LABOUR DELEGATIONSeptember 9, 1927
QUESTIONS PUT BY THE DELEGATION AND
COMRADE STALIN’S ANSWERS
ANSWER : I think that Lenin “added” no “new principles” to Marxism, nor did he abolish any of the “old” principles of Marxism. Lenin was, and remains, the most loyal and consistent pupil of Marx and Engels, and he wholly and completely based himself on the principles of Marxism.
But Lenin did not merely carry out the teaching of Marx and Engels. He was at the same time the continuer of that teaching.
What does that mean?
It means that he developed further the teaching of Marx and Engels in conformity with the new conditions of development, with the new phase of capitalism, with imperialism. It means that in developing further the teaching of Marx in the new conditions of the class struggle, Lenin contributed something new to the general treasury of Marxism as compared with what was created by Marx and Engels, with what could be created in the pre-imperialist period of capitalism; at the same time Lenin’s new contribution to the treasury of Marxism is wholly and completely based on the principles laid down by Marx and Engels.
It is in this sense that we speak of Leninism as Marxism of the era of imperialism and proletarian revolutions.
Here are a few questions to which Lenin contributed something new, developing further the teaching of Marx.
Firstly, the question of monopoly capitalism, of imperialism as the new phase of capitalism.
In Capital, Marx and Engels analysed the foundations of capitalism. But Marx and Engels lived in the period of the domination of pre-monopoly capitalism, in the period of the smooth evolution of capitalism and its “peaceful” expansion over the whole world.
That old phase of capitalism came to a close towards the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, when Marx and Engels were already dead. It is understandable that Marx and Engels could only guess at the new conditions for the development of capitalism that arose as a result of the new phase of capitalism which succeeded the old phase, as a result of the imperialist, monopoly phase of development, when the smooth evolution of capitalism was succeeded by spasmodic, cataclysmic development of capitalism, when the unevenness of development and the contradictions of capitalism became particularly pronounced, and when the struggle for markets and fields of capital export, in the circumstances of the extreme unevenness of development, made periodical imperialist wars for periodic re-divisions of the world and of spheres of influence inevitable.
The service Lenin rendered here, and consequently, his new contribution, was that, on the basis of the fundamental principles in Capital, he made a substantiated Marxist analysis of imperialism as the last phase of capitalism, and exposed its ulcers and the conditions of its inevitable doom. That analysis formed the basis for Lenin’s thesis that under the conditions of imperialism the victory of socialism is possible in individual capitalist countries, taken separately.
Secondly, the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The fundamental idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the political rule of the proletariat and as a method of overthrowing the power of capital by the use of force was advanced by Marx and Engels.
Lenin’s new contribution in this field was that:
a) he discovered the Soviet system as the best state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, utilising for this the experience of the Paris Commune and the Russian revolution;
b) he elucidated the formula of the dictatorship of the proletariat from the angle of the problem of the allies of the proletariat, defining the dictatorship of the proletariat as a special form of class alliance between the proletariat, as the leader, and the exploited masses of the non-proletarian classes (the peasantry, etc.), as the led;
c) he laid particular emphasis on the fact that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the highest type of democracy in class society, the form of proletarian democracy, which expresses the interests of the majority (the exploited), in contrast to capitalist democracy, which expresses the interests of the minority (the exploiters).
Thirdly, the question of the forms and methods of successfully building socialism in the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, in the period of transition from capitalism to socialism, in a country surrounded by capitalist states.
Marx and Engels regarded the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a more or less prolonged one, full of revolutionary clashes and civil wars, in the course of which the proletariat, being in power, would take the economic, political, cultural and organisational measures necessary for creating, in the place of the old, capitalist society, a new, socialist society, a society without classes and without a state. Lenin wholly and completely based himself on these fundamental principles of Marx and Engels.
Lenin’s new contribution in this field was that:
a) he proved that a complete socialist society can be built in the land of the dictatorship of the proletariat surrounded by imperialist states, provided the country is not strangled by the military intervention of the surrounding capitalist states;
b) he traced the concrete lines of economic policy (the “New Economic Policy”) by which the proletariat, having possession of the economic key positions (industry, land, transport, banks, etc.), Iinks up socialised industry with agriculture (“the link between industry and peasant economy”) and thus leads the whole national economy towards socialism;
c) he traced the concrete ways of gradually guiding and drawing the main mass of the peasantry into the channel of socialist construction through the co-operatives, which in the hands of the proletarian dictatorship are a most powerful instrument for the transformation of small peasant economy and for the re-education of the main mass of the peasantry in the spirit of socialism.
Fourthly, the question of the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution, in every popular revolution, both in the revolution against tsarism and in the revolution against capitalism.
Marx and Engels provided the main outlines of the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat. Lenin’s new contribution in this field was that he further developed and expanded those outlines into a harmonious system of the hegemony of the proletariat, into a harmonious system of leadership of the working masses in town and country by the proletariat not only in the overthrow of tsarism and capitalism, but also in the building of socialism under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
We know that, thanks to Lenin and his Party, the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat was applied in a masterly way in Russia. This, incidentally, explains why the revolution in Russia brought the proletariat into power.
In the past, things usually took the following course: during the revolution the workers fought at the barricades, it was they who shed their blood and over threw the old order, but power fell into the hands of the bourgeois, who then oppressed and exploited the workers. That was the case in England and France. That was the case in Germany. Here, in Russia, however, things took a different turn. In Russia the workers were not merely the shock force of the revolution. While being the shock force of the revolution, the Russian proletariat at the same time strove for hegemony, for political leadership of all the exploited masses of town and country, rallying them around itself, wresting them from the bourgeoisie and politically isolating the bourgeoisie. And while being the leader of the exploited masses, the Russian proletariat fought to take power into its own hands and to utilise it in its own interests, against the bourgeoisie, against capitalism. This, in fact, explains why each powerful outbreak of the revolution in Russia, in October 1905 as well as in February 1917, brought on to the scene Soviets of Workers’ Deputies as the embryo of the new apparatus of power whose function is to suppress the bourgeoisie — as against the bourgeois parliament, the old apparatus of power, whose function is to suppress the proletariat.
Twice the bourgeoisie in Russia tried to restore the bourgeois parliament and put an end to the Soviets: in September 1917, at the time of the Pre-parliament, before the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks, and in January 1918, at the time of the Constituent Assembly, after the seizure of power by the proletariat; and on both occasions it suffered defeat. Why? Because the bourgeoisie was already politically isolated, because the vast masses of the working people regarded the proletariat as the sole leader of the revolution, and because the Soviets had already been tried and tested by the masses as their own workers’ government, to exchange which for a bourgeois parliament would have meant suicide for the proletariat. It is not surprising, therefore, that bourgeois parliamentarism did not take root in Russia. That is why the revolution in Russia led to the rule of the proletariat.
Such were the results of the application of Lenin’s system of the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution.
Fifthly, the national and colonial question.
Analysing in their time the events in Ireland, India, China, the Central European countries, Poland and Hungary, Marx and Engels provided the basic, initial ideas on the national and colonial question. Lenin in his works based himself on those ideas.
Lenin’s new contribution in this field was:
a) he unified those ideas in one harmonious system of views on national and colonial revolutions in the era of imperialism;
b) he linked the national and colonial question with the question of overthrowing imperialism;
c) he declared the national and colonial question to be a component part of the general question of international proletarian revolution.
Lastly, the question of the party of the proletariat.
Marx and Engels provided the main outlines on the party as the advanced detachment of the proletariat, without which (the party) the proletariat cannot achieve its emancipation, either in the sense of capturing power, or in the sense of transforming capitalist society.
Lenin’s new contribution in this field was that he developed those outlines further in conformity with the new conditions of the struggle of the proletariat in the period of imperialism and showed that:
a) the party is the highest form of class organisation of the proletariat as compared with other forms of proletarian organisation (trade unions, co-operatives, state organisation) whose work it is the Party’s function to generalise and direct;
b) the dictatorship of the proletariat can be implemented only through the party, as the guiding force of the dictatorship;
c) the dictatorship of the proletariat can be complete only if it is led by one party, the Communist Party, which does not and must not share the leadership with other parties;
d) unless there is iron discipline in the party, the tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat in regard to suppressing the exploiters and transforming class society into socialist society cannot be accomplished.
That, in the main, is the new contribution made by Lenin in his works, giving concrete form to Marx’s teaching and developing it further in conformity with the new conditions of the struggle of the proletariat in the period of imperialism.
That is why we say that Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and proletarian revolutions.
It is clear from this that Leninism cannot be separated from Marxism; still less can it be counterposed to Marxism.
The question submitted by the delegation goes on to say:
“Would it be correct to say that Lenin believed in ‘creative revolution’ whereas Marx was more inclined to wait for the culmination of the development of economic forces?”
I think it would be quite incorrect to say that. I think that every popular revolution, if it really is a popular revolution, is a creative revolution, for it breaks up the old order and creates a new one.
Of course, there is nothing creative in the “revolutions” — if they may be so called — that sometimes take place in certain backward countries, in the form of toy-like “risings” of one tribe against another. But Marxists never regarded such toy-like “risings ” as revolutions. It is obviously not a question of such “risings, ” but of a mass, popular revolution in which the oppressed classes rise up against the oppressing classes. Such a revolution cannot but be creative. Marx and Lenin upheld precisely such a revolution, and only such a revolution. It goes without saying that such a revolution cannot arise under all conditions, that it can take place only under definite favourable conditions of an economic and political nature.
SECOND QUESTION. Can it be said that the Communist Party controls the government?
ANSWER : It all depends upon what is meant by control. In capitalist countries they have a rather peculiar conception of control. I know that a number of capitalist governments are controlled by big banks, not withstanding the existence of “democratic” parliaments.
The parliaments claim that they control the government. In fact, however, the composition of the governments is predetermined, and their actions are controlled by big financial consortiums. Who does not know that there is not a single capitalist “power” where the cabinet can be formed against the will of the big financial magnates? It is enough for financial pressure to be exerted to cause Cabinet Ministers to go flying from their posts, as if bewitched. That is actually control of governments by the banks, in spite of the seeming control by parliament.
If such control is meant, then I must declare that control of the government by money-bags is inconceivable and absolutely out of the question in our country, if only for the reason that the banks in our country have long been nationalised and the money-bags have been kicked out of the U.S.S.R.
Perhaps the delegation wanted to ask not about control, but about the guidance of the government by the Party? If that is what the delegation wanted to ask, my answer is: Yes, in our country the Party guides the government. And the Party is able to do so because it enjoys the confidence of the majority of the workers and working people generally and has a right to guide the organs of government in the name of that majority.
How does the guidance of the government by the workers’ party in the U.S.S.R., by the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R., manifest itself?
First of all by the Communist Party striving, through the Soviets and their congresses, to secure the election of its candidates to the principal government posts, the election of its best workers, who are devoted
to the cause of the proletariat and are ready loyally and faithfully to serve the proletariat. It succeeds in doing this in the vast majority of cases because the workers and peasants have confidence in the Party. It is no accident that the leaders of the organs of government in our country are Communists and that those leaders enjoy enormous prestige in the country.
Secondly, by the Party checking the work of the organs of administration, the work of the organs of government, rectifying mistakes and defects, which are un avoidable, helping these organs to carry out the government’s decisions and striving to secure for them the support of the masses; moreover not a single important decision is taken by them without appropriate instructions from the Party.
Thirdly, by the fact that when the plan of work of the various organs of government in the sphere of industry or agriculture, or in the sphere of trade or cultural development, is drawn up, the Party gives general guiding instructions defining the character and direction of the work of these organs during the period these plans are in operation.
The bourgeois press usually expresses “surprise” at the Party’s “interference” in state affairs. But this “surprise” is thoroughly false. It is well known that in capitalist countries the bourgeois parties equally “interfere” in state affairs and guide the government, and in those countries that guidance is concentrated in the hands of a narrow circle of persons who in one way or another are connected with the big banks and who, because of that, strive to conceal the role they play from the people.
Who does not know that every bourgeois party in Britain, or in other capitalist countries, has its secret cabinet consisting of a narrow circle of persons in whose hands the exercise of this guidance is concentrated? Recall, for example, Lloyd George’s reference to the “shadow” cabinet in the Liberal Party. The difference in this respect between the Land of Soviets and the capitalist countries is:
a) in capitalist countries the bourgeois parties guide the state in the interests of the bourgeoisie and against the proletariat, whereas in the U.S.S.R. the Communist Party guides the state in the interests of the proletariat and against the bourgeoisie;
b) the bourgeois parties conceal their guiding role from the people by resorting to suspicious, secret cabinets, whereas the Communist Party in the U.S.S.R. does not need any secret cabinets; it condemns the policy and practice of secret cabinets and openly declares to the whole country that it takes responsibility for the guidance of the state.
A delegate : Does the Party guide the trade unions on the same principles?
Stalin : In the main, yes. Formally, the Party cannot give the trade unions any directives; but the Party gives directives to the Communists who work in the trade unions. It is known that in the trade unions there are communist groups, just as there are in the Soviets, co-operatives, and so forth. It is the duty of these communist groups to try to secure by persuasion that the trade-union, Soviet, co-operative, and other bodies adopt decisions which correspond to the Party’s directives. And they succeed in this in the vast majority of cases because the Party exercises enormous influence among the masses and enjoys their great confidence. In this way unity of action is secured among the extremely diverse proletarian organisations. Without it, there would be confusion and disharmony in the work of these working-class organisations.
THIRD QUESTION. Since only one party enjoys legality in Russia, how do you know that the masses sympathise with communism?
ANSWER : It is true that in the U.S.S.R. there are no legal bourgeois parties; that only one party, the party of the workers, the Communist Party, enjoys legality. Have we, however, ways and means of convincing ourselves that the majority of the workers, the majority of the labouring masses, sympathise with the Communists? It is a question, of course, of the masses of the workers and peasants and not of the new bourgeoisie, nor of the fragments of the old exploiting classes, which have already been smashed by the proletariat. Yes, we have the possibility, we have ways and means of ascertaining whether the masses of the workers and peasants sympathise with the Communists or not.
Let us take the most important periods in the life of our country and see whether there are grounds for asserting that the masses really sympathise with the Communists.
Let us take, first of all, so important a period as that of the October Revolution in 1917, when the Communist Party, precisely as a party, openly called upon the workers and peasants to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie, and when this Party obtained the support of the overwhelming majority of the workers, soldiers and peasants.
What was the situation at that time? The Socialist-Revolutionaries (S.-R.’s) and the Social-Democrats (Mensheviks), who had formed a bloc with the bourgeoisie, were then in power. The state apparatus, central and local, as well as the apparatus of command of the twelve million-strong army, was in the hands of those parties, in the hands of the government. The Communist Party was in a state of semi-legality. The bourgeois in all countries prophesied the inevitable collapse of the Bolshevik Party. The Entente wholly and completely supported the Kerensky Government. Nevertheless, the Communist Party, the Bolshevik Party, never ceased to call upon the proletariat to overthrow that government and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. Well, what happened? The overwhelming majority of the labouring masses, in the rear and at the front, most emphatically supported the Bolshevik Party — the Kerensky Government was overthrown and the rule of the proletariat was established.
How could it happen that the Bolsheviks proved victorious at that time in spite of the hostile prophecies made by the bourgeois of all countries about the doom of the Bolshevik Party? Does this not prove that the broad masses of the working people sympathise with the Bolshevik Party? I think it does.
There you have the first test of the prestige and influence of the Communist Party among the broad masses of the population.
Let us take the next period, the period of intervention, the period of civil war, when the British capitalists occupied the north of Russia, the area of Archangel and Murmansk, when the American, British, Japanese and French capitalists occupied Siberia and pushed Kolchak into the forefront, when the French and British capitalists took steps to occupy “South Russia” and championed Denikin and Wrangel.
That was a war conducted by the Entente and the Russian counter-revolutionary generals against the communist government in Moscow, against the October gains of our revolution. It was the period when the strength and stability of the Communist Party was put to the severest test among the broad masses of the workers and peasants.
But what happened? Is it not known that the outcome of the Civil War was that the armies of occupation were driven from Russia and the counter-revolutionary generals were wiped out by the Red Army?
It turned out that the fate of a war is decided in the last analysis, not by technical equipment, with which Kolchak and Denikin were plentifully supplied by the enemies of the U.S.S.R., but by a correct policy, by the sympathy and support of the vast masses of the population.
Was it an accident that the Bolshevik Party proved victorious then? Of course not. Does not this fact prove that the Communist Party in our country enjoys the sympathy of the broad masses of the working people? I think it does.
There you have the second test of the strength and stability of the Communist Party in the U.S.S.R.
Let us pass to the present period, the post-war period, when questions of peaceful construction are on the order of the day, when the period of economic disruption has been superseded by the period of the restoration of industry, and finally, by the period of the reconstruction of the whole of our national economy on a new technical basis. Have we now ways and means of testing the strength and stability of the Communist Party, of ascertaining the extent of the sympathy enjoyed by that Party among the broad masses of the working people? I think we have.
Let us take, first of all, the trade unions in the Soviet Union, which embrace about ten million proletarians; let us examine the composition of the leading bodies of our trade unions. Is it an accident that Communists are at the head of these bodies? Of course not. It would be absurd to think that the composition of the leading bodies of the trade unions is a matter of indifference to the workers of the U.S.S.R. The workers of the U.S.S.R. grew up and were trained in the storms of three revolutions. They learned, as no one else learned, to test their leaders and to kick them out if they do not serve the interests of the proletariat. At one time Plekhanov was the most popular man in our Party. The workers, however, did not hesitate to isolate him completely when they became convinced that he had departed from the proletarian line. And if such workers express their complete confidence in the Communists, elect them to responsible posts in the trade unions, this fact cannot but serve as direct evidence that the strength and stability of the Communist Party among the workers in the U.S.S.R. is enormous.
There you have proof that the broad masses of the workers certainly sympathise with the Communist Party.
Let us take the last elections to the Soviets. In the U.S.S.R. the right to vote in the election of Soviets is enjoyed by the whole adult population from the age of eighteen, irrespective of sex or nationality — except for the bourgeois elements who exploit the labour of others and have been deprived of electoral rights. This makes a total of about sixty million voters. The overwhelming majority of these, of course, are peasants. Of these sixty million, about 51 per cent, that is, over thirty million, exercised their right to vote. Now examine the composition of the leading bodies of our Soviets, central and local. Can it be called an accident that the overwhelming majority of the elected leading elements are Communists? Obviously, it cannot. Does not this fact show that the Communist Party enjoys the confidence of the vast masses of the peasantry? I think it does.
There you have yet another test of the strength and stability of the Communist Party.
Let us take the Komsomol (Young Communist League) which unites about two million young workers and peasants. Can it be called an accident that the overwhelming majority of the elected leading elements in the Young Communist League are Communists? I do not think so.
There you have yet another test of the strength and prestige of the Communist Party.
Finally, let us take the innumerable assemblies, conferences, delegate meetings, and so forth, which embrace vast masses of the working people, workers and peasants, both men and women, of all the nationalities included in the U.S.S.R. In Western countries, people sometimes wax ironical over these conferences and assemblies and assert that the Russians in general like to talk a lot. For us, however, these conferences and assemblies are of enormous importance, both as a means of testing the mood of the masses and as a means of exposing our mistakes and indicating the methods by which they can be rectified; for we make not a few mistakes and we do not conceal them, because we think that exposing mistakes and honestly correcting them is the best way to improve the administration of the country. Read the speeches delivered at these assemblies and conferences, read the practical and straight-forward remarks uttered by these “common people,” workers and peasants, read the decisions they adopt and you will see how enormous is the influence and prestige enjoyed by the Communist Party, you will see that it is an influence and prestige that any party in the world might envy.
There you have yet another test of the stability of the Communist Party.
Such are the ways and means by which we can test the strength and influence of the Communist Party among the masses of the people.
That is how I know that the broad masses of the workers and peasants in the U.S.S.R. sympathise with the Communist Party.
FOURTH QUESTION. If non-Party people were to form a group and nominate their candidates at the elections on a platform supporting the Soviet Government, but at the same time were to demand the abolition of the monopoly of foreign trade, could they have their own funds and conduct an active political campaign?
ANSWER : I think that there is an irreconcilable contradiction in this question. We cannot conceive of a group basing itself on a platform of support for the Soviet Government and at the same time demanding the abolition of the monopoly of foreign trade. Why? Because the monopoly of foreign trade is one of the unshakable foundations of the platform of the Soviet Government; because a group that demanded the abolition of the monopoly of foreign trade could not support the Soviet Government; because such a group could only be one that was profoundly hostile to the whole Soviet system.
There are, of course, elements in the U.S.S.R. who demand the abolition of the monopoly of foreign trade. They are the Nepmen, the kulaks, and the fragments of the already routed exploiting classes, and so forth. But those elements constitute an insignificant minority of the population. I do not think that the delegation is speaking of those elements in its question. If, however, the delegation has in mind the workers and the labouring masses of the peasantry, then I must say that among them a demand for the abolition of the monopoly of foreign trade would only evoke jeers and hostility.
In point of fact, what would the abolition of the monopoly of foreign trade mean for the workers? For them it would mean abandoning the industrialisation of the country, stopping the construction of new mills and factories and the expansion of the old ones. For them it would mean flooding the U.S.S.R. with goods from capitalist countries, winding up our industry because of its relative weakness, an increase in unemployment, a worsening of the material conditions of the working class, and the weakening of its economic and political positions. In the final analysis it would mean strengthening the Nepmen and the new bourgeoisie in general. Can the proletariat of the U.S.S.R. agree to commit suicide like that? Obviously, it cannot.
And what would the abolition of the monopoly of foreign trade mean for the labouring masses of the peasantry? It would mean transforming our country from an independent country into a semi-colonial one and impoverishing the peasant masses. It would mean reverting to the “free-trade” regime which prevailed under Kolchak and Denikin, when the combined forces of the counter-revolutionary generals and the “Allies” were free to rob and fleece the vast masses of the peasantry. In the final analysis it would mean strengthening the kulaks and other exploiting elements in the countryside. The peasants have sufficiently experienced the charms of that regime in the Ukraine, in the North Caucasus, on the Volga, and in Siberia. What grounds are there for supposing that they will want to put that noose round their necks again? Is it not obvious that the labouring masses of the peasantry cannot be in favour of abolishing the monopoly of foreign trade?
A delegate : The delegation raised the point about the monopoly of foreign trade, about its abolition, as one around which a whole group of the population might organise if it were not for the fact that one party enjoys a monopoly in the U.S.S.R., the monopoly of legality.
Stalin : The delegation is consequently reverting to the question of the monopoly enjoyed by the Communist Party as the only legal party in the U.S.S.R. I replied briefly to this question when I spoke about the ways and means of testing the sympathy of the vast masses of the workers and peasants towards the Communist Party.
As for the other strata of the population, the kulaks, the Nepmen, the remnants of the old, routed, exploiting classes, they have been deprived of the right to have their own political organisations, just as they have been deprived of electoral rights. The proletariat took away from the bourgeoisie not only the factories and mills, the banks and railways, the land and mines; it also took away from them the right to have their own political organisations, because the proletariat does not want to have the rule of the bourgeoisie restored. Apparently, the delegation does not object to the fact that the proletariat of the U.S.S.R. has deprived the bourgeoisie and the landlords of the factories and mills, the land and railways, the banks and mines. (Laughter.)
It seems to me, however, that the delegation is somewhat surprised that the proletariat did not confine itself to this, but went further and deprived the bourgeoisie of political rights. That, to my mind, is not quite logical, or more correctly, it is quite illogical. Why should the proletariat be required to show magnanimity towards the bourgeoisie? Does the bourgeoisie in the West, where it is in power, show the slightest magnanimity towards the working class? Does it not drive genuine revolutionary working-class parties underground? Why should the proletariat of the U.S.S.R. be required to show magnanimity towards its class enemy? I think that one should be logical. Those who think that political rights can be restored to the bourgeoisie must, to be logical, go further and raise the question of restoring to the bourgeoisie the factories and mills, railways and banks.
A delegate : The aim of the delegation was to find out how opinions among the working class and the peasantry other than the opinions of the Communist Party can find legal expression. It would be wrong to take that as meaning that the delegation is interested in the question of granting political rights to the bourgeoisie, that it is interested in the question how the bourgeoisie might find legal means of expressing its opinions. What we are referring to is how opinions among the working class and the peasantry other than the opinions of the Communist Party can find legal expression.
Another delegate : These different opinions could find expression in the mass working-class organisations, in the trade unions, and so forth.
Stalin : Very well. Consequently, it is not a question of restoring the political rights of the bourgeoisie, but of conflict of opinion within the working class and among the peasantry.
Is there any conflict of opinion among the workers and the labouring masses of the peasantry in the Soviet Union at the present time? Undoubtedly there is. It is impossible that millions of workers and peasants should think alike on all practical questions and on all details. That never happens. First of all, there is a great difference between the workers and the peasants both as regards their economic position and as regards their views on various questions. Secondly, there is some difference of views within the working class itself, difference in training, difference in age and temperament, difference between workers of long standing and those who have recently come from the countryside, and so forth. All this leads to a conflict of opinion among the workers and among the labouring masses of the peasantry, and this finds legal expression at meetings, in trade unions, in co-operatives, during elections to the Soviets, etc.
But there is a radical difference between the conflict of opinion now, under the conditions of the proletarian dictatorship, and the conflict of opinion that existed in the past, before the October Revolution. In the past, the conflict of opinion among the workers and among the labouring masses of the peasantry was concentrated mainly on questions of the overthrow of the landlords, of tsarism, of the bourgeoisie, and on the smashing of the bourgeois order. Now, under the conditions of the proletarian dictatorship, the conflict of opinion does not revolve around questions of the overthrow of Soviet power, of the smashing of the Soviet system, but around questions of the improvement of the Soviet bodies, of the improvement of their work. There is a radical difference here.
There is nothing surprising in the fact that the conflict of opinion in the past around the question of the revolutionary break-up of the existing order provided the basis for the appearance of several rival parties within the working class and the labouring masses of the peasantry. Those parties were: the Bolshevik Party, the Menshevik Party, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. On the other hand, it is not at all difficult to understand that now, under the proletarian dictatorship, conflict of opinion, the aim of which is not to break up the existing Soviet system, but to improve and consolidate it, provides no basis for the existence of several parties among the workers and the labouring masses in the countryside.
That is why the legality of one party alone, the Communist Party, the monopoly enjoyed by that Party, not only meets with no objection among the workers and labouring peasants, but, on the contrary, is accepted as something necessary and desirable.
Our Party’s position as the only legal party in the country (the Communist Party’s monopoly) is not something artificial and deliberately invented. Such a position cannot be created artificially by administrative machinations, and so forth. Our Party’s monopoly grew out of life, it developed historically as a result of the utter bankruptcy of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, and their departure from the stage under the conditions prevailing in our country.
What were the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties in the past? They were channels of bourgeois influence among the proletariat. What fostered and sustained those parties before October 1917? The existence of the bourgeois class and, in the final analysis, the existence of bourgeois rule. Is it not clear that when the bourgeoisie was overthrown the basis for the existence of those parties was bound to disappear?
What became of those parties after October 1917? They became parties advocating the restoration of capitalism and the overthrow of the rule of the proletariat. Is it not obvious that those parties were bound to lose all ground and all influence among the workers and the labouring strata of the peasantry?
The fight between the Communist Party and the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties for influence over the working class did not begin yesterday. It began when the first signs of a mass revolutionary movement manifested themselves in Russia, even before 1905. The period from 1903 to October 1917 was a period of a fierce conflict of opinion within the working class of our country, a period of struggle between the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries for influence within the working class. During that period the working class of the U.S.S.R. went through three revolutions. In the crucible of those revolutions it tried and tested these parties, tested their fitness for the cause of the proletarian revolution, tested their proletarian revolutionary character. And so, just before the October days of 1917, when history had summed up the entire past revolutionary struggle, when history had weighed in the balance the various parties fighting within the working class — the working class of the U.S.S.R. at last made its definitive choice and accepted the Communist Party as the only proletarian party.
How are we to explain the fact that the working class chose the Communist Party? Is it not a fact that the Bolsheviks in the Petrograd Soviet, for example, were an insignificant minority in April 1917? Is it not a fact that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks had an overwhelming majority in the Soviets at that time? Is it not a fact that just before the October days the whole apparatus of government and all means of coercion were in the hands of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, which had formed a bloc with the bourgeoisie?
The explanation is that the Communist Party stood for the cessation of the war, for an immediate democratic peace, whereas the parties of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks advocated “war to a victorious finish,” the continuation of the imperialist war.
The explanation is that the Communist Party stood for the overthrow of the Kerensky Government, for the overthrow of bourgeois rule, for the nationalisation of the factories and mills, the banks and railways, where as the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary parties fought in defence of the Kerensky Government and defended the right of the bourgeoisie to the factories and mills, the banks and railways.
The explanation is that the Communist Party stood for the immediate confiscation of the landlords’ land for the benefit of the peasantry, whereas the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties put off this question until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, which, in its turn, they postponed indefinitely.
Is it surprising, then, that the workers and poor peasants finally made their choice in favour of the Communist Party?
Is it surprising, then, that the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties went to the bottom so quickly?
That is where the monopoly of.the Communist Party comes from, and that is why the Communist Party came into power.
The next period, the period after October 1917, the period of civil war, was the period of the final doom of the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary parties, the period of the final triumph of the Bolshevik Party. In that period the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries themselves facilitated the triumph of the Communist Party. The fragments of the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary parties, which were wrecked and sunk during the October Revolution, began to link up with counter-revolutionary kulak revolts, formed a bloc with the Kolchakites and Denikinites, entered the service of the Entente and utterly discredited themselves in the eyes of the workers and peasants. The situation then created was that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, having turned from bourgeois revolutionaries into bourgeois counter-revolutionaries, helped the Entente in its efforts to strangle the new, Soviet Russia, whereas the Bolshevik Party, rallying around itself all that was vital and revolutionary, roused more and more new detachments of workers and peasants for the fight for the socialist Motherland, for the fight against the Entente.
Quite naturally, the victory of the Communists in that period was bound to lead, and in fact did lead, to the utter defeat of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. Is it then surprising that, after all this, the Communist Party became the only party of the working class and the poor peasantry?
That is how the monopoly of the Communist Party as the only legal party in the country arose.
You speak of a conflict of opinion among the workers and peasants at the present time, under the conditions of the proletarian dictatorship. I have said already that there is and will be a conflict of opinion, that no progress is possible without it. But the conflict of opinion among the workers under present conditions does not revolve around the fundamental question of overthrowing the Soviet system, but around practical questions of improving the Soviets, of rectifying mistakes committed by Soviet bodies, and, consequently, of consolidating the Soviet regime. It is quite understandable that such a conflict of opinion can only strengthen and perfect the Communist Party. It is quite understandable that such a conflict of opinion can only strengthen the monopoly of the Communist Party. It is quite understandable that such a conflict of opinion cannot provide a basis for the formation of other parties within the working class and labouring peasantry.
FIFTH QUESTION. Could you briefly tell us what are the main disagreements between yourself and Trotsky?
ANSWER : I must say first of all that the disagreements with Trotsky are not personal disagreements. If they were personal disagreements the Party would not bother with them for a single hour, for it does not like individuals to thrust themselves forward.
Evidently, you refer to the disagreements in the Party. That is how I understand the question. Yes, there are such disagreements in the Party. The character of these disagreements was described in considerable detail in the reports recently delivered by Rykov in Moscow and by Bukharin in Leningrad. These reports have been published. I have nothing to add to what is stated in them about those disagreements. If you do not have these documents I can get them for you. (The delegation states that it is in possession of the documents.)
A delegate : On our return we shall be asked about these disagreements, but we do not have all the documents. For example, we do not have the “platform of the 83. ”
Stalin : I did not sign that “platform.” I have no right to dispose of other people’s documents. (Laughter.)
SIXTH QUESTION. In capitalist countries the chief incentive for the development of production is the hope of obtaining profit. This incentive is, of course, relatively absent in the U.S.S.R. What serves in place of it, and how effective is this substitute, in your opinion? Can it be permanent?
ANSWER : It is true that the principal motive force of capitalist economy is profit. It is also true that profit is neither the aim nor the motive force of our socialist industry. What, then, is the motive force of our industry?
First of all, the fact that the factories and mills in our country belong to the entire people and not to capitalists, that the factories and mills are managed not by agents of the capitalists, but by representatives of the working class. The consciousness that the workers work not for capitalists, but for their own state, for their own class, is a tremendous motive force in the development and perfection of our industry.
It should be noted that the overwhelming majority of the factory and mill managers in our country are working men appointed by the Supreme Council of National Economy in agreement with the trade unions, and that not a single factory manager can remain at his post against the will of the workers or of the trade union concerned.
It should also be noted that in every factory and works there is a factory or works committee, which iselected by the workers and which controls the activities of the management.
Finally, it should be noted that in every industrial enterprise workers’ production conferences are held, which all the workers in the given enterprise attend and at which they check the entire work of the manager, discuss the factory management’s plan of work, point out mistakes and shortcomings, and have an opportunity of getting those shortcomings put right through their trade unions, through the Party and through the Soviet government bodies.
It is not difficult to understand that all this radically changes both the status of the workers and the order of things at the various enterprises. Whereas under capitalism the worker regards the factory as something alien to him, as someone else’s property, and even as a prison, under the Soviet system the worker no longer regards the factory as a prison, but as something near and dear to him, in the development and improvement of which he is vitally interested.
It scarcely needs proof that this new attitude of the workers towards the factory, towards the enterprise, this feeling that the factory is something near and dear to them, serves as a tremendous motive force for the whole of our industry.
This explains the fact that the number of worker inventors in the field of the technique of production, and of worker-organisers of industry is growing day by day.
Secondly, the fact that the income derived from industry in our country does not serve to enrich individuals, but is used to expand industry further, to improve the material and cultural conditions of the working class, and to reduce the price of the manufactured goods needed by the workers and the peasants, that is, once again to improve the material conditions of the labouring masses.
The capitalist cannot devote his income to improving the well-being of the working class. He is out to make profit; otherwise he would not be a capitalist. He makes profit in order to convert it into extra capital and to export it to less developed countries in order to gain additional, still greater profit. That is how capital flows from North America to China, to Indonesia, to South America and Europe, from France to the French colonies, and from Britain to the British colonies.
In our country things are different, for we neither conduct nor recognise colonial policy. In our country, the income derived from industry remains here and is used to expand industry further, to improve the conditions of the workers, and to enlarge the capacity of the home market, including the peasant market, by reducing the price of manufactured goods. In our country, about ten percent of the profits obtained from industry is used to improve the conditions of the working class. A sum equal to thirteen per cent of total wage payments is assigned for the insurance of the working class at state expense. A certain part of the income (I cannot say just now exactly how much) is used for cultural services, vocational training and annual holidays for the workers. A fairly considerable part of the income (again I cannot now say exactly how much) is used for raising the workers’ money wages. The rest of the income from industry is used for the further expansion of industry, for repairing old and building new factories and, lastly, for reducing the price of manufactured goods.
The enormous significance of these facts for our industry is that:
a) they help to draw agriculture closer to industry and to smooth out the antithesis between town and country;
b) they help to enlarge the capacity of the home market — urban and rural — and thereby create a constantly expanding base for the further development of industry.
Thirdly, the fact that the nationalisation of industry facilitates the planned management of industry as a whole.
Are these stimuli and motive forces of our industry permanent factors? Can they be permanently operating factors? Yes, they are undoubtedly permanently operating stimuli and motive forces. And the more our industry develops, the more will the potency and significance of these factors increase.
SEVENTH QUESTION. How far can the U.S.S.R. co-operate with the capitalist industry of other countries?
Is there a definite limit to such co-operation, or is it simply an experiment to ascertain in what field co-operation is possible and in what field it is not?
ANSWER : Evidently, this refers to temporary agreements with capitalist states in the field of industry, in the field of commerce and, perhaps, in the field of diplomatic relations.
I think that the existence of two opposite systems, the capitalist system and the socialist system, does not preclude the possibility of such agreements. I think that such agreements are possible and expedient under conditions of peaceful development.
Exports and imports are the most suitable ground for such agreements. We need: equipment, raw materials (raw cotton for example), semi-manufactures (from metals, etc.), while the capitalists need a market for those goods. There you have a basis for agreements. The capitalists need: oil, timber, grain products; we need a market for those goods. There you have a basis for agreements. We need credits; the capitalists need good interest for their credits. There you have still further basis for agreements, namely, in the field of credit; moreover, it is well known that the Soviet bodies are the most scrupulous of all in their payments on credits.
The same can be said about the diplomatic field. We are pursuing a policy of peace and we are ready to sign pacts of mutual non-aggression with bourgeois states. We are pursuing a policy of peace and we are ready to come to an agreement on disarmament, even including the complete abolition of standing armies; we already declared this to the whole world at the Genoa Conference. There you have a basis for agreements in the diplomatic field.
The limits to these agreements? The limits are set by the opposite natures of the two systems, between which there is rivalry, struggle. Within the limits permitted by these two systems, but only within these limits, agreements are quite possible. The experience of the agreements with Germany, Italy, Japan, etc., shows this.
Are these agreements merely an experiment, or can they be of a more or less prolonged character? That does not depend upon us alone; it also depends upon the other parties. It depends on the general situation. A war may upset all agreements. Finally, it depends on the terms of the agreement. We cannot accept enslaving terms. We have an agreement with Harriman, who is exploiting the manganese mines in Georgia. That agreement was concluded for twenty years. As you see, not a short period by any means. We also have an agreement with the Lena Gold-Fields Company, which is engaged in gold mining in Siberia. That agreement has been concluded for thirty years — a still longer period. Finally, we have an agreement with Japan, for the exploitation of the oil and coal fields in Sakhalin.
We should like these agreements to be of a more or less lasting character. But that, of course, does not depend upon us alone, it also depends upon the other parties.
EIGHTH QUESTION. what are the chief distinctions between Russia and the capitalist states as regards policy towards national minorities?
ANSWER : Evidently, this refers to the nationalities in the U.S.S.R. which were formerly oppressed by tsarism and the Russian exploiting classes and which did not possess their own statehood.
The chief distinction is that in capitalist states there is national oppression and national enslavement,whereas here in the U.S.S.R. both have been completely eradicated.
In capitalist states, besides first-rank, privileged, “state” nations, there are second-rank, “non-state,” unequal nations, deprived of various rights, and above all of rights of statehood. In our country, in the U.S.S.R., however, all the attributes of national inequality and national oppression have been abolished. In our country, all nations have equal rights and are sovereign, for the national and state privileges formerly enjoyed by the dominant, Great-Russian nation have been abolished.
It is not, of course, a question of declarations about equal rights of nationalities. All kinds of bourgeois and Social-Democratic parties have made numerous declarations about national equality of rights. But what are declarations worth if they are not put into effect? It is a question of abolishing those classes which are the vehicles, the authors and operators of national oppression. In our country those classes were the landlords and capitalists. We overthrew those classes and thereby did away with the possibility of national oppression. And precisely because we overthrew those classes, genuine national equality of rights became possible in our country.
That is what we in our country call the realisation of the idea of self-determination of nations, including the right of secession. Precisely because we realised the self-determination of nations, we have succeeded in abolishing mutual distrust between the labouring masses of the various nations in the U.S.S.R. and in uniting those nations on a voluntary basis into one union state. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as it exists today is the result of our national policy and the expression of the voluntary federation of the nations in the U.S.S.R. into one union state.
It scarcely needs proof that such a policy in the national question is inconceivable in capitalist countries, for there the capitalists, who are the authors and operators of the policy of national oppression, are still in power.
One cannot fail to note, for example, the fact that the supreme organ of power in the U.S.S.R., the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, is not necessarily headed by a Russian chairman., but by six chairmen, corresponding to the number of Union Republics which are united in the U.S.S.R. Of these chairmen, one is a Russian (Kalinin), the second a Ukrainian (Petrovsky), the third a Byelorussian (Chervyakov), the fourth an Azerbaijanian (Musabekov), the fifth a Turkmenian (Aitakov), and the sixth an Uzbek (Faizulla Khojayev). That fact is a striking illustration of our national policy. Needless to say, not a single bourgeois republic, no matter how democratic, could take such a step. In our country, however, it is taken for granted as logically following from our policy of national equality of rights.
NINTH QUESTION. American labour leaders justify their struggle against the Communists on two grounds ;
1) the Communists are disrupting the labour movement by their factional fight inside the unions and by their attacks on union officials who are not radicals ;
2) American Communists take their orders from Moscow and therefore cannot be good trade unionists, since they place their loyalty to a foreign organisation above their loyalty to their union.
How can this difficulty be removed so that American Communists may be able to work jointly with other units of the American labour movement?
ANSWER : I think that the attempts of the American labour leaders to justify their struggle against the Communists cannot withstand the slightest criticism. No one has yet proved, or will be able to prove, that the Communists disrupt the labour movement. On the other hand, however, it can be taken as fully proved that the Communists are the most devoted and courageous fighters of the labour movement all over the world, including America.
Is it not a fact that during workers’ strikes and demonstrations the Communists march in the front ranks of the working class and take the first blows of the capitalists, whereas at such a time the reformist labour leaders take shelter in the capitalists’ backyards? How can Communists refrain from criticising the cowardice and reactionary character of the reformist labour leaders? Is it not obvious that such criticism can only serve to stimulate and strengthen the labour movement?
True, such criticism wrecks the prestige of the reactionary labour leaders. But what of it? Let the reactionary labour leaders answer with counter-criticism, but not by expelling the Communists from the unions.
I think that if the American labour movement wants to live and develop it cannot do without a conflict of opinion and of trends within the trade unions. I think that the conflict of opinion and of trends within the trade unions, criticism of the reactionary leaders, and so forth, will develop more and more in spite of the resistance to it on the part of the reformist labour leaders. Such a conflict of opinion and such criticism are absolutely essential for the American working class so that it can choose between the various trends and finally take its stand as an independent organised force within American society.
The complaints of the American reformist leaders against the Communists only show that they are not sure that they are right and feel that their position is shaky. For that very reason they fear criticism like the plague. It is worth noting that the American labour leaders are apparently more determined opponents of elementary democracy than many of the bourgeois in America.
The assertion that the American Communists work under “orders from Moscow” is absolutely false. No Communist in the world would agree to work “under orders” from outside against his own convictions, against his will, and contrary to the requirements of the situation. And even if there were such Communists they would not be worth a farthing.
The Communists are the boldest and bravest of people, and they are fighting a host of enemies. The merit of the Communists is, among other things, that they are able to stand up for their convictions. It is, therefore, strange to speak of American Communists as having no convictions of their own and capable only of working “under orders” from outside.
The only thing that is correct in the labour leaders’ assertion is that the American Communists are affiliated to the international communist organisation and consult the central body of this organisation on various questions from time to time. But is there anything bad in that? Are the American labour leaders opposed to the organisation of an international workers’ centre? True, they are not affiliated to Amsterdam, but that is not because they are opposed to an international workers’ centre as such, but because they think that Amsterdam is too radical. (Laughter.)
Why may the capitalists organise internationally and the working class, or part of it, not have its international organisation? Is it not obvious that Green and his friends in the American Federation of Labour slander the American Communists in slavishly repeating the capitalist legends about “orders from Moscow”?
Some people think that the members of the Communist International in Moscow do nothing but sit and write instructions to all countries. More than sixty countries are affiliated to the Comintern, so you can picture to yourselves the position of the members of the Comintern, who neither sleep nor eat, but sit day and night writing instructions to all those countries. (Laughter.) And the American labour leaders think that with this amusing legend they can cover up their fear of the Communists and gloss over the fact that Communists are the most courageous and devoted cadres of the American working class!
The delegation wants to know whether there is a way out of this situation. I think there is only one way out: permit a conflict of opinion and of trends within the American trade unions; drop the reactionary policy of expelling the Communists from the trade unions, and give the working class of America an opportunity to choose freely between those trends; for America has not yet had her October Revolution, and the workers there have not yet had the opportunity to make their final choice between the various trends in the trade unions.
TENTH QUESTION. Is money now being sent to America to assist the American Communist Party or the Communist paper, the “Daily Worker”?
If not, how much do the American Communists contribute to the Third International in annual affiliation fees?
ANSWER : If this refers to the relations between the Communist Party of America and the Third International, I must say that the Communist Party of America, as part of the Communist International, no doubt pays affiliation fees to the Comintern, just as, it must be supposed, the Comintern, as the central body of the international communist movement, renders the Communist Party of America what assistance it can whenever it considers it necessary. I do not think there is anything surprising or extraordinary in that.
If, however, the question refers to the relations between the Communist Party of America and the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R., then I must say that I do not know of a single occasion on which the representatives of the American Communist Party appealed for assistance to the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R. You may think this strange, but it is a fact that shows the extreme scrupulousness of the American Communists.
But what would happen if the Communist Party of America did appeal to the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R. for assistance? I think that the Communist Party of the U.S.S. R. would render it what assistance it could. Indeed, what would be the worth of the Communist Party, particular]y as it is in power, if it refused to do what it could to assist the Communist Party of another country living under the yoke of capitalism? I should say that such a Communist Party would not be worth a farthing.
Let us assume that the American working class had come into power after overthrowing its bourgeoisie; let us assume that the working class of America, which had emerged victorious from the great struggle against capitalism, was appealed to by the working class of another country to render what material assistance it could, would the American working class refuse such assistance? I think it would cover itself with disgrace if it hesitated to render assistance.
ELEVENTH QUESTION. We know that some good Communists do not altogether agree with the Communist Party’s demand that all new members must be atheists, because the reactionary clergy are now suppressed. Could the Communist Party in the future take a neutral attitude towards a religion which supported all the teachings of science and did not oppose communism?
Could you in the future permit Party members to hold religious convictions if the latter did not conflict with Party loyalty?
ANSWER : There are several inexactitudes in this question.
Firstly, I do not know of any “good Communists” such as the delegation mentions here. It is doubtful whether any such Communists exist at all.
Secondly, I must state that, speaking formally, we have no conditions for accepting members into the Party that require that an applicant for Party membership must necessarily be an atheist. The conditions of entry into our Party are: acceptance of the Party programme and rules; unqualified submission to the decisions of the Party and of its bodies; payment of membership dues; membership of one of the organisations of the Party.
A delegate : Very often I read that members are expelled from the Party for believing in God.
Stalin : I can only repeat what I have already said about the conditions of membership of our Party. We have no other conditions.
Does that mean that the Party is neutral towards religion? No, it does not. We conduct, and will continue to conduct, propaganda against religious prejudices. The laws of our country recognise the right of every citizen to profess any religion. That is a matter for the conscience of each individual. That is precisely why we separated the church from the state. But in separating the church from the state and proclaiming freedom of conscience we at the same time preserved the right of every citizen to combat religion, all religion, by argument, by propaganda and agitation. The Party cannot be neutral towards religion, and it conducts anti-religious propaganda against all religious prejudices because it stands for science, whereas religious prejudices run counter to science, because all religion is the antithesis of science. Cases such as occur in America, where Darwinists were prosecuted recently, cannot occur here because the Party pursues a policy of defending science in every way.
The Party cannot be neutral towards religious prejudices, and it will continue to conduct propaganda against those prejudices, because that is one of the best means of undermining the influence of the reactionary clergy, who support the exploiting classes and who preach submission to those classes.
The Party cannot be neutral towards the disseminators of religious prejudices, towards the reactionary clergy, who poison the minds of the labouring masses.
Have we repressed the reactionary clergy? Yes, we have. The only unfortunate thing is that they have not yet been completely eliminated. Anti-religious propaganda is the means by which the elimination of the reactionary clergy will be completely carried through. Cases occur sometimes when certain members of the Party hinder the full development of anti-religious propaganda. If such members are expelled it is a very good thing, because there is no room for such “Communists” in the ranks of our Party.
TWELFTH QUESTION. Can you briefly give us the characteristics of the future society that communism is trying to create?
ANSWER : The general characteristics of communist society are given in the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin.
Briefly, the anatomy of communist society may be described as follows: It is a society in which: a) there will be no private ownership of the instruments and means of production, but social, collective ownership; b) there will be no classes or state power, but there will be working people in industry and agriculture who manage economic affairs as a free association of working people; c) the national economy, organised according to plan, will be based on the highest level of technique, both in industry and agriculture; d) there will be no antithesis between town and country, between industry and agriculture; e) products will be distributed according to the principle of the old French Communists: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”; f) science and art will enjoy conditions sufficiently favourable for them to attain full flowering; g) the individual, freed from concern about his daily bread and from the necessity of adapting himself to the “powers that be,” will become really free. And so on and so forth. Clearly, we are still a long way from such a society.
As to the international conditions necessary for the complete triumph of communist society, these will take shape and grow in proportion to the growth of revolutionary crises and revolutionary actions of the working class in capitalist countries.
It must not be imagined that the working class in one country, or in several countries, will march towards socialism, and still more to communism, and that the capitalists of other countries will sit still with folded arms and look on this with indifference. Still less must it be imagined that the working class in capitalist countries will agree to be mere spectators of the victorious development of socialism in one or another country. In point of fact, the capitalists will do all in their power to crush such countries. In point of fact, every important step taken towards socialism, and still more towards communism, in any country will inevitably be accompanied by the irresistible efforts of the working class in capitalist countries to achieve power and socialism in those countries.
Thus, in the further course of development of the international revolution and of international reaction, two world centres will be formed: the socialist centre, attracting to itself the countries gravitating towards socialism, and the capitalist centre, attracting to itself the countries gravitating towards capitalism. The struggle between these two camps will decide the fate of capitalism and socialism throughout the world.
THE DELEGATES’ REPLIES
FIRST QUESTION. How do you account for the small percentage of workers organised in trade unions in America?
I think you have about seventeen million industrial workers in America. (The delegates state that there are from eighteen to nineteen million industrial workers.) Of these, I think, about three million are organised. (The delegates state that the American Federation of Labour has a membership of approximately three million and that, in addition, half a million workers are organised in other unions, so that, all together, there are three and a half million organised workers.) Personally I think that that is a very small percentage of workers organised in trade unions Here, in the U.S.S.R., 90 percent of the proletarians in the country are organised in trade unions. I would like to ask the delegation whether it regards the fact of such a relatively small percentage of workers being organised in trade unions as a good thing. Does not the delegation think that it is a sign of the weakness of the American proletariat, and of the weakness of its weapons of struggle against the capitalists in the economic field?
Brophy : The small trade-union membership is not due to wrong tactics in the labour organisations, but to the general economic conditions in the country, which do not stimulate the entire mass of workers to organise, and which, thanks to their favourable character, lessen the need for the working class to fight the capitalists. Of course, these conditions will change, and as they change the trade unions will grow and the whole trade-union movement will take a different path.
Douglas : I agree with the explanation given by the previous speaker. I would add, firstly, that it must be borne in mind that in recent times in the United States the capitalists themselves have been raising wages very considerably. This process of raising wages was seen in 1917, in 1919, and later. If present-day real wages are compared with those of 1911 they will be found to be much higher.
In the process of its development the trade-union movement was built, as it is built today, on the craft principle, according to trade, and the trade unions were formed mainly for skilled workers. At the head of these unions there were certain leaders who constituted a close organisation and strove to obtain good conditions for their members. They had no incentive to widen the trade unions or to organise the unskilled workers.
Moreover, the American trade unions come up against well-organised capitalism, which has at its command every means of preventing the organisation of all the workers in trade unions. If, for example, a trust finds that trade-union resistance in one of its plants is becoming too strong, it will go so far as to close that plant and transfer production to another plant. In this way the resistance of the trade union is broken.
American capitalism itself raises the workers’ wages, but it does not give them any economic power or the opportunity to fight for an improvement in their economic conditions.
Another very important fact in America is that the capitalists sow strife among the workers of various nationalities. In the majority of cases the unskilled workers are immigrants from Europe or, as has recently become the case, Negroes. The capitalists try to sow strife among workers of different nationalities. This national division is found among the skilled and among the unskilled workers. The capitalists systematically sow antagonism among the workers of various nationalities irrespective of their degree of skill.
During the past ten years the American capitalists have been conducting a more enlightened policy, in that they have been forming their own trade unions, the so-called company unions. They strive to give the workers an incentive in the work of their plant, an interest in its profits, and so forth. American capitalism shows a tendency to substitute vertical division for horizontal division, that is, to split up the working class, giving it an incentive and interest in capitalism.
Coyle : I approach the question not from the theoretical, but from the practical point of view. It is true that it is easier to organise the workers in good times, but the statistics of the membership of the American Federation of Labour show that the A. F. of L. is gradually losing the unskilled workers and is increasing its skilled worker membership. Thus, the American Federation of Labour wants to become, and is gradually becoming, an organisation mainly of skilled workers.
The trade-union movement in America barely touches the unskilled workers. The big branches of industry are not covered by the trade unions. Of these big branches of industry, only in the coal and the railroad industries are the workers organised to any extent, and even in the coal industry 65 per cent of the workers are unorganised. The workers in such industries as steel, rubber and automobiles are almost completely unorganised. It may be said that the trade unions do not touch the unskilled workers.
There are a number of trade unions outside the American Federation of Labour which strive to organise the unskilled and semi-skilled workers. As for the stand taken by the leaders of the American Federation of Labour, one of them, for example the President of the Machinists Union, quite frankly stated that he does not want to attract the unskilled workers to his union. The position in regard to the trade-union leaders is that a leader caste has grown up consisting of a few score of individuals who receive enormous salaries, $10,000 per annum and over, and it is extremely difficult to get into this caste.
Dunn : The question put by Comrade Stalin is not put fairly, because if 90 per cent of the workers in his country are organised, it must be borne in mind that here the working class is in power, whereas in capitalist countries the workers are an oppressed class and the bourgeoisie does everything to prevent the workers from organising in trade unions.
Moreover, in those countries there are reactionary trade unions led by reactionary leaders. Under the conditions prevailing in America it is very difficult to get the very idea of trade unionism into the heads of the workers. This explains why trade unionism is so limited in America.
Stalin : Does the last speaker agree with the previous speaker that some of the leaders of the labour movement in America deliberately strive to restrict the trade union movement?
Dunn : I agree.
Stalin : I did not wish to offend anybody. I merely wanted to clear up for myself the difference between the situation in America and that in the U.S.S.R. If I have offended anybody, I apologise. (Laughter of the delegates.)
Dunn : I am not offended in the least.
Stalin : Is there a system of state insurance of workers in America?
A delegate : There is no system of state insurance of workers in America.
Coyle : In most states, compensation is paid for accidents at work amounting to a maximum of 30 per cent of the loss of earning capacity. This is in most of the states. The compensation is paid by the private firms in whose enterprises the earning capacity is lost, but the law requires such payment.
Stalin : Is there state insurance against unemployment in America?
A delegate : No. The unemployment insurance fund that exists can satisfy from eighty to one hundred thousand unemployed in all states.
Coyle : There is insurance (not state insurance) against industrial accidents, that is, accidents at work, but there is no insurance against incapacity to work due to sickness or old age. The insurance fund is made up of contributions from the workers. As a matter of fact the whole fund is provided by the workers themselves, for if the workers did not organise these funds they would receive a bigger wage increase, and as these funds are established in agreement with the employers the workers receive a smaller increase. Almost the whole fund is made up by the workers. Actually, the employers contribute only a very small proportion, about 10 per cent.
Stalin : I think the comrades will be interested to learn that here, in the U.S.S.R., the state spends more than 800,000,000 rubles per annum on workers’ insurance.
It will also not be superfluous to add that our workers in all branches of industry, in addition to their ordinary wages, receive a sum equal to about one-third of the total pay-roll in the shape of insurance, welfare improvements, cultural services, and so forth.
SECOND QUESTION. How do you explain the absence of a special mass workers’ party in the United States?
The bourgeoisie in America have two parties, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, but the American workers have no mass political party of their own. Do not the comrades think that the absence of such a mass workers’ party, even one like that in Britain (the Labour Party), weakens the working class in its political fight against the capitalists?
Then another question: Why do the leaders of the American labour movement, Green and the others, so strongly oppose the formation of an independent workers’ party in America?
Brophy : Yes, the leaders did decide that there was no need to form such a party. There is a minority, however, which considers that such a party is needed. Objective conditions in America at the present time are such that, as has been pointed out already, the trade-union movement in the United States is very weak, and the weakness of the trade-union movement is, in its turn, due to the fact that the working class at present does not have to organise and fight the capitalists because the capitalists themselves raise wages and provide satisfactory material conditions for the workers.
Stalin : But if such provision is made at all, it is mainly the skilled workers who benefit. There is a contradiction here. On the one hand it would appear that there is no need to organise because the workers are provided for. On the other hand you say that it is precisely those workers who are best provided for, i.e., the skilled workers, who are organised in trade unions. Thirdly, it would appear that the unorganised are just those workers who are least provided for, i.e., the unskilled workers, who most of all stand in need of organisation. I cannot understand this at all.
Brophy : Yes, there is a contradiction here, but American political and economic conditions are likewise contradictory.
Brebner : Although the unskilled workers are not organised, they have the political right to vote, so that if there is any discontent the unskilled workers can express this discontent by exercising their political right to vote. On the other hand, when the organised workers meet with particularly hard times they do not turn to their union, but exercise their political right to vote. Thus, the political right to vote compensates for the absence of trade-union organisation.
Israels : One of the chief difficulties is the system itself, the election system in the United States. It is not the man who polls a majority of votes in the whole country, or even the majority of the votes of any one class, who is elected President. In every state there is an electoral college; every state elects a certain number of electors who take part in the election of the President. To be elected President, the candidate must obtain 51 per cent of the votes. If there were three or four parties no candidate would be elected, and the election of the President would have to be transferred to Congress. This is an argument against forming a third party. Those who oppose the formation of a third party argue in this way: Don’t put up a third candidate because you will split the liberal vote and you will prevent the liberal candidate from being elected.
Stalin : But Senator La Follette at one time was creating a third bourgeois party. It follows then that a third party cannot split the vote if it is a bourgeois party, but that it can split the vote if it is a workers’ party.
Davis : I do not regard the fact mentioned by the previous speaker as a fundamental one. I think the most important fact is the following. I will quote the example of the city where I live. During the election campaign the representative of a certain party comes along and gives the trade-union leader an important job, and in connection with the campaign places certain funds at his disposal, which he puts to his own use. This gives him a certain prestige connected with the job he has received. It turns out, therefore, that the trade-union leaders support one or the other of the bourgeois parties. Naturally, when there is any talk of forming a third party, a workers’ party, these labour leaders refuse to do anything in the matter. They argue that if a third party were formed there would be a split in the trade-union movement .
Douglas : The chief reason why only skilled workers are organised is that to be able to join a union a man must have money and be well off, because the entrance fees and dues are very high and unskilled workers cannot afford to pay.
Moreover, the unskilled workers are in constant danger of being thrown out of work by the employers if they attempt to organise. The unskilled workers can be organised only with the active support of the skilled workers. In most cases they do not get this support, and this is one of the chief obstacles to the organisation of the unskilled workers.
The principal means by which the workers can defend their rights are political means. That, in my opinion, is the chief reason why the unskilled workers are unorganised.
I must point to a special feature of the American electoral system, the primary elections, in which any man can go to a primary, declare himself a Democrat or a Republican and cast his vote. I am convinced that Gompers could not have kept the workers on a non-political programme if he did not have this argument about the primary voting. He always told the workers that if they wanted political action they could join either of the two existing political parties, capture the responsible positions in them and win influence. With this argument Gompers managed to keep the workers away from the idea of organising the working class and of forming a workers’ party.
THIRD QUESTlON. How do you explain the fact that on the question of recognising the U.S.S.R. the leaders of the American Federation of Labour are more reactionary than many bourgeois?
How do you explain the fact that a bourgeois like Mr. Borah, and others, declare in favour of recognising the U.S.S.R., whereas the American labour leaders, from Gompers to Green, have been and still are conducting very reactionary propaganda against recognition of the first workers’ republic, against recognition of the U.S.S.R.?
How do you explain the fact that even a reactionary like the late President Woodrow Wilson was able to “greet” Soviet Russia, whereas Green and the other leaders of the American Federation of Labour want to be more reactionary than the capitalists?
Here is the text of the “greeting” Woodrow Wilson sent to the Congress of Soviets of Russia in March 1918, at the time when the troops of the German Kaiser were marching against Soviet Petrograd:
“May I not take advantage of the meeting of the Congress of the Soviets to express the sincere sympathy which the people of the United States feel for the Russian people at this moment when the German power has been thrust in to interrupt and turn back the whole struggle for freedom and substitute the wishes of Germany for the purpose of the people of Russia? Although the government of the United States is unhappily not now in a position to render the direct and effective aid it would wish to render, I beg to assure the people of Russia through the Congress that it will avail itself of every opportunity to secure for Russia once more complete sovereignty and independence in her own affairs and full restoration to her great role in the life of Europe and the modern world. The whole heart of the people of the United States is with the people of Russia in the attempt to free themselves forever from autocratic government and become masters of their own life” (see Pravda, No. 50, March 16, 1918).
Can we regard it as normal that the leaders of the American Federation of Labour want to be more reactionary than reactionary Wilson?
Brophy : I cannot give an exact explanation, but I think that the leaders of the American Federation of Labour are opposed to the recognition of Soviet Russia for the very same reason that the American Federation of Labour is not affiliated to the Amsterdam International. I think it is due to the peculiar philosophy of the American workers and to the economic difference between them and the European workers.
Stalin : But, as far as I know the leaders of the American Federation of Labour do not object to the recognition of Italy or Poland, where the fascists are ruling.
Brophy : By quoting the example of Poland and Italy where there are fascist governments you explain why America does not recognise the U.S.S.R. This hostility towards the U.S.S.R. is due to the unpleasantness which the Communists at home cause the American labour leaders.
Dunn : The argument used by the last speaker — that the labour leaders cannot recognise the U.S.S.R. because they cannot get on with the Communists at home — is not convincing, because they preached non-recognition of the U.S.S.R. before the American Communist Party was organised.
The chief reason is that the leaders of the American Federation of Labour are opposed to everything that smacks of socialism. They are put up to this by the capitalists who have an organisation called the National Civic Federation, which does its utmost to rouse the American public against socialism in any form. This organisation opposed the stand taken by Ivy Lee, who advocated the development of commercial relations between America and the U.S.S.R. The leaders of this organisation said: How can we maintain order among our own working class when liberals begin to talk like that? The National Civic Federation is an organisation of a group of capitalists who have invested a large sum of money in it and control it. It should be mentioned that the vice-president of this reactionary organisation is Matthew Woll, the vice-president of the American Federation of Labour.
Brophy : The reasons given for the reactionary character of the trade-union leaders are not the chief ones. This question must be gone into more deeply. The presence of the American delegation in the U.S.S.R. is the best answer and shows that a section of the American workers is sympathetic towards the Soviet Union. I think that the opinion of the leaders of the American Federation of Labour about the U.S.S.R. does not differ from the opinion held by the majority of the workers of America. The attitude of the majority of the workers towards the U.S.S.R. is due to the remoteness of the U.S.S.R. The working class of America is not interested in international affairs and the influence that the bourgeoisie exercises on the working class of America is felt very strongly in its attitude towards the U.S.S.R.