seize power and rule as it wills?" In the country where Socialism did get this chance there still existed such germ-cells, which no other country in our epoch could rival; but they were not brought to fruition. Nevertheless, there is still breathing-space for change and transformation -- by which is meant not a change of tactics such as Lenin and his fellow-workers often effected, but a change of fundamentals. The change cannot go backwards, only forwards -- but in a new direction. Whether forces as yet unnamed are stirring in the depths and will suddenly burst forth to bring about this change, on this question tremendous things depend.
Pierre Leroux, the man who appears to have used the word "Socialism" for the first time, knew what he was saying when he addressed the National Assembly in 1848 with these words: "If you have no will for human association I tell you that you are exposing civilization to the fate of dying in fearful agony."