Communism is now on everybody’s lips. Some talk of it with the exaggerated enthusiasm of a new convert, others fear and condemn it as a social menace. But I venture to say that neither its admirers — the great majority of them — nor those who denounce it have a very clear idea of what Bolshevik Communism really is.
Speaking generally, Communism is the ideal of human equality and brotherhood. It considers the exploitation of man by man as the source of all slavery and oppression. It holds that economic inequality leads to social injustice and is the enemy of moral and intellectual progress. Communism aims at a society where classes have been abolished as a result of common ownership of the means of production and distribution. It teaches that only in a classless commonwealth can man enjoy liberty, peace and well-being.
My purpose is to compare Communism with its application in Soviet Russia, but on closer examination, I find it an impossible task. As a matter of fact, there is no Communism in the USSR. Not a single Communist principle, not a single item of its teaching is being applied by the Communist Party there.
#Polka100 finalist @BBCKasiaMadera
“Since the fall of Communism the country has changed beyond all recognition. Now I feel just as at home in Warsaw as I do in London.”
Source: https://t.co/Q2XbrUajyy pic.twitter.com/8qJQrlUVU2
— Polish Embassy UK (@PolishEmbassyUK) March 10, 2018
To some this statement may appear as entirely false; others may think it vastly exaggerated. Yet I feel sure that an objective examination of conditions in present-day Russia will convince the unprejudiced reader that I speak with entire truth.
It is necessary to consider here, first of all, the fundamental idea underlying the alleged Communism of the Bolsheviki. It is admittedly of a centralized, authoritarian kind. That is, it is based almost exclusively on governmental coercion, on violence. It is not the Communism of voluntary association. It is compulsory State Communism. This must be kept in mind in order to understand the method applied by the Soviet state to carry out such of its plans as may seem to be Communistic.
The first requirement of Communism is the socialization of the land and of the machinery of production and distribution. Socialized land and machinery belong to the people, to be settled upon and used by individuals or groups according to their needs. In Russia, land and machinery are not socialized but nationalized. The term is a misnomer, of course. In fact, it is entirely devoid of content. In reality, there is no such thing as national wealth. A nation is too abstract a term to “own” anything.
Ownership may be by an individual, or by a group of individuals; in any case by some quantitatively defined reality. When a certain thing does not belong to an individual or group, it is either nationalized or socialized. If it is nationalized, it belongs to the state; that is, the government has control of it and may dispose of it according to its wishes and views. But when a thing is socialized, every individual has free access to it and use it without interference from anyone.
In Russia, there is no socialization either of land or of production and distribution. Everything is nationalized; it belongs to the government, exactly as does the post office in America or the railroad in Germany and other European countries. There is nothing of Communism about it.
No more Communistic than the land and means of production is any other phase of the Soviet economic structure. All sources of existence are owned by the central government; foreign trade is its absolute monopoly; the printing presses belong to the state, and every book and paper issued is a government publication.
Labour MP Chris Bryant says Russia under Putin ‘manages to combine all the worst facets of communism and all the worst facets of rampant capitalism, all wrapped up inside a national security state’.
Get reaction from MPs to May Russia statement. https://t.co/12i6GCZhSX pic.twitter.com/AMcxPxn94N
— BBC Parliament (@BBCParliament) March 14, 2018
In short, the entire country and everything in it is the property of the state, as in ancient days it used to be the property of the crown. The few things not yet nationalized, as some old ramshackle houses in Moscow, for instance, or some dingy little stores with a pitiful stock of cosmetics, exist on sufferance only, with the government having the undisputed right to confiscate them at any moment by simple decree.
Such a condition of affairs may be called state capitalism, but it would be fantastic to consider it in any sense Communistic.
Let us now turn to production and consumption, the levers of all existence. Maybe in them we shall find a degree of Communism that will justify us in calling life in Russia Communistic, to some extent at least.
I have already pointed out that the land and the machinery of production are owned by the state. The methods of production and the amounts to be manufactured by every industry in each and every mill, shop and factory are determined by the state, by the central government—by Moscow—through its various organs.
Now, Russia is a country of vast extent, covering about one-sixth of the earth’s surface. It is peopled by a mixed population of 165,000,000. It consists of a number of large republics, of various races and nationalities, each region having its own particular interests and needs. No doubt, industrial and economic planning is vitally necessary for the well-being of a community.
True Communism – economic equality as between man and man and between communities — requires the best and most efficient planning by each community, based upon its local requirements and possibilities. The basis of such planning must be the complete freedom of each community to produce according to its needs and to dispose of its products according to its judgment: to change its surplus with other similarly independent communities without let or hindrance by any external authority.
Corbynov cannot condem Russia. Along with McDonnell and Milne, #jezzbollah is fully vested in Soviet communism. To attack Russia is to attack their own ideology https://t.co/5TybqI9lC9
— Agent “PIP” Pipnikov (@or_pip) March 14, 2018
That is the essential politico-economic nature of Communism. It is neither workable nor possible on any other isis. It is necessarily libertarian, Anarchistic.
There is no trace of such Communism — that is to say, of any Communism—in Soviet Russia. In fact, the mere suggestion of such a system is considered criminal there, and any attempt to carry it out is punished by death.
There are naive people who believe that at least some features of Communism have been introduced into the lives of the Russian people. I wish it were true, for that would be a hopeful sign, a promise of potential development along that line. But the truth is that in no phase of Soviet life, no more in the social than in individual relations has there ever been any attempt to apply Communist principles in any shape or form.
As I have pointed out before, the very suggestion of free, voluntary Communism is taboo in Russia and is regarded as counter-revolutionary and high treason against the infallible Stalin and the holy “Communist” Party.
The essence of Communism, even of the coercive kind, is the absence of social classes. The introduction of economic equality is its first step. This has been the basis of all Communist philosophies, however, they may have differed in other respects. The purpose common to all of them was to secure social justice, and all of them agreed that it was not possible without establishing economic equality.
Even Plato, in spite of the intellectual and moral strata in his Republic, provided for absolute economic equality, since the ruling classes were not to enjoy greater rights or privileges than the lowest social unit.
The Soviet Union was Communist.
Russia is not the Soviet Union.
Russia is not Communist
The Cold War was between The West and The Soviet’s Communism
Antifa, dress like Communists, Carry Communist flags, chant Communist lyrics, act like Communists but call us Russians?#RedNation pic.twitter.com/pQXYDY5tox
— Ella Cruz♦👜👠 (@EllaaaCruzzz) March 12, 2018
Even at the risk of condemnation for telling the whole truth, I must state unequivocally and unconditionally that the very opposite is the case in Soviet Russia. Bolshevism has not abolished the classes in Russia: it has merely reversed their former relationship.
As a matter of fact, it has multiplied the social divisions which existed before the Revolution.
The Bolshevik system of privilege and inequality was not long in producing its inevitable results. It created and fostered social antagonisms; it alienated the masses from the Revolution, paralysed their interest in it and their energies, and thus defeated all the purposes of the Revolution.
The same system of privilege and inequality, strengthened and perfected, is in force today.
Adapted from There is No Communism in Russia (1935 ), by Emma Goldman. Photograph courtesy of Mutatjellyfish. Published under a Creative Commons license.