27th August 1991
The TURMOIL IN RUSSIA – WHERE WE STAND
Russia, the so-called Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is in turmoil. Its Empire is breaking-up as several of the constituent republics seek independence. Failing to retain the backing of united armed forces, the leaders of the Russian Communist Party are losing their dictatorial grip on power, and spokesmen of other political groups struggle for leadership in the new democratically elected “Parliament”.
The upsurge of revolt against the old leaders had been largely the outcome of gross inefficiency of transport and industry under the Russian system of nationalisation. It has nothing to do with Socialism Nationalisation in Russia, as in Britain, is state capitalism. The economic backwardness of Russia in the backwardness of Russian state capitalism, in comparison with the capitalism of Western Europe, the U.S.A., Japan and so on. So the new rulers of Russia declare their intention of copying more or less closely the Western pattern of “private enterprise capitalism” with relatively little nationalisation, as in British industry following the privatisation measures of the Thatcher government.
The version given to us by British politicians and the media is that it is the failure of “Communism”; the monumental falsehood that there has been a Communist social system in Russia for the past three-quarters of a century since Lenin and his followers, backed by armed force, seized power in 1917.
The basic essential of capitalism is the ownership of the means of production and distribution by the capitalist class (or by the government on their behalf), wealth being produced by the non-owning working class. Backed by state power the capitalists, though themselves non-producers of wealth, are able to extract, in the form of profit, interest and rent of land, part of what is produced by the wage and salary earners.
Capitalism is a commodity producing system; that is to say all the goods produced are sold in the market. The worker’s labour-power also takes on the form of a commodity, wages being the price of labour-power.
In Socialist society (for the socialist Party of Great Britain, Communism and Socialism are the same) there will be no owning class and working class; no rent, interest and profit; and no wages or salaries. Goods will be produced not for sale but solely and directly for consumption. As it was put by Marx and Engels in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO (1848), it involves “the abolition of buying and selling”. No one can seriously claim that this has been the system in Russia.
It remain to state the attitude of the socialist party of Great Britain to past and present happenings in Russia. We have nothing to withdraw or apologise for. We did not at the beginning suppose that it was possible for that semi-feudal country, with its largely peasant population, to be ready for Socialism. An article – The Revolution in Russia – Where it fails, published in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD in August 1918 contained this statement:
“What justification is there, then, for terming the upheaval in Russia a Socialist revolution? None whatever beyond the fact that the leaders in the November movement claim to be Marxian Socialists”.
We showed also that they had no backing in the writings of Marx for their claims.
Over the years we consistently disputed their claim to be able by means of dictatorship, repression and censorship to impose Socialism on a population overwhelmingly opposed to it.
What of the future? Assuming that Russia goes over to a “democratic” political system similar to that of the Western countries; does this entail the ending of the class struggle between capitalists and workers? By no means. The class struggle will continue as it has in the rest of the “democratic” world.
Whatever may be the political complexion of governments elected in Russia they will invariably come into conflict with the working class. Capitalism cannot be run in any other way than by resisting the efforts of the workers to raise their wages sat the expense of profits. Nor can governments prevent periodic depressions with high unemployment.
We, therefore, do not congratulate the Russian workers on their new found enthusiasm for “democratic” capitalist political parties. What is urgently needed, in Russia as in Britain and in every other country in the world, is Socialist political parties having the replacement of capitalism by Socialism as their sole objective.
In July 1917, the SOCIALIST STANDARD contained this declaration:-
“we of the Socialist party of Great Britain make it plain that we are not prepared to congratulate the Russian peasant upon assisting the Russian capitalist class to a more complete dominance”.
Now that the peasants have largely become factory workers, we call on them to form Socialist parties. We are not prepared to congratulate them on supporting the political parties aiming to modernize Russian capitalism.
Camden/Bloomsbury & North-West London Branches
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN
71 Ashbourne Court
Woodside Park Road
Object and Declaration of Principles
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Declaration of Principles
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HOLDS:
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.