HEAVY PART 1
This was a column that appeared for a number of issues in the Yellow Journal, the Yippie-VLF newspaper. We believe it was written by the mysterious Vancouver Yippie! theoretician, Lester A. Rodgers.
"We have been more than once accused of having substituted for the dictatorship of the soviets the dictatorship of our own Party ... In this substitution of the power of the Party for the power of the working class there is nothing accidental, and in reality there is no substitution at all. The Communists express the fundamental interests of the working class.... " (Leon Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism)
"Revolts by workers and peasants have shown that their patience has come to an end. The uprising of the workers is near at hand. The time has come to overthrow the bureaucracy ... Kronstadt has raised for the first time the banner of the Third Revolution of the toilers ... The autocracy has fallen. The Constituent Assembly has departed to the region of' the damned. The bureaucracy is crumbling... At Kronstadt all power is in the hands of revolutionary sailors, of red soldiers and of workers. “ALL POWER TO SOVIETS, .NOT TO THE PARTY!" (The Provisional Revolutionary Committee of Kronstadt , March 19211
In this column we are going to show that both "official" versions of Russian history from 1917 to the early 1920's are full of lies, distortions, and intentional ignorance. That in 1917 there was a revolution of, by and for the Russian people, embodying a communist spirit of equal wealth for all, and control by people of their own environments. That this revolution was not represented by the Bolsheviks (at least not by the Bolshevik leadership) but rather crushed by them. That Stalinism was a perfectly consistent outgrowth of Leninism-Trotskyism.
The Bolshevik Party's takeover of the Russian Revolution did not go unopposed. In 1917 the sailors of the Kronstadt Naval Base had been one of the leading forces of the Revolution. In 1921, they again revolted, only this time the revolt was directed not against the monarchy of the Czar nor the Constituent Assembly of Kerensky and his fellow liberals, but against the new ruling group in Russia, the Bolshevik Party of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.
In 1917 the Bolsheviks had been the Party of the Revolution. All Power to the Soviets was Lenin's cry, and the masses of working people took him at his word. Yet by 1921 the Soviets, the local organs of the people, were futilely struggling against the centralized power of the Party. The egalitarian Red Army of 1917 had been transformed into a model of bourgeois discipline by Trotsky. Shop committees of workers in the factories were being replaced by a uniform system of one-man management. Soviet Power had been replaced by Party Power.
There are few people around today who would argue with the statement that the Soviet Union is one of the most authoritarian states on earth. The non-Communist Party left is in total agreement on this. Yet its contention is that conditions in the USSR today are a product of the policies of Stalin, and that there is a fundamental break between the period of Lenin and Trotsky and that of Stalin.
Capitalist critics, on the other hand, argue that the repressive nature of the Soviet Union is a result of "Marxism" and "Communism." The rise of a bureaucratic elite and the regimentation of the people, they say, are an inevitable result of revolutions against property and the uneven distribution of wealth. To them, the history of the Russian Revolution is one of bloodshed and the death of the individual.
Our primary purpose in laying down this argument is to relate it to the revolutionary gestalt of North American youth today. Our argument is one that has been suppressed throughout the world. Perhaps only in the French Marxist-Anarchist movement of Cohn-Bendit et al is it widely believed. So read what we say, and spread the message. The truth shall set us free, if we act upon it. Elitism is elitism, no matter who practices it. The revolution resides in all of us. Let it live in yourself, right now. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
Yellow Journal 23 April 1970
HEAVY, PART 2
On February 23, 1921 the workers of Petrograd went on strike against hunger, poverty and unchanged working conditions. For them the revolution of 1917 had promised much and resulted in little. A Tsarate which had made quite clear whose side it was on had been replaced by a Party-led state which claimed it was on the side of the people but didn't change their daily lives worth a damn.
The Bolshevik Party of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin lost no time in suppressing the strike. Military law was declared, and Petrograd was put under a state of siege. Strike leaders were arrested. The Party, presumably the Party of the people, showed itself to define "the people" as those who were willing to go along with the party line.
The naval garrison of Kronstadt, just outside Pctrograd, had been one of the spawning grounds of the revolution in 1917. its sailors, always in the vanguard of the revolt, never lost sight of the original meaning of the revolution. On February 28 they passed a resolution supporting the strike which was to become the manifesto of the Kronstadt insurrection, it demanded among other things: immediate new elections to the Soviets ("The present Soviets no longer e::press the wishes of the workers and peasants"); freedom of speech and press for all workers, peasants and parties of the left; liberation of all political prisoners of the Socialist parties, and of all imprisoned workers and peasants; equalisation of rations for all workers; and the institution of mobile workers' control groups.
The insurrection accelerated when it met with extremely hostile and aggressive reactions from the local representatives of the Party. On May 2, a Provisional Revolutionary Committee was formed by general assembly of 16,000 sailors and workers. Later that day, the inhabitants of Kronstadt occupied all strategic points in the town. The Izvestia printshops were occupied.
The response from Moscow was immediate. The Kronstadt Revolt, claimed the Party, was a counter-revolutionary plot led by a White Guard General named Kozlovsky. On March 6 Trotsky issued the following radio appeal:
The Workers' and Peasants' Government has decided to reassert its authority without delay, both over Kronstadt and over the mutinous battleships, and put them at the disposal of the Soviet Republic. I therefore order all those who have raised a hand against the Socialist Fatherland, immediately to lay down their weapons ... Only those who surrender unconditionally will be able to count on the clemency of the Soviet Republic. I am meanwhile giving orders that everything be prepared to smash the revolt and the rebels by force of arms. The responsibility for the disasters which wilt affect the civilian population must fall squarely on the heads of the White Guard insurgents.
It is an historical irony that Trotsky would use the same type of slander against the Kronstadt sailors that Stalin was later to use against him. In 1928-29, Trotsky was accused of conspiring with the Wrangel officer. Both charges were utter fabrications.
The "White Guard" slander wasn't the only one used against the Kronstadt rebels. In 1938, Trotsky, when writing about the events, claimed that "the men of Kronstadt wanted privileges, while the country was hungry." This accusation is quite clearly untrue, for Point 9 of the manifesto of February 26 stated "(We demand) the equalisation of rations for all workers, except those engaged in dangerous or unhealthy jobs." The "official" Party version of the revolt maintains that the Kronstadt revolt was led by elements who had recently joined the Navy, and therefore had nothing to do with the heroic sailors of 1917-1919. But an examination of the makeup of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee shows clearly that a majority were sailors with long service.
Apologists for Lenin and Trotsky always claim that there was a decisive break between the policies of Lenin and Trotsky and the policies of Stalin. But this interpretation must be rejected on two counts. First, social structures are social structures: the Bolshevik Party was not the domain of three individuals, but an organization which exhibited different tendencies. Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin represented different tendencies in the Party. If Stalin was to become leader of it, it was because he had more support within it than did Trotsky. And since there was no wholesale break in Party membership between the two periods, it is obvious that a sizable proportion of those "Stalinists" of the later period were active in the Party in the earlier period. In other words, there is historical continuity between the two periods. The "decisive break" theory is closely allied to the "cult of the individual" theory which its proponents generally reject vehemently.
On the other hand, a close examination of what actually happened shows that the policies of Lenin and Trotsky in regard to political opposition did not differ greatly from those of Stalin. The slanders, the willingness to falsify historical truth, the vicious We have been more than once accused of having substituted for the dictatorship of' the soviets the dictatorship of our own Party ... In this substitution of the power of the Party for the power of the working class there is nothing accidental, and in reality there is no substitution at all. The Communists express the fundamental interests of the working class.... " (Leon Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism)
-Revolts by workers and peasants have shown that their patience has come to an end. The uprising of the workers is near at hand. The time has come to overthrow the bureaucracy ... Kronstadt has raised for the first time the banner of the Third Revolution of the toilers ... The autocracy has fallen. The Constituent Assembly has departed to the region of the damned. The bureaucracy i.e. crumbling. .. At Kronstadt all power is in the hands of revolutionary sailors, of red soldiers and of workers. ALL POWER TO THE SOVIETS, NOT TO THE PARTY !" (The Provisional Revolutionary Committee of Kronstadt . March 1921)
In this column we are going to show that both "official" versions of Russian history from 1917 to the early 1920's are full of lies, distortions, and intentional ignorance. That in 1917 there u,as a revolution of, by and for the Russian people, embodying a communist spirit of equal wealth for all, and control by people of their own environments. That this revolution was not represented by the Bolsheviks (at least not by the Bolshevik leadership) but rather crushed by them. That Stalinism was a perfectly consistent outgrowth of Leninism-Trotskyism.
Yellow Journal 28 April 1970
HEAVY, PART 3
When the Russian working class made the revolution of October 1917, it saw its actions as an advance toward "socialism." To it, socialism was the opposite of what was: freedom instead of slavery. Translated into practical terms, this meant "the dictatorship of the proletariat", i.e. political power in the hands of the toilers. Factories were to be controlled by those who worked in them, not by bosses and managers who never dirtied their hands but told everyone else how and when to dirty theirs. The huge Russian Army, which was as much an everyday reality for Russians then as the American Army is for Americans now, was to be run by its soldiers, and not by its infamous officer caste. And the organs of political power were to be reorganized in such a way as to form a government that was truly of, by and for the people, in which no one class of people ruled, but everyone ran their own lives.
In the first years of the revolution the dreams of the workers seemed to come true. Shop committees sprang up in the factories, the owners and their managers were kicked out, and a truly collective form of management arose, in which the workers themselves decided what to do, and stopped taking orders from their self-styled superiors. The army rose up and overthrew its masters,, imprisoning most of its officers and shooting many others. The common soldiers, instead of being cannon fodder for the Imperial Purpose, became people again, with real needs, and the power to satisfy them. And the "democratic" Constituent Assembly of Kerensky and his fellow liberals, which had replaced the Czar and his Cabinet, and was in truth a front group for the industrial giants and their fellow capitalists, was replaced by the Soviets, the assemblies of the common people, in which workers, peasants and soldiers became the new rulers of Russia.
When the people of Russia had made this revolution, this was what they had made: collective management in the factories, a soldier's army, and the Soviets of the people. And in making it, they had put their support behind an organization which had promised them this and much more: The Bolshevik Party of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. In the factories, the rule of the Soviets. The people had faith in the Party. It was their Party. It did what they wanted it to do.
But the people soon found their faith to be misguided. The Red Army, under Trotsky, reverted to a slightly more progressive version of its former self. Iron discipline and rigid hierarchy were renewed. Many of the former Czarist officers got their jobs back. The Bolsheviks' justification for the return to a bourgeois army was that since war was obviously non-communist, it could only be fought by bourgeois methods. (Exactly how accurate this justification is can be seen by comparison with China, where rank has been abolished, and the army's prime function is to serve the people.)
But Trotsky was not satisfied with a "re-militarization" of the army. He also desired a "militarization of labour." "The militarization of labour," he declared in 1920, "is the indispensable basic method for the organization of our labour forces." Furthermore, he added that "coercion, regimentation, and militarization of labour were no mere emergency measures and that the workers state normally had the right to coerce any citizen to perform any work at any place of its choosing." And what did such ominous words mean in the factory situation? Let us quote Lenin:
Large-scale machine industry - which is the material productive source and foundation of socialism - calls for absolute and strict unity of will ... How can strict unity of will be ensured? By thousands subordinating their will to the will of one .... The revolution demands in the interests of socialism that the masses unquestioningly obey the single will of the leaders of the labour process .... (There is to be) unquestioning obedience to the orders of individual representatives of the Soviet government during work time ... iron discipline while at work, with unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the Soviet leader.
So much for collective management and the rule of the workers in the factories!
And what of the Soviets? Here too, the power of the people was being replaced by the power of the Party. The Soviets were becoming "Bolshevized." Opposing left-wing parties were suppressed, and many of their members sent to prison and concentration camps. Freedom of speech and press was made possible only for members and supporters of the Bolshevik Party.
The calumny (for that is what it was) of the Bolshevik Party was not met without resistance, including some from within the Party itself. In future HEAVY's we are going to talk about this resistance and the ways in which it was met by the Party, Next time, the Kronstadt Revolt.
Remember, elitism is for pigs. Or, as Dylan should have said, “Don't follow leaders, burn the parking meters.” The revolution is becoming, LET IT BE!
Yellow Journal May 2 1970
HEAVY PART 4
Socialism and socialist organization must be set up by the proletariat itself, or they will not be set up at all, something else will be set up: state capitalism.
A right-on quote, you say. Made by Trotsky, perhaps, during his battles with Stalin? Maybe from one of Lenin's theoretical works? Wrong. the Above statement was made by the "left" communist Osinski, in the paper Kommounist, during April 1918, as a protest against the treatment of the Russian working class hv the Bolshevik leadership itself; i.e. Lenin and Trotsky.
In the last HEAVY we described the Kronstadt revolt, the 1921 uprising of sailors against the rule of the Bolshevik Party. We now want to begin a series of articles dealing with the opposition that developed within the Party itself'.
The key question around which this opposition was centered was that of workers' control. The left opposition within the Party consistently took the position that the factories must be run collectively, by the workers themselves. "Workers' control" had been one of the major promises made by the Bolshevik leadership previous to the October Revolution, and immediately afterwards there was widespread collectivization throughout the factories.
But as early as the Spring of 1918, Lenin began the campaign that was to result in a disenchanted working class, and paved the way for much of bureaucracy and authoritarianism that plagues the Soviet Union today. In an article, "The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government," he called for a policy of one-man management in the factories: There must be] unquestioning obedience to the orders of individual representatives of the Soviet government during work time ... iron discipline while at work, with unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the Soviet leader.
It has been our repeated contention in HEAVY that the policies of Lenin laid the foundations for "Stalinism", and that in fact, there is very little to distinguish between them in their internal policies (although Lenin's international policies were far superior). Quotations from Kommounist do much to back this thesis up, for its editors predicted that Lenin's policies would lead to a Russia very similar to the one that exists today. The first issue of Kommounist made the following far-sighted warning:
The introduction of Labour discipline in connection with the restoration of capitalist management o f industry cannot really increase the productivity of labour, but it will diminish the class initiative, activity and organization of the proletariat. It threatens to enslave the working class ... In order to introduce this system in the face of the hatred prevailing at present among the proletariat against the 'capitalist saboteurs; the Communist Party would have to rely on the petty-bourgeoisie, as against the workers, and in this way it would ruin itself as the party of the proletariat.
The reference to the "petty-bourgeoisie" is an anticipation of the present rule of the bureaucratic class in the Soviet Union. A further quote from Kornmounist can clarify this: [The logical outcome] of management based on an important participation of capitalists and on the principle of bureaucratic centralization is the institution of a labour policy which would seek to re-establish regimentation of workers under the pretext of voluntary discipline. Governmental forms would then evolve towards bureaucratic centralization, the rule of all sorts of commissars, loss of independence of local Soviets and, in practice, the abandonment of government from below.
It can be seen that it was possible then, during the period of Lenin and Trotsky, to predict on the basis of their policies, the type of state Russia would be today.
In the next columns, we will examine in detail the history of a group known as the "Workers' Opposition", and a very important document written in 1921 by one of its members, Alexandra Kollontai, which analyzes in depth the problem of government-from-below vs. government-from-above in Russia at the time. Until then, remember states tended to be static. INDIVIDUALISM (i.e. elitism) BREEDS CONTEMPT (i.e. elitism). Or, as Diane di Prima says in her Revolutionary Letters:
endless as the sea, not separate, we die
a million times a day, we are born
a million times, each breath life and death: get up, put on your shoes, get started, someone will finish