- Capitalism and Alternatives -

If 'anyone' was going to be 'Stalin,' then your precious Mensheviks would have, too

Posted by: Barry Stoller on February 28, 19100 at 00:39:44:

In Reply to: great man theory... posted by Red Deathy on February 27, 19100 at 17:07:54:

: This is reading like a 'Great man theory' rendition of the story, where we focus solely on nasty mister stalin and his cohorts, instead of looking at conditions in wider society...

You continually miss the finer points of my argument. Note these two points:

None of this is an attempt to deny that the Communist Party, under Lenin's leadership, did not centralize the state unduly. Of course it did, and history has condemned that as the great failing of the Bolsheviks. The precipitating factors for this tragic development, of course, were an under development of industry and an overdevelopment of peasant proprietorship in Russia---all acerbated by the general miscalculation made by the Bolsheviks regarding the likelihood of other communist revolutions occurring in Europe (especially in the industrially developed nations) in the wake of World War One's material and political instability.

(Let us acknowledge that the earliest capitalist forms of state were every bit as harsh and autocratic as Stalinist Russia---owing, in part, to the commensurate scarcity inherited from the undeveloped productive forces of society at that time.)

And, if you'll recall this post, you'll note my inclusion of this rather pertinent observation from Engels:

That the sudden [revolutionary] movements of February and March 1848 were not the work of single individuals, but spontaneous, irresistible manifestations of national wants and necessities, more or less clearly understood, but very distinctly felt by numerous classes in every country, is a fact recognized everywhere; but when you inquire into the causes of the counter-revolutionary successes, there you are met on every hand with the ready reply that it was Mr. This or Citizen That who 'betrayed' the people. Which reply may be very true or not, according to circumstances, but under no circumstances does it explain anything---not even to show how it came to pass that the 'people' allowed themselves to be thus betrayed. And what poor chance stands a political party whose entire stock-in-trade consists in a knowledge of the solitary fact that Citizen So-and-So is not to be trusted.(1)

All that said, the problem with Leninism = Stalinism is not only that it is UNTRUE (was the N.E.P. 'Stalinism'?*), but that it leads to Communism = Stalinism, which I hope you can appreciate is a bit of a problem indeed. Do you get my meaning?

: Come on, you can say it, you know you can, try it, nice and slowly now, 'the Mensheviks were right' - say it five times every morning, and you might come to understand...

The procapitalist 'socialists' were right?

According to your mechanical understanding of historical materialism, if the Mensheviks came to power, any attempts on THEIR part to inaugurate socialism would have lead to Stalinism!

Or are you simply saying that if they came to power, all they should have done was to hand the state over to the capitalists? If so, why bother? The capitalists ALREADY had control of the state.

With capital in power (are you paying attention?), the peasants were still terrorizing the landowners in the country as well as shooting officers on the front. The Bolsheviks did none of that; the capitalist conditions (including the war) did that. To say 'the Mensheviks were right'---and let us recall that the Mensheviks supported the war---is nothing more than saying 'things really were fine since the Tsar got the boot.' And to say that would be ridiculous!

Capital produced the war that produced the class crisis in Russia. Socialism was the only way out. If capitalism was the only option, why then wasn't Kerensky making everyone happy? Considering the dictatorial centralization he was effecting, even he was becoming 'Stalin' (under capitalist conditions).

The Bolsheviks took charge when all the other 'socialists' were advocating nothing more than another capitalist regime---which clearly was prolonging the class crisis!

Your argument FOR the Menshevik supporters of capitalism is a bit like saying, at a time of class crisis, the Democrats are better than the Republicans.

Which is a real funny sort of 'socialism.'


* 'In relation to the landowners and the capitalists our aim is complete expropriation. But we will not tolerate any use of force in respect of the middle peasants.' Lenin, 'Report on Work in the Countryside,' Collected Works, volume 29, Progress 1965, p. 205. 'Representatives of Soviet power who permit themselves to employ not only direct but even indirect compulsion to bring peasants into communes must be brought strictly to account and removed from work in the countryside.' Lenin, 'Resolution on the Attitude to the Middle Peasants,' ibid., p.220.


1. Engels Germany: Revolution and Counter-Revolution, International 1933, p. 10.

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