Iosif Stalin, October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists. December 17, 1925
What do we mean by the possibility of the victory of Socialism in one country?
We mean the possibility of solving the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry with the aid of the internal forces of our country, the possibility of the proletariat assuming power and using that power to build a complete Socialist society in, our country, with the sympathy and the support of the proletarians of other countries, but without the preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution in other countries.
Without such a possibility, the building of Socialism is building without prospects, building without being sure that Socialism will be built. It is no use building Socialism without being sure that we can build it, without being sure that the technical backwardness of our country is not an insuperable obstacle to the building of complete Socialist society. To deny such possibility is to display lack of faith in the cause of building Socialism, to abandon Leninism.
What do we mean by the impossibility of the complete, final victory of Socialism in one country without the victory of the revolution in other countries?
We mean the impossibility of having full guarantees against intervention and consequently against the restoration of the bourgeois order, without the victory of the revolution in at least a number of countries. To deny this indisputable thesis is to abandon internationalism, to abandon Leninism.
We are living [says Lenin] not merely in a state, but in a system of states, and the existence of the Soviet Republic side by side with imperialist states for a long time is unthinkable. One or the other must triumph in the end. And before that end supervenes a series of frightful collisions between the Soviet Republic and the bourgeois states will be inevitable. That means that if the ruling class, the proletariat, wants to hold sway, it must prove its capacity to do so by military organization also. (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. VIII, p. 33.)
We now have before us [says Lenin in another place] an extremely unstable equilibrium, but an unquestionable, an indisputable, a certain equilibrium nevertheless. Will it last long? I cannot tell; nor, I think, can anyone tell. And therefore we must exercise the greatest possible caution. And the first precept of our policy, the first lesson to be learned from our governmental activities during the past year, the lesson which all the workers and peasants must learn, is that we must be on the alert, we must remember that we are surrounded by people, classes and governments who openly express their intense hatred for us. We must remember that we are at all times but a hair’s breadth from every manner of invasion. (Lenin, Collected Works, Russian edition, Vol. XXVII, p. 117.)
Clear, one would think!
Where does Zinoviev stand on the question of the victory of Socialism in one country ?
When we speak of the final victory of Socialism we mean this much, at least: 1) the abolition of classes, and therefore 2) the abolition of the dictatorship of one class, in this case the dictatorship of the proletariat … If we are to get a clearer idea of how the question stands here, in the USSR, in the year 1925 [says Zinoviev further], we must distinguish between two things: 1) the assured possibility of engaging in building Socialism-such a possibility, it stands to reason, is quite conceivable within the limits of one country; and 2) the complete construction and consolidation of Socialism, i.e., the achievement of a Socialist system, of a Socialist society.
What can all this signify?
It signifies that by the final victory of Socialism in one country Zinoviev means, not the guarantee against intervention and restoration, but the possibility of completely building Socialist society. And by the victory of Socialism in one country Zinoviev means the sort of Socialist construction which cannot and should not lead to the complete building of Socialism. Haphazard construction, construction without prospects, building Socialism although the complete construction of Socialist society is impossible-such is Zinoviev’s position.
To build Socialism without the possibility of completing it; to build knowing that it cannot be completed-such are the absurdities in which Zinoviev has involved himself.
But this is a mockery of the question, not a solution of it!
Here is another extract from Zinoviev’s concluding speech at the Fourteenth Party Congress:
Take, for instance, the things Comrade Iakovlev said at the last Kursk Provincial Party Conference. He asks: “Is it possible for us, surrounded as we are on all sides by capitalist enemies, to build Socialism in one country under such conditions?” And he answers: “On the basis of all that has been said we have a right to say not only that we are building Socialism, but that in spite of the fact that for the time being we are alone, that for the time being we are the only Soviet country, the only Soviet state in the world, we shall complete the building of Socialism.” (Kursk Pravda, No. 279, December 8, 1925.) Is this the Leninist method of presenting the question? Does not this smack of national narrow-mindedness?
Thus, according to Zinoviev, the recognition of the possibility of building Socialism in one country signifies the adoption of the point of view of national narrow-mindedness, while the denial of such a possibility signifies the adoption of the point of view of internationalism.
But if this be true, is it at all worth while fighting for victory over the capitalist elements in our economy? Does it not follow from this that such a victory is impossible?
Capitulation to the capitalist elements in our economy-that is where the inherent logic of Zinoviev’s line of argument leads us.
And this absurdity, which has nothing in common with Leninism, is presented to us by Zinoviev as “internationalism,” as “hundred-per-cent Leninism!”
I assert that on this most important question of building Socialism Zinoviev is deserting Leninism and slipping to the standpoint of the Menshevik Sukhanov.
Let us turn to Lenin. Here is what he said about the victory of Socialism in one country even before the October Revolution in August 1915: “Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of Socialism is possible, first in several or even in one capitalist country, taken singly. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and organized its own socialist production, would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world, attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, raising revolts in those countries against the capitalists, and in the event of necessity coming out even with armed force against the exploiting classes and their states.”
What does Lenin mean by the phrase “having … organized its own Socialist production,” which I have emphasized? He means that the proletariat of the victorious country, having seized power, can and must organize Socialist production. And what does it mean to “organize Socialist production”? It means to build a Socialist society. It is hardly necessary to prove that Lenin’s clear and definite statement needs no further comment. If it were otherwise, Lenin’s call for seizure of power by the proletariat in October 1917 would be incomprehensible.
You see that Lenin’s lucid thesis in comparison with Zinoviev’s muddled and anti-Leninist “thesis” that we can engage in building Socialism “within the limits of one country,” although it is impossible to build it, is as different from the latter as the sky from the earth.
The statement quoted above was made by Lenin in 1915, before the proletariat had taken power. But perhaps he modified his views after power had been taken, after 1917? Let us turn to his pamphlet On Cooperation, written in 1923.
“As a matter of fact,” [says Lenin] the power of state over all large-scale means of production, the power of state in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasants, the assured leadership of the peasantry by the proletariat, etc. -is not this all that is necessary in order to build a complete Socialist society from the cooperatives, from the cooperatives alone, which we formerly treated as huckstering and which from a certain aspect we have the right to treat as such now, under NEP? Is this not all that is necessary for the purpose of building a complete Socialist society? This is not yet the building of Socialist society, but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for this building.”
In other words, we can and must build a complete Socialist society, for we have at our disposal all that is necessary and sufficient for this purpose.
I think it would be difficult to express oneself more clearly.
Compare Lenin’s classical thesis with the anti-Leninist reproof Zinoviev hurled at Iakovlev, and you will realize that Iakovlev was only repeating Lenin’s words about the possibility of building Socialism in one country, whereas Zinoviev, by attacking this thesis and castigating Iakovlev, deserted Lenin and adopted the point of view of the Menshevik Sukhanov, the point of view that it is impossible to build Socialism in our country owing to its technical backwardness.
One can only wonder why we took power in October 1917 if we did not count on completely building Socialism?
We should not have taken power in October 1917-this is the conclusion to which the inherent logic of Zinoviev’s line of argument leads us.
I assert further that in this most important question of the victory of Socialism Zinoviev has gone counter to the definite decisions of our Party, as registered in the well-known resolution of the Fourteenth Party Conference On the Tasks of the Communist International and of the Communist Party of Russia in Connection with the Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.
Let us refer to this resolution. Here is what it says about the victory of Socialism in one country:
The existence of two diametrically opposed social systems gives rise to the constant menace of capitalist blockade, of other forms of economic pressure, of armed intervention, of restoration. Consequently, the only guarantee of the final victory of Socialism, i.e., the guarantee against restoration, is a victorious Socialist revolution in a number of countries … Leninism teaches that the final victory of Socialism, in the sense of full guarantee against the restoration of bourgeois relationships, is possible only on an international scale … But it does not follow from this that it is impossible to build a complete Socialist society in a backward country like Russia, without the “state aid” (Trotsky) of countries more developed technically and economically.
As you see, the resolution regards the final victory of Socialism as a guarantee against intervention and restoration, which is the very opposite to the Way Zinoviev regards it in his book, Leninism.
As you see, the resolution recognizes the possibility of building a complete Socialist society in a backward country like Russia, without “state aid” from countries that are technically and economically more developed, which is the very opposite to what Zinoviev said when he reproved Iakovlev in his concluding speech at the
Fourteenth Party Congress.
How else can this be described if not as a struggle on Zinoviev’s part against the resolution of the Fourteenth Party Conference?
Of course, Party resolutions are sometimes not free from error. Sometimes they contain mistakes. Speaking generally, one may assume that the resolution of the Fourteenth Party Conference also contains certain errors. Perhaps Zinoviev thinks that this resolution is erroneous. But then he should say so clearly and openly, as befits a Bolshevik. For some reason or other Zinoviev, however, does not do this. He prefers to choose another path, that of attacking the resolution of the Fourteenth Party Conference from the rear, while keeping silent about this resolution and refraining from any open criticism of the resolution. Zinoviev evidently thinks that this will be the best way of achieving his purpose. And he has but one purpose, namely-to “improve” the resolution, and to amend Lenin “just a little bit.” It need hardly be proved that Zinoviev is mistaken in his calculations.
What is the source of Zinoviev’s mistake? What is the root of this mistake?
The root of this mistake, in my opinion, lies in Zinoviev’s conviction that the technical backwardness of our country is an insuperable obstacle to the building of a complete Socialist society; that the proletariat cannot build Socialism owing to the technical backwardness of our country. Zinoviev and Kamenev once tried to raise this argument at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Party prior to the April Party Conference. But they received a rebuff and were compelled to retreat, and formally they submitted to the opposite point of view, the point of view of the majority of the Central Committee. But although he formally submitted, Zinoviev has continued the struggle against it all the time. Here is what the Moscow Committee of our Party has to say about this “incident” in the Central Committee of the CPSU(B.) in its Reply to the letter of the Leningrad Provincial Party Conference:
Recently, in the Political Bureau, Kamenev and Zinoviev advocated the point of view that we cannot cope with the internal difficulties owing to our technical and economic backwardness unless an international revolution comes to our rescue. We, however, with the majority of the members of the Central Committee, think that we can build Socialism, are building it, and will complete it, notwithstanding our technical backwardness and in spite of it. We think that the work of building will proceed far more slowly, of course, than it would have done had there been a world victory; nevertheless, we are making progress and will continue to do so. We also believe that the view held by Kamenev and Zinoviev expresses lack of faith in the intrinsic forces of our working class and of the peasant masses who follow its lead. We believe that it is a departure from the Leninist position.
This document appeared in the press during the first sessions of the Fourteenth Party Congress. Zinoviev, of course, had the opportunity of speaking against this document at the Congress. It is characteristic that Zinoviev and Kamenev found no arguments against the grave accusation directed against them by the Moscow Committee of our Party. Was this accidental? I think not. The accusation, apparently, hit the mark. Zinoviev and Kamenev “replied” to this accusation by silence, because they had no “card to beat it.”
The New Opposition is offended because Zinoviev is accused of lacking faith in the victory of Socialist construction in our country. But if after a whole year of discussion on the question of the victory of Socialism in one country; after Zinoviev’s viewpoint has been rejected by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee (April 1925) ; after the Party has arrived at a definite opinion on this question, recorded in the well-known resolution of the Fourteenth Party Conference (April 1925) -if, after all this, Zinoviev ventures to oppose the Party point of view in his book, Leninism (September 1925), if he then repeats this opposition at the Fourteenth Party Congress-how can his stubbornness, his persistence in his error, be explained if not by the fact that Zinoviev is infected, hopelessly infected, with skepticism as regards the victory of Socialist construction in our country?
It pleases Zinoviev to treat this skepticism as internationalism. But since when have we come to treat departure from Leninism on a cardinal problem of Leninism as internationalism?
Will it not be more correct to say that it is not the Party but Zinoviev who is sinning against internationalism and the international revolution? For what else is our country, “the country that is building Socialism,” if not the base of the world revolution? But can it be a real base of the world revolution if it is incapable of building Socialist society? Can it remain the mighty center of attraction for the workers of all countries that it undoubtedly is now, if it is incapable of achieving victory over the capitalist elements in its economy, the victory of Socialist construction? I think not. But does it not follow from this that skepticism regarding the victory of Socialist construction, the dissemination of this skepticism, will lead to our country being discredited as the base of the world revolution? And if our country is discredited the world revolutionary movement will be weakened. How did Messrs. the Social-Democrats try to scare the workers away from us? By preaching that “the Russians will get nowhere.” Wherewith do we beat the Social-Democrats now, when we attract numerous workers’ delegations to our country and thereby strengthen the position of Communism all over the world? By our successes in building Socialism. Is it not obvious, then, that whoever disseminates skepticism regarding our successes in building Socialism thereby indirectly helps the Social-Democrats, reduces the sweep of the international revolutionary movement, and inevitably departs from internationalism?
You see that Zinoviev is in no better position in regard to his “internationalism” than in regard to his “hundred -per-cent Leninism” on the question of building Socialism in one country.
That is why the Fourteenth Party Congress rightly defined the views of the New Opposition as “lack of faith in the cause of Socialist construction,” as “a distortion of Leninism.”
Source: I. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishers, 1934), pp. 159-166.