Max Nomad, Aspects of Revolt, 1959.
THE SAGA OF WACLAW MACHAJSKI
New revolutionary theories are hatched daily in the brains of political malcontents and "cranks." In times propitious for their dissemination these new gospels, if backed by a fascinating personality, occasionally find larger or smaller groups of faithful communicants. Particularly is this so when the old, time-honored, standardized parties or movements of protest show no progress in the way of fulfilling their promises. But more often than not these newer theories find a quiet grave in unread books and pamphlets. As historical curiosities, they are mentioned casually in learned conversation, but no longer seriously discussed. Yet the failure of an idea to get recognition during the lifetime of its originator is not always a proof that there was no inherent merit in it. For it might share the fate of certain purely scientific theories which, having lain hopelessly buried among unread "papers," are sometimes discovered and acclaimed after several decades.
The Russian revolutionary movement of the last two generations has likewise had its non-conformists and heretics. They went their own way outside the beaten "legitimate" paths, on the one hand, of the native "Populism" of those intellectuals who championed the cause of the peasants, and, on the other, of the western Marxism of those educated malcontents who saw in the industrial workers the lever for overthrowing tsarism and for European-izing Russia. Among those "legitimate" currents might also be mentioned the orthodox, "official" communist-anarchism of Peter Kropotkin, which around the turn of the century viewed the coming Russian Revolution as nothing but a replica of the Great French Revolution.
Those heresies sprang from various sources. Some were the offshoots of the defunct anarchism of Bakunin; another grew out of the Populism of the Social Revolutionaries, and became known as "Maximalism"; and others had their roots in the theories of Karl Marx.
All the advocates of those heresies, although speaking theoretically entirely different languages, had one thing in common: they refused to bow to the generally accepted view as to the character of the coming Russian upheaval. In referring to that impending event, both Marxian Social Democrats and Populist Social Revolutionists had in mind exclusively the bourgeois-democratic revolution. If the Social Democrats sometimes spoke of the "revolution of the proletariat" or the "proletarian revolution," they meant it in a somewhat peculiar sense: the fighters of the revolution were to be "proletarians," but the goal was to be democratic, a term which sounded better than "bourgeois." The native "Populists," although chiefly interested in the peasantry, likewise acknowledged the importance of the manual workers in the approaching upheaval. In a discussion between Plekhanov, the father of Russian Marxism, and Tikhomirov, then still the most important mouthpiece of the terrorist "People's Will," there were coined the notable sentences which, almost in a nutshell, reveal the stand taken by the unsophisticated Populists and their more subtle Marxian rivals. Tikhomirov said, "I admit that the proletariat is very important for the revolution." To which Plekhanov replied, "no, the revolution is very important for the proletariat." That was very sharp. But basically the two opponents were in agreement. Only the later Populist deserter to the camp of the tsarists was more cynical in his readiness to use the workers frankly as a tool for his, the bourgeois revolution; while the later Marxist deserter to the camp of the Russian "bitter-enders" of World War I, more circumspect, meant to say that the bourgeois revolution was of paramount necessity to the workers themselves. The workers might make their choice.....
The dissenters went beyond the idea of a mere bourgeois
revolution. The unorthodox, i.e., non-Kropotkinian, Anarchists urged a merciless terrorist struggle against the bourgeoisie as well as against the government, with the lofty ideal of "Anarchy" as their immediate aim, incredible as this may sound. They were the super-romantics of the revolution. The no less heroic, but more reasonable "Maximalists" -- the illegitimate sons of the democratic-liberal Social Revolutionary Party -- demanded nationalization of industries immediately after the overthrow of the tsarist system. And so did Trotsky, the ex-Menshevik Marxist who went far beyond the Bolsheviks during the Revolution of 1905.
But prior to all of these heresies which sprang up about the time of the first Russian Revolution (1905), there had appeared in the field another champion of dissent -- hailing originally from Marx -- who was soon to impress his own name upon an entirely new revolutionary theory. His name was Waclaw Machajski (pronounced Vatzlav Makhayski) -- now an almost legendary figure. In the circles of the Russian intelligentsia he has chiefly been known as the bad man "Makhayev" who had tried to arouse and to prejudice the manual workers against their educated champions. And even many decades after the movement connected with his name had disappeared as an organized affair, the term "Makhayevshchina" continued to be used in Russia as a deprecatory designation of all those tendencies or even moods which in one way or another denote a certain antagonism between manual workers and intellectuals.
Waclaw Machajski (1866-1926), a native of Russian Poland, had started his revolutionary career as a Polish nationalist student with a slight socialist tinge. But he was soon to wash off that stain with five years of imprisonment in Warsaw and Moscow and six years of banishment to one of the sub-Arctic corners of northeasternmost Siberia. A few years before his imprisonment he had shaken off the last vestiges of his youthful nationalism and become a revolutionary Marxist. In 1892, impressed by a mass
uprising of the workers of Lodz -- the Polish Manchester -- a group of Polish and Russian revolutionary students in Switzerland issued a manifesto to the workers in revolt. Machajski undertook to smuggle the literature across the border. He was arrested at the start, but the years of his banishment in the frosty wastes were not entirely lost on him and his fellow exiles. Thanks to the slovenliness which was one of the redeeming features of the pre-totali-tarian forms of despotism, Machajski and the rest of the "colony" in Vilyuysk were not bothered by the police when a newcomer brought with him an entire library enabling them to kill their time in the pursuit of revolutionary truth. Much of that literature -- aside from the works of Marx, Rodbertus and other social theorists and economists -- dealt with the international socialist movement. After a thorough study of all these works Machajski came in 1898 to the following conclusions:
1. That Socialism, for all its "proletarian" protestations, was the ideology of the rising new middle class of intellectuals, professionals, technicians and white collar workers, and not of the manual workers.
2. That the socialist parties west of Russia, for all the revolutionary verbiage they indulged in on festive occasions, were in fact law-abiding progressive parties advocating political and social reforms, but no longer revolutionary organizations interested in the overthrow of the capitalist system.
3. That the socialist parties working in the underground of tsarist Russia and Russian Poland would follow the example of the western parties as soon as the overthrow of absolutism has enabled them to become legal organizations.
4. That this evolution towards respectability, and away from the idea of an anticapitalist revolution, was due to the fact that the policies of these socialist parties were determined not by their working-class rank and file following, but by the interests of the new middle class of intellectual workers (including self-educated ex-workers) who were ready to make peace with capitalism, provided
the latter, through the extension of political liberties and democratic institutions in general, offered them an opportunity of lucrative employment either in the labor movement or in the various cultural, economic and political institutions.
5. That this new middle class of intellectual workers was a rising privileged stratum, fighting for a place in the sun against the old privileged classes, the landed owners and capitalists. Higher education was their specific "capital" -- the source of their actual or potential higher incomes. Political democracy was the first, and government ownership of industries the next step to their domination. To achieve these objects they needed the support of the manual workers. The confidence of the latter they won by helping them in their early struggles for higher wages and by dangling before them the socialist ideal of equality.
6. That the "classless" society which they promised was meant only as propaganda, as a sort of proletarian religion, but not as an object of struggle for the living generation. The socialism which the socialist parties really aspired to was a hierarchical system under which all industries were owned by the government, the private capitalists having yielded place to office-holders, managers and engineers, whose salaries would be much higher than the wages paid for manual labor and who henceforth would constitute the new and only ruling class, absorbing into their ranks the former capitalists and the self-taught ex-workers.
7. That the introduction of that system was visualized by them as a process of gradual transition, precluding any idea of a violent overthrow of the existing system. (Ma-chajski laid down his views at the turn of the century, in the peaceful days of capitalism's upward trend. At that time the rebellious, unemployed or underpaid intellectual or professional of the middle of the last century, was no longer a mass phenomenon outside of such politically backward countries as Russia, including Russian Poland, and Spain. That phenomenon was to recur in the wake of World War I when the hordes of unemployed or underpaid professionals and white collar workers began to embrace, en masse, the Leninist gospel of immediate anti-capitalist world revolution. Hence in 1898 there could be no such organized revolutionary anti-capitalist phenomenon as the Communist parties. Syndicalism was still in its infancy, and anarchist-terrorist acts of violence were manifestations of individual protest rather than of a revolutionary mass movement.)
SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT AND REVOLUTIONARY WILL TO POWER
In short, at the turn of the century, that obscure Polish revolutionist had anticipated what was to become a truism a few decades later, (1) that the democratic Socialists were at bottom what one might call left-wing New Dealers or liberals, and (2) that in a collectivist State-- as exemplified by the U.S.S.R. nearly twenty years after his prediction -- the office-holders and managers would constitute the new ruling class.
Most of those ideas were laid down by Machajski in a tiny hectographed volume, published in 1898 illegally in Siberia, which he entitled The Evolution of Social Democracy and which was to become Part I of his Intellectual Worker.1
A detached logician, digesting and accepting Machaj ski's analysis, would come to the conclusion that the "emancipation of the proletariat" with the "classless society" as its sequel, was a Utopian dream. For the socialist movement, with its uneducated rank and file and its educated leadership of intellectuals, professionals and self-educated ex-workers, could only result in the establishment of a new class system in which the office-holder and manager took the place of the capitalist.
But not so Machajski. He was a logician, but he was first of all a revolutionist, a conspirator, hoping to father an anti-capitalist world revolution in his own lifetime. So instead of spinning the thread of his thought to its logical conclusion -- thus anticipating by twelve years Robert Michels' pessimistic theory of the "iron law of oligarchy" -- Machajski actually wrote that the only guarantee against the class-conciliatory opportunism of the socialist parties was "a world organization of the working class, its international conspiracy and concerted action" as the "only way to its rule, to its revolutionary dictatorship, to the organization of the conquest of political power."2
The "conquest of political power," allegedly by the "working class," was in contradiction to Machajski's basic sociological thesis about the exploitative, non-equalitarian tendencies animating the owners of higher education with regard to the manual workers who, because of their lack of education, were prevented from exerting any governmental functions. For it implied that those intellectuals and self-educated ex-workers, who were to constitute the bureaucratic setup of a Machaj ski-controlled revolutionary
government, would be exempt from those tendencies. It was as if a philosopher after writing a profound treatise in defense of skepticism or agnosticism were to wind up with the proclamation of his own divinity and infallibility.
Whether it was due to his insight into the inconsistency of that demand from his own point of view, or to purely tactical considerations (in order not to repel the Anarchists and Syndicalists whom he hoped to win over to his views) -- the fact remains that after his flight from Siberia (1903) Machajski never spoke of a "revolutionary dictatorship" again -- although he never explicitly repudiated it. In his later writings he maintained the idea of a world-wide "workers' conspiracy"3 -- thus to a certain extent taking up the idea of Bakunin's secret "Alliance" of the late 1860's and early 1870's, and anticipating Lenin's Communist International.
However, he coupled with it no longer the struggle for power, but the purely economic struggle for higher wages, and jobs for the unemployed, to be carried on by the method of what the Syndicalists called "direct action." World-wide strikes, he wrote, would "dictate the law"4 to the privileged classes and their governments. The result of those strikes and of that "dictating" was to be eventually the complete equalization of incomes of manual and intellectual workers.
In his writings reflecting his later phase, as it were, Machajski was not explicit about the changes in the political and economic setup that would occur in the process of those struggles for economic equality. The initiated understood of course that the private employers, being unable to accede to the high wage demands confronting them during the general strike, would simply declare a general lockout, whereupon the government would be forced by
the aroused masses to take over the industries and to organize public works for the unemployed. This reticence on the question of nationalization of industries was due to the fact that Machajski was anxious to convey the idea that what the working masses were interested in was higher wages, that is, in a change in the distribution, and not merely in a change in the system of production which at bottom meant only the enthronement of the office-holders and managers (i.e., the intellectual workers) in place of the capitalist. For a mention of the change in the system of production would confront'him with the argument that basically his was merely another tactic for bringing about the nationalization of industries, a goal common to all socialist schools. Moreover, while the various socialist theorists assumed that the nationalization of the means of production would mean the end of the class struggle, Machajski insisted that even after the disappearance of the capitalists the workers would have to keep up their fight until their wages, by bringing down the incomes of their educated masters, have reached the same level as the salaries of the office-holders and technicians.
By deliberately passing over -- in his writings -- the fact that nationalization of the means of production would be one of the inevitable accompaniments of that bread-and-butter struggle waged on a mass scale, Machajski confused those of his readers who were not smart enough to read that implication between the lines, and gave a pretext to his later Bolshevik critics and detractors to ridicule him by claiming that he "tried to convince the workers that they could reach a standard of wages equal to the profits of the capitalists."5 A similar gibe was also contained in a footnote to the original Russian edition of Lenin's Works where it was said that the "positive program of the Ma-khayevtzy could be boiled down to a nebulous demand for an 'equal income' for all while maintaining the class system."6 That statement about "maintaining the class system" was of course a distortion of Machaj ski's theory. It is curious, however, that such a gibe should come from the Communists who actualy claim that they have abolished the classes, while maintaining the crassest inequalities of income.
In further spinning his pipe dream Machaj ski argued quite logically that equality of incomes would secure to all an equal opportunity for higher education and thus do away with all class divisions. The function of government having ceased to be the privilege of an educated minority, the State as an instrument of oppression and exploitation would disappear as soon as a new generation had grown up, all of whose members have had the advantage of higher education.7
Thus, according to Machajski, a mass movement stimulated and officered by a secret organization -- aiming exclusively at the satisfaction of the workers' bread-and-butter demands -- would, by its own momentum, eliminate the chasm between the "knows" and the "know-nots," thus realizing the ideal of a classless, equalitarian society.
That concept implied, of course, what the Marxists call the "withering away of the State" -- although Machajski did not use that cliche. However, there is an essential difference: according to the Marxists, the "withering" begins with the elimination of the capitalists to reach its apogee in the "higher phase of communism" with its vague "to-each-aceording-to-need" Utopia -- arrived at, without any further class struggles, due to the automatic process of economic development; while, according to Machajski, the process of "withering away" first sets in after not only the capitalists but also the intellectuals had been "expropriated," i.e., after equality of incomes, and hence equal opportunity for the workers' offspring to obtain
higher education, had been attained as a result of an unceasing class struggle of the manual workers and the lower white collar employees against the administrative and managerial bureaucracy of the socialized State. The end product, as it were, of Machajski's "withering away of the State" thus makes its appearance after all men and women had attained the status of intellectuals or professionals. (The idea that after the elimination of the capitalists those in possession of higher education would constitute the new ruling and exploiting class was expressed as follows by Michael Bakunin more than thirty years before Machajski undertook to build his theory on this concept: "It stands to reason that the one who knows more will dominate the one who knows less. And if there were, to begin with, only this difference in the upbringing and education between two classes, it would in itself produce in a comparatively short time all the other differences, and human society would relapse into its present state; that is, it would split up again into a mass of slaves and a small number of masters, the first working for the latter as they do now in existing society."8)
THE SAME OLD STORY
There was only one hitch in the entire scheme which, starting out from the bread-and-butter demands of the workers -- first against the capitalists and, after their elimination, against the office-holders and managers -- was to lead straight to an egalitarian Utopia. Would the leaders of the international "workers' conspiracy" -- educated men, of course, whether college graduates or self-taught ex-workers -- content themselves with seeing the masses "dictate the law" to the government? Or would they rather use that opportunity to seize power for themselves, thus establishing that "revolutionary dictatorship" which Machajski had dropped from his propaganda vocabulary after his flight from Siberia? In short, couldn't the arguments used by Machajski against the Marxist and other socialist intellectuals be equally used against Machajski and his followers? (The same argument applies, of course, also to Bakunin's idea of the immediate abolition of the State. For, following his own analysis, his own victorious revolution would be immediately confronted by the fact that a "small number of [educated] masters" -- including Bakunin's educated followers -- would lord it over "the mass of [uneducated] slaves.")
Machaj ski's active followers -- whether intellectuals or self-educated ex-workers -- were not out for power, at least not consciously so. They accepted the later, quasi-anarchist, version of their teacher's theory, which visualized a sort of "withering away of the State" as a result of revolutionary general strikes for higher wages leading up to the eventual equalization of incomes. They ignored the question of power which, in the process of that struggle might pass from pro-capitalist office-holders to near-socialist and finally socialist politicians -- with the followers of Machajski working underground and continually spurring the masses on to higher and higher demands.
Sometimes they would wonder at their own disinterestedness -- for it was one of the tenets of their faith that the other radicals and revolutionists were deceiving the masses in the interests of the intelligentsia. So they would ask Machajski what it was that made them act in disregard of their own class interests, as it were. Their teacher's reply was to the effect that what they were after was their "revolutionary career." This they interpreted in the sense that theirs alone would be the glory of changing the world and turning a new leaf of history, for theirs was the only method of bringing about an anti-bourgeois, working class revolution.
A few years after Machajski's death, which occurred in 1926, this writer had a conversation with the second in command of that microscopic "workers' conspiracy." On
that occasion the teacher's alter ego who alone had enjoyed his full confidence, epitomized the latter's innermost thoughts by the remark that "those get power who offer the masses more than the others do" -- the "more" consisting, of course, in the immediate satisfaction of the workers' material needs, such as jobs for the unemployed and higher wages, rather than the illusion of power offered them by the Communists.
This remark inadvertently tok off the group's mask of disinterested championship of the horny-handed underdog. For the purely bread-and-butter, non-political, struggle for higher wages and jobs for the manual workers that was to lead straight to an equalitarian social revolution, stood thus revealed as a method of securing power for the intellectuals heading the "workers' conspiracy." Now it was clear why Machajski never explicitly repudiated that passage about the "revolutionary dictatorship." It was to serve as a sort of theoretical alibi should a revolutionary situation in which his group played a dominant role give him the opportunity to seize power -- the way Lenin was to do it less than two decades later. And he was, no doubt, sure that his followers, for all their professed allergy to power -- as long as it was out of reach, that is -- would not refuse to participate in it once it was offered them on a silver platter. (It must not be forgotten that during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, the Anarchists, for all their sacred principles anent the negation of the State and rejection of all forms of government, took an active part in the Republican government -- from the Cabinet posts down).
In this connection it may not be amiss to mention Ma-chajski's reply to some of his not overly optimistic followers who asked whether it was not possible to assume that the workers, being uneducated, would continue to be deceived and kept in submission by their educated masters and "liberators" until the end of time. That reply was to the effect that "the means of deception are giving out." Believe it or not, his followers actually took it for an answer -- at least for a few years until they grew wiser.
Machajski's ideas about the neo-bourgeois character of the intellectual workers (the "privileged employees of capital,"9 as he called them) have gone down in the history of Russian revolutionary movements as an interesting contribution to revolutionary thought. However, his attempt to use his criticism of the socialist intelligentsia and of its neo-bourgeois tendencies as a drawing card for his own ultra-revolutionary organization was a dismal failure.
THE "WORKERS' CONSPIRACY"
After his flight to western Europe in 1903, Machajski stayed chiefly in Switzerland, where he prepared the printed edition of the three parts of his Intellectual Worker, his Bankruptcy of Nineteenth Century Socialism, and the more popular propaganda pamphlet, The Bourgeois Revolution and the Cause of the Workers. All of these writings are in Russian.
No sooner had the last sheet been turned off the press than he shook Geneva's dust from his feet and returned to Russia, where the Revolution of 1905 was already in its defeated stage. With some of his old friends from the Siberian exile, he began his underground activity among the workers and unemployed in St. Petersburg. His followers (called "Makhayevtzy") attacked the tendency of the revolutionary intelligentsia to direct the dissatisfaction of the workers toward the struggle for political democracy. In spite of a very violent counter-activity on the part of the socialists of all denominations the "Makhayevtzy" succeeded at some meetings of the unemployed in putting across their resolutions demanding immediate relief for the unemployed and wide organization of public works. They believed that this campaign, combined with a general struggle for higher wages, by its appeal to the unskilled workers, who were not interested in political slogans, could call forth
a real anti-bourgeois mass revolt which would then spread all over the world.
The group of militants, however, was soon broken up by arrests, and late in 1907 Machajski had to flee again. He stayed abroad until the Revolution of 1917, when he returned to Russia.
The name of his group "Workers' Conspiracy," and the identical title of the publication which he issued in 1907, were expressive of the method of organization which he advocated. Even before Lenin had taken his famous stand in favor of a strictly conspirative organization of "professional revolutionists"10 -- for tsarist Russia alone to be sure -- Machajski had come out with the idea of a conspirative organization the world over, whether the countries enjoyed political democracy or not. He believed that the legal form of organization of the various radical parties and movements was an evidence of their law-abiding, peaceful intentions with regard to the existing status quo, or at least the first step towards assuming such an attitude.
The attempts made by Machajski and his few followers in St. Petersburg, Odessa and Warsaw to call forth both a permanent organization and a mass movement inspired by his ideas were dismal failures -- except for a short-lived flare-up among the unemployed in St. Petersburg. Any conspiracy that is out to arouse the masses is in need not only of a generalissimo with a theory and a few devoted friends, but also of a large staff of officers recruited from among the educated. But Machajski's attitude towards the intelligentsia, while likely to win him friends among the uneducated horny-handed workers, made his group practically out of bounds as far as revolutionary intellectuals or self-educated workers were concerned. For a selfless idealist in search of an ultra-revolutionary gospel
would more likely than not join an anarchist group whose Utopian gospel is simplicity itself; while a sophisticated Machiavellian -- whether college-bred or self-educated -- who would see through Machaj ski's horny-handed doubletalk and realize that this was only another method of expropriating the capitalists and of establishing the rule of the intelligentsia, would be practical enough to join one of the well-established revolutionary parties of the Marxist or Populist denomination.
The fact is that Lenin accomplished under Marxian slogans and by un-Marxian promises of "peace" and "land" what Machaj ski had hoped to accomplish by the "syndicalist" tactics of a non-political bread-and-butter struggle under what was later to become known as the Gompersian slogan of "more and always more." The fact is also that outside of Russia Lenin's followers, operating on two different levels at the same time, succeeded in winning the adherence of both the intellectuals and white collar workers on the one hand, and the great mass of manual workers on the other; the former by holding out to them the promise of power, the latter by helping them in their struggle for higher wages. The Communists' frank admission that they were out for power won them an eager staff of educated lower-middle class or ex-horny-handed would-be officers of the coming revolution, while Machaj ski's outward hostility to the coming rule of the intelligentsia which concealed his real aim that was not different from that of the other anticapitalist intellectuals, left him stranded in the possession of nothing more than a correct sociological theory upon which, however, no successful revolutionary mass movement could be based.
MACHAJSKI, BAKUNIN, AND TROTSKY
Machajski's criticism of the socialist leaders as the champions of a new rising middle class of would-be organizers and managers of a collectivist form of economic inequality, might have been inspired by a remark made
by Bakunin in his Statism and Anarchy in which he accused the Marxists of aiming at such a new form of exploitation.11 The similarity of Machajski's views to those of Bakunin shows up in another respect as well. Bakunin operated with two contradictory theories, as it were: one, for the general public, which advocated the complete destruction of the State immediately after the victorious revolution, and another which was expressed in confidential documents to members of his inner circle in which he favored a revolutionary dictatorship by his own leading elite.12
Machaj ski, who may or may not have been aware of this dualism of Bakunin's, likewise had two theories: one, somewhat related to syndicalism, in which he advocated an exclusively non-political mass struggle for higher wages and for jobs for the unemployed -- a sort of direct action movement against private employers and against the State; a struggle which in its further development would lead to the expropriation of the capitalists and to the complete equalization of incomes of manual and intellectual workers -- thus bringing about the liquidation of the State by the process of the disappearance of economic, and hence also educational inequalities; the other, earlier, theory of his -- allegedly abandoned or "outdated" -- postulated the seizure of power in the form of a "revolutionary dictatorship." Like Bakunin's "invisible dictatorship"13 of the "International and National Brothers," Machajski's idea of the seizure of power in the wake of a revolutionary mass struggle for the workers' bread-and-butter demands was a carefully guarded "top secret" -- lest his group lose its appeal
as a genuinely working-class organization. The same un-avowed idea of seizure of power by the leaders of the movement dominates the theory of the Syndicalists. While their philosophy, in its original version (1895-1917), simply ignored the question of power, the Bolshevik Revolution induced them to add a very significant and revealing corrective. From then on they began to speak and to write of "all power to the labor union" (au syndicat le pouvoir) which of course means that the government was to be taken over by the syndicalist trade union officials and the intellectuals collaborating with them, rather than by the socialist or communist politicians.
Machaj ski's views show also a certain analogy with those of the so-called "Economists" whom Lenin attacked so fiercely in his What Is To Be Done? Around the turn of the century the "Economists" constituted a faction within the Russian Social Democratic Party, which believed that the best way of winning the Russian workers for the struggle against the tsarist regime was to champion their bread-and-butter demands without bothering about indoctrinating them with radical political ideas which they would not understand anyhow. They argued that the violent resistance of the tsarist regime to their wage demands would eventually bring home to the workers the necessity of struggling for political liberty, i.e., for the overthrow of tsarism. Machaj ski went one big step further than the "Economists" by assuming that the bread-and-butter struggle of the unindoctrinated masses would eventually -- if expanded, due to the assistance, i.e., the leadership, of the "Workers' Conspiracy" -- bring about not merely the downfall of tsarism but that of the capitalist system as well.
It may not be amiss to mention here that Machaj ski's idea of the Russian Revolution becoming the starting point for an anticapitalist world revolution must have greatly impressed young Leon Trotsky who, during his banishment in Siberia at the turn of the century, had become acquainted with Machajski's views, for he mentions them in his book
about Lenin.14 At any rate, Trotsky, without accepting Machajski's ideas about the class character of the intellectual workers, became about 1905 the champion of an immediate world-wide anticapitalist revolution -- an idea which was to become known as the "permanent revolution." Trotsky is usually reported as having borrowed that idea from the Russian revolutionary writer known as "Parvus." That may be so. But his unsympathetic references to the Polish heretic also point to that older source of inspiration whose traces he was thus trying to cover up. For revolutionists are very human and seldom in the habit of paying their ideological debts.
In his autobiography and in the pamphlet entitled The Soviet Union and the Fourth International Trotsky attacked Machajski's views about the intellectuals -- technicians, managers, office-holders, professionals -- being a neo-bourgeois stratum. He apparently realised that once that point of view was accepted and the logical conclusions from it drawn, all his cherished talk about the "emancipation" and the "dictatorship" of the "proletariat" would go up in smoke as so much hypocrisy covering up the revolutionary intellectual's desire for the rule of his own class. So, notwithstanding the fact that Machajski's analysis and predictions were borne out by the bureaucratic realities of the Soviet regime, Trotsky obstinately insisted, almost to his dying day, that the Polish critic was all wrong, and that the bureaucracy of the Soviet State was not an exploiting class. In rejecting an obvious sociological fact, Trotsky, eager to defend the power appetite of his own class whose enthronement he identified with the "emancipation of the proletariat," was at any rate more consistent than Ma-chajski who, having revealed that sociological fact, nevertheless, first openly and later tacitly, advocated the seizure
of power by his own group of intellectuals which he, too, identified with the "emancipation of the working class."
THE BAD CONSCIENCE OF RUSSIA'S NEW MASTERS
During the first year of the Soviet regime, when dissenters were still permitted to express their views, Ma-chajski published, in July 1918, one issue of Rabochaya Revolutsia (Workers' Revolution) in which he restated some of his basic views stressing his equalitarianism.
"The Workers," he wrote, "will not have their 'workers' government' even after the capitalists have disappeared. As long as the working class is condemned to ignorance, the intelligentsia will rule through the workers' deputies. The intelligentsia. .. defends its own interests, not those of the workers... After the expropriation of the capitalists, the workers will have to equalize their incomes with those of the intellectuals, otherwise they are doomed to manual labor, ignorance, and inability to manage the life of the country. Thus, even after the downfall of the capitalist system, the workers will not be in possession of power, they will not have an obedient government apparatus in their hands.
"When the working class strives for its own rule, it means that it strives for revolutionary domination over the government. Through its revolutionary pressure, through the expression of the will of the toiling millions, the working class ought to dictate the law to the government."
Once more, his own desire for power was expressed in a cryptic way by the phrase of "the working class dictating the law to the government." There was no response. His own following had been reduced to a mere handful and some of his most active friends had joined the Bolsheviks. They apparently preferred to partake in the government rather than tell the workers to "dictate the law" to it, that is, to wrest it from Lenin and to hand it over to Machajski. In fairness to Machajski it must be stated,
however, that the article in question contained no direct intimation to that effect. On the contrary, the readers were told there that "the task of the working masses is not to overthrow the Soviet Government to the delight of all conciliators and counter-revolutionists, but to push it forward through their economic working-class demands, which after the seizure of power by the Soviets, should not have ceased, but, on the contrary, should have risen to the point of demanding the expropriation of the bourgeoisie in the interests of the working class." (At that time, i.e., in the middle of June, 1918, no more than about five hundred enterprises had been nationalized.)
In 1918 Machajski and his few admirers were not bothered by the Soviet authorities, for the latter saw in them lonely sectarians without any influence. However, the Communists sensed a potential menace in the theoretical criticism of the neo-bourgeois character of the Bolshevik bureaucracy now in power. So in the 1920s they prohibited the re-publishing of Machajski's works written nearly a quarter of a century before.
They knew what they were doing. For whatever Machajski's personal revolutionary ambitions, his predictions as to the privileged character of the new ruling setup proved one hundred per cent correct and furnished fuel to the ever renascent groups of brighter manual workers and semi-intellectuals of the lower rungs of the Communist Party who, in the early 1920s, were "beefing" against the party and trade union hierarchies. Some of them got their inspiration second hand, as it were. For the famous ex-Bolshevik economist and philosopher A. A. Bogdanov, after his break with Lenin, likewise characterized the Soviet regime as a non-working class regime of office-holders and"organizers"15 (i.e., managers.)
When in 1926 Machajski died at the age of sixty, Pravda, in its issue of March 2, 1926, published a four-column article reeking with distortions and vituperations, directed not so much against the man as against his ideas. And twelve years later, at the time of the great purges, the same paper, in its issue of November 18, 1938, carried a six-column article about Makhayevshchina -- or the ideas of Machajski -- in which these ideas were, once more, "refuted," because, most likely there were no longer any living Makhayevtzy (followers of Machajski), who could be purged or forced to "confess" that they were counterrevolutionary Anarcho-Trotskyists in the service of the Russian monarchists, of Hitler and of Wall Street.
For all the curious blend of utopianism and Machiavel-lism underlying his revolutionary equalitarianism, Machajski, the critic and the prophet, had apparently become the unkillable reproach to, and bad conscience of, the new office-holding and managerial masters of Russia, who are posing as emancipators of the underdog.
1 It appeared under the pen name of A. Volski. A more elaborate edition of the same work, provided with a Preface and a Conclusion, was published in print first in Geneva in 1905 and later in St. Petersburg (during the Revolution of 1905-1906). Volume II, likewise published in Geneva in 1905, was entitled Scientific Socialism. It was a rather abstruse criticism of Marx's economic views as expounded in Volume II of Capital, in which Machajski saw a defense of the class interests of the intellectual workers as against those of the manual workers. Next to imprisonment, reading that "Second Part," as it was called, was the most harrowing ordeal his followers among the intelligentsia had to endure; for hardly one of them could understand it even after rereading it a dozen times. Volume III stresses the idea that not only the Russian Marxists and Populists (the Social Revolutionaries) but also the Anarchists of Kropotkin's school (the "official" or "orthodox" Anarchists, as it were) viewed the impending Russian Revolution (of 1905) exclusively as a
struggle for bourgeois democracy, disregarding the potentialities of its immediate development into a working class revolution. -- A few extracts from The Intellectual Worker and from Machajski's other writings are available in English in The Making of Society -- An Outline of Sociology, a symposium edited by V. F. Calverton and published in 1937 by the Modern Library, New York.
2 A. Volski (W. Machajski) Umstvennii Rabochii (The Intellectual Worker), Geneva, 1905 Vol. I, p. 30.
3 Preface to Vol. I of Umstvennii Rabochii, p. XXIV. Also pp. 61 and 63 of Rabochii Zagovor (Workers Conspiracy) No. 1, September-October, 1907, n. p. [Geneva].
4 The expression used in the Preface to Vol. I of Umstvennii Rabochii.
5 E. Yaroslavsky, History of Anarchism in Russia, New York, 1937, p. 39.
6 Note 76 to Vol. V, p. 414 of Lenin's Collected Works (in Russian) Moscow, 1925.
7 Rabochii Zagovor (The Workers' Conspiracy) No. 1 September-October, 1907, n.p. [Geneva], p. 63.
8 Michel Bakounine, Oeuvres, Paris, 1911, Vol. V, 135. See The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, Ed. by G. P. Maximoff, Glencoe, 111., 1953, p. 328.
9 Umstvennii Rabochii (The Intellectual Worker), Geneva, 1905, Vol. I, Preface, p. VI.
10 At that time a certain romantic glamour was still attached to that term; for the "professional revolutionist" was a heroic and often ascetic bohemian, and not a mercenary adventurer or gangster with an ever changing political vocabulary dictated by the momentary needs of the government that employs him.
11 Mikhail Bakunin, Gosudarstvennost i Anarkhia (Statism and Anarchy) in Izbranniye Sochineniya (Selected Works), Petrograd-Moscow, 1922, Vol. I, pp. 233-237. See also Michael Bakunin, Gesammelte Werke, Berlin, 1924, Vol. Ill, p. 242.
12 Michael Bakunin, Gesammelte Werke, Berlin, 1924, Vol. Ill, pp. 97-99.
13 Max Nettlau, Der Anarchismus von Proudhon zu Kropotkin, Berlin, 1927, pp. 31, 107-108, 148-150.
14 Leon Trotsky, Lenin, New York, 1925, pp. 10-11. An inept "authorized" translator not only misspelled Machajski's name, but additionally so butchered that passage (by using the word "intelligence" where Trotsky wrote about the intelligentsia) that it makes absolutely no sense in English.
15 In a pamphlet published in 1919. This last political opus of Lenin's former friend and comrade in arms seems to have been spurlos versenkt by the Soviet secret service; for not a single copy has succeeded in reaching the shelves of any library abroad. It is worth noting that after the arrest of Bogdanov's followers -- the name
of that group was Rabochaya Pravda (The Workers' Truth) -- Stalin's hatchet man E. Yaroslavsky published their original "Jewish" names along with the Slavic aliases. It was a subtle attempt to exploit the anti-Semitic potential of the rank and file workers by presenting that propaganda as a Jewish intrigue. The extreme meanness of the procedure was capped by the circumstance that the man who thus made use of this prejudice in the defense of the Soviet bureaucracy, was himself a Jew. In a pamphlet entitled History of Anarchism in Russia, New York, 1937, the same Yaroslavsky, who did not even know Machajski's real name (he called him A. Makhayev), gave a fantastically distorted picture of Machajski's views (see p. 104 of this volume.)