On March 13, 1988, the newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya carried a long letter which has since been characterized by the proponents of the Soviet reforms as a platform of the conservative opposition to restructuring.1 The letter is written in the first person by Nina Andreyeva, a chemistry teacher at the Leningrad Soviet Technological Institute, and purports to give merely her personal views regarding the current political situation in the country. It touches on a variety of subjects--patriotism, pacifism, peaceful coexistence, the class struggle and other related matters. However, it is basically a defense of Stalin and his historical role in the USSR. It is also basically opposed to the democratization process now well underway.
Andreyeva's letter to Sovetskaya Rossiya defending Stalin's role. Purge victims are rehabilitated. Role of proletariat in different Soviet constitutions examined. Relation today between proletariat and intelligentsia. Effect of the high-tech revolution. Relations between U.S. and USSR "devoid of class content"? Issue of peaceful coexistence. Conservatives position themselves as left critics of Gorbachev. Fail to address economic reforms.
If that were all there was to it, it would scarcely make waves in the USSR in the struggle over the reforms. But it also raises some basic political questions regarding the perspective of socialism which have to be answered independently of the author's promotion and defense of Stalin.
The article created such a stir that Pravda felt obligated on April 5, 1988, to present a full-page refutation of the allegations made by Andreyeva. Pravda's reply is a well-known recapitulation of the crimes of Stalin in the difficult period of his rule and of the terror that was employed which resulted in the deaths of many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, including most of the political opposition within the Party. However, the reply in Pravda does not deal with the other questions that the Andreyeva article raises. But first, here is how Andreyeva defends Stalin:
Take the question of the place of J.V. Stalin in our country's history. It is with his name that the entire obsession with critical attacks is associated, an obsession that, in my opinion, has to do not so much with the historical personality itself as with the whole extremely complex transitional era--an era linked with the unparalleled exploits of an entire generation of Soviet people who today are gradually retiring from active labor, political and public activity. Industrialization, collectivization and the cultural revolution, which brought our country into the ranks of the great world powers, are being forcibly squeezed into the "personality cult" formula. All these things are being questioned. Things have reached a point at which insistent demands for "repentance" are being made on "Stalinists" (and one can assign to their number whoever one wishes). Praise is being lavished on novels and films that lynch the era of tempestuous changes, which is presented as a "tragedy of peoples." 2It is sufficiently clear that the writer, if she is not for the revival of Stalinism, is certainly for the restoration of his historical role and is also against the entire process of democratization. Her position with respect to Stalin is considerably weakened by her own affirmation of Khrushchev's report to the 20th Congress in 1956, which virtually demolished Stalin and exposed his criminal role in the successive purges of the Party. It is also weakened by her present affirmation of the decision of the 27th Congress and Gorbachev's report, which is a continuation of Khrushchev's assault on and exposure of Stalin's role. Again, if that was all there was to the conservative opposition, it would not in our opinion be of any significance politically in the current debate over restructuring.
It is now 32 years since the 20th Congress. A generation has grown up since then. Each succeeding Congress, if it didn't specifically confirm the results and findings on the Stalin era of repression, certainly did nothing to disturb them. In fact, there continue to this day to be investigations by the Soviet judiciary of the purges, followed by the rehabilitation of important figures who had been imprisoned, exiled or shot. For example, on February 26, 1988, there were more findings on the commission of illegal acts during the purges. The Supreme Court and the CPSU Central Committee rehabilitated and absolved the well-known military leaders M.N. Tukhachevsky, A.I. Kork, I.E. Yakir, I.P. Uborevich, V.K. Putna, R.P. Eideman, V.M. Primakov and B.M. Feldman. Of course, the most prominent victim of the purges to have been rehabilitated is the Old Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin, Stalin's leading opponent on the right within the Party. The Left Oppositionist Leon Trotsky has not yet been legally rehabilitated, but a great deal has already been admitted confirming that the Moscow Trials were fraudulent and the charges against him completely concocted.
The substance of the matter raised by the Andreyeva letter, however, is not directly related to Stalin's role.
Recently one of my students startled me with the revelation that the class struggle is supposedly an obsolete concept, as is the leading role of the proletariat. It would be all right if she were the only one maintaining such a thing.3But such is not the case, says the author.
Without in any way addressing the issue of the leading role of the proletariat or what is meant by the obsolescence of the class struggle, Andreyeva raises the question to a theoretical position, while at the same time pointing an accusatory finger at the proponents of reform. Pravda's reply doesn't address itself to this question, nor does Andreyeva elaborate on the subject. It is well known, however, that in the USSR, as in other areas of the world and particularly in the imperialist countries, this question is frequently discussed.
Andreyeva doesn't say or even intimate whether the class struggle has any application in the USSR, or whether the leading role of the proletariat is a concept still held in Soviet political theory. It is now and again perfunctorily mentioned, but since under the Stalin regime classes were supposedly abolished, and the state itself under Khrushchev became a state of "the whole people," doesn't that in itself undermine the concept of the proletariat having the leading role?
It is interesting to see the evolution of this concept. The first Constitution of the USSR, promulgated in 1918, stated in Article 1 that "Russia is hereby proclaimed a Republic of workers, soldiers, and peasant deputies. All power centrally and locally is vested in these Soviets." Article 3 stated that the "fundamental aim is to abolish all exploitation of man by man and to completely eliminate the division of society into classes, to mercilessly crush the resistance of the exploiters, to establish a socialist order of society and to achieve the victory of socialism in all countries."
The 1936 Constitution under Stalin modified this and pointedly eliminated the "victory of socialism in all countries."
The current Constitution of the USSR as amended in 1977 states (Article 1): "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a socialist state of the whole people, expressing the will and interests of the workers, peasants and intelligentsia, the working people of all the nations and nationalities of the country."
Constitutions are merely legal documents. To compare them as evidence of social changes is absolutely wrong from a Marxist point of view, and is to take an altogether unhistorical and anti-dialectical view of social development. Nevertheless, the alterations are worthy of note, not as a reflection of social processes but of certain political developments which have made their mark on the succeeding constitutions of the USSR.
The 1977 Constitution is noteworthy for the phrase "a socialist state of the whole people." This is not merely a semantic change, since it for the first time mentions the intelligentsia along with the workers and peasants. The language of the Constitution has been increasingly moderated. First the internationalist role was left out, then the intelligentsia were added.
During the early period of the Revolution, the proletariat was not even a majority of the people. From a formal point of view, it was a minority. But as the key to socialist development and the agent for the overthrow of the exploiting classes, the proletariat was the most significant class sociologically. The truth of the matter is that at that time the intelligentsia were numerically pretty formidable in relation to the proletariat. The proletariat had to rely almost wholly on the intelligentsia to administer the state. Today, the proletariat is an overwhelming majority in the USSR and the intelligentsia's role as a social stratum should not be that significant. Moreover, a great number of the intelligentsia now are drawn from the ranks of the proletariat. So there's no real basis for making the intelligentsia a social pillar of the socialist state.
Without in so many words saying all this, the writer Andreyeva furtively attacks the intelligentsia, since it is the carrier of democratization. And Pravda, in its reply, devotes several paragraphs to the accomplishments of "our intelligentsia" which has "done a good deal to prepare public consciousness for understanding the need for deep and fundamental change. It itself has become actively involved in restructuring. It is arming itself with the best traditions created by its predecessors, appealing to conscience, morality and decency and upholding humanistic principles and socialist norms of life."
"A great many words," says Pravda, "have been said and written about the intelligentsia's unity with the working class and the collective farm peasantry. What new light has been shed on these truths now at this time of nationwide support for restructuring on the part of the broad masses of working people?"
Why all this sudden praise for the intelligentsia? Because the conservatives intimate that it is undermining the leading role of the proletariat in the Soviet economy with its restructuring plans. Hence, the allegation about the obsolescence of the class struggle. But the Andreyeva article doesn't say whether the class struggle refers to existing relations in the USSR or the class struggle outside the USSR.
The role of the proletariat, especially in the Western capitalist countries, has again and again been subjected to re-evaluations. For example, a number of significant defeats, such as in Germany in 1933, Spain in 1936-39 and Portugal in 1975, have been interpreted as evidence that the proletariat is no longer capable of taking power. Others bring up that the opportunity for overturning the capitalist system in Europe existed immediately after the Second World War, when the workers' parties were armed in both France and Italy, but that they surrendered their arms and contented themselves with being an opposition in bourgeois democratic regimes.
However, the CPSU itself, under the leadership of Stalin, was the principal supporter and promoter of a peaceful transition from war to peace in Western Europe on the basis of the existence of democratic regimes. This was preceded by the dissolution of the Comintern,4 which was a signal for the abandonment of the revolutionary struggle and a continuation of the so-called collective security arrangement, which under Stalin was a cardinal precept of peaceful relations between the USSR and the "democratic" imperialist countries.
The term obsolescence of the class struggle also has reference to the changed role of the proletariat as a result of the recent wave of industrial rationalizations. The scientific and technological revolution has undermined the more privileged strata, the more highly skilled, in the heavy industries of the capitalist countries, and brought about the phenomenon of low wages. This phenomenon is a constant source of discussion in the Soviet Union. The restructuring, or perestroika, aims above all at modernizing industry, heavy industry in particular, so as to shift the scientific-technological revolution into high gear. But does that necessarily negate the role of the proletariat as such? And does it mean that the social significance of the working class is thereby superseded by the technocrats and the intelligentsia?
Of course, from the viewpoint of communism, of the abolition of all social stratification and inequality, of making all administrators merely employees of the workers' state whose wages are equivalent to what an ordinary worker gets (as Marx put it in his Critique of the Gotha Program and Lenin elaborated in State and Revolution)--from that point of view the scientific-technological revolution is a tremendous boon. The increase of skilled workers, of a more educated working class, dispenses with the need for a bourgeois intelligentsia, let alone a monstrous bureaucracy, and is in fact an indispensable element to further the development of the productive forces.
This is just the opposite of what the working class in the capitalist countries is subjected to because of the scientific-technological revolution. There the character of capitalist accumulation, the chase for superprofits, ultimately leads to the lowering of the standard of living.
However, instead of posing correctly the question of the role of the proletariat in the epoch of the scientific-technological revolution, and drawing a sharp line between its consequences in the capitalist countries versus what the beneficial effects ought to be in a socialist country, the writer merely raises suspicions about the role of the intelligentsia as bourgeois and intimates that the bureaucracy is responsible for liquidating the leading role of the proletariat in favor of bourgeois strata, in particular the literary elements who are now subjecting the Stalin era to review in history, novels, the theater and the cinema.
Further developing her thesis, Andreyeva gives an example of a "respected" but unnamed academician who asserted that "the present relations between states of the two different social and economic systems are devoid of class content." The same academician, she says, had earlier "written the exact opposite--that peaceful coexistence is nothing other than a form of class struggle in the international arena. It turns out that the philosopher has now repudiated that notion." Here again the Pravda article does not bother to answer this or refer to it in any way. It is content to go on with its demolition of Stalin, his purges, and so on, which in and of itself is of course correct. But it is also necessary to address these questions.
At this writing, when President Reagan is in Moscow attending a summit meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev on the occasion of the signing of the INF treaty, the ceremony, pomp and atmosphere of conviviality do lend themselves to the illusion that the present relations between the two states "are devoid of class content." But that's the most dangerous of dangerous delusions.
A scarce two days before President Reagan left for his trip to Moscow along with a tremendous entourage of specialists on all sorts of problems, ranging from arms control to the environment, the U.S. Congress dutifully passed a Pentagon budget of $300 billion. Huge chunks of it are targeted on the further refinement and development of nuclear weapons. And right in Moscow, Reagan reaffirmed his desire to go on with the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). As if that were not enough, the Pentagon then announced a project for a three-stage rocket to launch weapons into outer space.
Of course, the issue of peaceful coexistence has been a subject of controversy over decades. It was not introduced by the Gorbachev administration, but dates back to the Stalin period itself, which first raised the idea of collective security, of uniting the imperialist democracies against the Axis powers and of making peaceful coexistence a cardinal programmatic point, not just of Soviet diplomacy but of the program of the Communist parties internationally as an instrument to combat fascism. However, the imperialist democracies were in no way attached to the concept when in 1938 they agreed to the Munich Pact with Hitler and gave him the green light to attack the USSR.
Khrushchev raised it anew in the early 1960s, with such vigor and confidence as to almost make it a dogma. Fortunately, the Cuban Revolution upset this and showed to what lengths imperialism would go. This once again confirmed the hostile, antagonistic character of imperialism not only to the existing socialist states but to the peoples oppressed by imperialism and capitalism.
Once again, Andreyeva merely raises the question but does not actually come out for or against peaceful coexistence, or describe what its limitations are and how it has differed in each historical period since the October Revolution. Lenin too favored peace with the imperialists. At the same time he was the initiator of the Communist International whose program was that of world revolution.
"Which class or stratum of society is the guiding and mobilizing force of restructuring?" asks Andreyeva.5 By posing it this way, which class or stratum of society is guiding it, the author by implication identifies the present regime as representing a stratum of society rather than a class, the working class. Just merely putting it this way supplies the answer, that the Gorbachev regime represents a social stratum, to wit, the bourgeois intelligentsia, and not the proletariat.
Otherwise, the author would not divide the current debate into two ideological currents, both of them in favor of restructuring but who "agree on exterminating socialist values." One current she calls "left-liberal dilettantish socialism" that is an "exponent of humanism." The other is "against proletarian collectivism" and adheres to "God-seeking tendencies, technocratic idols, the preaching of the `democratic' charms of present-day capitalism and fawning over its achievements, real and imagined." 6
In a sense, therefore, the conservatives, that is, the pro-Stalin elements, have taken the position of leftist critics of the Gorbachev regime. While most of their fire is directed against the bourgeois critics, it is hard to know where their arrows are really aimed--at the Gorbachev leadership or at the neobourgeois critics--since both of them, according to the author, are trying to destroy "socialist values."
This leftist criticism of the political struggle in the USSR might have value in and of itself were it not solely devoted to criticizing some of the bourgeois political manifestations of the reforms. However, when it comes to the content of the economic reforms, the conservative attack falls down completely. It does not even mention them. In fact, it does not direct itself to the existing economic situation or the problems of the working class in the face of the restructuring tasks. It is totally devoid of any content with respect to the living condition of the workers.
As the Pravda article states, "We have made real efforts to start solving the most paramount and urgent problems--housing, food and provision of goods and services for the population." These are the issues! But the conservative manifesto, as Andreyeva's article is called, is devoid of anything like that. Pravda, in its reply, says that "Some people maintain `we're heading in the direction of petty-bourgeois socialism based on commodity-money relations.' " That is a central question.
Are the reforms heading in the direction of a revival of commodity-money relations of the type that existed during the NEP period, which is what the bourgeois opposition as expressed by economist Shmelyov is clamoring for? It is precisely this issue that the conservatives don't address, and hence their thesis could be dismissed as nothing but an apologetic for the Stalin regime. It remains to be seen whether the conservative opposition, if it really exists as a significant force, can make itself felt at the forthcoming Party Conference.
2. Ibid., p. 3.
3. Ibid., p. 4.
4. See Glossary, Appendix 3.
5. Ibid., p. 4.
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