Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 1917-1921 (1947)

Book Two
Bolshevism and Anarchism

Part V
The Bolshevik State

Nature of the Bolshevik State

By the end of 1921, the Communist power felt itself completely master of the situation. At least it could consider itself safe from any immediate danger. Its enemies and opponents, both external and internal, and of both the right and the left, were now no longer able to combat it.

From 1922 onward, it could devote itself entirely to dotting its i's and crossing its t's and consolidating its State.

On the one hand the present Russian State is, in its fundamental aspects, a logical development of what was founded and established in 1918-1921. The subsequent modifications were merely repairs, or the completion of details. We will specify them as they come up.

The Bolshevist State has now existed for 20 years.

What exactly is the nature of that State?

What are its bases, its structure, its essential elements?

It is called the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, for which the abbreviation is U.S.S.R. It pretends to be a "proletarian" or "workers' and peasants' " State. It claims to exercise a "dictatorship of the proletariat". It flatters itself as being "the Workers' Fatherland" and the rampart of Socialism and the Revolution.

How much of this is true? Do the facts and the actions of that State justify these declarations and pretensions?

A rapid examination of the Bolshevik picture will enable an adequate reply to this question.

I say rapid examination. In fact, a detailed and more or Itss complete study of the prevailing Russian State would call for a volume in itself. That is not the purpose of the present work. And after what has gone before in these pages, a general glance will suffice. We will assemble and complete what we have begun.

At this point I want to apprise the uninitiated reader that there now exists in France a rich literature in the form of books, pamphlets, and magazine and newspaper articles which give a fairly exact idea of the structure, functioning, and spirit of this "Soviet" State.1 Through several years numerous works have appeared which show clearly the true character of that State, the real nature of its government, the situation of the laboring masses there, the precise condition of the economy of the U.S.S.R., its culture, and other aspects. These works bring to light the back-stage aspect and the hidden underside of the Bolshevik regime, its mistakes, its "secret illnesses".

To be sure, the authors of this literature did not seek to get to the bottom of the problem, to reveal the causes and the consequences of the "Soviet" State's decline. They make no mention of that "other flame", the libertarian idea, its role, and its fate, in the Russian Revolution. To them, as to so many other countries, that is all unexplored territory. They do not offer any solution. But they give the facts sincerely. Thus they make known the false route taken by the "Communist" government since the Revolution, and prove irrefutably its bankruptcy.

Generally these studies provide an abundant and precise documentation.

Here, however, we will confine ourselves to a general "view of the whole". This will be sufficient for our immediate purpose. For it is the general character of this State which especially interests us, to the extent that it illuminates events during and after the Revolution.

We have said earlier that the primary concern of the Bolshevik Party in power was to nationalize all the activity and all the life of Russia, in fact, everything that could be nationalized. It was a question of creating a regime which in modern terminology is called totalitarian.

Once in possession of an adequate coercive force, the party and the Government employed it to the utmost in performing this task. And it was specifically to this end that the "Communist" power created its immense bureaucratic apparatus. It ended by forming a widespread and powerful caste of "responsible" functionaries, which today constitutes a highly privileged stratum of some 2,000,000 individuals. Effective mistress of the country, the Army, and the police, that caste supports, protects, venerates, and flatters Stalin, its idol, its "Tsar", the only man considered capable of maintaining "order" in the U.S.S.R., and of safeguarding its privileges.

Little by little the Bolsheviki nationalized, monopolized, "totalitarianized", easily and quickly, the whole Russian administration, the organizations of industrial workers, peasants, and others; finance; the means of transport; the sub-soil and mining, external commerce and heavy internal commerce, big industry, and land and agriculture, teaching, education, and culture in general, the press and literature, art, science, sport, recreation, and even thought, or at least all of its manifestations.

Nationalization of the workers' organizations in Russia— Soviets, unions, shop committees, and other groups—was the easiest and the most rapid. Their independence was abolished. They simply became administrative and executive cogs of the party and the Government.

The Bolshevik Party was led skilfully. The workers did not even realize that they were in the process of being hamstrung. Inasmuch as the State and the Government were now "theirs", it seemed natural to them not to detach themselves from it. They regarded it as normal that their organizations should fulfil functions in the "workers'" State and carry out the decisions of the "comrade commissars".

Soon no autonomous act, no free gesture, by those organizations was permitted. They ended by becoming aware of their error. But then it was too late. When certain workers' organizations, impeded in their actions and restless, feeling that "something was wrong in the Soviet realm", began to show discontent and sought to regain a little independence, the Government opposed them with all its energy and all its trickery. In the first place, it immediately imposed penalties. In the second, it tried to reason with the discontented ones.

"Since," it said to the workers, with the most natural manner in the world, "we now have a workers' State in which the workers exercise their own dictatorship and in which everything belongs to them, this State and its organs are yours. Then of what "independence" can there be a question? Such demands are nonsense. Independence from what? From whom? From yourselves? Since the State now is you!

"Not to understand this means not to understand the Revolution that has been accomplished. To oppose this state of things means to oppose the Revolution itself. Such ideas and movements cannot be tolerated, for they can be inspired only by enemies of the Revolution, of the working class, of its State, its dictatorship, and of the workers' power. Those among you who are still ignorant enough to listen to the whispering of these enemies and who lend an ear to their wicked suggestions because everything is not yet perfect in your young State, are committing a veritable counter-revolutionary act."

Needless to say, all those who persisted in protesting and in demanding some independence were pitilessly crushed.

The most difficult thing to achieve was the complete appropriation of the land, and the suppression of the individual cultivator. As we know, it was Stalin who effected this transformation some years ago. Periodically the situation again grows serious and complicated. The struggle between the State and the mass of peasants continues under new forms.

Inasmuch as everything that is indispensable to the labor and activity of man—in other words, everything that is, in the largest sense of the term, capital—belongs to the State in Russia, that country is an example of integral State capitalism. State capitalism : such is the economic, financial, social, and political system of the U.S.S.R., with all of its logical consequences and manifestations in all spheres of life—material, moral, and spiritual.

The correct designation of this State should not be U.S.S.R., but U.S.C.R., meaning Union of State Capitalist Republics.

Economically, this means that the State is the only real owner of all the riches of the country, of the whole "national inheritance", of all that is indispensable for millions of men and women to live, work, and act. This includes, we must emphasize, all gold, all money-capital, both national and foreign.

This is the most important thing. It must be understood before all else. The rest follows.


1 This was written in 1939.